September 1, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp during the first quarter against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Here's one telling quote from the aftermath of Florida's 27-14 win over Bowling Green, one that comes from Chris Harry at the usually defanged GatorZone:
Despite 220 rushing yards, the Gators had plenty of breakdowns in the ground game, including six short-yardage situations on third or fourth down -- each time with two yards or less needed to convert -- that failed. And this was an opponent from the Mid-American, not the Southeastern Conference.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease had a couple other ideas in those situations, but he was trumped by the ultimate authority on the UF sideline.
"I was very stubborn about wanting to run the ball in those situations," Muschamp said. "You can preach a certain sermon over and over and over, but until you do it in front of the Gator Nation and fans, it’s not really what you’re about. We’re going to be a physical organization. We can’t just talk about it."
The other one is even more telling.
And it's not just more telling for what Muschamp has to say: It's Pat Dooley, the sage of the Gators beat, writing the non-quoted parts.
We saw a team that could run the ball, but not when it had to run the ball. The line could not open holes when it was third-and-1. Muschamp blamed himself for this.
"I've got to give the offensive coordinator a little more latitude," he said.
But he wanted to send a statement from the start. This is not the soft Gators you saw last year. This is a bigger, meaner, tougher version. And at times against the undersized Falcons, they were. Just not when it was third-and-short.
I suspect Muschamp wants to meddle in part because of how little Charlie Weis' offenses did when Weis was given full rein in 2011. (I also think this is part of why Weis left for Kansas.) But Muschamp's not an offensive coach, and never has been; he wasn't hired because of an intimate knowledge of Nick Saban's offenses.
And those third-and-short calls that did work looked like Pease's ideas: Mike Gillislee's long run in the fourth quarter came on a fake to a sweep that didn't look like a Muschamp call, and the third and three pass to Latroy Pittman for a first down in the second quarter came in the rhythm of a hurry-up that definitely seems more like Pease than Muschamp.
Pease won't be using trick plays on every down, of course, because that's not something any offensive coordinator does, not even the ones from places like Boise State with reputations for wackiness, but his variety worked better than Muschamp's preferred pounding on Saturday. He's got to be trusted to run his offense, which requires trusting his quarterback(s) to throw the ball and take pressure off the running game and trusting his team to deviate from things that don't work when they fail.
The physical team that Muschamp so desperately wants, the one that can overpower anyone like Saban's Alabama does, might yet be a possibility at Florida. He's recruiting bigger players and Jeff Dillman is packing muscle on the ones he has. But humans don't get to be bigger and stronger than everyone else overnight: That takes time, sometimes a lot of it.
Pease knows a little something about how to win without having the physical advantage from his time at Boise State. Muschamp would be wise to let him operate unencumbered: It just might buy him a little more time.