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November 30, 2013

Notebook: Gators can't maintain strong start



No. 2 Florida State came in with the most dominant offense this side of Baylor, a Heisman Trophy favorite at quarterback and more explosive offensive weapons than any other team in the country. The Seminoles are loaded, and they lived up to their billing against the rival Gators.

"They've got a good team. They do. They've played ahead of the scoreboard, they've played well defensively," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "They are a very good lose-downs defense, and they get you into obviously throw-down situations. They run it well enough and they have some mismatch issues outside."

Numbers might not have been quite as gaudy as they have been most of the season for the Seminoles, but their 37-7 win against the Gators was still plenty impressive. FSU racked up 456 yards (327 through the air) compared to a 193 total for Florida.

FSU ran a wide-open pro-style approach accented by a blinding speed inside and out to perfection. Florida - out of necessity - surrendered to conservatism knowing what it has left on offense can be counted on to do little more than not lose a game.

"They made us work for everything we got," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We struggled early in the game a little bit, but it had (everything) to do with the way they were playing. We just kept sawing wood, staying at it and got to make plays."

Playmaking emphasis goes to quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who linked up nine times for 212 yards and three touchdowns. This came after Winston was knocked around and rushed early with two sacks and a hurry.

"When I get sacked, when I get hit late, I take that as my fault. I should have got the ball out," Winston said. "Of course those guys are going to try to hit me, to try to get me rattled and stuff, but that's nothing. When you're trying to rattle somebody, when you've got a great team like this one, it's kind of hard to do."

-- FAMILIAR FACES --

Florida's sideline had a couple notable blasts from the past for Saturday's game. Tim Tebow and Matt Elam were both in attendance and spent time with the Gators' players leading up to their matchup with FSU.

"Matt actually was in the building on Friday. He played Thursday night. He was here early Friday morning," Muschamp said. "He spent the day with us and the players. Great to have him back, which we could have put him back there in a uniform."

Tebow, who continues to look for work as a National Football League quarterback, spoke to the team before the game about "getting off the mat" and attacking adversity. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley has been back in Gainesville the past two weeks and was recognized before the game as part of senior day.

-- ONGOING QUESTIONS --

Muschamp left the most pressing issues of the offseason open-ended, at least for now. He said there will be an "open competition" at quarterback in the spring. He discussed a need for change but wouldn't comment on possible staff changes.

"I haven't made any decisions at this time," he said regarding the staff. Asked about the stigma that Muschamp is a coach who prefers to run a ball control offense and is unwilling to change, he said, "Perception's not always reality. I'm willing to do what we need to do to score points and win games."

As for juniors possibly departing for the NFL: "That's something I'll discuss in the coming days. I've had some discussions with a couple of guys. But I don't really want to comment at this time about that."

-- BUMPS AND BRUISES --

Florida was without 20 scholarship players for the majority of Saturday's game. Trey Burton and Keanu Neal left in the first half with shoulder injuries. Joey Ivie sliced his foot on a scooter in an accident that required 25 stitches. Marcus Roberson rolled his ankle in practice Thursday and missed most of the game.


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