For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.
13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.
12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.
11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.
10 » STANDOUT PROFESSIONAL GAME-WINNING PLAYS
During the middle of the 2012-13 season and at the start of the 2013-14 campaign, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal proved to be one of the best young players in the NBA. He has already made a number of big plays, but the two buzzer-beaters he hit in a four-day span back in early January were especially notable. A journeyman MLB player who earned a spot start in Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross came through in the clutch with an RBI double in the seventh inning that would later become the difference maker both in the game and well as the outcome of the series. After the game, Ross was interviewed on the field by fellow Florida alumnus Erin Andrews. Check out videos of the highlight and interview by clicking here.
9 » TWO GAME-WINNERS IN ONE NIGHT
While Beal’s shots and Ross’s hit were both impressive, the Gators registered two game-winners in a single night back on March 28. Earlier in the evening, Florida basketball was facing elimination from the 2013 Women’s NIT down four with 1:05 remaining in the game. Following a variety of clutch plays that cut its deficit to a single point, UF wound up with the ball and 15.6 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, junior guard Jaterra Bonds spun inside and pulled up for a short jumper with three seconds left to send the Gators to the round of eight with a 67-65 victory.
Just over 450 miles away back in Gainesville, FL, Florida softball was just one out away from seeing a nine-game winning streak against in-state rival Florida State come to an end. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, UF rallied to tie the game at 3-3 and force extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth with one down, in front of a record home crowd of 2,443 Gators fans, Florida loaded the bases as sophomore outfielder Briana Little stepped to the plate. Though the Gators needed just one batter to cross the plate, Little responded to the pressure situation by slamming the ball over the scoreboard in left-center for a game-winning grand slam home run.
8 » ANOTHER SEC ALL-SPORTS SWEEP
Though it is still an amazing accomplishment, the Gators dominating the annual SEC All-Sports awards is nothing new. In fact, Florida swept all three titles (overall, men’s, women’s) for the sixth time in the last seven years and dominated the competition in each category. UF remains the only school to ever win all three crowns in a single season and now boasts 23 overall titles (seven-straight), 20 women’s titles and 17 men’s titles. Helping the Gators to the 2012-13 honors were a school- and league-record eight SEC team titles, most of which were won in the spring semester.
7 » LEAVING A LASTING MARK
One of three seniors who left the Florida basketball program at the end of the 2012-13 season, guard Kenny Boynton did so as one of the most accomplished players in program history. Boynton set the Gators’ three-point shooting record at the start of the year on Jan. 6 against Yale in a game in which he also scored a career-high 28 points. By the time he hung up his jersey in March, Boynton left Florida as the team’s leader in three-point field goals made and attempted, field goals attempted, career starts and total minutes played. He is also the Gators’ second-leading scorer behind only Ronnie Williams. Boynton was not selected in the 2013 NBA Draft and is now playing as a professional in Israel.
6 » STILL AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME
Anyone questioning whether Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is in need of a new challenge better look elsewhere as the dean of Florida’s basketball program continues to impress by turning around players and achieving great results. Donovan spent 2012-13 leading UF to another Elite Eight while making a major impact in both the career and life of redshirt senior G Mike Rosario. Now in the 2013-14 season, his development of senior forward Casey Prather has come to the forefront with the player considered one of the game’s most improved. In between, Donovan was named the unanimous 2013 SEC Coach of the Year (by his peers and the Associated Press) and also led the United States over the summer to a gold medal in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. Donovan brought sophomore G Michael Frazier II along for the ride in Prague, Czech Republic and both took their medals home with them to Gainesville.
5 » ALL-TIME GREAT
Florida has seen some tremendous student-athletes pass through its fields and courts over the years, but senior women’s tennis player Lauren Embree put together one of the greatest in school history during her four seasons in Gainesville. Embree continued her outstanding play in 2013, entering what became her final team match of the season 20-0 in singles competition and 11-0 against top-25 ranked opponents. She ultimately lost that match, which took place in the semifinal round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and UF was ultimately eliminated from the event with a 4-3 loss to Stanford. The Gators failed to advance to the finals for the first time since 2009 and were unable to put together a three-peat as two-time defending champions. Despite the crushing defeat in the last match of her career, Embree left Florida as a two-time NCAA National Champion (2011-12), four-time SEC Regular-Season Champion (2010-13) and four-time SEC Tournament Champion (2010-13). She also won the 2012 Riviera/ITA All-American singles title (collegiate Grand Slam) and received a number of other awards including being named a two-time NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player (2011, 2012), three-time SEC Player of the Year (2010, 2012, 2013) and the 2010 ITA National Rookie Player of the Year. Her final honor came in the form of tennis’ biggest collegiate honor when Embree was named the 2013 ITA National Senior Player of the Year in May. OnlyGators.com sat down with Embree for an hour and published this must-read in-depth feature one week after the final match of her career.
4 » LONG TIME COMING
Former Gators QB Danny Wuerffel, the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner who led the team to four-straight league crowns and its first national title, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013 on Dec. 10. Wuerffel, who was up for induction in 2012 but not ultimately chosen, became the seventh former Florida player and 10th representative of the Gators (three coaches) to be celebrated in the hall. He won seven separate annual awards in 1996, picked up a number of others along the way and also earned two first-team All-American nods. Wuerffel threw for an astonishing 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns during his four-year career at UF, both of which remain school records. Wuerffel discussed his induction and recent events in his life with OnlyGators.com in late August before being honored in New York, NY.
3 » BACK-TO-BACK
After never having won an NCAA Outdoor Championship prior to 2012, the Gators men’s program captured its second in as many seasons on June 8, coming from behind to squeak out a victory at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR. Trailing by nine points entering the event’s final race, Florida gutted out a 3:01.34 victory in the men’s 4×400-meter relay, grabbing 10 big points and a share of the national title. UF entered the fourth and final day of competition in 11th place but scored 38 points that Saturday and left the event with three individual national championships along with the team crown.
2 » BEST IN THE WORLD
The greatest player in the history of the Florida soccer program officially cemented her legacy as one of the best to ever play the game on June 20 when U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach broke Miah Hamm’s international goal-scoring record for the sport of soccer. Wambach netted four balls during a friendly against South Korea in Harrison, NJ, increasing her career tally to 160 goals that evening. Wambach’s teammates fed her the ball in the first half, ensuring she tied, eclipsed and then surpassed Hamm’s career mark of 158 goals. (As of press time, Wambach has increased her total to 163 goals.)
Five months earlier on Jan. 7, Wambach won the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or for Women’s World Player of the Year, the most prestigious honor in soccer. She was the first American to capture the award since Hamm in 2002. Four days after that, she joined a new professional soccer club when she was allocated to the Western New York Flash, based in her hometown of Rochester, NY. Wambach also got married to her long-time girlfriend in 2013 and was named to the USWNT’s all-time best XI.
1 » HISTORY IS MADE
A devastating start to the NCAA Super Six made it look as if the top-ranked Gators gymnastics team was going to fall short of its lofty national title goals once again. Instead, an incredible rally by a tough and determined group of women led Florida to a come-from-behind victory for the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first in program history. The Gators became just the fifth team in NCAA history to win a national title in gymnastics, doing so at the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. UF joined Alabama, Georgia, UCLA and Utah as the only programs to win a national championship in the last 32 years. Florida finished with a final score of 197.575, defeating Oklahoma (197.375), Alabama (197.350), UCLA (197.100), LSU (197.050) and Georgia (196.675) to claim the school’s second national title in gymnastics. UF previously won the AIWA title in 1982.
The Gators trailed through the first five rotations of the meet due to a terrible start on balance beam to open the competition; the 48.875 they registered (two performers fell off the beam during their routines) was their third-lowest score of the season in the discipline. Fortunately, the team had a bye during the second rotation and was able to regroup after a disappointing start to the meet. Florida rebounded with a school-record 49.725 on the floor exercise and 49.500 on vault but trailed Alabama, against which it lost the 2012 title by 0.075, by 0.025 with one rotation to go. However, the Crimson Tide struggled on the beam, and the Gators flew into the lead with an above average performance on the uneven bars. Florida also had freshman Bridget Sloan capture an individual 2013 NCAA Championship in the all-around.