To be the best, Gators gotta beat the best

Faced with one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) will not be short on obstacles to overcome in 2014.

But before Florida can get to its cross-division rivalry game, annual neutral-site contest with its border rival or season finale against the defending national champions, it has to hit the road and go head-to-head with arguably the best team in college football over the last five seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC).

As the home team, the Tide are -14.5 favorites over the Gators as the teams prepare to square off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. UF, however, does not feel like an underdog entering the contest.

“We’re not really looking at ourselves as underdogs. I mean, we never have,” said sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III this week. “We’re looking at it as Florida against Bama. It’s a big game, we all know it, that’s not a secret. There’s no doubt that those guys are going to play hard and the results will be the results.”

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Florida coordinators Kurt Roper, D.J. Durkin evaluate units ahead of Alabama game

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media this week to provide some thoughts on the Gators and their first road opponent of 2014, the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide, ahead of Saturday afternoon’s road game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

HOT TOPICS: OFFENSE

» Roper on the challenges that Alabama’s defense provides: “These guys do a great job of contesting every pass. They like to press the receivers and pattern match a lot of things. They’re running with a lot of receivers. When we looked at the explosive plays, in a four-game breakdown, there were like 15 explosive passes, which are 16 yards or more for us. A lot of them, they’re just big-time plays by wide receivers with [defensive backs] right on them. They don’t give you a lot of layups. They’re hard to get separation from.

“They add the ability to rush the passer on top of that, shortening the time. Those are challenges. They’re physical up front and can get off blocks and make the run game difficult. They’re a well-coached defense, physical defense. It’s a challenge, an SEC football game in those standards, obviously playing one of the best minds in football between those guys on defense doing it and good football players. You see similarities to Florida State, but they all have their differences.”

» Roper on how much head coach Will Muschamp being familiar with Nick Saban helps him in preparation: “Obviously that’s helpful to have those conversations to maybe clarify some things as we start watching film, saying, ‘OK, why are they doing this? What’s going on here?’ So, you know obviously that is an advantage of things that are going on.”

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2 BITS: Gilbert’s struggles, McDonald’s support

1 » Former Florida Gators right tackle Marcus Gilbert signed a $30 million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers just one month ago, linking him to the franchise through 2019 if it keeps him for the duration of his contact. Gilbert, however, has not been giving Pittsburgh much bang for its buck through two games. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, Gilbert has played all 132 of the Steelers’ offensive snaps and given up four sacks in that time. However, head coach Mike Tomlin chalked part of Gilbert’s struggles up to his opponents and is planning to stick with him going forward. “When I coached college football, I used to say, ‘They have scholarships, too.’ I think the same applies in the NFL. You’re talking about guys like Marcus and having to rebound and, obviously, he needs to do that. But you also have to acknowledge that they face some pretty stiff challenges week in and week out,” said Tomlin, referring to Gilbert going head-to-head with Elvis Dumervil last week.

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, September 17

There is a video embedded in this post that will autoplay once the page loads. Yes, I know autoplay videos are terrible. There was no other option in this instance.

If you care what Nick Saban thinks…

Through the comment section here on OnlyGators.com, my inbox and my Twitter mentions, it is quite obvious that the [vocal] majority of those that follow or root for the Florida Gators believe Saturday’s showing against Kentucky – a triple-overtime victory at home – was representative of the team failing to show improvement from 2013 rather than it heading in the right direction after being unable to win tough games a year ago.

Well, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban agrees with the minority in this particular instance.

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Healthy, motivated Matt Jones makes statement


Photo Credit: Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

It would be unfair to label junior running back Matt Jones as a forgotten man but there is no question that another, younger Florida Gators rusher was the prime candidate to breakout in a major way in 2014.

And sophomore Kelvin Taylor may do just that at some point this season.

For now, it is Jones who will not be denied, Jones who is making a major statement and Jones who carried Florida’s offense on his back for 25 yards into the end zone in the third overtime of Saturday’s game.

“We knew Matt Jones could run like that, has been running like that through camp. We’re really just excited to see him be that powerful back. Not a lot of people are talking about him in the SEC, but we feel like he’s the best back,” said redshirt senior center Max Garcia, one of Jones’s interior blockers.

“Just to see him work hard like that and be our workhorse on the offense, just to see him break tackles – I think he broke like 16 tackles or something like that – that just motivates the offensive line to block just a little bit more, to take another bite.”

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Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late

Though offense has been a struggle for the Florida Gators during head coach Will Muschamp‘s tenure, the team’s defense has been well-respected and even feared by opponents over the last three seasons.

Florida looked to be trending upward offensively and holding steady on its defensive success after its 65-0 season-opening rout of Eastern Michigan, but Muschamp cautioned after the game that his young secondary made a number of mistakes in the game that a better opponent would expose.

That opponent was the Kentucky Wildcats.

Picking on the Gators’ young defensive backs, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles passed for 369 yards on Saturday – only eight fewer than he did against Tennessee-Martin – and a career-high three touchdowns.

Florida gave up eight big plays in the game and 173 yards on six of them, mostly due to miscues in the secondary.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: 2014 Week 2

The 2014 NFL regular season continued this week with 38 former Florida Gators spread out over 22 of the 32 teams in the league.

Eleven teams had multiple Florida players on their rosters including Miami (four); Baltimore, Indianapolis and Philadelphia (three each); and Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay (two each).

Below are full game statistics for all 29 players (16 starters^) that saw action along with select status and injury updates on some Gators during the second week of the regular season.

^ Kickers and returners not counted as starters.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
S JOSH EVANS, Jacksonville Jaguars: Started | 14 tackles (eight solo) [team-highs], pass defense
LB JELANI JENKINS, Miami Dolphins: Started | 14 tackles (nine solo, one for loss) [team-highs]

PLAYS OF THE WEEK

Check out how the rest of the Gators in the NFL performed…after the break!

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9/15: Muschamp reviews UK, previews Bama

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s first road contest of the 2014 season. Florida will travel Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m.

OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a great team win as far as picking each other up. Parts of the game, defensively, [we] played really well early in the game, did some nice things offensively, moved the ball, did not score in the red zone, had a couple issues on third down – two drops, two protection issues – that hurt us in the first half.

“Field position killed us in the first half; average staring on the 15-yard line, but we moved the ball, that was the encouraging thing. I felt totally in control of the game until the 60-yard touchdown pass that gave them some energy. But our guys fought back and overcame those situations. Right now on the season, we’re +7 on the year in turnover margin, +13 in explosive plays. That’s a good combination to have.

“Going back offensively, field position really hurt us. We need to score touchdowns in the red zone; we had a couple issues down there, third down, but we stayed balanced in what we did. I thought the offensive staff did a nice job with adjustments in the second half of getting in some 12 personnel and running the ball. We were able to create some holes in there. I thought our offensive line did a really good job of movement upfront and handling all that stuff. …

“Overall, as a team, handled some adversity well. That was the first time we had to deal with it this season, so it was good to condition ourselves moving on the road.”

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