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September 1, 2012
FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING: Rivals100 wide receiver commits | Saturday visitor tidbits | Instant Analysis: Gators win a close one | Will Muschamp talks about the starting quarterback job post-game | Big Time Visitor in the Swamp | Weekend Visitor Preview - top tackle on campus | Leak is familiar with quarterback battles | ITG Round Table: Fall Football Edition | Freshmen Report: Predicting who plays
Florida had just struggled for the better part of three quarters against a team that went 5-7 in the Mid-American Conference last season.
The Gators' defense - touted preseason as a major strength - had just given up 332 yards, nearly 200 of them coming in the second half.
Florida had one sack, one passing touchdown and 14 penalties for 106 yards.
Will Muschamp walked into the locker room to address his team, a group that will begin an eight-game run through the Southeastern Conference next weekend in College Station.
What did he tell them?
"Congratulations on a great win."
Muschamp is almost certainly the only person inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday who could utter the word "great" after watching three and a half hours of anything but. It's his overly positive and unrealistic bravado; the same language he spewed for 12 weeks last season en route to a 6-6 record.
This is a man who spent the off-season talking about wanting his team to "start fast" before watching it trail Bowling Green 7-0 after Saturday's first quarter.
The same guy who admitted after last season that he knew his team's lateral run game wasn't going to work going into games against Alabama and LSU.
He waits for the last possible moment to react, so when he was asked if his team had set the proper tone for 2012, Muschamp's response was short and icy:
"Yep, we're 1-0."
We've seen this story before.
The Florida team that could have legitimately lost to Bowling Green Saturday won't stand a chance against the majority of its SEC schedule. There's time for improvement, but not much. Texas A&M is now less than one week away.
"Bowling Green came in with a good scheme and they really worked hard," defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "This team will get better."
It's logical to believe Florida will get better, but it's certainly not a given. Florida's struggles Saturday were eerily similar to the struggles that plagued 2011. There still wasn't consistency at quarterback. Pass protection was often poor. By the third quarter, the defense was worn down and got pushed around up front by what should have been an over-matched offensive line.
But it was discipline that was the most concerning. Florida's 14 penalties included a late hit on a punter by Andre Debose.
"I addressed it with the team after the game," Muschamp said. "We've exhausted every measure I know."
That doesn't sound like a good omen for the rest of the season in week one.
It's all rhetoric - Muschamp can't possibly be as naive as he sounds in post-game press conferences. He'll give the same shtick week after week until the season draws to a mediocre close and he has to vent.
You can call it protecting his team, but you can also argue it's putting unrealistic and false expectations on his players. Keep in mind, the players who were on the field Saturday were the same players who had "great" camps while doors were shut and coach speak was to be taken as the Gospel.
All so they could treat Bowling Green like a tough SEC foe.
"We've got to give credit to Bowling Green," Jeff Driskel said. "We didn't take them lightly. They played well. We're just happy to come out with a win. That was the main goal today."
Saturday was a sad day for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, whether Muschamp will admit it or not. There was lackluster effort and the empty seats only spread when a large portion of the student body left at halftime. Muschamp wasn't "overly concerned" about attendance, but he should be concerned about the reasons less and less people seem to care about Florida.
No one has to be happy with "1-0."