11/5: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4 SEC) finally got off the schnide after a winless October with a 26-21 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. Florida played a home game for the first time in over a month and held on to a victory after leading by double digits late in the fourth quarter. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game along with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP THANKFUL FOR FANS, PLEASED WITH EFFORT

At the start of his media availability, Muschamp made it a point to show his appreciation for the support of the Florida fan base. “I want to thank our crowd. We had 90,000 plus for a 12:21 p.m. kick and we have not performed very well on the field up to this point. So I am really proud of our fans and proud to be a part of the Gator Nation. It shows how powerful of a place this place is,” he said.

He also expressed his appreciation for the mentality his football team has had all season long. “I’m really proud of our team from the standpoint of continuing to push, practice and compete, which they do. They do every day in practice. I’ve never been disappointed with our effort or how we approach regardless of the negativity of what’s happened,” Muschamp said. “More than anything, I’m really happy for our team because these guys have really forged together with what we’re trying to do and where we’re headed with this thing. Their effort has been outstanding, and they really needed this today.

“They continue to fight. These guys have pulled together. Adversity either creates division or it unifies you. These guys have pulled together, they really have pulled together. You couldn’t walk on our practice field on Monday or Tuesday of this week – if we ever opened it – and see the team and know the difference if we were 5-4 or we were 9-0 by the way they compete on the practice field. I’m very proud of the effort that they put in. We’re building our battle scars right now, and we’ve got a bunch. I know one thing – we’re going to have a tough group as we continue to move forward with this. Some guys are going to be tight together in what they do. We will benefit from the tough times that we’re traveling through, and [our opponents] better enjoy it while they’ve got it.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played for a second-straight after injuring his ankle on Oct. 1 against Alabama and said it felt “strong” throughout the contest. However, Brantley suffered another injury in the fourth quarter that will be discussed further on Monday. Neither Muschamp nor Brantley would comment on it after the game, though Brantley did admit it came after a shot from a Vanderbilt player.

Also returning at full strength on Saturday were senior running back Jeff Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who connected on a 55-yard field goal in the game after missing a 49-yard attempt earlier in the contest.

Unlike Brantley, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) were all held out of the game Saturday. Rainey was dressed and a game-time decision, but the other players did not dress and were ruled out until next week.

PLAYING SOFT AND NEARLY GIVING IT UP

Florida’s defense was strong most of the game but with a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators began playing soft. When UF went up 12 with just minutes to play, the secondary played even softer and allowed Vandy to drive 80 yards on five plays in 57 seconds, giving them an opportunity to try an onside kick and perhaps wind up winning the game. Muschamp was quite displeased with what he saw from that unit at the end of the game.

“When you get put in those situations – i.e. a two score game with 2:13 to go – you still play coverage. We were calling coverages we had been calling and had success with the whole game. Our guys felt like – just don’t get beat deep. That’s not what you can do in these situations,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience. Believe me, Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., we’re going to learn that you can’t play that way at the end of a game. You’ve got to continue to play the game.

“A lot of what I saw is very correctable, in my opinion. Any time you give up some yardage passing – it’s kind of like a sack on offense – everybody wants to point a finger on the offensive lineman. Fourth-and-12 we lose contain[ment] on the quarterback and he holds the ball for three days. That’s the defensive line’s issue. We’ve got to get a lot of things straightened out, some of our underneath coverage. The big emphasis this week, in my opinion going in, was to stop the run game and stop the quarterback runs. I felt like, for the most part, we did a decent job of that.”

He touched on the subject again later, saying that the mistakes that players in the secondary made were mostly due to youth and inexperience – not discipline.

“It has to do with exposure to the situation. To understand it’s a two score game that doesn’t mean it’s a pass skeleton. We still are trying to compete to get the ball off people and make plays,” Muschamp said. “I was thoroughly disappointed with how we [played]; we’re not coaching them to play soft. You let them just throw the ball down the field? That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

“We couldn’t cover a bucket of water on the last drive,” Muschamp joked.

DISCIPLINE ON PENALTIES IMPROVED BUT JUST A SMALL STEP

The most penalized team in the country heading into Saturday’s game, the Gators continued to search for ways to become more disciplined each week. Florida committed just three penalties against Vanderbilt, down from their near double-digit average per game this season.

“It’s been emphasized every week. It’s like all results – you can go out and beat your chest this week and say you must have done a good job coaching penalties. When I was at Texas two years ago, we led the country in turnovers. We don’t coach turnovers any different than we coach today,” Muschamp said.

“Was I a better coach coaching turnovers two years ago than I am now? I don’t think so. We just had some balls bounce our ways a couple times, we got a couple tipped passes, they put the ball on the ground a couple of times. We’ve emphasized discipline in our program. We talk about it all the time. We talk about focusing a little better. We talk about taking a guy out if he jumps offisdes or lines up offsides in situations. We’ve tried to do that in some situations. We’ve explored all of the options. Over a period of time hopefully it’s helped. This is one game. I’m not ready for one game to be ready to waive the flag that we’re disciplined now. We need to work on it day in and day out because we haven’t been consistent all year.”

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

Below are a number of questions that have been Tweeted, e-mailed or left in the comment section regarding the game with Muschamp’s respective response.

What has been the problem with the running game recently and how were you able to rectify that this week?
Muschamp said that the team only has 9-10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen active right now. Combining that with a number of injured running backs and it has been tough for the Gators to improve in that area each week. He also touted the newly installed pistol offense (QB in shotgun, RB lined up behind him) as a big help. “Being able to get in the pistol and run the ball a little bit downhill helped our team in this football game. Being able to create some of that downhill running game instead of all the lateral running game, which is sometimes tough in our league.”

Were you going to go for it on the fourth down play that Vanderbilt wound up jumping offsides on?
“We were going to go for it. We were going to win the game.”

Why has the offense been stalling in the second half?
“As much as anything, we didn’t get some stops defensively – that threw us out of our rhythm offensively. You affect each other, whether we think we do or not. […] You complement each other in every game. I think we had some critical, critical times in the game where we could have made some stops defensively and we didn’t. We got to keep our guys in a rhythm offensively.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the five-point win: “We made it interesting there at the end; we shouldn’t have.”

» Muschamp on the offense stepping up this week: “Our game plan offensively was really good – to get to the line of scrimmage, see the pressures, bring the receiver in, block the edges, change the run game from one side to the other. We were very effective in doing that. You have to credit our offensive staff and Charlie; I thought they did a really good job with that.”

» Muschamp on the downfield passing opening up: “There’s no question – I’ve said it in our game against LSU and obviously in our game against Auburn – we struggle for a number of reasons to be able to throw the ball vertically down the field. When people in this league are able to outnumber you, you can’t get a hat-on-a-hat sometimes in the run game and you have a hard time running it. We’ve faced that. When John’s in there and you have the extra dimension of seeing coverage, taking it to the right spot, getting it to the right people, timing of the passing game, the timing of the offense, getting us in and out of the right protections, seeing the pressure coming off the edge, check the protection. We’re able to do a lot more of that because of a fifth-year senior and a guy who has played a lot of football for us. There is no question that John is a huge part of that.”

» Muschamp on removing redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison from the game in place of redshirt junior center Sam Robey: “We just need to be more consistent with our snaps, and we’ve had issues throughout the year so I felt like we needed to make the change. […] We’ve had some inconsistencies before in practice. Our decisions are pretty calculated.”

» Muschamp on freshman QB Jacoby Brissett coming in: “I’ve said it all along – not just Jacoby, Jeff Driskel as well – we have the utmost confidence in both of those players that they’re going to be outstanding players.”

» Muschamp on Demps returning: “Every time he’s been healthy for us this year he’s been very productive. […] He works hard every day, gives you everything he’s got. That’s what being a student-athlete is all about.”

» Muschamp said that over 20 former captains visited this past weekend for a special dinner and to celebrate homecoming.

» Muschamp on not ending a long home winning streak against Vanderbilt: “I don’t think a game in 1945 had anything to do with a game today.”

» Muschamp on if he wavered about trying the 55-yard field goal: “When you get to that 37-38 yard line, I’m kicking a field goal. There’s not a whole lot of kickers in the country you can say that about. […] In normal situations you might have to get to the 25 to attempt a field goal. When you’re able to have a guy like Caleb, it certainly helps your football team.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Earl Okine on seeing the field and playing well: “It took me a while to keep progressing. Every week and every day it’s been a grind. Coach Muschamp and Coach Dan Quinn have been pushing me the entire season, and that’s why I’m improving.”

» Okine on the mood of the locker room after the game: “Ecstatic. Ecstatic. Everybody was very happy, relieved, all of the above positive emotions.”

» Demps on getting back out on the field: “It was definitely a good feeling. The offensive line did a great job of opening holes all game, and the wide receivers did a great job on the perimeter blocking.”

» Demps on having just a few games left in his final year: “I’m going to play my last three games here and give it all I got. I enjoyed the whole ride. It’s been tough but anybody can win. When you lose it’s how you face adversity.”

» Demps on the team being close: “We’re definitely a tight group. Throughout the whole offseason, the summer and the spring, I wasn’t around much but when I was there were leaders stepping up all over the place. That really bonded everybody. Even though we’re having a tough season like we are, we have each other’s back. We were there when we started and we’re going to be there at the end.”

» Sophomore safety Matt Elam on the significance of the win: “We got our confidence back. After losing the whole month, a win is a great feeling.”

» Elam on correcting the penalties: “I know there’s been a lot of stuff about us being young and undisciplined. Coach Muschamp is very hard on that, trying to make us more disciplined.”

» Elam on if the win was a relief: “It was a relief we got our win. We got another win, man. It’s been a long time. We ain’t sing the fight song in a long time. It was a great feeling.”

» Elam if the team matured over the losing streak: “We learned. Everybody stuck together. We stuck together and we continued to fight. Everybody went out and practiced hard.”

» Elam on how the secondary will play in 2012: “No, we won’t have those problems.”

» Gillislee on seeing the field again:“I had to just continue doing what I was doing, get back healthy to 100 percent and go out there and produce. Our rushing yards were low the past few games, so we knew we had to go out there and prove a point that we could run the ball.”

» Brantley on picking up a win: “The month of October was rough for us. To get this first win – the first game of November against a good Vanderbilt team – was huge because we’ve got some good teams ahead of us.”

» Brantley on the pistol offense: “It’s easier to establish a downhill run game in that formation. We did a great job all week preparing. The o-line did a great job blocking. You noticed today that Gillislee and Jeff ran hard.”

» Brantley on the penalties being cut down: “It felt really good. We focused on that and focused on our mental discipline all week and it paid off.”

» Brantley on having just three regular season games left: “We had our captains dinner last night. They just kept stressing that we have three more times to run out of the tunnel. That set home on us. We’ve got to cherish these moments, go out there and play our hardest.”

Gators remain out of all top 25 polls

The LSU Tigers remained the unanimous No. 1 team on Sunday when the latest BCS, USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls were released. The Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4 SEC), fresh off their first victory in more than a month, did not receive a single vote. All of Florida’s losses this season have been to ranked opponents, and the Gators avoided their fifth consecutive defeat on Saturday with a 26-21 win.

WeekResultBCSUSA TodayAssociated Press
Preseason--No. 10 (930)No. 10 (894)
2W 24-6 vs. Toledo-No. 9 (974)No. 12 (875)
3L 16-21 at Miami-No. 20 (410)No. 18 (405)
4Open-No. 18 (398)No. 19 (412)
5W 31-17 vs. Tennessee-No. 19 (449)No. 20 (414)
6W 24-7 at Kentucky-No. 19 (515)No. 18 (481)
7W 30-10 vs. Arkansas-No. 17 (574)No. 17 (536)
8L 6-17 at LSU-No. 22 (240)No. 22 (249)
9L 17-36 at Missouri-NR (4)NR (17)

BCS
This Week 1-5: LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Stanford, Boise State
6-10: Oklahoma, Oregon, Arkansas, Clemson, Virginia Tech
11-15: Houston, Penn State, South Carolina, Kansas State, Georgia
16-20: Texas, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Auburn
21-25 Georgia Tech, Southern Miss, Cincinnati, Michigan, Baylor

Last Week 1-5: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State
6-10: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oregon, South Carolina, Nebraska
11-15: Clemson, Virginia Tech, Houston, Kansas State, Michigan
16-20: Penn State, Michigan State, Georgia, Arizona State, Wisconsin
21-25 Texas, Auburn, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Southern Miss

USA TODAY COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: LSU (59), Stanford, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Boise State
6-10: Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Clemson
11-15: Houston, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, South Carolina
16-20: Georgia, Nebraska, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Texas
21-25: Michigan, Kansas State, Southern Mississippi, TCU, Auburn

Last Week 1-5: LSU (41), Alabama (18), Stanford, Oklahoma State, Boise State
6-10: Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Carolina
11-15: Virginia Tech, Clemson, Michigan, Houston, Penn State
16-20: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kansas State
21-25: Georgia, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Southern Miss, Texas

ASSOCIATED PRESS POLL
This Week 1-5: LSU (59), Oklahoma State, Stanford, Alabama, Boise State (1)
6-10: Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Clemson, Virginia Tech
11-15: Houston, Penn State, Michigan State, Georgia, South Carolina
16-20: Wisconsin, Kansas State, USC, Nebraska, Georgia Tech
21-25: Texas, Michigan, Cincinnati, Auburn, Southern Mississippi

Last Week 1-5: LSU (47), Alabama (10), Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State (1)
6-10: Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Carolina
11-15: Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Houston, Michigan State
16-20: Penn State, Kansas State, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona State
21-25: USC, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Auburn

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Missouri Tigers become 14th SEC member

It’s official. After months of speculation, the Missouri Tigers announced Sunday that they will be leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012 for the 2012-13 athletic season.

The addition of Missouri (and Texas A&M in September) marks the first expansion for the SEC since it added Arkansas and South Carolina and split into divisions in 1991. Though it has yet to be officially announced, the expectation is that Mizzou joins the East division.

“The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC,” said Bernie Machen, chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida. “The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” Missouri chancellor Brady J. Deaton said. “In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility. We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university. We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league.”

“I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program. We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012.”

GETTING TO KNOW MISSOURI

UNIVERSITY
Established: 1839
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Enrollment: 33,805 (fall 2011)
Campus: 1,372 acres
Colors: Black and “MU gold”
Motto: Let the Welfare of the People be the Supreme Law
President: Dr. Brady J. Deaton
Notes: First public insitutation of higher education west of the Mississippi, member of the Association of American Universities, world’s most powerful university research reactor, one of six public universities in the United States with schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering, agriculture and law all on one campus

ATHLETICS
Nickname: Tigers
Mascot: Truman the Tiger (named after President Harry S. Truman)
Facilities: Faurot Field (football), Mizzou Arena (basketball), Taylor Stadium (baseball)
Men’s sports: Football, basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, swimming and diving, track and field, wrestling
Women’s sports: Basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball
National titles: 3
Conference titles: 71 (6 in the Big 12)
Band: Marching Mizzou
Previous affiliations: WIUFA, Independent (1890-1892, 1898-1906), Missouri Valley/Big Six/Big Seven/Big Eight, Big 12
Athletic director: Michael Alden

FOOTBALL
First season: 1890
Stadium capacity: 71,004
All-time record: 622–515–52 (.545)
Traditions: Invented homecoming, Harpo’s goal posts
National titles: 1 “claimed”
Conference titles: 15 – 1893-95, 1909, 1913, 1919, 1924-25, 1927, 1939, 1941-42, 1945, 1960, 1969
Record vs. Florida: 1-0 (W 20-18 in 1966 Sugar Bowl)
Heisman Trophy winners: 0
College Football Hall of Fame: coaches – 5, players – 7
Pro Football Hall of Fame: 2 – Kellen Winslow, Roger Wehrli

Demps leads Florida past Vanderbilt 26-21

Running for a career-high 158 yards on 23 carries with a pair of touchdowns on Saturday, senior running back Jeff Demps was the primary offensive weapon for the Florida Gators, which snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on homecoming at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida (5-4, 3-4 SEC) led 17-0 at the half but was up just five until Demps took off on a 52-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-5 SEC) scored again but a failed onside kick gave UF the ball back and allowed them to run out the clock.

The Gators have won 21 consecutive games against the Commodores dating back to 1989 and have not lost at home to them since 1945.

Florida drove down the field on their first possession and threatened to score early. A pass from freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett to redshirt sophomore tight end Omarius Hines went for 37 yards near Vanderbilt’s goal line, but Hines fumbled it before crossing and turned it over.

UF still managed to score 17 points in the first half. Brissett ran a touchdown in from a yard out, Demps carried a ball five yards for a score, and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis connected on a 55-yard attempt with six seconds left in the half after missing a 49-yard try in the first quarter.

Commodores’ signal caller Jordan Rodgers was impressive all game long, finishing 19/28 for 297 yards, a pair of touchdowns and a rushing score. His first came midway through the third quarter on a 26-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Matthews, which cut the Gators’ lead to 10.

Sturgis hit a 40-yard field goal near the end of the third, but Vanderbilt responded with a 14-play, 60-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard rushing touchdown for Rodgers, leaving Florida ahead just 20-14 with 10:54 to play.

After consecutive punts, the Gators got the ball back at their own six looking for a way to close out the game. An offsides by the Commodores on fourth down kept Florida’s drive alive, as did a pass interference call three plays later. Demps carried the ball seven times on the eight-play, 94-yard drive and ended it with a 52-yard rushing touchdown.

UF’s two-point conversion attempt failed, and VU capitalized immediately by driving 80 yards in just five plays, the last of which was a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to WR Chris Boyd.

Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Gators held onto the lead by running the clock out from there.

The most penalized team in the country heading into the game, Florida committed just three on Saturday. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, was flagged 12 times for 106 yards and kept a few UF drives alive with their miscues.

Junior RB Mike Gillislee saw some time in the run game for the Gators, carrying the ball nine times for 39 yards. Sophomore RB Trey Burton got going in the first half, earning 41 receiving yards on three receptions.

Florida got some good quarterbacking from redshirt senior John Brantley, who was 16/24 for 173 yards. Brantley played his best in the first half but injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and was removed for the game.

The Gators held Commodores star RB Zac Stacy to 49 yards on 13 carries but gave up nine receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown to Matthews.

Florida possessed the ball three more minutes than Vanderbilt and gained just 33 more yards than their opponent. Hines’s fumble was the only turnover of the game.

Saturday’s win was the Gators’ first victory since Sept. 24. Florida had not played at home since losing to Alabama on Oct. 1 and will hop on the road again next Saturday to take on South Carolina. The game time and channel has yet to be announced.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt Gameday Preview

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 66°F, sunny, winds NNE at 13 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: James Franklin
Record: 4-4 (2-4) Record: 4-4 (1-4)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -13.5; O/U 44.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday afternoon at 12:21 p.m.

Story: Gators DE Sharrif Floyd striving to improve

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt 33-9-2 and holds an 18-1-1 advantage in games played in Gainesville, FL. UF is outscoring VU nearly two-to-one (1,182-606) in those contests.
» The Gators have won 20-straight against the Commodores dating back to 1988.
» Florida has not lost to Vanderbilt in Gainesville since their first meeting in 1945. However, the two teams played a two-overtime contest that ended 49-42 in 2005.
» This will be just the third time since 1967 that UF is not ranked going into the game.
» Florida is last in the nation in penalties, committing 75 through the first eight games. The Gators have lost/given up 567 yards due to those miscues. Those numbers average out to Florida committing 9.38 penalties per game for 70.88 yards.
» UF has not played in The Swamp since Oct. 1.
» The Gators are undefeated this season against unranked teams and are also 4-0 when out-rushing their opponent in a game; however, Florida is winless against ranked teams and 0-4 when being out-rushed by their opponent.
» Vanderbilt has held all seven FBS teams they’ve faced under their season rushing average to the tune of nearly 80 fewer yards per game.
» In their four victories, the Gators are outscoring opponents 54-3 in the first quarter, while in their losses they have been outscored 31-17. UF has also scored on their opening drive in four of eight games.
» The Commodores have scored 202 points this year, just two fewer than during their entire 2010 campaign and six more than they posted in all of 2009.
» Florida has half as many upperclassmen (19 seniors, 14 juniors) as they do underclassmen (33 sophomores, 33 freshmen) on the roster the season.
» The Gators had a 100-yard rusher in four-straight games to start the season, the team’s second-longest streak ever, before failing to accomplish that feat in each of the last four games (all losses).
» Fourteen different Florida players made their first career start this season including five freshmen and three redshirt freshmen; 15 total have seen action this year.
» The Gators offense has struggled as of late, and Florida has had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. UF has scored points in 22 of 32 quarter this season and touchdowns in only 17 of those quarters.
» Florida is No. 14 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (297.3 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 22 nationally and fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (19.5 points per game).
» UF’s pass defense is allowing just 168.5 yards per game, good for third in the SEC and seventh nationally.
» The Gators’ defense is seventh in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 29.1 percent of those attempted to be successful.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (312) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (73) since 2008.
» Vanderbilt’s secondary is second in the SEC and tied for fourth nationally with 15 interceptions; however, VU has picked off just one ball in the last four games.
» The Gators lead the Commodores in three of the four major statistical categories. Florida tops Vanderbilt in national averages of passing yards 186.4-152.6 (95th-108th), points scored 26.0-25.3 (73rd-80th) and points against 19.5-22.8 (22nd-38th), while VU leads UF in rushing yards 167.6-151.4 (50th-66th). The teams each fell to a pair of comment opponents – Alabama and Georgia. The Gators lost those games 38-10 and 24-20, while the Commodores dropped their matches 34-0 and 33-28.

LAST TIME OUT

Riding momentum from a 34-31 overtime win against Georgia in 2010, Florida upended Vanderbilt 55-14 in Nashville, TN last year. Mike Gillislee ran for a touchdown midway through the first quarter, but the Gators blew open the game after that, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter and leading 41-0 at halftime. Deonte Thompson, Chris Rainey and Frankie Hammond, Jr. each had long scoring receptions, Terron Sanders returned a fumble for a touchdown, and Solomon Patton returned a blocked kick for another score. Florida accounted for 277 yards of offense through the air and 203 on the ground while holding Vanderbilt to 63 and 46 yards, respectively.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators will be featured in a separate segment on the main portion of the broadcast beginning at 10 a.m. ESPN will take a look at why Florida is struggling and what is wrong with the team this year. The game will also be featured in the pick segment; expect one or two of the guys at the table to choose Vanderbilt. Former head coach Urban Meyer will also be on-site in Tuscaloosa, AL working during the program.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Probable/Questionable: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (leg), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), sophomore CB Cody Riggs (wrist)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 57.4 percent of his passes (78-of-136) this season for 1,187 yards and six touchdowns but also threw three interceptions including one returned for a score. Brantley had missed 10 quarters of action after injuring his ankle against Alabama but returned with limited health and mobility last week against Georgia.
» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 831 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 15.3 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (#4)…who jumped to second on the Gators’ receiving list with mirror image 65-yard touchdowns against Alabama and LSU. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, and his 247 receiving yards are the second-best on the team through its first eight games. Additionally, his 24.7 yards per catch is the highest average in the SEC and second nationally.
» Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (#11)…who had four receptions for a career-high 69 yards last week against Georgia. He also caught just the second receiving touchdown of his career Saturday – his first this season.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary in only his second year. He is tied for second on the team in tackles (48) and at one point created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT). His 12 tackles against LSU three weeks ago marked a career high, and his 3.5 tackles for loss this season is fourth-best on the team.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (25 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks through the first eight games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (60) and Jenkins (46) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has six tackles for a loss and three sacks while the latter has one sack and five pass breakups on the year.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing eight games one year ago with an injured back. He is 15-for-16 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 51) and is perfect with 19 extra points, leading the Gators with 64 points scored this season. Sturgis holds the national lead with 15 field goals made but missed last week’s game with a leg injury.

VANDERBILT
» QB Jordan Rodgers (#11)…who has started the last four games for the Commodores after beginning the season as a backup. Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, has rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games. He’s 25/54 passing against Vanderbilt’s last two opponents as well, tossing a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions.
» RB Zac Stacy (#2)…who leads the Commodores in rushing with 97 carries for 707 yards (7.3 average) with six rushing touchdowns this season. Stacy is eighth nationally in yards per carry and the No. 4 rusher in the SEC.
» Defensive linemen Tim Fugger (#42) and Rob Lohr (#84)…who are leading Vanderbilt defensively by combining for 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
» DB Casey Hayward (#19)…who is tied for fourth nationally with five interceptions and is the SEC’s active leader with 13 picks. Hayward is one of 15 semifinalists for the Thrope Award given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

TWO BITS: cross country awards, Roberson

1 » Florida Gators freshman runner Jimmy Clark was named 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year by the league’s coaches on Friday. Clark is just the second male member of Florida’s cross country team to earn the honor in the history of the program and was also awarded a spot in the All-SEC first team and All-Freshman team. Eight of his teammates were honored with All-SEC accolades including senior Genevieve LaCaze and sophomore Cory McGee (women’s first team), junior Florence N’Getich (women’s second team), freshman Grace VanDeGrift (women’s All-Freshman team), sophomores Mark Parrish and Matt Mizereck (men’s first team), and freshmen Eduardo Garcia and JL Hines (men’s All-Freshman team).

2 » Florida freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson, a starter for all eight of the Gators’ games this season, settled his underage drinking case with the state by accepting deferred prosecution. Roberson will perform 10 hours of community service and pay $150 in fines ($100 of which goes to charity) as restitution for his brush with the law. He has 20 tackles this season as well as a fumble recovery; Roberson caught the first interception of his career last week against Georgia.

Extra BIT » According to the Naples News, Florida tennis will receive a national letter of intent next week from Gordon Watson, a “phenom” junior tennis player who has garnered plenty of honors and won a number of tournaments already in his career. Watson has held national USTA rankings including No. 1 in Boys 12s and 14s and No. 2 in Boys 16s. He plans to play right away for the Gators and hopes to be in either the No. 5 or No. 6 position at the start of the 2012-13 season.

11/3: Florda vs. Catholic post-game notes

The No. 8/10 Florida Gators soundly defeated the Catholic Cardinals Thursday evening in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest as well as their outlook for the upcoming season.

GUARD PLAY A BIG HIGHLIGHT

Considering every Gators starter scored in double figures and the backcourt was raining threes all night long, Donovan had little to criticize after the game when it came to how his most talked about unit played. He was mostly impressed with their effort, especially how many resists the team recorded over the course of the game.

“There has been so much talk about our backcourt and how all of that is going to work. The thing I’ve said all along is that I really felt like in practice for the last two-and-a-half-to-three weeks, they have really played unselfishly, shared the ball and worked well together. Today kind of displayed that,” he said. “With the way they’ve been unselfish passing the ball, it was really what I’ve seen for the last two-and-a-half weeks of practice.

“I made the comment that I think we’re explosive offensively. Certainly we got it going in the first half there. I was really pleased with the unselfishness of 31 assists, the ball movement, those guys playing together, them looking for each other. I thought we got a lot of great looks. We shot 57 percent from the field and shot a really high percentage in our scrimmage.”

Even though Florida shot 40 treys in the contest, Donovan said that because they were open shots created by ball rotation, he was perfectly fine with that figure and result (the team shot 50 percent from beyond the arc).

“The one thing that was kind of interesting in the first half was I think we took 37 shots in the first half, and I think we took maybe 23-24 three-point shots. I didn’t like the balance there, but I can honestly say I don’t know if we took one bad three-point shot in the first half,” he said.

“I can’t remember a game since I’ve been here that we took 40 three-point shots. We took 40 three-point shots and made 20. There were a few bad ones there in the second half, but for the most part in the first half with the way the ball was being moved around we got some good looks. We made some adjustments in the press; we were disruptive. I thought we did a lot of good things.”

BEAL AND ROSARIO INTRODUCED TO GATOR NATION

Though Thursday was not an official game, it was the first time that Gators fans got to see guards freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario active for Florida. Beal was explosive with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) and added five dimes to his line.

“What you saw tonight is what I’ve seen since he stepped foot on campus. He’s very advanced. He’s got a really high basketball IQ. He lets the game come to him. He’s really an efficient scorer. He does a lot of different things,” Donovan said after the game. “What you saw tonight is what I watch every day in practice. He’s that kind of player. He gets the team; he gets the chemistry. They all understand that when you have a self-awareness of yourself in terms of you care about trying to play the right way because you care about the guys on your team, that’s a good thing. I think Brad has that and embodies a lot of those things.”

Rosario was also quite effective, posting 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals. As the Gators’ sixth man, Rosario saw more court time than three starters did (24 minutes). Donovan believes both Beal and Rosario will go a long way to helping senior point guard Erving Walker and junior G Kenny Boynton play even better this year.

“They’re going to relieve some pressure off those guys in a positive way,” he said. “Those two guys are warriors. They’ve played a lot of minutes and there has been a lot on their shoulders. I have the utmost respect for both of those two guys. What you’re seeing now is Erving [and Kenny] not having that scoring power around him, how much has fallen on both those guys shoulders, and they have still tried to go out and do what they can at a high level. They got help now.”

MUST HIT THE GLASS HARDER

Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31 on Thursday but that is not saying much considering how much more athletic and talented the Gators are than the Cardinals. Donovan realizes that rebounding will be a work in progress for UF this season, calling it the team’s biggest challenge going forward.

“We need to rebound the ball because we’re so explosive offensively, and it’s so hard when we’re coming down to floor to match-up with us. We eliminate a huge strength of our team in broken floor situations if we get dominated on the glass and we have to constantly inbound the ball,” he explained.

“Part of the reason we went on that huge run and the score just exploded was we got stops and steals and we got out of transition. All of a sudden the floor is spaced, the ball is moving around like it is, and it’s finding guys who are getting pretty high percentage shots for good shooters. My thing for the rebounding for us is not so much that we have to do it, but it takes away a huge strength for our team if we get annihilated in the backcourt. We got to get better there.”

No Florida player posted double-digit boards on Thursday with sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each registering a team-high seven rebounds.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how his son Billy Donovan, Jr. performed for Catholic: “I was really proud of him. I thought he played aggressive. It was a hard situation for him to walk into. I did not know what to expect. The thing that I was the most pleased with was that he really was not overwhelmed in the situation. He just tried to do what the coaches and his team asked him to do. I thought he really played well and did a good job. He’s got a great opportunity to have a great career there. […] To be able to come back here and – their whole team – they really competed hard. Certainly they were overwhelmed talent-wise, but they really played hard and competed and I was happy for him.”

» Donovan on how Young has been cutting down the fouls: “He’s been pretty good. In our scrimmage against UCF he had two fouls in 40 minutes. He did a really nice job. He was effective and physical. It’s going to be a learning process for Patric. The biggest thing I’m trying to get him to eliminate is the silly fouls.”

» Donovan on the press: “What we can’t do is put our defense and Patric in a bad position in the back end of the press for fouls.”

» Donovan on what else Florida has to do offensively: “When you have a level of awareness of people around you, you’re inclined to make the extra pass. We got to have more of a presence in the paint. That’s not meaning Patric, because Patric provides a presence for us. We have to have a presence in terms of driving and penetrating.”

» Beal on playing his first game in the O’Dome: “With it being my first game, [I was happy with] just how unselfish we are. Everybody got a chance to play. Everybody got to touch the ball. Everybody scored. With the type of team we are, I’m realizing we can be a pretty good team.”

» Beal what it felt like to finally play college ball: “It was real important. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time. The nerves were kicking in at first, but once the game started, everything was going, I had fun and just relaxed.”

» Beal on how Donovan felt about playing his son: “He wanted to beat him but at the same time he wanted him to do good. He was talking to him a little bit on the floor.”

» Beal on if it is easier playing off the ball and with veterans: “It makes it easier for everybody. Last year obviously they had a lot of trouble with that. Now we have a huge backcourt as well as we have power inside. It’s going to be hard to defend us both inside and outside.”

» Beal on how he thought the press worked: “Up front we did real good in the press. We did exactly what Coach Donovan wanted us to. We have to get better at our defense and rebounding. Those are the two main keys coach Donovan always points out to us.”

» Rosario on sharing the ball: “That’s a big thing because a lot of people in the nation think that by us having Kenny, Erving Walker, myself and Brad Beal, how are we going to share the ball? Right now we’re just putting our focus on the defensive end, moving the ball around and making each other better.”

» Rosario on playing off the ball: “I love playing off the ball here, and I love the role I have to play. It take sa lot of pressure off of me because I’m surrounded by a lot of good players.“

» Rosario on the defensive effort: “We did a good job on the defensive end. we got a lot of things to clear up and to get better at in practice. I’m sure coach is going to go over those things in practice and watch film.”

» Boynton on how Beal played: “Even in the scrimmage that we played, Brad played the same exact way. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t force anything and has a great basketball IQ. I think he’s going to continue that throughout the season.”

» Walker on team defense: “We got to continue focus defensively because that can be our Achilles heel. We have to gang rebound as guards, get in there and it’s not going to come pretty every night.”

» Walker on Donovan watching his son: “I think it was a good moment for him. I think he enjoyed it. I actually thought he is son played really well and made some shots. I thought he played hard.”

Three-pointer crusade leads Florida past Catholic

No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball had the perfect tune up on Thursday evening, defeating the Division-III Catholic Cardinals 114-57 in an exhibition match at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sporting new uniforms and playing on a redesigned home court, Florida had six players score in double figures in the contest, which saw them lead from start to finish.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton posted a double-double and led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 6-of-11 attempts from downtown.

Freshman G Brad Beal (20 points, five assists), redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario (18 points, six assists) and senior point guard Erving Walker (15 points, four assists) also shot well from beyond the arc, combining to go 11-for-20.

Sophomores center Patric Young and guard/forward Casey Prather each grabbed a game-high seven rebounds; Young added 10 points and three steals.

Junior F Erik Murphy was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added nine points on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman F Walter Pitchford were the only Florida players unable to score in a combined 22 minutes.

As a team, the Gators shot 57.1 percent from the field (40-of-70), 50 percent from three (20-of-40) and 70 percent from the free throw line (14-of-20). Florida outrebounded Catholic 36-31, led their opponent in steals 16-3 and scored 50 points off turnovers.

Cardinals G Billy Donovan, Jr., Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s son, led Catholic in points (13) and minutes played (27). He received a friendly ovation before the game and when being pulled from the game at the end of the second half.

The Gators will have a week off before officially beginning the 2011-12 season. Florida takes on Jackson State in their regular season opener on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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