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Muschamp still trying for first rivalry win

Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) hands off to running back Kelvin Taylor (21) during the second half of the game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field. Missouri won 36-17. (USA TODAY Sports: Denny Medley)

Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) hands off to running back Kelvin Taylor (21) during the second half of the game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field. Missouri won 36-17. (USA TODAY Sports: Denny Medley)

Florida coach Will Muschamp is well-aware of the Florida-Georgia rivalry.

As a walk-on safety at Georgia, Muschamp went 0-4 as a player against Florida. As a coach at Florida, Muschamp is 0-2 against Georgia.

What stings worse?

“0-2 as a head coach,” Muschamp said. “None of it is fun. Certainly here, being at Florida, understanding the importance of this game to us and our people, we need to get a win.”

Muschamp will be seeking his first win in the Florida-Georgia rivalry when the Gators face the Bulldogs on Saturday in Jacksonville. But the third-year Florida coach said the game isn’t about him. It’s about getting the reeling Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) back on track after back-to-back road losses at LSU and Missouri.

Muschamp said the Gators tried to simplify things on both sides of the ball during the bye week in an effort to avoid communication breakdowns.

“We need to get our guys playing faster and playing with more confidence,” Muschamp said.

While Florida has been decimated with injuries this season, Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) has had its own injury issues. But Georgia is getting healthier at the right time. The Bulldogs are expecting to get starting running back Todd Gurley and receiver Michael Bennett back for the Florida game, which should add punch to an offense that lacked playmakers during back-to-back losses against Missouri and Vanderbilt.

“Both of our teams are in the same boat,” Florida senior quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “Both 4-3, we both probably expected to have a better record at this time. It’s kind of like a one-game playoff. If you lose your season is down in the dumps, so I expect both teams to come out and play well.”

Muschamp said he feels that the problems Florida has faced on both sides of the ball are capable of being fixed before the end of the season.

“I still feel good about this football team,” Muschamp said. “I feel good about the guys in the room. We just need to go out and execute, play better and coach better.”

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NCAAF Team Report - Florida - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: Florida is hoping freshman RB Kelvin Taylor will provide a spark to a running game that has struggled since the season-ending injury to Matt Jones. Taylor and Mack Brown will get the bulk of the carries, with Valdez Showers still getting occasional carries as a change of pace back. Overall, Florida ranks 12th in the SEC in rushing offense (161.4 ypg) with a league-low 3.7 yards per carry.

Scouting the passing game: After showing some promise early, Florida’s pass offense has sputtered through a tough October stretch. The Gators rank 12th in the SEC at 175.4 yards per game and have been unable to generate big plays to stretch the field since September. Another big problem is Florida’s pass protection. The Gators rank tied for 10th in the SEC in sacks against with 17. Florida coach Will Muschamp tinkered with some changes on the offensive line this week. Max Garcia and D.J. Humphries are taking reps at LT, with Kyle Koehne taking reps at LG. Trenton Brown (6-foot-8, 363 pounds) and Tyler Moore are both taking reps at RT.

Scouting the run defense: Florida’s once mighty run defense has struggled since the season-ending injury to DT Dominique Easley. In UF’s last three games, the Gators have allowed an average of 167 yards per game. The return of DT Damien Jacobs should help plug up some holes inside, but Florida will have a tough challenge stopping Georgia sophomore RB Todd Gurley.

Scouting the pass defense: Florida’s pass defense continues to be a bright spot, and it will need to be at its best facing Georgia senior QB Aaron Murray. CBs Vernon Hargreaves, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson are all healthy. Florida’s nine interceptions are fourth-most in the SEC while the Gators lead the SEC in pass defense, allowing just 172.4 yards per game.

Scouting the special teams: Florida seems to have its kicking game straightened out with freshman John Townsend at punter and walk-on Frankie Velez at PK. Velez is 3-for-3 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 41 yards. WR Solomon Patton returned a kickoff for a TD and could have another big day returning kicks against Georgia’s suspect kick-coverage teams.