C l i c k   for   H  O  M  E  P  A  G  E

2 0 0 6    S u m m a r i e s

Last Years

Recruiting - Pre Season Rant - Southern Miss. - UCF - Tennessee - Kentucky - Alabama
LSU - Georgia - USC - Western Carolina - FSU - SEC Championship - National Championship

Recruiting Rant

Coach Meyer’s recruiting so far is unbelievable. Here’s hoping that everybody keeps their commitment and makes the grades to play ball in Gainesville next fall. Most of the trackers such as Rival.com have UF hauling in the #1 class in the nation. Take that for what it’s worth, but I recall that Chris Leak’s freshman class was also rated the nation’s best.

Would it not be me if I didn’t point out that ALL of our major rivals – FSU, Georgia, Miami and Auburn – got beaten in their bowl games! Each, except for FSU, was favored in their game…

To all, I hope you have a great year. We’re going to watch some Gator hoop, Gator baseball, maybe a gymnastics meet or two and wait for recruit signing day. Until next fall…

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

2006 Preseason Rant

The Bad News is that there are many yet-to-be answered questions before anybody can predict what kind of season is in store for the Florida Gators.

The Good News is that there are many yet-to-be answered questions before anybody can predict what kind of season is in store for the Florida Gators.

For every "pro" (’experience at quarterback’) there seems to be a corresponding "con" (’inexperience offensive line’). Or, outstanding linebackers versus inexperienced secondary.

I’m not here to break it all down; that’s the job for the preseason magazines. Can UF finish in the top 5 nationally, as most of the prognosticators suggest?


Forget Tennessee, forget FSU, Florida’s season will come down to a month-long four-game stretch during which time the Gators will play Alabama (at home), LSU (homecoming), at Auburn, and the annual cocktail party versus Georgia in Jacksonville.

If Florida runs that gauntlet 3-1, a division title is very possible. A 4-0 run should guarantee a trip to the SEC title game and a BCS bowl. A 2-2 split renews the chant "wait until next year."

How to get there? UF must score more than the 28 ppg. averaged in ’05. Can that happen without a defined running game?

No. Somebody -- Deshawn Wynn, Markus Manson, or a true freshman -- has to step up.

Granted Chris Leak should prosper from the consistency of not having to learn a new offense. Dallas Baker, Bubba Caldwell, Cornelius Ingram and Tate Casey will strike fear into opposing defenses.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Southern Mississippi

It wasn’t the most memorable game ever played in The Swamp. Florida’s 34-7 win over Southern Mississippi won’t be remembered in the annals of Gator lore for much beyond the fact that it was UF’s 17th consecutive opening game win.

Let’s call it a solid win over a quality opponent. I’m not sure what the expectation was heading into kickoff... perhaps fans expected more scoring. What we got was a workman-like effort from an offense that has posed more questions than answers since the Orange & Blue game last spring.

Some of those questions were answered Saturday. Quarterback Chris Leak turned in a solid performance, making beautiful throws and scrambling away from danger when necessary. The passing game looked superb and will create problems for opposing defenses. Coach Myer found creative ways to get the ball into the hands of freshman phenom Percy Harvin, who caught three passes and led the team in rushing... a rare feat for a wide receiver. The offensive line was not dominant, but performed credibly. The running game - as expected - is weak.

But the defense was outstanding. Bodies flying around, tackles, interceptions and pressure, pressure, pressure on the opposing QB; this with two DL starters on the bench. I liked what I saw.

One thing I didn’t like was the new running clock rule. This is going to cut down scoring, shortening the game by 12-15 plays.

The 2006 Gators won’t be mistaken for the 1996 National Championship Gator team that was honored prior to kickoff. It’s too early to tell how this team would compare to any of the Spurrier teams from 1990-2001. But what I saw was enough... just enough spark to make you believe that even better days lie ahead. Keep in mind that UF was one win away from winning the East Division each of the past three years. And every year, a "gimme" win turned loss - Ole Miss (twice) and South Carolina (last year) - cost the Gators a title... much to the benefit of the Georgia Bulldogs.

This week, the Gators host the University of Central Florida at the Swamp. As much as we would like to take UCF for granted, all one has to do is recall that the Knights ruined Alabama’s homecoming a few years ago. The lesson here is: take nothing for granted, play one game at a time. Should be an interesting game.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs UCF Game Summary

I've never used this forum to crack wise on fans. Obviously we love tailgating and I'm all for fans supporting their teams. I've worn my colors and have been a 'Go Gators' kind of guy inside most southern stadiums from Baton Rouge to Miami to Columbia.

So I was initially impressed at the numbers of University of Central Florida fans who turned out for Saturday's measuring-stick game against the big-brother University of Gators. Lots and lots of cute little size 3's dressed out in UCF black & gold. Guys with their faces painted wearing their Golden Knights T-shirts.

You got here early, and totally screwed up parking (five cars in spaces that normally park 15). Poor etiquette. More annoying, you left your trash, bottles, cans, cups and everything else on the ground wherever it happened to drop.

Almost as annoying as your trash was your trash talk. I'm not talking about the 'ohooray for my team' banter one expects at a college football extravaganza, I'm talking about the in-your-face smack talk intended to provoke and incite. Just bad manners.

One of the things I've learned over the years: Don't rile the locals.

So many of you ran your mouths before and during the game as if your school had actually accomplished anything during its 10 years of Division I play. And the yapping continued during a lackluster first quarter (I'm talking to you Mr. Straw Hat in the yellow shirt, Row 85).

Guess what? We weren't impressed. I've seen better manners and less swagger from fans whose teams actually defend conference or national titles.

So it was with great amusement that I watched the change in your demeanor and noted pain in your faces during the Gators' four-touchdown onslaughtduring the final eight minutes of the first half.

Instant karma's gonna get ya.

Tempted as I was, I didn't say a word. I didn't have to'¦ 400 yards of offense and 34-0 at the half speaks for itself. You had it coming, Mr. Straw Hat, you just didn't see it coming. Sorry you chose to leave and miss the 2nd half. Your Golden Knights got a golden shower. You missed seeing your team outplayed, out-hit and out-hustled in every facet of the game. The measuring stick showed you came up way short. Final score: 42-0.

Tell your coach to put that in his resume.

Now, let's put it all into perspective: It was a nice tune up for the SEC conference opener. The only thing meaningful gleaned from this game was no injuries, game experience for new players and some spark shown by the running game. Chris Leak continues to shine. This week, the Gators travel to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Volunteers. This is always a tough game.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Tennessee Game Summary

I've seen it before and you have too. It scared me then and it scares me now.

Gators won emotional contest versus Tennessee. Suddenly, the Gators are invincible chest-thumping, world-beaters. Seen it before. Saw it last year.

I'm not saying don't enjoy the win. It was great game to watch. UF comes from 10 points down to pull out victory on the road. Haven't seen much of that since SOS left town... The stuff that really makes good teams great.

It remains to be seen what kind of Tennessee team the Gators defeated. What I'm suggesting here is: let's avoid the "Alabama letdown."

You saw it last year. 4-0 invincible chest-thumping, world-beater Gators
beat UT, beat UK then got hammered in Tuscaloosa. Ugly.

Rising in the poll to Number 5. World-beaters.

We know better. We know what world beaters look like: World Beaters
look like 1996. Are we there yet?

Not yet.

Can we get there?


This week is Kentucky at the Swamp. Should be a runaway score. Chris
Leak gets to pad his stats for a half, Tim Teabow should get some real
playing time. UF names its score, the 'Cats lose to UF for the 20th
consecutive year.

So enjoy today, enjoy it this week and enjoy the Swamp on Saturday.

One game at a time.

After that, the REAL season begins.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Kentucky Game Summary

If you attended the Florida versus Kentucky football game in the Swamp you saw several things that probably pissed you off.

It did not look as if UF came to play. I can understand a let down, coming off of a big road win to play a perennial patsy. The Marcus Thomas suspension was obviously a distraction and could also be a factor in the team's lack of focus.

Granted, if the team is going to experience a let-down, this is probably the last time before the Vanderbilt or West Carolina game that can happen without disasterous results. The margin for error for the next four games (Alabama, vs. LSU, at Auburn and vs. Georgia) - is very slim.

Something is wrong with the kicking game. The extra-point/field goal team missed its fourth extra point in as many games. Unacceptable. Keep this up and this WILL cost a game. And WTF was that half-assed fake field goal line plunge on fourth and long? This kicker NEEDED the confidence of making a field goal. Or missing it, so we can get on with the search for his replacement. Leading 26-7 in the fourth quarter, was Urban concerned about appearing to 'run up' the score?

Next, what is the deal with using QB Tim Tebow as a 'teaser?' All the guy did was move the team downfield, only to surrender the reins to Chris Leak who was one-for-three in putting points on the board. Let 'Timmmmaaay' take it to the end zone, for crying out loud. As it was, UF left too many points on the field, something that will be costly versus the SEC heavyweights.

But the night's biggest gaffe - the thing that pissed me off more than Lindsey Scott - was the halftime show.

Yes. The Gator freakin' Band.

Who in God's name came up with the bright idea to play Led Zeppelin? From the lame rendition of 'Black Dog' to the lame rendition of 'The Immigrant Song' to the wildly underwhelming (and lame) finale 'Stairway to Heaven' this halftime show sucked more than anything has ever sucked before.

Marching bands really do have a place at football games. Hearing 'Go Gators' and 'We are the Boy From Old Florida' makes me all warm and fuzzy, harkening back to my childhood days. Take that away and I would miss it. I can handle 'Hail Michigan' or even 'Notre Dame Fight Song.' And it's less about the melody, and more the sheer inane repetitiveness of 'War Chant' (with the stupid fan hum-along) and 'Rocky Top,' that makes me wish sterility upon those band's members, and Old Testament-style death to their fans, coaches, and teams. Cazart.!! Even the Georgia band knows when to quit, playing only eight bars of something that sounds like the catchy opening strains of Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love.'

But nobody in their right mind turns a marching band loose with the sheet music to 'Stairway to Heaven.' That is just warped.

To quote Bill Murray, 'They must be stopped'

Please don't do it again. Ever.

This week Alabama comes to town. The Tide is riding a loss, courtesy of their own kicking game problems. This should be a really hard-hitting game. Hopefully, the memory of last year's humiliating loss will provide adequate motivation to go out and kick the $&@& out of Bama. Let's just hope it doesn't come down to a field-goal contest.

And let’s also hope that the band does not attempt to play more than eight bars of any song by 'Zeppelin, Springsteen, the Stones, or Tom Petty'.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Alabama Game Summary

It was somewhat apropos the UF played Saturday’s game versus Alabama wearing 1960’s vintage retro uniforms. The low score for most of the first three quarters was reminiscent of football from that by-gone era. The Gators wore white helmets with the ’F’ emblazoned on each side -- last seen in 1967 -- and blue jerseys with wide shoulder stripes and numbers on the sleeves. Alabama, like Penn State, makes no uniform fashion statement. They look about the same as when Bear Bryant was their coach.

The 28-13 final score was somewhat deceptive in that UF trailed for nearly three-quarters of the game. Clinging tenuously to a 14-13 advantage, one could almost sense that the Tide would march downfield to position them for a game-winning kick. Game-winning because Bama’s kicker made two field goals – accounting for all of the Tide’s offensive points – while UF’s kicker missed his only attempt.

In the end, it was two fourth-quarter interceptions – one returned for a score that sealed the visitor’s fate. UF’s defensive score equaled Alabama’s defensive TD, a 50-yard fumble return in the first quarter. UF tallied two TD passes from Chris Leak and a short plunge by QB Tim Tebow – set up by a 45-yard scramble by Leak – to ensure that the Gator’s bring an undefeated mark into this week’s homecoming match-up against LSU.

Other than the two field goals, The Tide rolled around the swamp to 320 yards and 20 first downs, but no offensive touchdowns. Credit the defense for stepping up when it had to.

The Gators have now twice orchestrated come-from-behind fourth quarter touchdowns. However, the UF remains one of college football’s more enigmatic teams. The record and national fifth place ranking seems so… low key.

One can only wonder what Gator legend Steve Spurrier – in attendance to be honored as one of UF’s initial foursome in the ’Ring of Honor’ – was thinking as he watched this team outslug its opponent. No 50-point barrage, but more notable, no swagger.

Rather than being known for being a team that scores points in batches, perhaps it will be that this Gator team’s legacy that it came, it saw and it found a way.

Which brings us to LSU. LSU has its own identity questions. It has rolled against overmatched teams, but lost a 7-3 slugfest at Auburn three weeks ago. Which LSU team will show up at the Swamp, where the Bayou Bengals have won in their last two trips.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

L O U I S I A N A    S T A T E
Florida versus L S U Game Summary

OK, admit it… You didn’t think the Gators could beat LSU.

Yeah, I know, wins against Alabama and Tennessee are nice, but down deep, many felt that those wins were just the result of some really fortuitous quirks.

Tennessee was coming off a losing season. The Vols have a psychological block when it comes to playing Florida. UT is not that good anyway.

Alabama is just not the ’Bama’ of old. The Tide suffered big graduation losses. UA was coming off a loss. Bama is just not that good anyway. LSU had you worried. Averaging 40 points per game. Three years removed from a national championship. Big and physical. Dangerous running or throwing the football. Excellent defense. Then some genius had to further insult their machismo by scheduling LSU for homecoming.

You felt it with each LSU third-down conversion. The Tigers were pushing UF around the swamp in the first half. Late in the 2nd quarter, with the Tigers driving the ball down the Gators’ throats, at the UF one yard-line, it looked like it was about to slip away.

Then came the fumble. Another fortuitous quirk. Then came the interception. Another fortuitous quirk. Then came Tebow’s double-clutch pass to Tate Casey and suddenly the Gators were taking a 14-7 lead into halftime.

A fortuitous quirk safety on the 2nd half kick-off followed by Tebow’s improbable wide-open long TD pass sent LSU reeling. Then Urban turned the game over to the defense, which surrendered a field goal the rest of the way. Game over, Gators win 23-10. UF goes to 6-0 and jumps to #2 in the polls.

Huh? #2?

Don’t get all heady. This week, UF must travel to Auburn to play the other Tigers – smarting from their first loss and the dashing of their national championship aspirations. A month ago, an Auburn win would have been a lock. Today, UF will probably enter the game a slight favorite. These Tigers will be even more nasty than usual.

Which doesn’t mean a thing. The Gators absolutely must maintain their focus and patience. Don’t panic if Auburn gets out to a lead. Keep doing the things that have been successful thus far. And don’t get caught up in any "We’re #2" hoopla. That will likely result in just that: a lot of #2.

Funny thing, those fortuitous quirks. No team is immune from them.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Auburn Game Summary

I was disappointed in the Gator’s effort in the 2nd half of the game at Auburn. Not disappointed in the loss – I had pegged this game early on as UF’s most likely pitfall in that regard – I just did not see the same execution and motivation that was evident in the first 30 minutes.

There is no need to dissect the game again here. It was probably the most-watched Gator game of the year. I just wish the offense had shown up for the 2nd half.

I was giddy at halftime with UF leading 17-11. I figured the Gators were good for two or three more scores, which would really put the pressure on Tuberville’s Tigers. Kudos to the Gator Defense. It hardly seems possible, but Auburn’s offense did not cross the UF goal line this night. The Gator D held the Tigers-War Eagles-Plainsmen to four field goals. The offense surrendered a safety and a TD and special teams gave up a TD on a blocked punt.

Much as I want to, I’m not going to lash into the coaching staff. Despite the extremely poor 2nd half play, UF was in position to win the game with under four minutes to play.

Just not enough Tebow in the 2nd half...

No game this week, so UF get two weeks to heal up, watch film and prepare for a big conference game against Georgia in Jacksonville. The Dawgs have been less than impressive during their recent three-game homestand, coming from behind to nip winless Colorado, absorbing a pasting from Tennessee and losing a shocker to Vanderbilt. Even assuming a big W against Miss State this week, it is unlikely that Georgia will be ranked when the first cocktail is poured on Oct. 28.

I know you share my disappointment, but keep in mind that this isn’t the end of the world. The Gators are still masters of their own destiny. Win out and we’re going to Atlanta. So lets all get focused on winning the SEC East and getting to Atlanta. After that, anything is possible; there’s still a lot of football left to be played. <

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Pre Georgia Game Rant

In my preseason rant, I wrote that the Gators’ season would come down to a four-game stretch of games against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. At the time, I wrote that a 3-1 record was possible and would be the minimum necessary to "guarantee" a trip to Atlanta as the SEC Eastern Division champions.

Eight weeks later, the Gators sit atop of the SEC East standing with a 6-1 record and indeed have a shot at going 3-1 for the stretch. Standing in their way is their hated arch-rival Georgia Bulldogs at the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party in Jacksonville.

The good news is that Georgia has been less than spectacular this season. The ’Dawgs were upended twice at home, by Tennessee (51-33) and Vanderbilt (24-22), losses which extinguished any hope of UGa defending the SEC title. Recent Georgia wins have come at the expense of 1-6 Colorado (14-13), 2-6 Mississippi (14-9), and 2-6 Mississippi State (27-24), these wins by a total of nine points against three teams with a combined record of 5 wins and 18 losses.

The bad news is that there are no guarantees in the Southeastern Conference.

This is a series that Florida has dominated recently –– 14-2 since 1990 – but it would not be unheard of for Georgia to save its best game of the year for the Gators. In fact this was the norm during a 22-game span between the late 1960s through the 1980s, a period dominated by UGa and which included at least three improbable wins (10-7 in 1972, 26-21 in 1980 and 10-9 in 1983). In those days, if Georgia was favored, Georgia won. If Florida was favored, Georgia won. If you thought Miami fans swagger, you obviously never attended an outdoor cocktail party when Georgia was winning...

To win Saturday, I think the Gator offense simply must do its part: score points and protect the football.... Duh!!! Against Georgia, there can be no 2nd half letdown as occurred against Auburn; I didn’t think we played very ’smart’ in that game. I’d like to see a lot more Timmmaaay Tebow. If UF can score 24 points, I think Georgia loses. The Gator Defense saved last year’s game 14-10, and the Defense has been stellar this year, limiting Alabama, LSU and Auburn to a combined seven field goals and one offensive touchdown. But the offense and special teams have surrendered three TDs and a safety against those teams. That’s unsatisfactory.

Enough said.

I always appreciate this game for its special and unique tailgating ambience. Rain or shine, hot or cold, night or day, it always features a miasma of equal parts Orange & Blue and Red & Black, shouts of "Go Gators!" echoing responses of “Go Dawgs!” and the unofficial fashion show-beauty contest of dressed-to-the-nines Georgia peaches contrasted by the more casual jeans shorts and crop-topped suntanned UF beauties. Rob & Marie magically secure four or five parking spaces, so we always circle our wagons, put up our tent, fly our flag and rock our tunes. Gator Bob always delivers a toast for the ages.

So come early, bring the bloody Mary’s and leave the Jell-o shots at home. For me it’s Florida-Georgia game #34. I can’t wait.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Georgia Game Summary

A win is a win is a win...

That’s the feeling that most of Gator Nation walked away with after UF’s underwhelming 21-14 win over archrival Georgia at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Saturday.

I knew we were in trouble when ESPN Analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit both picked the Gators to ’win big.’ Whenever these guys do that, look out... After the game, the ESPN crew continued to extol UF’s virtues in light of Southern Cal’s defeat, postulating that Florida had the best chance of any one-loss team to play in the Bowl Championship Series Title game, assuming the Gators win the Southeastern Conference title, which they predicted would happen by UF whipping Auburn or Arkansas.

Whew! Can you say ’Kiss of Death...’

Against Georgia, Florida was favored by 14 points, which made for a very mellow and low-key tailgating atmosphere. The Dawg denizens were friendly and polite - before and after the game -- a far cry from the expected obnoxious, in-your-face behavior of which we’ve become so accustomed. It was as if they expected UF to ’win big’ in accordance with the ESPN prophecy.

For its part, Florida played a good first half, building a 14-0 lead and keeping Georgia bottled up in their own territory. Lightning struck on the first offensive play of the 2nd half when Georgia fumbled and UF’s Ray McDonald scooped up the football and fell into the end zone for a 21-0 lead. At that point, I expected UGA to quit, but to their credit, the did not, and made things interesting, taking advantage of two missed field goals and assorted Gator miscues to rally to 21-14 with about 8 minutes to play.

Once more, as it has all season long, the Gator defense rose to the occasion and stopped Georgia when it mattered, allowing the offense to grind out a couple of key first downs and run out the clock on this critical if not somewhat unsatisfying win.

For the record, it is UF’s 15th win over Georgia in the last 17 years. Also, the Gators have completed the critical four-game conference gauntlet with a 3-1 record. Only Vanderbilt away and South Carolina at home, stand between the Gators and their first division crown since 2000.

Coach Meyer, please fix whatever is causing this 2nd-half slump. This team is good, but not good enough to continue to let lesser team ’hang around.’ Give anybody a shot at a win in the waning minutes and one day you’re going to pay.

This week, the Gators travel to Vanderbilt for a game that has everybody edgy. Granted Vanderbilt has raised its game in recent years - heck, they took us to two overtimes in the swamp last year and beat Georgia two weeks ago. Even so, a Vandy win would qualify as the college football upset of the year. For that to occur, the Gators will really have to sputter and stumble to lose to the Commodores for the first time in 15 games dating back to 1988...

...Which is possible unless the Gators reaffirm their commitment to play 60 minutes - not just 30 minutes - of football.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Vanderbilt Game Summary

Congratulations to the Florida Gators, 2006 champions of the SEC Eastern Division.

I'm not gonna dwell on Saturday's 25-19 victory against Vanderbilt, except to say that Coach Meyer still hasn't ironed out the 2nd half adjustment bugs. And the Commodores proved that they are far tougher than anybody believes.

I've observed a phenomenon among Gator faithful. I'm going to call Pre-Spurrier Syndrome (PSS) and I have a friend who suffers from it. My friend became a die-hard Gator during the 1960s. Back then UF had some good years… but other than one Orange Bowl victory sandwiched between a couple of narrow Sugar Bowl losses, UF was consistently an SEC afterthought; an also-ran team relegated to 2nd tier bowls. UF's borderline great teams never quite made it over the hump to win a Southeastern Conference title in football (or basketball).

This trend continued into the 1970 through the 1980s. UF had outstanding talent -- but little discipline. SEC titles were there to be had, but potential greatness usually went down the drain in Jacksonville. Finally, in 1984, UF won its first SEC football crown. Oops, the conference ruled the Gators ineligible, negating that title and SEC crowns earned "on the field" in 1985 and 1990.

The point here is that for 30 years, the Gator program seemed tragically flawed. You could always count on a blown lead, untimely penalty, "fourth and dumb", Lindsey #$%* Scott or numerous unexpected, improbable, ill-timed losses to underdog conference opponents that wrested championships from the gaping Gator jaws.

The Spurrier became coach and all of that was erased for 12 glorious years. SOS ran roughshod over the SEC, coaching UF to six conference titles, one national title and made UF a perennial national power. Then "poof" SOS suddenly departed in 2001.

This psychologically affected Gators like my friend, who has returned to a Pre-Spurrier mindset. He once again views every game with dire suspicion and impending doom. He is certain that the Gators are one step away from a land mine. He waits…no, he expects the bad call, fumble, interception, or upset loss that ultimately derails UF's championship hopes.

"They took us to overtime in the Swamp last year and they beat Georgia in Athens a week ago," my friend said of Vanderbilt. He has all but conceded that UF will lose to South Carolina this week. He rated his concern level "9" out of  "10".

"Spurrier knows us, he knows how to exploit our weakness. He wasn't supposed to beat us last year and look what happened, he laments. "He'll have plays that he can pull out when he needs to score."

I refuse to go back to such a mindset. If nothing else, UF will win a war of attrition against the Gamecocks. Superior athletic talent nearly always triumphs. Maybe we're not winning big 48-10 like in the 90s, but we are winning…

Gators, we may never again see a team as flawless as the Wuerffel teams of the 90s. That does not mean that championships can't be won by scoring less than 40-50 point per game.

I could be wrong. It could happen. After beating Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Vanderbilt, the Gators could conceivably stumble against a South Carolina team that has over-achieved to a 5-4 record. In the Swamp.

Just don't bet on it!

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

S O U T H    C A R O L I N A
Florida vs South Carolina Game Summary

If you missed Saturday’s game between the SEC Eastern Division champion Florida Gators and division rival South Carolina, you missed a thriller.

The game had more undercurrents sub-plots than your average soap opera. Foremost, was the homecoming for Steve Spurrier. If you need further explanation on that topic, you’re on the wrong web site.

The Gators prevailed 17-16 on the strength of three blocked kicks in the 2nd half; the last one occurring on a potentially game-winning 48-yard field goal attempt by South Carolina as time expired. Jarvis Moss got his hand on the kick and it was Moss who earlier blocked the crucial Gamecock PAT attempt that kept UF within striking distance.

It was evident that Spurrier had the Gamecocks ready to play. USC executed Spurrier’s game plan to perfection, mixing runs and short passes to generate 419 total yards of offense and keeping the ball away from UF. USC seemed intent on proving that last year’s 30-22 win over Florida was no fluke, and if they were at all intimidated by the Gators or the crowd noise in the Swamp, it didn’t show.

In what has become a recurring theme this season, the Gators squandered several early scoring opportunities. UF mounted drives of 50-70 yards on each of its first four possessions, but failed to score. In fact, the Gators did not take the lead until the game’s 57th minute, when Tim Tebow plowed up the middle for a 13-yard TD with 3:03 to play. Much-maligned kicker Brian Hetland made the crucial PAT to give UF the 17-16 lead and set the stage for the final drama.

With the win, UF improves to 9-1. That mark apparently does little to help Florida’s bid to maneuver into the BCS title game.

One would suppose that Florida - ranked #4 going into the weekend -- would moved up to third on the heels of #3 Louisville’s loss. The Gators got a bunch more help, as top-ten teams Texas, Auburn and California all went down in defeat.

But as we all know, the BCS is a funny animal... As of this writing, Southern Cal has jumped from 7th to 3rd.

Among the leaders, #4 Florida still has the most favorable schedule. The Gators take a breather this week in their home finale against Western Carolina before traveling to play FSU. (FSU, 5-5, was shut out 30-0 at home Saturday against Wake Forest). #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan square off this week in Columbus, with the loser of that game taking a dive in the polls. Southern Cal, #3, still has games left against California, Notre Dame and UCLA.

Florida’s saving grace may be the SEC title game. This allows UF a chance at a 13th game and an opportunity for a win against a quality opponent. Currently Arkansas - ranked #5 -- appears headed for a clash versus the Gators in Atlanta Dec. 2. None of the other teams ranked ahead of UF play in a conference that features a championship playoff.

The Gators should beat Western Carolina, but the game against FSU cannot be taken for granted. A Seminole upset win would ruin UF’s season.

To get to 12-1, the larger question becomes can the Gators work out their offensive bugs in time? I’ve ranted on UF’s lackluster offense for the past three games. Nothing has changed, so no point in rehashing that. Love him or loath him, Chris Leak is the starting QB, don’t look for any change there. If this is a team of destiny, it is clear by now that the Gator’s national championship hope rest upon its defense. As it has done all year, wins and losses come down to the timely interceptions, recovered fumbles or blocked kicks. We can only hope that that will continue to prevail.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

W E S T   C A R O L I N A
Florida vs Western Carolina Game Summary

The Florida Gators trounced Western Carolina 62-0 in The Swamp finale for UF’s heralded freshman class of 2003. At least 17 Gators played their final game on Florida Field on a cool Senior Day, including QB Chris Leak, FB Billy Latsko, Punter Eric Wilbur, WR Dallas Baker, TB DeShawn Wynn and DT Ray McDonald.

The game also gave Gator Nation a glimpse of the future as many true freshmen enjoyed significant playing time. Though the opposition was not SEC-caliber, the Gator’s future appears very bright. Tim Tebow - crown jewel of the class of 2006 - had an outstanding performance, demonstrating once and for all that he can indeed throw the football as well as he runs it. Tebow completed 10 or 12 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. True freshmen Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson demonstrated the speed and quickness that will cause defensive coordinators sleepless nights and a new star emerged - wide receiver Riley Cooper.

Now it’s time to turn full attention to Florida State. With a win, the Gators can achieve something that they haven’t done in 20 years: win three straight games against FSU. The tribe has definitely slipped since losing the BCS title game to Oklahoma at the end of the 2000 season. How far? Consider that FSU has lost 25 games since 2001 heading into Saturday’s contest. Conversely, Bowden’s boys lost 15 games during the 11-years from 1990-2000. The Nole’s current 6-5 record is its worst since 1981.

A win Saturday in Tallahassee represents an opportunity for Florida to drive a stake through the heart of one of its bitterest rivals. Moreover, as Miami - the state’s other perennial powerhouse - struggles through an uncharacteristic losing season, the table appears set for UF to reassert the home-state dominance it lost during sanctions stemming from the Charley Pell era. The effect upon recruiting in this talent-rich state cannot be understated.

Florida should win, but don’t expect a blow-out like last year’s 34-7 laugher. Teams that have nothing to lose are unpredictable and scary. An FSU win would ruin UF’s season and that should be ample motivation for them to show up ready to play.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

F L O R I D A    S T A T E
Florida vs F S U Game Summary

Florida’s 21-14 win over Florida State followed a script that has become all too familiar to Gator Nation this season.

The Gators bolted to a 14-0 halftime lead and appeared on its way to emptying Doak Campbell stadium. However, as it has done several times this season, the Gator offense all but vanished in the 2nd half as the Seminoles clawed back to tie the game at 14. Adding to the drama, Gator kicker Brian Hetland missed two chip-shot field goals; six badly needed ’style points’ which allowed FSU to stay within striking distance. Hetland is now a dismal 3 of 12 on field goal attempts this season.

A Chris Leak to Dallas Baker TD pass early in the 4th quarter gave UF the lead and the Gator defense shut down the Noles on three fourth-down tries to preserve Florida’s third consecutive win over FSU, and second straight in Tallahassee.

The Gators improve to 11-1 and remain 4th in the Bowl Championship Series ratings for the third straight week. FSU drops to 6-6.

Two things must happen for the Gators to have any chance to play in the national championship title game. First, Florida must handily defeat Arkansas in the SEC championship game. Then, unranked UCLA must beat second-ranked Southern California. Even if that happens, pollsters would still decide whether UF’s 12-1 record is more deserving of the title shot against undefeated Ohio State than third-ranked Michigan’s 11-1 mark.

Not playing in the title game could have one benefit. If the Gator’s win out, they would likely play in the Orange Bowl in Miami. That would present an opportunity to re-establish a presence in the talent-fertile Dade and Broward County area during a time when the University of Miami reels from a sub-par (6-6) season and scurries to hire a coach to replace the fired Larry Coker.

This week UF travels to Atlanta to battle 10-2 Arkansas. In losing a shoot-out to LSU last week, the Hogs lack of a passing game was exposed. Nevertheless, Arkansas rushed for over 300 yards, led by future Hesiman candidate Darrin McFadden. For UF to win this game, the defense will once again be called upon to slow down the run, forcing the Hogs into third-and-long situations.

The game should be a good one.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

S E C  C H A M P I O N S H I P
Florida vs Arkansas Game Summary

The Florida Gators will play undefeated Ohio State for the national championship.

That was the decision of voters who participate in the complicated Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system after the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. UF entered the contest ranked #4 in the complicated (BCS) standings.

With a little luck and much effort, Florida’s improbable quest for the title cleared a major hurdle when Southern Cal - then ranked #2 in the BCS standings -- was upset by UCLA 13-9. The world expected Michigan - 11-1 and then ranked #3 in the BCS - would get a rematch with OSU (Michigan fell to OSU 42-39 Nov. 18; the Wolverines’ only loss).

Apparently to the people who matter, the Gators’ complete "body of work" - a conference championship, a 12-win, 1-loss record against the nation’s most difficult schedule, a 9-1 record against bowl-eligible teams - was enough to vault UF ahead of Michigan into the title game. Now let the brouhaha begin.

S-E-C... S-E-C...

As improbable as Florida’s selection to the title game was, nobody can disclaim that the Gators are the 2006 Southeast Conference football champions. It is UF 7th SEC title and the school’s first since 2000.

The win against tough Arkansas was another in what has surely become an amazing season.

Florida roared out to a 17-0 lead, capitalizing on special teams play and holding Arkansas’s vaunted running game in check. However, as has been the case all season, UF went flat in the third quarter. With UF leading 17-7, "Big Mo" swung to the Hogs, who parlayed two Chris Leak interceptions into a 21-17 lead and appeared poised to take control of the game.

Facing 4th down, deep in its own territory, UF ran a fake punt for a first down. Later in that drive, after burning its final time-out, Eric Wilbur boomed a punt that was fumbled by Arkansas and recovered by the Gators for a touchdown. Having reclaimed the lead at 24-21, the re-energized Gators never looked back. On the first offensive play of the fourth quarter, freshman sensation Percy Harvin sprinted 67 yards for a TD and Leak later directed an 8-play, 80-yard drive to account for UF points.

The Defense Never Rests…

However, the Gators still needed two fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the win. In the absence of "style points," this team’s fate has been dictated by the defense. The Gators have held opponents to 13 points per game, a sum almost unheard of in today’s offensive dominated schemes. Even in its only loss, the Gator defense did not surrender a TD to Auburn’s offense. Ten years ago, the Steve Spurrier coached Gators averaged 44 points per game and rolled to a national championship by simply outscoring opponents. Defense for that squad was very good, but was vastly overshadowed by the offense to the point that it was an afterthought. The 2006 Gators are vastly different.

Preparation for OSU has already begun. I am encouraged by UF’s offensive resurgence. But if the Gators are destined to beat Ohio State, then it will be the Gator D that will once more rise to the occasion.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida vs Ohio State Pre-Game Summary

When the Florida Gators take the field against undefeated Ohio State in Arizona January 8, all of college football’s marbles will be on the table.

But for UF quarterback Chris Leak, the stakes are even higher.

At stake is Leak’s place in the annals of quarterbacks at the University of Florida. Because quarterbacks are measured by two criteria -- titles won and games won -- for Chris Leak, it is a legacy game.

Leak arrived in Gainesville in 2003 as UF’s most ballyhooed recruit ever. He publicly implored other recruits to join him at UF to win national championships. His road since then has not been a smooth one.

During his four years, Leak had to learn three offensive schemes under two head coaches. He did everything that was asked of him, quietly, and with grace. He represented his school well and graduated on time. Regrettably, the wins did not materialize for Leak as expected, and neither did the championships. Until this year.

It has never been publicly discussed, but with every snap and every pass, Leak has operated under "the shadow."

Who is the shadow? In the Gators 100 Years of Football DVD, he is simply referred to as "Danny," and he is the measuring stick by which all UF quarterbacks are measured.

Danny Wuerffel quarterbacked UF to four Southeastern Conference championships, a national title, a national runner-up and a 3rd place poll finish. Wuerffel-led teams twice posted 12-1 records and his teams lost a total of six games during his four years. His teams scored 2,220 points and averaged more than 42 points-per-game for his entire career. He also won a slew of awards, including the Heisman Trophy as college football’s outstanding player. Wuerffel still holds the UF and SEC record of 121 TD passes and never quarterbacked a loss to an unranked team (Note: None of Spurrier’s teams ever lost to an unranked opponent).

Today’s Gators are 12-1, which ties them with the 1995 and 1996 Gators for best won-loss record. A win moves the current Gators - Leak’s Gators - to 13-1, the undisputed best UF single-season record.

Does a national championship raise Leak’s status to UF’s "best ever" quarterback? After all, Leak now owns most of UF’s passing records.

No. Regardless of the outcome between Florida an’ Ohio State, Danny Wuerffel’s place as UF’s quarterback for all time is undisputed. A national championship win lifts Leak above all except Wuerffel. A national championship win earns Leak forgiveness for the losses and lack of titles during those forgettable 8-5, 7-5, 9-3 campaigns.

Whether Leak’s supporting cast - including his coaches -- measured up to those Wuerffel teams, is a rant for another day.

When UF defeated Arkansas for the SEC title, Leak joined Wuerffel, Shane Matthews, Terry Dean, Rex Grossman and Kerwin Bell as the only Gator QB’s to win SEC crowns (Official and unofficial).

A loss to Ohio State will tarnish Leak’s legacy. Enough to drop him to #3 behind Grossman.

As Always, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

N A T I O N A L  C H A M P I O N S
Florida vs Ohio State Game Summary

The University of Florida Gators are the kings of college football after thoroughly dominating and humiliating top-ranked, undefeated Ohio State 41-14 in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game.

It is UF’s second football national championship, and gives the university the distinction of being the only school to ever simultaneously hold national championships in football and basketball. The Gators also posted their best-ever season won-loss football record 13-1.

The win brings the respect that few outside of the south were willing to give the Southeastern Conference champions. For weeks, pundits and bloggers have railed at Florida’s selection to the title game, asserting that UF did not deserve to play for the crown, despite compiling a 12-1 record against a schedule that included 10 bowl-teams. Their vindication would come, they claimed, when heavily favored Ohio State thumped the Gators.

Instead it was Florida’s night to claim vindication.

It was almost appropriate in a twisted sort of way, that OSU star Ted Ginn ran the opening kick-off back 93 yards for a touchdown to give the Buckeyes a quick 7-0 lead. After all, this UF team has battled back from adversity all season long. The Gators have trailed on the scoreboard at some point against virtually every significant opponent this season.

So in that respect, Ginn’s sudden score was not a surprise. The real surprise would turn out be that it was OSU’s last hurrah.

Down 7-0, UF’s offense rolled up its sleeves and went to work. Focused and sharp, Gator quarterback Chris Leak conducted a passing clinic, completing his first 9 passes and leading the Gators to six scores on its first seven possessions.

With Leak playing his best game as a Gator QB, OSU had no answers for Coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. For the first time all year, the UF offense did not take a quarter ’off.’ The Gators kept the ball for more than 40 minutes on offense, with Leak completing passes to six different receivers and UF rushing for 156 yards. Quarterback of the future Tim Tebow also got into the act, passing for a TD and running for another.

As well the Gator offense performed, the defense was simply dominant. UF defenders made OSU quarterback Troy Smith’s night a living hell. UF sacked the Heisman Trophy winner five times and limited him to four of 14 passing for 35 yards. The Gators also stuffed OSU’s rushing attack, holding the Big 10 champs to 47 net yards on 23 rushing attempts. All told, UF held Ohio State to 82 total yards and eight first downs.

I offer congratulations to the team, and to the coaches for a magnificent season. Once again, we are the Mighty Gators.

Congratulations also to Our Gator Nation – Heather, Scott & Keegan in Oklahoma; Cousin Mike and Cathy, Larry & Hai, Greg and Guy in Texas; Kathy and the girls in Jennings Florida; Tim & Cindy and Butch in Alabama, Rob, Marie, Gareth & Brice, Ken & Anne, Steve & Lauren in Georgia; Noreen & Jim in Washington, D.C.; plus Gator Bob & Kevin, and Larry in Gainesville; Rock (and the Elk) in Orlando; and David & Tammy, Troy, and Stephen in Ocala. Glad that so many of you made it to our tailgates. We missed you others who were only able to tune in and send supportive e-mails. We endured the doubt and disrespect expressed by the unknowing and unwitting naysayers who tried to tell us that Michigan, Southern Cal, Wisconsin and Ohio State were all better than the Gators. And in the end, we survived. To those who didn’t believe, I can only say....

We’re Number 1... We’re National Champs and truly... It’s Great To Be A Florida Gator!!!!

Basketball Rant

Questions are ricocheting throughout Gator Nation as to the Gator Basketball Team’s ability to defend its’ national title.

It may surprise you to know that last year’s National Championship Team had a losing record for February. It’s true – all six of UF’s losses last year occurred during the month of February.

But the Gators have lost three of their last five, convincingly, all by double digits, and all on the road. In each case, the recipe was the same. UF fell behind early and the opponent was able to withstand any comeback.

Recently, even the wins have seemed problematic.

At home against Alabama, the Tide came out smoking, while the Gators just kind of stumbled around. Next thing you know, Bama is up by 18 points (22-4) and the TV announcers were sharpening their scalpels for Florida’s post-game autopsy. UF pulled that one out, winning by 10. It was the largest deficit overcome by a Billy Donovan coached team.

Against Kentucky at Rupp Arena, UF never could quite put the Cats away, squandering a comfortable lead late and holding on to win by three points.

Is there a bright side? Sure... The 26 wins is the most-ever by a Gator team during the regular season. By defeating South Carolina, the team clinched the school’s first outright SEC championship in men’s basketball since the Maxwell-Chatman- Schintzius team of 1989. And this team has completed its third 17-game win streak during the past 15 months, and wore the #1 ranking bulls-eye for five consecutive weeks. But more telling is that Florida is the first SEC team to beat Kentucky six straight games. With another win, UF can tie Notre Dame for all-time consecutive wins versus Kentucky, 7-in-a-row)...

Perhaps Gator Nation has become spoiled in the sense that we expect championships and nothing less. Because they are defending national champs, we expect this team to go out and dominate every opponent in the same manner as did the UCLA and Duke teams of yore. That’s not realistic.

Heck, even the Mighty Gator football team doesn’t blow out Vanderbilt on every occasion...

Through 31 games this year, UF is averaging 79.3 ppg and allow 61.7 ppg. Last year through 31 games, UF averaged 80.6 ppg and allowed 65.3 ppg.

March Madness is almost upon us. Three wins to an SEC tournament title, six wins to another National Title. Can this ’faltering’ team manage to win its next nine in a row?

With the SEC tournament and final four both being played in Atlanta, I wouldn’t bet against them!
Last Years Rants