TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A year after calling his team soft following an embarrassing home loss to Florida State, Florida coach Will Muschamp watched many of those same players rip the Seminoles 37-26 on Saturday.
They clinched one of the best regular seasons in school history with a win more convincing than the final 11-point victory margin.
“Our guys just continued to press forward,” Muschamp said. “We don’t do excuses. We did enough of that last year.”
And there was no talk of being soft.
“We’re a physical football team,” Muschamp said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
The Gators impressed Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who was one of the few Seminoles to give Florida trouble.
“The way they were double-teaming — I’ve never seen it before,” said Werner, who had 3½ sacks in the game. “Give credit to them.”
Florida (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) moved up a notch to No. 5 in The Associated Press poll with its win in Tallahassee and now awaits its bowl invitation a bit wistfully. The Gators know that only a 17-9 loss to Georgia a month ago prevents them from playing Alabama in this Saturday’s SEC title game, where the winner will likely be Notre Dame’s opponent in the BCS national championship game Jan. 7.
Muschamp and the Gators could be headed to New Orleans for a Sugar Bowl date.
Meanwhile, No. 13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) must get ready to play Georgia Tech in the ACC title game Saturday with the winner advancing to a New Year’s game at the Orange Bowl against the Big East champion.
“We have to put this (Florida loss) behind us,” said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who lost to a Florida school for the first time as a head coach.
Fisher is 3-0 against Miami, 1-0 against South Florida and now 2-1 in the Florida rivalry.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage. … They made more plays than us,” Fisher said. “We have to move on and get better.”
And whereas it had been Florida State with much of the preseason attention after wins over Florida and Notre Dame to finish the 2011 season, Florida stealthily climbed the polls with road wins at Texas A&M, Tennessee and Vanderbilt along with home victories over LSU and South Carolina.
While the Gators were pulling out close victories against a difficult schedule, Florida State was putting up big numbers on both sides of the ball against the likes of Savannah State, Murray State and a group of mediocre ACC opponents. The Seminoles went into Saturday’s game with just one victory over a ranked team, Clemson, and only two over schools with winning records.
And Florida made them pay.