Saturday will bring what looks to be a very emotional day inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The Florida Gators (5-4, 4-4) will try for just their third win inside the Swamp this weekend as they welcome the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. The Gators will look to send 23 seniors off with one final win along with their head coach, a man who’s been with them for four years, and a lot of ups and downs.
Under Will Muschamp, the senior class never got the opportunity to go to Atlanta, saw the first non-bowl season occur in more than 20 years and saw the first losing season since 1979. However none of that matters now as the Gators currently sit just one win away from becoming bowl eligible, and junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. says they will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
“It’s just really important to send the seniors out in style. It’s their last game in the Swamp and its coach’s last game too so it’s important to send them out in the right way.”
Gator seniors such as Max Garcia, Chaz Green, Mack Brown, Kyle Christy, Darious Cummings, Neiron Ball and Andre Dubose have contributed greatly to the, and because of their efforts, coaches such as defensive coordinator D.J Durkin realize just what Saturday means.
“It is Senior Day and it’s our seniors last time playing in the Swamp. We need to go play well for them; our guys have put a lot into this program and done a lot of great things for us. We need too as a team, coaches, and players go send them out in the right way.”
Now looking a little bit closer at the game, the Gators will be looking to build off of their offensive performance of a week ago. The offense did most of their damage on the ground rushing for a total 218 yards, led by freshman quarterback Treon Harris who carried the ball 20 times for 111 yards, averaging just over five and a half yards per carry. The Gator offense attempted just 11 passes on the day, completing less than 50 percent and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper says that overall, the offense just needs to come in prepared and ready to play.
“We want to go out there Saturday with a plan, and not look as though we didn’t have a plan. We’re working hard to help these guys win a football game and that’s our job.”
The Colonels (9-2, 6-2) will be entering this game riding high having won three of their last four. The Colonels boast a talented dual threat quarterback in senior Jared McClain who has passed for over 1,100 yards this season while rushing for over 500 and a star running back in junior Dy’Shawn Mobley who has carried the ball 228 times for just under 1,400 yards. The Colonels average right at 35 points per game and Durkin talked about what makes them so good.
“Obviously their record speaks for itself, they’re winning a lot of games; they put up a lot of points on offense. They’re a spread team, they go tempo, their starting running back is a transfer from Kentucky and he’s a really good player. They run the ball and throw it down the field, they’re a good team and our guys are preparing the right way for it.”
The Colonels have seen success through their two other phases as well, the defense has forced 28 turnovers while their special teams has successfully blocked seven kicks. The nine wins the Colonels have notched this season are the most under head coach Dean Hood and he talks about what his team will need to do in order to pull off this upset.
“It’s a little bit different than other weeks. It’s more let’s stay within ourselves, do what we do well and do it to the best of our ability and let the chips fall where they may.”
While they couldn’t get it done a week ago, the Gators will be looking once again to take back the Swamp. Although it’s his final game, Muschamp says his mindset and his players have not changed a bit.
“Our guys will respond the right way and they’ll handle it with class just like they always have. It’s important for us to get these seniors a win in the Swamp and in the next two weeks get two W’s.”
Kickoff between the Gators and Colonels is set for noon on Saturday.
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