The debacle by the Florida Gators inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Wednesday night is going to take a while for head coach Will Muschamp to overcome, and he has himself to blame.
His Gators were embarrassed 33-23 by Big East champ Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates.
The offensive line couldn't protect quarterback Jeff Driskel, Driskel couldn't complete—and barely even attempted—downfield passes and the defense couldn't slow down Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, even though he had very little help from his running game.
In other words, the Gators got whipped for 60 minutes by a team from the Big East.
That's not supposed to happen to a supposed SEC power; and the blame falls squarely on Muschamp's shoulders.
In Florida's two biggest games this season—the Sugar Bowl and the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia—the Gators fell flat on their face.
Florida had a chance to beat Georgia and clinch the SEC East before the calendar turned to November. Ten penalties, nine points and six turnovers later—including one at the Georgia 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter—Muschamp's crew squandered a golden opportunity to put itself in position for the SEC title and perhaps more.
You can argue that they weren't motivated to play what was perceived as a lesser opponent in the Sugar Bowl. There is definitely something to that, but it doesn't justify getting smoked.
The Gators surely didn't want to get embarrassed; and when Louisville punched them in the mouth, they had no answer. That's on Muschamp more than anybody else.
It's also something that is deeper than just one bowl game.
Florida relied on its running game and defense all season long. When the defense let them down against Louisville, Driskel wasn't prepared to mount a comeback with his arm. He was indecisive in the pocket and held the ball too long, which resulted in offensive coordinator Brent Pease barely giving him the opportunity to stretch the field—even when it was the only reasonable option.
Muschamp and Pease didn't give his offense the opportunity to become two-dimensional during the season, so it shouldn't be shocking to see the same old Gators when the defense let them down.
After cutting the deficit to 24-10 at halftime, Muschamp called for an onside kick—which failed—coming out of halftime.
Why run the risk of giving Louisville the ball on a short field when you have momentum when your bread and butter all year long has been defense? Make adjustments on that side of the ball and trust those adjustments. Trusting in your players and coaching staff indicates confidence. Gimmicks suggest desperation.
That's not to say that Muschamp hasn't won big games as Florida's head coach. He has. South Carolina, LSU and Florida State this year are three good examples.
But in the two biggest games of his Florida head coaching career—the de facto SEC East title game and the Sugar Bowl which likely would have solidified his team to the preseason top five—his team came out flat.
He's going to have to work on that this offseason if Florida truly wants to be considered a contender for the crystal football.