SEC “Storied” tackles Alabama-Florida game

ESPN debuted the new documentary series SEC “Storied” earlier this year and announced Tuesday that the second edition of the program will feature the first SEC Championship game played on Dec. 5, 1992 between the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators. The episode, The Play That Changed College Football, will premier on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 11 p.m. on ESPNU.

Two decades ago, the SEC expanded to 12 schools and hosted a conference championship game for the first time in college football history. Many thought this would jeopardize national title aspirations for the schools involved. Undefeated Alabama normally would have gone straight to a matchup with Miami in the Sugar Bowl with the national championship on the line, but instead was forced to play Steve Spurrier’s Florida squad first for the SEC title.

No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 12 Florida 28-21 in the first SEC Championship, which was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Crimson Tide and Gators went on to go head-to-head in each of the next two SEC title games with UF winning both. Florida captured four-straight SEC Championships from 1993-96 including three over Alabama.

11/14: Donovan, Boynton, Young talk Ohio State

With No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball set to take on the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Tuesday evening in Columbus, OH, head coach Billy Donovan, junior guard Kenny Boynton and sophomore center Patric Young met with the media Monday to discuss what preparations have been made for the first road game of the season.

CONTAINING SULLINGER IS PRIORITY NO. 1

When it comes to preparing for Ohio State, center Jared Sullinger always stands out on film as the most dominant player on the court. Like most teams, Florida will do what it can to reduce the effectiveness of a player who averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game just one season ago.

“We’ve faced enough big, strong, physical guys. The thing with Sullinger to me that makes him great is he has a great basketball IQ and he’s very smart. He understands how to play. He’s a really good passer. He understands how to play angles. He’s a very good offensive rebounder. He’s a good decision maker and can certainly score inside and out,” Donovan said Monday.

“People talk about his size, but the thing that’s never talked about when you watch him on film…I have a great deal of respect for him because he really understands the game. He reminds me of a throwback guy from a long, long time ago.”

Sullinger and Gators sophomore C Patric Young are quite familiar with each other from their days in AAU basketball. Though they did not go head-to-head much when the Buckeyes came to Gainesville, FL last Nov. 16, Sullinger’s 26 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) and 10 boards that evening undoubtedly stood out and made him an even bigger target this year.

“The game plan is to keep him off the boards, not let him get anything easy,” Young said of Sullinger. “He’s a good player, and he’s going to a few score points here and there. Don’t let him get anything easy. He scores a lot of points off of offensive rebounds, so keep him off of that. Everyone just contain their other guys.”

Young realizes Tuesday night’s game is not just about his personal competition with Sullinger and plans to play within himself throughout the contest.

“I keep realizing that the game is not about me; it’s about our team. Picking up dumb fouls isn’t really good because we’re short in our frontcourt this year. It would be bad if I picked up a dumb foul trying to make the game about me,” he said.

Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton likes what he has seen from Young in practice this week and is confident in his ability to make an impact Tuesday. “Pat has been more focused this week, definitely focused on getting better position in the low post,” he said. “I think he’s ready.”

NEW LOOK LINEUPS THIS SEASON

The series between UF and OSU may be going strong but there has been plenty of turnover since it began a few years ago. Just between 2010-11 and 2011-12, each team has lost three starters heading into the contest.

The Gators, of course, will be without their three forwards – Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin – while the Buckeyes no longer feature Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and Jon Diebler. Florida sees this as an advantage heading into Tuesday’s contest.

“They don’t have the same leadership hey had in Lighty and Diebler last year, but they’re still a good team,” Young said. We feel we have an opportunity to disrupt those guys because their chemistry isn’t as good as it was last year.”

Boynton thinks UF’s defense will be the most improved.

“Watching our team on film last year, we did not play defense very well at all last year. I feel that the defensive presence for this team is a lot better than the team last year,” he said. We had to elevate our team’s level to a really high level at the end of the year last year, and I think now we’re better than that team.

“We are going there for the win this year. It’s going to be on the road; they beat us at our home last year. We’re definitely looking forward to getting the win this year.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the Florida-Ohio State series: “I think it’s been really good hopefully for them because I know it’s been very good for us. The second game of the year, getting a chance really to find where we are going on the road against a good, quality team has been good. The history of the football team playing for the national championship game and then us having to play them twice in that one year. […] I know coming out of this game we’re going to find out a lot more about our team because it’s a great test not only playing against a good team but playing on their home court.”

» Donovan on point guard Aaron Craft: “He probably doesn’t get enough recognition for his speed and quickness. He’s very quick, heady, tough kid. Another guy I’ve really enjoyed watching play. He was on the all-defensive team in the big 10. He’s a great defender. He’s great with his hands and comes up with a lot of steals. He’s got toughness and is savvy. I would classify him as a winner. He’s a winner. His ability to do what he did last year [at point guard] allowed [William] Buford to play a little bit more to his strengths.”

» Donovan on junior forward Erik Murphy: “Offensively the strength of Erik is shooting the basketball. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first game, but in that game he ended up having five rebounds and probably should have had 10-12 in the game. He had a lot of balls knocked out of his hands and plays in traffic where he couldn’t come down with it; he was off-balance. We just need Erik to continue to defend, rebound and be a threat offensively, to make good decisions.”

» Donovan on UF participating in something like the Carrier Classic: “There was talk last year for next year for us doing that. I would definitely be interested. We’ve been invited to do a lot of different things. […] We try to balance those neutral site games and also for our fans have an Ohio State come in, and Arizona come in, obviously we have the home-and-home with Florida State. We try to have for our fans really high levels of teams that people identify with as it relates to college basketball. The balance of being able to do that and then not just being totally overloaded where you’re all over the place. I’m always open to – I thought that stuff was really a great thing for our country, a great thing for college basketball and something I would be interested in if it made sense for our schedule.”

» Boynton on how he has improved this year: “Gym time pretty much. I think I’ve been in the gym a lot more than I was previously. That’s pretty much why the first two games I was better.”

» Boynton on former players talking to the team: “It’s definitely good. Chandler [Parsons] I played with him for two years; he gives great advice about defense. Chandler did the small things like rebounding and things like that. Joakim [Noah] sometimes talks to us about winning, how they won and how focused you have to be to win it all.”

» Young on if he was happier about his double-double or one foul against Jackson State: “I’m sure the one foul made [the media] happier, but the double-double made me happier. [The media] always think I’m going to foul out or something. [Laughing]”

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 10

With the 2011 NFL season underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 10 action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the 10th week of the 2011 campaign.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
DE JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Five tackles (two solo, one for loss), 2.5 sacks, three QB hits
S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Three tackles (two solo), interception returned 24 yards for touchdown, two pass defenses

Check out how the rest of the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 10

Foley: Muschamp has “a chance to be special”

Call it a vote of confidence if you want, but Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley did not mince words when he told the St. Petersburg Times that he firmly believes head coach Will Muscahmp is the man to lead the football program into the future.

Muschamp’s version of the Gators is 5-5 (0-5 against ranked opponents) and skirting on being bowl eligible, a concept previously foreign to Florida fans.

Yet Foley appeared as confident as ever in his latest hire when asked to evaluate the job Muschamp has done up to this point in the season.

“I hate this for Gator Nation. I hate it for our coaching staff. I hate it for Will,” Foley told the Times. “The guy is a competitor. He’s got a fire in his belly. I’ve had to tell him, ‘Will, I can’t help you. It’s unfortunate, but I can’t help you get through this. The future only comes one day at a time.’

“For successful coaches, and I’ve been around them, the Billy Donovans of the world, the Kevin O’Sullivans of the world, the Urban Meyers, it’s always one day at a time. We can’t just fast-forward tomorrow and it will be next year. We’ll go back to work, and we’ll be okay. We’ll be fine.”

The Times observed that Foley appeared “more impressed with Muschamp today than 11 months ago, when he hired him to replace Meyer,” and the athletic director dismissed the notion of possibly making a change.

“He’s a hard worker. All of his coaches are,” Foley said. “I like the way Will handles himself. He doesn’t make excuses. He accepts responsibility. ‘It’s all on me.’ He says it every time we lose. ‘It starts with me.’

“He doesn’t blame the youth. He does say we need more numbers, but that’s a fact. We have less than 70 on scholarship. Saying that is not an excuse.”

Perhaps most importantly, Foley is confident in Muschamp’s ability to turn things around and plans to give him the necessary time to prove that he can do just that while wearing the orange and blue.

“He’s going to keep working. He’s going to keep grinding. There is no woe-is-me,” Foley said. “When you work that hard, you have a chance to be really special.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

11/14: Muschamp speaks after Florida’s fifth loss

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent. Florida fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 17-12 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a home game against the Furman Paladins on Nov. 19. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Saturday and Monday.

INJURY UPDATES

In addition to announcing that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) will be out for the season, Muschamp said redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (“banged up”) should all be able to play on Saturday. Green and McCray were tested pre-game on Saturday and could not play; both are expected to return to practice early in the week and try to give it a go again versus Furman.

COSTLY ERRORS AT CRITICAL JUNCTURES

The Gators once again failed to impress on Saturday and continued to make major mistakes after being put in a position to succeed. Florida was inside the five-yard-line twice against South Carolina and came out of the situations with a total of six points rather than the 14 they should have posted. UF also committed a costly offsides penalty continuing what wound up being USC’s final offensive drive. Muschamp said Saturday after the game that Florida’s miscues continue to disappoint him.

“We’ve had three ballgames where we had our opportunities. It comes back to turnovers, critical errors when you got to make plays, you got to make a play on the ball down the field,” he said. “You’re in a situation where it’s a field goal game, and you have to execute in those situations. It comes back on me. [I’ve] got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical downs and critical situations. In four of our last games, three of them have come down to the last drive of the game. We have got to win in those situations and we haven’t.”

He expanded on those comments on Monday, explaining what he and the players spoke about during their meeting earlier in the day.

“I told the team this morning at 6:00 a.m. Every football game you play in or you coach in, there are 8-10-12 plays in the game that really determine the outcome. It isn’t one play but generally those collective plays and you never know when those plays are going to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to make plays in those situations. We’ve been very inconsistent obviously in our play, and that falls back on my shoulders, doing a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful.

“We watched plays from the game as an entire team this morning to show them when those situations arrive and how we’re hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations. We’ve got to eliminate that from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays we’ve got to do a better job [on].”

A SILVER LINING TO THE STRUGGLES

Muschamp is not using 2011 as an evaluation season per se but while the team is struggling to get into the W column on a consistent basis, he is noticing some qualities about the players that give him a sense of promise for the future.

“I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results,” he said Saturday. “In the big picture of things, we’ve made tremendous improvements. We play blocks much better up front at times. We do a better job in the run game against a quality defensive football team. […] We ran the ball in the second half. Is there improvement? Yes. Is it what we want? No. Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we going to get there? Yes, it’s going to get there. You play three quality teams that you feel like you had opportunities to win the games. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s frustrating to lose one when you don’t play very well, too.”

He went into further detail on Monday, discussing specifically the improvements he is seeing game-in and game-out. “We all look at the result at the end of the game and feel like nothing good is happening. That’s not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get us over the hump to win those games,” Muschamp said.

“The effort. Guys are playing hard with great effort. Individually guys that are doing nice things, as a team doing nice things. We’re just very inconsistent. You can attribute it to a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that it’s inconsistent. I see things that are very promising as far as where we are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not what we want right now, but we’ll certainly get there.

“We improved our tackling defensively. Both linebackers have played extremely well this season. We’re a little inconsistent in some situations Saturday, but we’ve played blocks better up front. We’ve improved in the secondary. Jordan Reed is playing really well. A.C. Leonard is coming along and playing really well. The running backs have played well all season. I think John [Brantley] continues to play well, and I think we’ve got a bright future with Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff Driskel. Matt Patchan is playing his best football, and Jon Halapio is playing very well. We’re not consistent enough across the board, but there are some guys who are playing good football. Jon Bostic is having an outstanding season.

“There’s a fine line in winning and losing. It’s a really fine line from being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There’s really fine line, and it goes back to those 8-10-12 plays in a game – you got to make those plays. You got to put your guys in situations to be successful and that’s my job.”

BOWL ELIGIBILITY NOT A CARROT TO BE DANGLED

As a coach who expects much from his players, Muschamp said he has never considered and certainly is not now using bowl eligibility as any type of motivator for his team going into the Furman game.

“For me it’s about playing better. It’s about coaching better. If you do that, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve had our opportunities in the last four weeks to do that. We haven’t exactly closed it out. I don’t know that bowl eligibility should be a motivating factor for you as a competitor.

“When you step on the field, you compete. You can do it every day in practice, you can do it every day in meetings, and you do it every day during game day regardless of who is lined up on the other side. That’s the mental attitude you want to have as a competitor. It’s to go out and compete. You don’t need to be motivated by external factors, in my opinion.”

One positive result of becoming bowl eligible, something that the Gators will be on Saturday after their likely victory over the Paladins, is that Florida will get nearly three additional weeks of practice before playing in the game. Those can be used not only to prepare for the upcoming opponent but to set the tone for spring practice in 2012.

“They’re very important,” Muschamp said of the additional practices. “You got a great opportunity to scrimmage your young players. Our young players have been scrimmaging all year. It’s an opportunity to go out and rep, get better, familiarize with your scheme a little more, get guys turns and reps in what they’re doing. There’s no question – generally you try to get 4-5 fundamental practices and then 4-5 practices on your opponent. And then you break for Christmas, come back to the bowl site and get 4-5 more practices. It’s in essence another spring ball. There is no question it is very beneficial for your program.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what adjustments he made at halftime: “Execute. Execute.”

» On playing a tough SEC slate of games: “We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU. The rest of us you could throw us in a sack and shake us up.”

» On his players fumbling the ball: “We just got to play different guys.”

» On deciding to kick the field goals and not go for touchdowns on fourth down: “The game is all about points. Neither offense was doing a whole lot. It was all about getting points early in the game to me. Get as many points as you can, don’t squelch opportunities in the red zone, which we did. You got to score touchdowns in there.”

» On Brantley’s mental makeup: “John’s a guy that, I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with him as a person and what he’s all about. He’s all about the right things.”

» On the wide receivers not getting separation: “We got to play better. We got to coach better.”

» On the offensive and defensive lines: “Not very good. Real simple. We’re not deep enough. We don’t have enough numbers. It’s real simple. Just look at the roster. We’ve got good talent. We don’t have enough numbers.”

» On if it will take long to develop depth on the lines: “We’ll recruit well up front. I feel very excited about where we are from that standpoint. We’ll continue to improve and gain depth as far as the recruiting is concerned and do a better job coaching the guys here on campus.”

» On if the 5-5 season has affected recruiting: “None.”

» On why redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has not done more this year: “Given his opportunities, he has played well. A little bit is Andre has made some big plays for us, especially in the middle of the season as we’ve moved forward. They play the same position in most situations, so Andre [Debose]’s made a little bit more vertical plays down the field. Very pleased with Quinton recognized this morning for his effort on the field, his blocking in the game. I look for him to continue getting some opportunities.”

» On if Florida is getting enough out of the freshman class: “I’d have to individually think through in my head. Both quarterbacks are going to be outstanding; I’m pleased with where both of them are. Offensively right now A.C. Leonard has really come on. It really put him behind when he had the knee injury there in camp he missed a lot of time. For a freshman that’s very difficult when you miss that many turns and that many reps. I’m very pleased with the secondary players that have played extremely well for us. Graham Stewart has done some nice things at linebacker. Chris Johnson on special teams has been outstanding, Louchiez Purifoy. For a freshman class, there are a bunch of them playing and probably only three guys who will be redshirted in the class.”

» On why penalty numbers being down overall: “We’ve emphasized it as much as we can go over it. We have crowd noise at every practice. We hard count on defense probably once every 2-3 snaps. In critical situations we talk about it. We text the players about it. We’re exhausting every measure we can of jumping offsides and having false starts offensively. We’re going to continue to do a better job because we’re not doing a good job obviously. We’ve been doing that all along. That’s something that we’ve practiced and we do. That’s just what we do. […] We’ve talked about it. We text them. We had a t-shirt made [that reads] ‘hard count.’ We’ve done everything. We’re exhausting all measures.”

Florida bumped up in first top 25 polls

The first regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the North Carolina Tar Heels remain slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with a combined 92 of 96 first-place votes. The Florida Gators advanced a spot in each ranking and are one of four Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective polls.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Florida, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama
16-20: Arizona, Michigan, Texas A&M, Marquette
21-25: Cincinnati/Vanderbilt, California, Gonzaga, Florida State, Missouri

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Memphis, Florida
11-15: Pittsburgh, Baylor, Kansas, Wisconsin, Xavier
16-20: Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA
21-25: Marquette, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin, Arizona
16-20: Alabama, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Cincinnati
21-25: Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri, Florida State

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh
11-15: Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin
16-20: Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama, Texas A&M
21-25: Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Gators CB Marucs Roberson out for season

The Florida Gators secondary was further depleted Monday when head coach Will Muschamp announced that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson would miss 4-6 weeks with a neck injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Roberson, who has started every game this year for Florida, is the third talented Gators’ cornerback now unavailable for the team. UF dismissed Janoris Jenkins over the summer, and redshirt junior Jeremy Brown has yet to play in 2011 after injuring his knee in the offseason; the duo was slated to start opposite one another.

Muschamp referred to Roberson’s injury as a strained neck but did not go into further detail, simply saying that the doctors are going to be cautionary and hold him out the remainder of the season rather than try to press him back into action or a potential bowl game. He added that no setbacks are expected and Roberson should be completely healthy when he returns for spring practice in 2012.

“It’s nothing that’s going to be permanent,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to be fine in 4-6 weeks. He strained his neck there and [the training staff is] just taking the precautionary measures obviously with something like that.”

Roberson registered 22 tackles this season, nabbed an interception and recovered a fumble in the 10 games he played, most of which he spent covering the opponent’s best wide receiver. Sophomore Cody Riggs, senior Moses Jenkins and fellow freshmen Jaylen Watkins and Louchiez Purifoy will all see increased time on the field over the next 2-3 games due to Roberson’s injury.

FOUR BITS: soccer, Jones, volleyball, Mann

1 » No. 23 Florida Gators soccer (17-7) advanced to the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a strong 3-0 victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (14-5-2) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored consecutive goals for the Gators in the 16th and 68th minute before senior F/MF Lindsay Thompson followed suit with a conversion of her own from 10 yards out at 80’. The Eagles only took three shots the entire game, and freshman goalkeeper Taylor Burke was only forced to make one save during the contest. Florida will take on Central Florida on Friday at 7 p.m. in second round action.

2 » Unranked heading into the season, Gators women’s basketball had an opportunity to pick up a solid win in their opener but fell just short on Friday. Florida (0-1) was defeated 69-66 by the Michigan Wolverines (1-0), which outscored their opponents 9-7 with less than three minutes left in the game to pick up the victory. Senior guard Jordan Jones led the Gators with a career-high-tying five treys for 21 points on 20 shots, and senior G Lanita Bartley added 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Florida took 27 shots from downtown in the contest, making just 10, and was outrebounded 42-36 by Michigan.

3 » No. 18/19 Gators volleyball (21-5, 14-3 SEC) concluded the road portion of their regular season in style over the weekend, picking up a pair of hard-fought victories to continue an impressive four-game winning streak. Florida topped the LSU Tigers (17-9, 10-6 SEC) 3-1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-12) on Friday behind a career performance from sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann, who hit .900 on the evening with 18 kills on 20 swing with no errors and five blocks. The mark is the second-best in NCAA history for a player with 20+ swings in a single match and helped earned Mann SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors as announced Monday.

4 » The Gators had a greater test Sunday against the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-10, 10-7 SEC), fighting back from a two-set deficit to win 3-2 (18-25, 30-32, 25-21, 26-24, 15-9). Mann and senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel each had a 19 kills. That mark was a career-high for Mann, while Jaeckel and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy each completed a double-double. Florida will face Georgia (Nov. 18), Auburn (Nov. 20) and South Carolina (Nov. 23) at home before beginning NCAA Tournament action in Dec.

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