Will Muschamp got Florida to give its best effort against South Carolina. Thanks to his game management the Gators played the No. 10 team in the country to a virtual stalemate without the help of their top two quarterbacks or a multitude of other key members of opening day depth chart.
He also did this in Columbia, where the Gamecocks haven't lost a home game since October 1, 2011. And that loss was to eventual national champion Auburn. Over the past four seasons, the Gamecocks have lost two games at home.
So you can't treat this like it was an easy task to go into Columbia and beat the No. 10-ranked Gamecocks on their home field.
Not that it's an actual thing, but Muschamp (and staff) should be SEC coach of the week for making that a 5-point game.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 17, 2013
The game plan that Muschamp designed was perfect to try to win a game against the Gamecocks. Control the ball. Attack the right side of the field and pass sparingly with the third-string quarterback who shouldn't have been in the game in the first place.
A Perfect Game-Plan Design
When designing a game plan, a coach has to highlight his team's strengths and attack the opposing team's weaknesses. The Gators did exactly that against the Gamecocks when they ran the ball three times as many times as they threw it.
The 41 runs going for 200 yards, two touchdowns and a 4.88 yards-per-carry average was exactly the kind of production a coach hopes for against a talented Carolina run defense that only allows 4.13 yards per carry and just 151 yards per game.
They accomplished most of this by running away from All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney while trying to supplement with minimal passing from a third-string quarterback. Very few coaches could have kept this competitive, but Muschamp had them attacking a Carolina defense in their house effectively.
The Players Are Fighting For Coach Muschamp
The Gators' players are out there busting their hump to win games despite this being a lost season for the program. They have the look of a team who wants to play spoiler to some team's bowl or even national title hopes. They fight, scratch and claw.
Yes, the Gators are underperforming, but it's not because they aren't trying. Muschamp's job is to win games. But this year's horrendous circumstances change that quite a bit.
His job this season is to make sure that his players are giving their best efforts in every game and game-planning for his opponents. And he's been doing that well enough. Also, Coach Muschamp should be given a chance to defend himself:
Muschamp had this salvo: "Some of our fans need to get a grip. They got a bunch of kids in that locker room fighting their butt off. ...— Edgar Thompson (@osgators) November 17, 2013
"They can criticize me all you want. I’m great with that. They pay me enough money to deal with that," Muschamp cont— Edgar Thompson (@osgators) November 17, 2013
He makes a great point. This is the same coach that led the Gators to a Sugar Bowl in 2012. When healthy, this team has the talent to take on anyone and beat them. The issue isn't that there is a lack of fight. The issue is that there's a lack of experienced depth.
And sometimes, it takes a lost season where a ton of players get injured to develop that experienced depth. Florida has a ton of talented, hard-working players on the roster. Let them get healthy and more experienced, and the SEC title will have a much better shot at returning to Gainesville.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
With better health and behavior, this Florida team would have stood a much better chance. But when a coach's squad has the amount of injuries Muschamp has had to deal with this year, he has to make due with a ton of freshmen and sophomores that he wasn't expecting to use.
Pretty divisive responses to what I said about Muschamp. I get that you're frustrated, Gators, but you've got to look at what UF had tonight— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 17, 2013
And I'm not championing what is happening at UF. I'm saying, on the road with 3rd-string QB, they had a plan that gave them a chance.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 17, 2013
According to Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins, the Gators have five starters out for the season with injuries and three key reserves out as well. And this was from a month ago. Since then, they've also lost Marcus Roberson due to a suspension and Antonio Morrison due to a knee injury. This brings the total to seven Gators starters lost for the season.
Losing quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy, the best three defensive players on the roster in Dominique Easley, Morrison and Roberson, starting running back Matt Jones and multiple offensive tackles for the game is tough enough.
To have injuries continue to compound the entire season will only hurt the Gators' chances for a victory. As the old saying goes, "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken poop." And the Gators tried and almost succeeded in doing that versus the Gamecocks.
So calm down, Gator fans.
Your head coach isn't the problem. He's just a chef who was expecting to make a 5-star meal but has been given Taco Bell-caliber ingredients to work with.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.