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Ten years ago, former Florida coach Ron Zook was carried off the field on his player’s shoulders following an upset of a ranked Florida State team.
It was Zook’s final game as Florida’s coach and his unranked Gators did something no one thought was possible.
Could history repeat itself a decade later?
Saturday’s rivalry game against the Seminoles will be Will Muschamp’s final game as the Gators’ coach. An upset of the No. 3 Seminoles would be the fitting ending to what has been a tumultuous four seasons in Gainesville.
During Muschamp’s tenure, he’s taken the Gators to the Sugar Bowl and he’s also notched the first losing season since 1979. He’s had wins against Ohio State, LSU and Florida State, but he’s also lost to then-FCS team Georgia Southern.
Muschamp knows this game means little more than bragging rights and perhaps a slightly better bowl game. The Gators earned their bowl eligibility with a win against Eastern Kentucky last week, but Muschamp won’t coach in that game.
So, like Zook, the Florida State game will be Muschamp’s last chance to end on a high note.
"That ain't going to help us win the game," Muschamp said when he was told of the comparisons between him and Zook. "I can assure you of that. So we'll prepare well and we'll go up there and play well. That's what we need to do."
While Muschamp said he’s not going to get emotional in this game, he acknowledged that his players might. All last week, players attempted to stand up for Muschamp by threating to transfer or follow him to his next destination. Muschamp said he had to diffuse a lot of that because it wasn’t constructive for the team finishing out the season.
Still, players already have expressed what getting this improbable win would mean to them and to Muschamp.
Gators OT DJ Humphries says Muschamp will get carried of field with win: "He ain't got no choice. I'm too strong for him."
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) November 25, 2014
“They don't need fireworks to get ready for this one,” Muschamp said of Saturday’s game. “They'll be ready to go. Our guys are excited about this game… They'll turn the tape on and understand the type of team we're going against and the preparation that's going to take place.
“I told them in the locker room when the [Eastern Kentucky] game was over. We've had a week to feel sorry about this, that or the other when all we can control is the controllable and that's getting ready for Florida State, a really good football team. We need to prepare better than we did this past week. We need to practice better than we did last week and they all agreed to that. They understood that. We need to prepare much better than we did this past week.”
Florida State’s last loss was to Florida on Nov. 24, 2012. The two programs have gone in two very different directions since and a win by the Gators would be a monumental feat.
Still, Florida State has struggled, especially in the first halves of games this season, and if Florida’s offense can find a little magic and Florida’s defense can play up to its billing, this game could get very interesting.
"Love our chances," defensive end Alex McCalister said. "We've got the whole team clicking and we're going to keep rolling from there."
For more Florida news, visit InsideTheGators.com.
For more Florida State news, visit Warchant.com.
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