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  South Carolina Citadel FSU SEC Championship National Championship


Happy New Year

I will offer little in the way of a post mortem examination of Florida’s surprising 41-35 loss to Michigan. Here’s one man’s opinion of what happened…

The “experts” figured UM would try to emulate Georgia running scheme, using tailback Mike Hart’s running to monopolize time of possession and hope to wear down UF’s defense. Michigan’s receivers had been so inconsistent this year, that nobody expected their passing attack would be so successful against the Gators. UM lit up the Gator secondary for nearly 400 yards through the air.

Two other factors played huge in deciding the outcome of this game.

Number one: the Gators obviously did not respect Michigan, and made no bones about it.

It’s true that Michigan entered this game with lots of baggage: The Wolverines lost their home opener to Non-Div. I Appalachian State, then followed that with a home loss to Oregon, whose spread offense went up and down the field during that game. UM also entered the game on the heels of its fourth or fifth straight loss to Ohio State. I’m certain the mindset in Gainesville was “Hey, if they can’t even beat Ohio State – a team we humiliated last year-- what possible chance do they have against us (the Might Gators)?”

Personally, I did not care for all of the smack-talking jawing I saw coming from the Gators. I expect that from the Miami’s and FSU’s of the world, but not the athletes that represent my alma mater. I hope Coach Meyer gets on top of this in a hurry. This was so noticeable that it was a topic of comment on ESPN Sportcenter and was discussed during the Sugar Bowl game as well. Again, it reeks of no class.

Second, Michigan just wanted it more. UM Coach Lloyd Carr had resigned and the program appeared in flux… sort of where UF was six years ago when Steve Spurrier abruptly resigned. These kids were not going to let the old man go out with a loss, and pure and simple, the Wolverines reached down deep and did what they needed to win.

All in all, it’s hard to be unsatisfied with a 9-4 record during what everybody conceded would be a rebuilding year. The Gators scored 42 points per game, and their 552 total points scored rank third all-time, behind only the 1995 and 1996 Gator teams. There was mega-excitement as Gator QB Tim Tebow became the first-ever sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. With the amount of playing time logged by true freshmen and sophomores this year, coupled with the return of some stars who suffered season-ending injuries early on, the Gators appear loaded for an SEC title run next year.

Next up is signing day, the first Tuesday in February. UF has commits from the usual numbers four-star and five star athletes, including several top defensive backs and defensive linemen. Indeed if Meyer inks another class of the caliber of the past two, 2008 could indeed be the Year of the Gator.

Again!

Only time will tell.




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


March Madness

It seems odd to write a mid-March rant not dissecting UF’s chances in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. But the truth is, the Gators did a late-season fold and after bowing out of the SEC tournament to end the school’s 18-game postseason run, missed the dance for the first time in nine years. The team limped into the NIT with a 21-11 record.

Citing a sense of entitlement and lack of focus by players, Coach Billy Donovan tossed the team from its palatial practice digs and forbid them from wearing UF gear on-campus. Donovan’s ‘Baby Gators” are a talented group of freshmen and sophomores (no seniors, one junior) who needed a little kick in the butt to remind them that it takes hard work and not just wearing an orange and blue jersey to bring home success. Several times during the season, the Gators either blew large leads or staged furious rallies to make the final score of losses appear respectable. A two-point loss is still a loss. That only demonstrates that the team can play together brilliantly in spurts, but it takes a solid 40-minute effort to win championships.

Several freshmen Nick Calethes, Jai Lucas, Chandler Parsons, and Adam Allen saw significant playing time and the roster is dotted with potential stars Mareese Speights and Dan Werner. Give them another year in the weight room, add in an already signed superb recruiting class and let Billy D run the show and the sky is the limit for next year. I’m willing to cut them slack for this year only. P.S. the last time a two-time defending champ missed the subsequent dance was UCLA in 1966. We all know what UCLA did from 1967-1973. I’d like for some of that lightning to strike again...

Football coach Urban Meyer singed another stellar recruiting class, ranking #3 nationally according to Rivals.com.

Signing defensive players was a priority for Meyer and he inked several standouts who should have an immediate impact at UF. Safety Will Hill of New Jersey is a Rivals.com five-star recruit ranked by that scouting service as the top athlete in the class of 2008. Hill ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 150 and was listed as the fifth-best player available by Scout.com and the top-ranked safety.

Defensive Tackle Omar Hunter from Georgia is a Rivals.com five-star recruit and the No. 2 defensive tackle nationally. He also received five-star billing and was rated the second-best defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com. Defensive Tackle Troy Epps is a junior college All-American who was a force in the middle of the line for Coffeyville’s (Kansas) program for two years. Epps is a junior who enrolled at Florida in January.

Linebacker Brendan Beal, a four-star recruit by Rivals.com who also earned five-star billing from Scout.com, enrolled at UF in January. Cornerback Jeremy Brown (enrolled at UF in January), Defensive Back Adrian Bushell, Safety Dee Finley, Defensive End William Green, Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and Linebacker Lerentee McCray complete the list of four-star defensive player who signed with the Gators.

Meyer inked a couple of standout offensive players to complement the defensive haul. Wide receiver Carl Moore is a 6’3”, 220 lb. junior transfer from Roseville, Calif. Cordova/Sierra C.C. He is of the most highly coveted junior college players in the class of 2008, praised for his combination of size, strength and speed. Moore is a five-star prospect by Rivals.com and by Scout.com, and ranked as the No. 2 junior-college player. Moore is enrolled at UF.

Matt Patchan is a 6’6”, 260 lb. offensive lineman from Tampa who enrolled in January. Patchan is a five-star recruit by Rivals.com and No. 11 overall nationally.

The remaining signees are four-star athletes Jeffrey Demps from Okahumpka; wide receiver Omarius Hines from Corsicana, Texas; three-star wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. from Hollywood; fullback/linebacker T.J. Pridemore from Gainesville, Ga.; offensive lineman Sam Robey from Louisville, Ky.; and two-star or unrated offensive/Defensive Line Byran Jones from Jacksonville; wide receiver from Lakeland; kicker Caleb Sturgis from St. Augustine and David Young, a 6’6”, 290 lb. offensive lineman from Edwardsville.

The Orange & Blue spring football game is less than a month away. Until then, as always…


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


Pre Season Rant




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


Hawaii

As expected, Gator faithful witnessed a complete dismantling of a game Hawaii team, 56-10 at the Swamp during UF’s 2008 season opener.

As expected, Gator faithful learned little about what to expect from UF’s offense, as the Gators appeared hesitant and almost timid, compared to last year’s full-out battering ram unit led by Hesiman trophy winner Tim Tebow.

But it was the Gator defense that made the loudest statement. Playing without it leader, LB Brandon Spikes, the Gator D sacked UH quarterbacks four times, limiting Hawaii to 60 total rushing yards and picked off a four passes. Redshirt freshman Ahmad Black claimed two interceptions, returning one 80 yards for a TD and Major Wright returned a pick 32 yards for a score.

Gator Coach Urban Meyer seemed content to exploit Florida’s speed advantage over the Warriors, with conservative, close to-the-vest play calling. Hawaii could not contain UF speedsters Brandon James, who scored on a one-yard plunge and a 74-yard punt return; redshirt freshman Chris Raney, who burst loose for a 33-yard TD or true freshman Jeff Demps, who electrified the crowd with a blazing 62-yard TD run.

The few times that Tebow carried the ball, he either ran out of bounds or quickly went to the turf, sparing his body the beating that hampered his effectiveness late last season. He finished with an almost pedestrian 137 yards passing (48 of which came on a TD pass to Louis “Dropkick” Murphy) and 37 yards on the ground. All told, UF’s offense was not impressive in rolling up 406 yards.

Tim Tebow’s record 14-game streak of passing and running for a touchdown during a game ended when Meyer inserted backup QB Cam Newton into the game in the third quarter. Newton bulled his way to paydirt and Tebow’s streak became history.

The Miami Hurricanes are next up in the Swamp – assuming the game is not rescheduled due to a real hurricane. Once the state’s dominant football program, the Hurricanes are coming off of a rare losing season. UF should be primed for payback, as UM has won the last four vs. the Gators, including two bowl victories. This is a potential “statement game” for UF, in a series that has no shortage of lowlights and bad blood.

Expect Coach Meyer’s offensive game plan to be more wide open, with the return of speedback Percy Harvin.


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


Miami

I’d rather laugh with the Gators than cry with the Canes….

Fittingly that was the enduring line from what we are told was Gator Bob’s final tailgate toast. One of our enduring tailgating traditions has been a circling of the assemblage to hear Gator Bob’s commemoration of the dearly departed Gator Tom and Gator Sue along with a clever poem-song taking a poke at the day’s opponent. The “toast” ends with the ‘passing of the flask’ for a sip of brandy…

I have to hand it to the Miami faithful who showed up at the Swamp for Saturday’s 26-3 thumping at the hands of the Gators… They maintained the swagger that only recently has been adopted by UF faithful since 1996-2006. They came in expecting their team to win. Impressive, considering that they were 21-point ‘dogs and are coming off of a losing season. Gotta hand it to them…

Say what you will about the Gator defense, but they held Miami to 3 points and 140 yards of total offense for the game. We’ve all seen the Canes roll up 140 yards in a quarter.

The Gator offense continues its enigmatic ways. As everyone waits for the explosion of yardage and points, the offense and QB Tim Tebow continue to underwhelm. For the most part, I thought Miami won the battle up front. I thought both of their lines whupped both of our lines. What’s going on? Is Percy Harvin playing hurt?

Good thing we have a week off to get ready for Tennessee. Work it out Coach Meyer.

The battle on Florida Field isn’t the only fight being wages in the vicinity of the Swamp. For 13 years, our 20-member cartel has tailgated at the same spot… a sweet location on the Broward quad facing south to Museum Road. A week ago, interlopers got to our spot earlier and set up their camp. We got pushed to the side and made do with the leftover space. This week, a couple of us got there at 8:30 – 11-1/2 hours before kickoff and narrowly reclaimed our spot. Nevertheless the interlopers encroached to every extent possible and managed to also piss off the collegians – the other long-term denizens of this domain.

It remains to be seen what time the interlopers will roll in for what we expect to be an early afternoon kickoff for the Ole Miss game. Skip and I will make the drive up from Ocala ultra early and the college kids have agreed to assist us in maintaining our claim. But it will not surprise me to find at least one of the interlopers in place by 6:30

Yeah, I get it, it’s public property and whoever gets there first… But this is really bad form. It’s insulting and disrespectful to the 15-20 of us who have tailgated this site for 13 years. Let me go on record saying that we will not so easily be pushed off of “our” site.” I am willing to do whatever it takes – whether that means getting there before dawn or intruding upon their personal space replete with annoying music and bad odors…

I hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m ashamed that these people dress in Orange and Blue.


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


Tennessee

The Florida Gators continued their mastery over the Tennessee Volunteers, beating UT 30-6 in Knoxville. The win evens the series between Florida and Tennessee at 18-18, however, UF is 12-6 since the teams began playing annually in 1990.

Even though it was readily apparent that the Gators were a much beter team than UT, it’s hard to take anything meaningful away from this contest. Special teams played a significant role in the contest, as Brandon James opened the game with a 52-yard kickoff return that set up UF at the Vol 44 yard line. From there it took Tebow marched promptly to paydirt, the payoff a two-Yard jump pass from Tim Tebow to Aaron Hernandez. After the kickoff, UT fumbled the ball after a Joe Haden hit separated a UT receiver from the ball. UF tacked on a field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.

Again Tennessee could go nowhere and punted the ball to Brandon James. Bad move. James did the Tennessee Waltz 78 yards to the end zone and a 17-0 lead. It is the third straight year James has returned a punt for a TD vs. UT, although his first one was negated by a penalty.

From that point the Gator D took over. Twice the Vols put together two long drives to inside the UF five that terminated with a fumble, an interception and no points. The Gators went into halftime leading 20-0, when by all rights, the score probably should have been 20-14.

Is UF’s defense that good? Or is Tennessee that bad? Except for costly Tennessee miscues, the score could have been much closer. But that meant that UF could play conservative and run rather than pass the football. That changed the stats, but the big stat is UF is 3-0, ranked #4 nationally and is 1-0 in the SEC East.

The Gators should not be tested this week at home by Mississippi. The Rebels have already lost to Wake Forest – by a field goal at the gun – and were defeated by Vanderbilt last week. Looking ahead, UF should get a breather at Arkansas (49-14 losers to Alabama) and should be 5-0 when defending conference and national champs LSU saunters into the Swamp. LSU looked tentative in a see-saw battle against Auburn, falling behind 14-3, taking the lead 20-14, losing the lead 20-21 before pulling out the 26-21 win.

A loss to a western division tem won’t be fatal, but could have profound ramifications on who does or doesn’t go to the BCS title game. At this point, UF’s season still hinges on the November 1st game against Georgia in Jacksonville.

See you at the Swamp Saturday.


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


Ole Miss

The unranked Mississippi rebels shock the #4 ranked Florida Gators in the Swamp, blocking a fourth-quarter PAT and then stopping UF QB Tim Tebow on fourth and one to steal a 31-30 win.

The loss came on the heels of a shocking weekend for college football that saw three of the top four team lose. Top-ranked Southern Cal lost to unranked Oregon State 28-21, and #3 Georgia get hammered 41-30 “between the hedges” by Alabama. The Georgia score does not indicate how lopsided the loss to Alabama was.

The loss does not completely end UF’s chances for either a division or conference title, but does hamper a potential trip to the BCS title game. To win the Eastern Division, UF must win its remaining conference games. Then it must defeat he Western Division champ in the SEC Title game and hope that other teams falter enough to open up a spot in the BCS title game.

Still a lot of football to be played.

Like Miami, Ole Miss seemed to win the battle of the line of scrimmage. UF converted just 1 of 11 third-down opportunities. That kind of stat won’t win many games, let alone championships.

UF actually led 17-7 at the half, but made several critical turnovers deep in its territory to hand the Rebels a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Lightning struck when Ole Miss facing 3rd and 6 inside its own 20, faked a pass into the flat that the corner bit on and hit a wide open receiver for the 86-yard TD and a 31-24 lead.

The gators moved the ball after the kickoff and had a first down at UM 42. two deep passes fell incomplete and an option to Barandon james gained 9 yards. UF actually had a shot at a 49-yard field goal to win with under a minute to play, but Coach Meyer eschewed the try in favor of the Tebow plunge. When the Rebels stacked the line, Tebow could not get the surge to push the ball forward and Ole Miss claimed the win.

While I favored going for it on 4th down, I questioned the play call. My choice would have been to run the option left, with Percy Harvin trailing the play.

Tebow did pass for a TD and ran for two more, tying him with Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler for 12th all time in the SEC for touchdown responsibility with 76 TDs. Tebow’s 33 rushing TDs also moves him into a four-way tie with former Gator Earnest Graham, Garrison Hearst (Georgia) and Bobby Humphrey (Alabama) for 16th place for all-time SEC rushing TD leaders. In doing so, Tebow knocks former Gator Fred Taylor out of the top 20.

Next up is a trip to Arkansas. No predictions here. UF has to right the ship and do so immediately. Otherwise it’s abig step backward to the peach bowl.


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


Arkansas

UF utilized a different script in this week’s 38-7 drubbing of Arkansas – UF’s 7th straight win over the Razorbacks. The Gators got out to a 14-0 lead, but seemed to stumble around in stretches, committing a lot of “lack of focus” penalties, and might have gotten lucky in breaking off three long touchdown runs – two by freshman speedster Jeff Demps (36 and 48 yards) and a dazzling 75-yarder by Chris Raney.

The Arkansas game provided little insight into the nature of our team.

The expectation heading into the season was that UF would unleash a point-scoring juggernaut that would rival the Gators teams of the mid-1990s. With few graduating seniors and few NFL defectors, UF returned proven talent a nearly every skill position, led by returning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow. It was a cinch that UF would improve upon its 42 ppg totals, and would turn mundane football games into track meets, as Tebow filled the air with touchdown bombs to Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and co. when not bulling over defenders enroute to the end zone.

That hasn’t happened. Most of us are still scratching our heads and saying “what wrong with the Gators?” We just don’t know how this team will perform. Will it rise to the occasion? One thing is for certain: this game will answer all questions about the 2008 Florida Gators.

Just how big is the upcoming Florida-LSU game? The winner of this game has gone on to be national champion each of the past two years. Need I say more?

It would be nice to be able to provide a factual dissertation on how the two teams measure up. But the best once can do at this point, is glean from an apples to oranges comparison.

There are many who believe that UF could have and should have beaten the Tigers last year. LSU’s running game simply battered UF into submission in the 4th quarter, converting five 4th down plays, including the winning TD with 1:08 to play. The Bayou Bengals lost several key players from last year’s squad. However, this program too has stockpiled athletic talent enough so that they cannot be taken for granted.

If you watched the LSU-Auburn game, you know that the Tigers have two adequate QBs. They also have proven they can take a punch – on the road – and get up off the mat.

Winning will not be easy. To win, the Gators must do three things: 1). get out to a lead 2). protect the football, and 3). Play defense.

It remains to be seen which team has the better defense. I don’t know that LSU’s defense has been truly tested this year, having played two patsies, plus Mississippi State and an Auburn team that has shown little offensive acumen. The same can be said for UF, although a shaky nod has to go to the Gators schedule, which included pass-happy Hawaii and Miami, a Tennessee team that has shown little offensive acumen, and up-and-down wild-card Ole Miss.

A high-scoring track meet favors the Gators. I don’t know that LSU has the ability to convert five 4th down plays this year to overcome a late deficit. A low-scoring game favors LSU. Ultimately then, defense and turnovers will decide the outcome.

Should be a good one, loud and rowdy Saturday night and really, really LOUD. See you at the Swamp.


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


L S U

Last week, I wrote that the LSU game would answer all questions about the 2008 Florida Gators.

If you witnessed Florida’s 51-21 undressing of previously #5 ranked LSU on national TV from the Swamp last Saturday night, you saw a Gator team making the statement “we can be national champions.”

Florida thoroughly dominated the previously unbeaten Tigers. Tim Tebow looked particularly sharp, hitting 14 or 21 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns – both to Percy Harvin. Tebow’s first strike occurred on the game’s third play, a deep pass that was tipped by an LSU defender, then caught by Harvin who streaked to the end zone to complete the 70 yard play. It was 17-0 before LSU made its first first-down. UF extended the lead to 20-0 before LSU mounted a furious scoring drive to cut the margin to 20-7 at halftime.

The Tigers continued their success in the 3rd quarter, taking the opening kick and driving to another score to close to 20-14, and suddenly we had a ballgame. If the Gators were going to fold after dominating play in the first half, this would have been the time to do so.

That didn’t happen. UF responded with another long TD drive, Tebow got the score on a two yard run. Minutes later, freshman sensation Jeff Demps extended the lead with a 42 yard TD run and LB Brandon Spikes picked off a pass on the first play of the 4th quarter and returned it 52 yard for a score to up the margin to 41-14.

LSU tacked on a touchdown in the 4th quarter, which probably prompted the 10 additional “style points.” RB Kestahn Moore closed out scoring with a two yard plunge with 2:00 left to make the final 51-21. The score could have been much worse, in that UF left points on the field settling for three field goals after driving to first and goal. The Gators will need to improve red zone execution if they are to beat Georgia and the remaining SEC east teams on the schedule.

With the win, UF rises to #5 in the AP poll. Only three unbeaten teams remain ahead of the Gators, #1 Texas (45-35 conquerors of Oklahoma), #2 Alabama (which has a future date with LSU) and #3 Penn State. Oklahoma dropped to #4 with its loss to Texas.

For Florida, what was different about the LSU game? Two things…

Florida showed that its running attack is for real. Whereas earlier this year, the speedy tandem of Chris Raney and Demps were mostly taking handoffs and crashing into the line for losses or very short gains, suddenly, they are making positive yardage. Demps had 129 yards rushing, his second straight game over the century mark. Raney added 66.

The Gators also held Charles Scott, the SEC’s leading rusher to 35 yards on 12 attempts. All told, LSU netted just 80 yards rushing versus UF. The defense played a stellar game.

Before closing, belated congratulations to Coach Steve Spurrier for winning his 100th SEC game. Also, Tim Tebow continues to climb on the SEC all-time records. With 81 total touchdowns (passing and rushing), he moves into a 9th-place tie with Casey Clausen. With 34 rushing touchdowns, he moves into a 13th-place tie with Johnny Musso (Alabama), Joe Cribbs (Auburn) and Eric Rhett (Florida). He is two rushing touchdown short of Emmit Smith’s UF record.

The Gators take the week off before hosting Kentucky for homecoming Oct. 25. See you at the Swamp.


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


BCS Rant

Random Musings about the BCS. I saw an ESPN broadcast the other night that basically said “lights out” for Florida’s chances of getting into the BCS championship game… I have to believe there is a chance. However slight that chance may be… Any scenario placing the Gators – currently #10 in the current BCS rankings -- in the BCS title game presumes that UF must win all of its remaining games, plus win the conference title game. That accounts for a win against current BCS #7 ranked Georgia.

As has been the case for each of UF’s two previous national championships, luck will play its part.

You’re not going to like this, but Gator fans are going to have to pull for Florida State to win its remaining games. The ‘Noles are 5-1 and BCS #25. A 10-1 FSU team could be ranked in the BCS top 10 by season’s end. It will also help the Gators for Georgia to finish 10-2. And Vanderbilt having a bowl season could be the plus that offsets the Gator’s don’t-count game vs. the Citadel.

Now, lets look at the rest of the teams ahead of UF in the BCS poll. There are four teams from the Big 12 conference: #1 Texas, #4 Oklahoma, #6 Oklahoma State and #8 Texas Tech, and they are all in the Big 12 South Division. This means they will play one another. All except Oklahoma are unbeaten. Texas has already beaten Oklahoma and #15 Missouri. Florida’s best case scenario is that the Big 12 teams all beat one another. As each falls, they’ll drop in the poll while UF moves up. Finally, the South Division champ must lose in the conference title game to a lesser-ranked opponent, from the north division, likely Missouri or Kansas.

This week, BCS #3 Penn State plays #9 Ohio State and we have to hope OSU wins. Even though that moves OSU up in the polls, that will ensure that the Big 10 does not have an undefeated team. Ohio State has a tougher remaining schedule and has not been impressive along the way. If Penn State wins, it will likely go unbeaten and that will likely lock up one of the two spots in the title game.

Because #5 Southern Cal will not play another ranked opponent and has no conference title game, it will stagnate then slowly drop in the poll. Ditto for OSU, which plays no game after its Nov. 22 finale vs. Michigan. As mentioned above, a critical element involves the lower-ranked of the Big 12 conference finalists winning the title game. Simultaneously, UF will play BCS ranked opponents Florida State (#25, but rising) and undefeated #2 Alabama in the SEC title game) which we pray vaults the Gators into the #2 spot.

But then again, there’s a lot of football to be played. Games that would seem to be a cinch, often go awry. Homecoming vs. Kentucky this Saturday. Let’s hope for a big win in our final tune-up before playing Georgia.


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


Kentucky

Not a lot one can say about last week’s 63-5 homecoming demolition of Kentucky. Kudos to the special teams for blocking two punts and a field goal attempt. At one point in the first quarter, UF had 14 points on just 17 total offensive yards. The 63 points is the top scoring output of the Urban Meyer era.

This week the Gators travel to Jacksonville to meet the Georgia Bulldogs. Last year, the Dawgs exploited Tim Tebow’s injury and UF’s defensive weakness to engineer a 42-30 win. Tebow was sacked six times and for the only time in his career was held to negative yardage.

I think Georgia will have to contend with a much improved Gator defense. At this point last year, UF had surrendered 163 points, with glaring weaknesses in the defensive secondary. Georgia unveiled a powerful running game behind freshman Knowshon Moreno, but an early long TD pass made UF’s secondary even more susceptible to the play action scheme.

This year, UF has been much improved in all defensive areas. The Gators held the conference’s leading rusher, LSU’s Charles Scott, to 35 yards, and are among the nation’s leaders in takeaways and turnover ratio. More significantly, the Gators have surrendered 83 total points, just under 12 points a game.

Florida enters the game clicking on all cylinders, having scored 38, 51 and 63 points in its last three outings. The offense has finally found a running game behind the speedy tandem of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. The big back, Emmanuel Moody, has been injured but is said to be 100% for Georgia. This takes much pressure off of Tebow, who is beginning to return to last year’s Heisman-winning form.

Granted Georgia is no slouch of a football team. But I think the game will come down to the following intangibles: special teams and who wants it more. UF has been superb on special teams. As for who wants it more… Tebow took last year’s loss particularly personal. I think we will see a Heisman trophy winner at the top of his game Saturday. I also believe Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen will open up the playbook vs. UGA, e.g., we haven’t seen any bubble screens.

Perhaps the biggest intangible for Florida stems from “the incident” that occurred during last season’s game. UGA celebrated its initial score with a bench-clearing end zone celebration, on par with what one would expect had it been the first touchdown in school history. That apparently stuck in Gator Coach Urban Meyer’s craw. He has repeatedly referred to “the incident” and undoubtedly will use it as a motivator for this week’s game.

The Gators have 15 of the last 18 games in the series.

Gators QB Time Tebow continues to march up the SEC’s all-time statistical leader ladder in two categories. Tebow now has 36 rushing touchdowns, which ties Emmitt Smith’s UF record and is the 10th-best total in SEC history among all who have rushed for TD’s. His next rushing score will make him the Gator’s all-time rushing TD leader.

Tebow also has 85 combined rushing and passing touchdowns, which ranks 6th all-time in SEC annals. This week, he passed UK’s Andre Woodson, former Gators Rex Grossman and Shane Matthews and Tennessee’s Casey Clausen. The climb now becomes a little steeper, as Tebow trails only Jared Lorenzen (90 TDs), Chris Leak and Peyton Manning (101 TDs) Eli Manning (118 TDs) and former Gator Danny Wuerffel (122 TDs).

Tebow also eclipsed the 5000 yard career passing mark Saturday. Heading into this week’s game vs. Georgia, Timmy has thrown for 50059 yards during his career.

Hope to see much more in Jacksonville Saturday…

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator


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


Georgia

The Florida Gators settled a year-old grudge by thoroughly whipping the Georgia Bulldogs 49-10 in Jacksonville Saturday. In doing so, the Gators move into the driver’s seat in the SEC Eastern Division race.

More significantly, UF jumps from eighth to fifth in the current BCS poll.

For 365 days, the Gators used Georgia’s 2007 bench-clearing end zone touchdown celebration as motivation for this year’s game. In that game, UGa abused Florida’s defense, scoring 42 points, behind tailback Knowshon Moreno’s 188 rushing yards. These numbers would figure prominently in UF’s year-long motivational scheme. In the weight room, UF players would perform 42 or 188 repetitions of lifts or exercises.

Moreno was not a factor as UF built a 49-3 lead in a game that was statistically even. UGA was done in by a determined Gator defense that made big plays and denied the end zone. The Gators made the most of four Bulldog turnovers, including three interceptions by QB Matt Stafford. The Dawgs also missed two field goals.

The Gators led 14-3 midway the third quarter, but Uga was on the march in, driving inside the UF 30. That’s when Joe Haden picked off a Stafford pass and returned it 88 yards to the Bulldog one yard-line. T Gator QB Tim Tebow plunged over to make the score 21-3.

Georgia moved the ball on the next series, but was stopped when Ahmad Black intercepted Stafford and returned the ball 64 yards. Tebow then connected with Louis “Dropkick” Murphy for a 44-yard TD and a 28-3 lead and the rout was on. The Gators have won 16 of its last 19 games versus Georgia.

Tebow entered the game tied with Emmitt Smith as UF’s all-time rushing touchdown leader. Tebow accounted for three rushing touchdowns against the Dawgs and now has 39 rushing TDs. He now ranks 9th among the SEC’s alltime rushing touchdown leaders.

His two passing TDs against Georgia gives him 14 for the year and 51 for his career. Tebow has now accounted for 90 touchdowns rushing and passing, which moves him into a 5th place tie with Jared Lorenzen among the SEC’s alltime touchdown responsibility leaders. Next up is Chris Leak at 101 TDs (88 pass-13 rush).

Florida faces Vanderbilt in Nashville next week. While UF should be a prohibitive favorite to win, history shows that this game will likely be closer than expected.

The Gators must win their remaining games against Vandy, South Carolina, The Citadel and Florida State and will still need some luck in order to advance to the BCS title game. Currently, Alabama holds the BCS top spot, followed by unbeatens Texas Tech and Penn State. Once beaten Texas is 4th. Texas Tech must still play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Penn State should be favored to win its remaining three games. Assuming both teams win out, UF will face Bama in the SEC title game, and hopefully, late-season quality wins vs. FSU and Alabama will provide the impetus needed to vault UF into the title game.

Still a lot of football to be played.

Gators return to the Swamp Nov. 15 against South Carolina and Coach Steve Spurrier. Should be a barn burner. See you there,


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


Vanderbilt

The Florida Gators have won the SEC East Division, defeating Vanderbilt 42-14 Saturday. UF will face top-ranked Alabama for the SEC title in Atlanta Dec. 6.

UF was methodical against Vanderbilt, blocking two 1st quarter punts to set up scores and rolling to a 21-0 lead before the Commodores even made a first down. Tim Tebow led the charge, directing the Gators to a 35-0 halftime advantage. Tebow ran for two scores and passed for three more.

Percy Harvin closed out UF’s scoring with a one-yard plunge to make the margin 42-0 before UF emptied its bench. It is Harvin’s 12th straight game scoring a touchdown.

Tebow moved from 9th to a 6th placetie in career rushing touchdowns. He now has 41 rushing touchdowns, eight shy of the 49 set by Georgia running back Herschel Walker. Tebow also has 54 touchdown passes, which moves him onto the SEC all-time list at #20, tied with former Gator John Reaves. Next on the list is former Gator Kerwin Bell who threw 56 TD passes. The leader in this category is UF Heisman winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel who had 114 TD passes.

UF’s national title hopes received a huge boost when Iowa beat Penn State 24-23 on a last second field goal. The Gators moved to 4th in the BCS rankings, behind unbeaten #1 Alabama, unbeaten #2 Texas Tech and #3 Texas. Oklahoma is #5. The title game appears to be a lock between the winner of the SEC (Alabama vs Florida) and the Big 12 champ. Fortunately, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all play in the Big 12’s South Division and when the dust settles, only one will get out. Therefore the Gators control their own destiny; if they continue to win and defeat Alabama, they should at least vault into the BCS #2 spot. If Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma on Nov 22, a UF win against Alabama could ascend the team to #1.

This week, former Gator Coach Steve Spurrier brings his South Carolina Gamecocks to the Swamp for a 3:30 contest. USC is 7-3 and ranked 25th in the BCS rankings. Two years ago, UF narrowly avoided disaster, blocking a USC field goal on the game’s final play to escape with a 17-16 win. Last year, with nothing on the line for either team, UF rolled 51-31 behind five rushing TDS by Tebow.

For the record, the “Ol Ball Coach recorded his 100th SEC win earlier this season. This should be another good one. See you at the Swamp.




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


South Carolina

When the number one defense in the SEC ran headlong into the SEC’s number one offense at the Swamp Saturday, it wasn’t pretty for the number one defense.

The Florida Gators thoroughly undressed South Carolina 56-6, handing former coach Steve Spurrier his worst defeat as a collegiate coach.

The Gators are overpowering opponents with an offense that averages 44 points per game and has scored 42 or more points in its last five games. Florida has dominated SEC opponents like never before, becoming the first team in league history to win six consecutive games by 28 points or more.

South Carolina came into the game ranked No. 1 in the SEC in total defense. The Gators racked up 519 total yards, including 346 rushing and seven Florida players produced plays of 20 yards or longer.

They're also doing it with a defense and special teams that are playing at a level reminiscent of the 2006 national championship team.

In fact, UF’s defense has surrendered 113 points in 10 games, holding seven opponents to ten points or less, and have allowed just two first-half touchdowns all season. Since losing to unranked Ole Miss 31-30 in The Swamp on Sept. 27, the Gators have outscored their past six opponents 299-63. They outscored those opponents -- including then-No. 4 LSU, No. 6 Georgia and No. 25 South Carolina -- 101-0 in the first quarter.

The Gators went up 21-0 against South Carolina and only had to drive 27 yards for those three touchdowns. Linebacker Brandon Spikes scored the first touchdown on a 12-yard interception return. The second touchdown came after Brandon Hicks tipped a pass, and Ahmad Black intercepted it. The Gators took over at the Gamecocks' 26, and Percy Harvin scored on the next play. The third touchdown came after James Smith recovered South Carolina's errant lateral on a kickoff return at the 1-yard line.

Leading 28-3 at the half, Harvin scored on an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the 3rd quarter to seal the game. Gator QB Tim Tebow accounted for three touchdowns, to continued moving upward among the SEC’s all-time leaders. Tebow now has 98 total touochdowns to remain at #4 for career TD responsibility. With three more scores, Tim would tied Peyton Manning and Chris Leak for 2nd all-time. Tebow’s 42 rushing TDs moved him into 6th place for rushing TDs. The SEC record is 49, set by Hershel Walker. And finally, Tebow is tied for 19th with former Gator Kerwin Bell 56 career touchdown passes. The Gators Host The Citadel at home Saturday, and then will play at Florida State on Nov. 29. See you at the Swamp Saturday. Until Then, as always…


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


Citadel

It’s FSU week, so I won’t dwell on Florida’s 70-19 demolition of the non-Div. I The Citadel last week. Here are the highlights:

Junior Gator QB Tim Tebow threw three touchdown passes, which gives him 59 for his career and moves him into a 17th place tie all-time in that SEC record category with Vandy’s Jay Cutler. More importantly, Tebow now has 101 combined rushing and passing touchdowns, which moves him into a three-way tie for 2nd place all-time in the SEC for touchdown responsibility. Tebow is tied with former Gator Chris Leak and Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, and is 21 TDs behind the record holder – former Gator QB Danny Wuerffel.

UF accounted for 705 yards against The Citadel as Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody both surpassed 100 yards rushing and Tebow and backup QB John Brantley both passed for more than 100 yards.

This weeks opponent, FSU, 8-3 climbed back into the ranking at #23 by defeating Maryland 37-3 in College Park. In my opinion, the Seminoles played their best game of the year against the Terps. They appeared focused and could be peaking at the right time.

On paper, the Gators appear to be vastly superior to FSU, particularly on offense. FSU’s offense has look ragged in numerous games, but is capable of finding a rhythm. UF will be without two defensive linemen, Lawrence Marsh and Matt Patchan, both injured vs. Citadel, and will need to contain FSU QB Christian Ponder, who is prone to make big plays by scrambling. If FSU can establish the run, it could be a long night for UF.

The best matchup should be the Gator offense vs. FSU’s defense. FSU’s team strength is their defense, which has performed well. FSU held the ball for 36 minutes against Maryland, a stat that should concern Coach Urban Meyer. UF will need to utilize all of its weapons – Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps, and Tebow, but should prove to be too much for FSU.

This sets up perfectly for an FSU ambush. As always, the Gators will have to elevate their game and be prepared to overcome adversity when invading Tallahassee.

You might have heard that Oklahoma thrashed previously unbeaten Texas Tech 65-21. The loss knocks Tech down to #7 and seemingly out of contention for the BCS title. The Gators remain 4th in the latest BCS rankings, behind #1 Alabama, #2 Texas, #3 Oklahoma. UF and Alabama hold the #1 and #2 spots in the AP poll.

Assuming UF beats FSU and Alabama beats Auburn, the SEC title game in Atlanta will feature its highest ranked matchup in history #1 vs. #2. The winner will advance to another #1 vs. matchup in the BCS title game.

Here’s hoping the Gators are not caught looking ahead. UF must beat FSU.


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


F S U

The Florida Gators trounced archrival Florida State 45-15 in Tallahassee Saturday. It was the Gators 5th consecutive win against FSU.

Despite the game being played in a steady, and sometimes heavy rain, FSU had no answer for the potent Gator offense. Behind the running of QB Tim Tebow, UF rolled to a touchdown on its opening drive. FSU countered with a long kickoff return and a five-yard drive that culminated in a field goal.

Tebow led UF to three more touchdown drives, including a beautifully executed two-minute drill at the end of the half that used about a minute plus. FSU countered with two field goals and a woefully executed fake field goal on the final play of the half. UF led comfortably 28-9.

On the first play of the 3rd quarter, FSU promptly threw an interception to UF linebacker Brandon Spikes. A minute later, Tebow hit Aaron Hernandez for a TD extending the Gators’ lead to 35-9. When the ‘Noles eventually hit paydirt midway through the 3rd quarter – FSU’s first TD vs. UF in six quarters – it was too little, too late. Jeff Demps tacked on a short TD run to complete the 45-15 rout.

This was the 7th consecutive game in which the Gators have scored 42 or more points. With 556 points scored, these Gators have eclipsed last year’s team as the 3rd highest scoring unit in UF history, and now trail only the 1995 team (558 points) and 1996 teams (611 points) for scoring production. The major difference is that this year’s Gator defense has surrendered 20 fewer touchdowns.

It should be noted that after 33 years as FSU’s head football coach, Bobby Bowden’s won-loss record against UF is 17-17-1.

This week, the Gators travel to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference championship game against unbeaten (12-0) and #1 ranked Alabama. The Tide rolled archrival Auburn 36-0 in Tuscaloosa Saturday. If UF wins the game, it will certainly play for the BCS national championship in Miami January 8.

Florida could be without leading receiver Percy Harvin for the SEC title game. Harvin twisted his ankle on a 5-yard run in the second quarter against FSU. Harvin limped off the field with the help of trainers -- after FSU fans celebrated his injury -- and he did not return. His status is questionable for the game.

Harvin ran six times for 13 yards Saturday, including a 9-yard TD run to cap the game's opening drive. He extended his touchdown-scoring streak to a nation-leading 14 games.

Tebow completed 12 of 21 passes for 185 yards and three TDs, and added 80 yards rushing and one TD. Tebow now has moved into the SEC’s #2 spot all time for touchdown responsibility. He has 105 TDs – 62 passing and 43 rushing. He is tied with Bo Jackson as #5 for all time rushing TDS and tied with former Gator Doug Johnson #15 for touchdown passes.

There’s so much more to say, but let’s let it ride until next week when the SEC title and Heisman Trophy pictures become much clearer.




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


SEC Championship

Congratulations to the Florida Gators 2008 football champions of the Southeastern Conference. The Gators whipped previously unbeaten and #1 ranked Alabama 31-20 in Atlanta and advance to the BCS national championship game against Oklahoma in Miami January 8.

It is UF’s 2nd SEC crown in three seasons and the Gators are now 7-2 all-time in SEC title games.

The Gators entered the game ranked #4 in the BCS standings, but vaulted #3 Texas (who was idle and lost the chance to play for the Big 12 Conference title on a tiebreaker. Alabama fell to #4, opening the door for Florida to move into the #2 ranking and lock up the title game berth.

It was a soul-satisfying win for the Gators whom many pundits believed would wilt under the physical onslaught of the traditional Alabama smash-mouth style of football. Even without dangerous scatback Percy Harvin – sidelined by a high ankle sprain suffered against FSU last week -- Florida was favored by eight points. The naysayers appeared correct when Bama unleashed a punishing ground game that appeared to overpower UF’s worn-down defense. Bama took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.

But it was Alabama who wilted in the final stanza, as the Gators dominated both lines of scrimmage. The offensive line provided time for Tebow to make the throws and opened the holes for Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody. The defensive line finally brought pressure on Tide QB John Parker Wilson and shut down Bama’s ground game.

The knock on Gator quarterback Tim Tebow is that he had never led UF back from a 4th quarter deficit. On this night, Tebow was not to be denied, throwing for two touchdowns in the 4th quarter and leading the Gators to the 11-point win. Alabama had given up a total of 28 points in its previous four games before surrendering 31 to Florida.

For the night Tebow threw TD passes to Carl Moore, David Nelson and the clincher to Riley Cooper, and Demps scored on a short plunge in the decisive 4th quarter.

Tebow completed 14 of 2 passes for 216 yards and three TDs, and added 57 yards rushing. Tebow remains #2 all time in the SEC for touchdown responsibility. He has 108 TDs – 65 passing and 43 rushing. He is tied with Bo Jackson as #5 for all time rushing TDS and #15 for touchdown passes.

UF will enter the Oklahoma game as the 2nd all time highest scoring unit in Gator history. Florida has scored 587 points in 13 games, and trail only the 1996 team (611 points). By comparison, Oklahoma has scored 702 points this season.

The next two questions on everybody’s minds are: will Tebow win his 2nd Heisman trophy and will he return to UF for his senior year.

We’ll know the answer to the first question on Saturday.


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


National Championship

The University of Florida Gators are Champions of College Football for 2008.

The Gators defeated Oklahoma 24-14 in the Bowl Championship Series title game in Miami January 8 to claim their second national championship in the past three years and the school’s third football title overall. UF finishes 13-1 and has won its last 10 games since a one-point 31-30 loss to Mississippi in September.

I will leave the detailed game description to the sports pages; most of you have already digested the facts and nuances of the game itself. The biggest thing to realize is that unlike UF’s two previous blowout national title game wins, the Gators had to work for this one and work hard.

The title game was expected to be a fast-paced point-producer between two of college football’s top scoring teams and the only two sophomores to win the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma entered the game averaging 54 points per game, having scored an NCAA record 702 points. The Gators ‘only’ averaged 45 points per game, but boasted one of the best defenses in school history, having surrendered just 167 points in 13 games. By contrast, Oklahoma’s defense rated among the nation’s most mediocre – a puzzling statistic for a team coached by Bob Stoops, who served as Florida’s defensive coordinator in 1996 for UF’s first national title.

Defense took center stage as both teams struggled on offense. After throwing just two interceptions all season, Gator Quarterback Tim Tebow threw two picks in the first half. Conversely, UF stopped the Sooners on two drives inside the Gator 10-yard line; once on a brilliant goal line stand, and again on a tipped interception with 0:03 left. Mercifully, the half ended 7-7.

Although the Gators on sacked Bradford twice, the pass rush and blitzing was just enough to force him into hurrying his throws. UF blocked an OU field goal and then collected a 28-yard field goal to lead 17-14. OU was driving when UF safety Ahmad Black stole a catch from OU and gave UF the ball at the Gator 24-yard line with just 9:59 to play. Tebow then directed an 11-play drive capped by a 4-yard jump pass TD to WR David Nelson that consumed 6:52 off the clock to put UF up 24-14. The Gators held on one final four-and-out and ran out the clock.

Interestingly, the Gators scored 611 points, tying the school record point total compiled by the 1996 Gators.

Forty thousand fans turned out for an appreciation event at the Swamp Sunday, during which time Tebow announced that he will return for his senior season. I guess the opportunity to administer one more butt-pounding to Georgia proved too strong to bypass. UF had just two seniors among its starting 22, although it is uncertain whether juniors Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes will return or jump to the NFL.

With his return, it is very likely that Tebow will become the SEC’s all-time leader in touchdown responsibility and rushing touchdowns.

During the past 19 years, since 1990 – when Steve Spurrier returned to coach UF – through the 2008 season, UF has won more games than any other program. The Gators are 189-51-1 (.786). Next is FSU (187-51-1, .784).




Ever more, As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.


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