FACTS & STATS: Site: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548) — Gainesville,
Florida. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: EKU 4-1, Florida 2-3. Away
Record: EKU 5-1, Florida 3-1. Neutral Record: EKU 0-0, Florida 0-0. Conference
Record: EKU 6-2, Florida 4-4. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In his first game since announcing he will step down as head coach
at the University of Florida, Will Muschamp will lead his Gators out onto the
field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as Florida takes on
FCS power Eastern Kentucky.
“I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by Dr.
Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida,” said Muschamp. “I was
given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didnt win enough
games – that is the bottom line. I’m disappointed that I didnt get it done
and it is my responsibility to get it done I have no bitter feelings, but this
is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field.”
Muschamp’s Gators have struggled this season, coming into this contest at a
mere 5-4 after falling in overtime to South Carolina last weekend in
Gainesville, 23-20. A usually strong homefield advantage has not materialized
this season for Florida, which is just 2-3 in Gainesville in 2014.
Dean Hood’s Colonels have had a strong season at the FCS level. They are
currently ranked 14th in the FCS Top-25 poll and although they cannot win the
Ohio Valley Conference, they have a strong shot at an at-large bid to the FCS
Playoffs. Eastern Kentucky is 9-2 overall and enters this contest following a
thrilling 43-36 come-from-behind win over Murray State last week.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
The Colonels are moving the ball at a high rate, especially on the ground,
where they amass 243.1 yards per game on 5.0 yards per carry. A lot of that
production comes from All-America candidate Dy’Shawn Mobley. The University of
Kentucky transfer has had a remarkable season. After scoring six touchdowns in
last week’s win over Murray State and being named the FCS National Offensive
Player of the Week, Mobley has now rushed for 1,372 yards and 19 touchdowns.
is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the FCS’s top
EKU’s ability to run the football has forced the passing game to take a
backseat. The Colonels are netting just under 200 yards per game through the
Senior QB Jared McClain has completed an efficient 60.9 percent of his passes
in 2014, but it has resulted in just 1,118 yards and five TDs. Wideouts Jeff
Glover (37 rec, 642 yds, 3 TDs) and Devin Borders (36 rec, 501 yds, 5 TDs) are
the top vertical threats for EKU.
Defensively, the Colonels have had their ups and downs, allowing 22.5 points
per game on a generous 409.8 yards of total offense. Opponents have moved the
chains on the ground and through the air and have scored 12 rushing TDs and 15
receiving TDs. Big plays have been the norm though for EKU, which has
registered 30 takeaways (15 INTs, 15 FR).
Safety Brandon Stanley has been a tackling machine for EKU this season,
topping the squad with 102 total stops, with 7.0 TFL, 4 interceptions and 2
forced fumbles. Fellow safety Kiante Northington (73 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FR)
has had a strong season in the secondary as well.
Offensively, Florida has had plenty of success running the football, but has
lacked consistency throwing the ball. The team is getting over 200 yards
rushing per game (207.4), but a lack of playmaking at the quarterback position
has plagued this team.
Neither junior Jeff Driskel nor freshman Treon Harris have played all that
well. Driskel completed just 52.7 percent of his passes this season with six
TDs against 10 INTs, losing his job to Harris (.589 completion rate) who has
been only marginally better.
Sophomore Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 200) is the team’s top option on the outside
regardless of the quarterback, as he leads the team with 39 receptions, for
566 yards and five TDs.
Junior tailback Matt Jones is the top gainer on the ground for Florida with
761 yards (5.1 ypc) and six TDs. Sophomore Kelvin Taylor (499 yards, 5.5 ypc,
5 TDs) has shown flashes of exceptional play as well.
The Gators have had far more success on the defensive side of the football.
On the year, the team is yielding 22.9 ppg, holding foes to just 330.3 yards
of total offense (20th nationally).
Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison leads the team with 88 total tackles. He
has also recorded one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble
recovery. Junior defensive end Dante Fowler (49 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks)
has flashed NFL skills at times, as has sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves
III (39 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FR).
Florida is no stranger to losing to an FCS program at home, as the Gators were
shocked by Georgia Southern just one year ago. Still, there is probably a
strong sentiment to win for the exiting Muschamp, so look for Florida to get
the job done here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 36, Eastern Kentucky 17