Florida’s interim coach seeking consistency from Gators
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Florida interim coach Randy Shannon is looking for consistency from his struggling Gators. After a battering by Missouri, Shannon is anxious to see improvement at South Carolina.
Shannon is coaching his second game since taking over for Jim McElwain — McElwain and the university parted ways on Oct. 29 — and is facing a mess on the field of historic proportions. The Gators (3-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) had not allowed 42 or more points in consecutive games in 100 years after a 45-16 loss to Missouri last week.
“We were not a football team that was consistent,” Shannon said.
Florida’s defense gave up 455 yards of offense and six touchdowns. The offense, under former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire, managed just one TD and 93 yards rushing. Shannon knows all that must improve for Florida to have success down the stretch.
“When you lose a game you have to be better,” Shannon said. “You just can’t accept ‘Oh, we’re a lot better than we were’, no we’re not a lot better. We’re better than we’ve been, but guess what, you have to take that next step.”
That comes at South Carolina (6-3, 4-3), which is looking for its first winning league season since 2013.
Muschamp, the former Florida coach, knows full well what the Gators are going through. He was let go by the university in November 2014, although he was allowed to coach out the regular season.
“I know it’s probably taken its mental toll” on the Gators, Muschamp said of this season’s turmoil in Gainesville.
The Gamecocks have won three of their past four SEC games. A victory would also surpass the Gamecocks six wins from Muschamp’s debut season.
Some things to watch when Florida plays at South Carolina:
ZAIRE STARTING: Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire will start once more for the Gators. Randy Shannon elevated the graduate transfer as starter in last week’s 45-16 loss to Missouri. Zaire threw for 158 yards and an interception in the defeat. Shannon said Zaire didn’t “do anything to hurt us” against Missouri.
TACKLE RACE: South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore leads the team in tackles, a feat he’s attempting to do for the fourth straight season. Only 14 players in the FBS have accomplished that feat. But Moore is just one ahead of his friend, sophomore T.J. Brunson with three games remaining. Brunson said he won’t let up to give Moore the honor. “That’s the way I want it,” Moore said smiling.
MORE INJURIES: Another week, another series of injures that will impact Florida. Gators receiver Kadrius Toney and defensive end Jachai Polite are out for South Carolina. Randy Shannon also said that left guard Brett Heggie will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury suffered in the loss to Missouri last week.
NEXT YEAR’S GAMECOCKS: Injured South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel had hoped to return to the Gamecocks this season after hurting his leg against Kentucky in September. But a setback in rehab made that impossible, Will Muschamp said Sunday. A short time later, Samuel announced a short time later he was coming back to the Gamecocks for his senior season in 2018. Muschamp said that shows the players believe in what’s being built at South Carolina.
SERIES TURN: The Gators won 13 straight games and won 17 of 18 over South Carolina — many with former Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier in charge of the Gators — from 1964 to 2009. South Carolina has won four of the past seven since with the victories all coming with Spurrier as Gamecocks’ coach.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this report from Gainesville, Florida
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