Florida wins, snaps Xavier’s home winning streak

An impressive offensive performance by junior point guard Erving Walker fueled the Florida Gators (10-3) to a close 71-67 victory over the Xavier Musketeers (8-4) in Cincinnati, OH on Friday. Florida’s win snapped Xavier’s 30-game home winning streak at the Cintas Center, a venue the Musketeers have not lost at in more than two years.

UF had never defeated XU in two tries going into Friday’s game but led 31-27 at the half and jumped out to a game-high 15-point lead with 13:23 left in the contest due to an electric 13-1 run while holding their opponent without a basket for 10 game minutes.

Xavier closed the gap in the waning minutes, using a full-court press to take off on a 12-3 run cutting Florida’s lead to four with 1:22 remaining. The Gators, however, went 12-for-14 from the line in the final two minutes to starve off the Musketeers’ comeback.

Florida out-shot (45.1%-40.3%) and out-rebounded (38-30) Xavier but committed eight more turnovers (16-8) in the contest. The Gators scored more than 70 points for the first time in their last eight games but allowed the Musketeers to be only the second team in that span to score more than 60.

Walker led Florida with a team-high 18 points, going 3-for-6 from downtown and 9-of-11 from the charity stripe. He had trouble at times protecting the ball (as he has most of his career), committing six costly turnovers.

The frontcourt duo of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forward Alex Tyus was dynamite in the first half with Tyus scoring the team’s first six points. The pair combined for 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting in the contest; Macklin added seven rebounds but injured his shoulder in the second half and was limited.

Senior F Chandler Parsons chimed in with five points and game-highs in rebounds (11) and assists (7), while sophomore guard Kenny Boynton dished six assists and was 2-for-4 from downtown and 7-for-9 from the free throw line for 15 points.

Xavier’s star guard Tu Holloway led the Musketeers with a game-high 26 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with six assists. Center Kenny Frease came off the bench to play 31 minutes, score 16 points and grab seven boards.

UF will have the opportunity to celebrate the new year before facing Rhode Island on Jan. 3 in Gainesville, FL. The game will air live on ESPNU at 9 p.m.

Photo Credit: David Kohl/Associated Press

TWO BITS: Finley redshirted, Latsko signed

1 » Florida Gators linebacker Dee Finley announced via Twitter on Friday that he has been granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. He is now a redshirt freshman instead of a sophomore and will have three years of eligibility remaining. Finley broke his collarbone early in the season and missed most of it while healing and recovering. UPDATE: The Gators have announced that Finley has yet to officially receive his redshirt exception from the NCAA – it is pending approval.

2 » After Placing tight end Antonio Gates on injured reserve, the San Diego Chargers decided to sign former Florida fullback Billy Latsko on Thursday and plan to play him on Sunday against Denver. Latsko, who spent two years with San Diego, has a good understanding of the offense already and will be able to contribute right away as two of the team’s starters – running back Mike Tolbert and FB Jacob Hester – are injured.

Report: Florida hot after Charlie Weis as OC

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has been offered the same position with the Florida Gators and is expected to accept the job, according to various reports including one from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Weis, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach from 2005-09, is known for his extensive offensive success in the NFL and would be a huge get for Florida.

Mortensen reports that new Gators head coach Will Muschamp contacted the Chiefs earlier this week in order to ask permission to speak with Weis about the job. Muschamp expressed a strong desire to hire a prominent offensive coordinator with professional experience in his introductory press conference with Florida.

Beginning his career as an offensive assistant with the New York Giants under head coach Bill Parcells, Weis was a position coach until 1997 when he was hired as the New York Jets offensive coordinator. He held that job with the Jets and later the New England Patriots until 2004 when he left for Notre Dame.

Kansas City head coach Todd Haley, who hired Weis last year after he was fired from Notre Dame, said he was “unaware of anything” in regards to Weis leaving, saying “It would be news to me.”

Muschamp said he would not be hiring any assistant coaches until the conclusion of the 2011 Outback Bowl, a statement upheld by athletic director Jeremy Foley earlier this week. The Chiefs will be playing their final regular season game on Sunday before advancing to the playoffs.

Kansas City boast the NFL’s ninth-ranked offense.

OGGOA will continue to update this story. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Bill Haber/Associated Press

Florida Gators at Xavier Musketeers Gameday

Location: Cintas Center – Cincinnati, OH [Capacity: 10,250]
Time: 4:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Chris Mack
Record: 9-3 Record: 8-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Xavier -1.5; O/U 126.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Xavier leads the all-time series against Florida 2-0. The Musketeers defeated the Gators 76-64 in Gainseville, FL, last season.
» Florida is only 14-17 all-time against A-10 opponents under Donovan and have lost three straight including two last season.
» The Gators defense has signifigantly improved over the last seven games, holding opponents to just 53.7 points per contest and allowing only one team to score 60. Simultaneously, Florida has failed to score 70 points once in the same seven games.
» Florida has out-rebounded 11 of 12 opponents this season – including in its three defeats – and is doing so by a +7.8 rebound per game advantage.
» The Gators are 80-22 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Florida bests Xavier in three of four major statistical categories nationally including rebounds per game 37.6-35.7 (97th-177th), assists per game 13.8-13.3 (138th-168th) and field goal percentage .467-.440 (57th-168th). However, the Musketeers score more points per game than the Gators 70.8-69.1 (160th-186th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 25.9 points per game and has accounted for 46 of their team’s 63 three-pointers this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 58.6 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Xavier G Tu Holloway…who leads his team with 20.8 points, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in an average of 39 minutes.
» Musketeers F Jamel McLean..who is his team’s biggest presence inside and averages 9.5 rebounds and almost a block per game while contributing 10.5 points.

12/30: Addazio, Austin speak before Outback Bowl

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the coordinators, who spoke with the media on Thursday.

REFLECTING ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MEYER

Asked how it felt to be leaving Florida and head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio looked back fondly on his time in Gainesville, FL, working for a man he appreciates both as a person and as a football coach. “We go so far back. It’s hard for me to capsulize that in a few words. I would never do it justice. I just love him,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot together. He’s a great football coach, a great human being. He’s done a lot for my family. He’s done a lot for this football program. He’s brought a lot of unbelievable moments to the Gator Nation, and he makes coming to work every day great. He brought me here. Life’s all about relationships and being around the people you want to be around. I couldn’t have been around anybody better.”

FOCUS SOLELY ON THE BOWL GAME

Hired to be the new head coach of the Temple Owls, Addazio made it clear that nothing has impacted his preparation for the Outback Bowl. “My focus and attention right now is on this football team and on the preparation for this game. And really enjoying being around my guys,” he said. “I just want to talk about the Gators right now. The Gators and my guys. I got a short bit of time left, and that’s my focus.”

Addazio also admitted that leaving is going to be tough on him from an emotional standpoint. “You get close to these kids and it’s hard to say goodbye to them. They’re like family to you,” he said. “I really felt fortunate to have the chance to be here, to be honest with you.”

GOAL IS TO STAY…IF HE IS WANTED

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who is rumored to be on the chopping block because new head coach Will Muschamp specializes in defense and is assumed to want to hire a like-minded coordinator, said he would be happy to stay at Florida if he is wanted. “What do you think I would say? I came here I the first place. It was the university that was the big selling point for me,” Austin said when asked if he would want to return in 2011. “If Coach Muscahmp wants to sit down and talk about that, obviously we’ll talk about that. […] I don’t know anything. Right now I’m employed by the University of Florida. Until somebody tells me otherwise, that’s what I’m planning on doing.”

Nevertheless, he does realize that the likelihood is that he will be moving on and understands that is a part of the job. “This is the first time I’ve ever been some place just for a year,” he said. “That’s different, but it’s part of our profession. When you sign up to be a coach, you know that there’s the good and the bad of it and sometimes that’s the bad of it — you have to pick up and move your family.”

He also made it clear that he has not agreed to take the same position with the Texas Longhorns, contrary to Internet reports stating otherwise. “I know some guys on the staff,” he said. “When [the job] came open, there was maybe, ‘Hey, would you be interested if you’re not going to be there?’ If I’m not here, and I find out I’m not here, then that’s a possibility. But until then, there’s really nothing to talk about.”

HEALTH ISSUES JUST A SCARE

Austin also confirmed Thursday that the mild gastritis he suffered from on Monday and Tuesday was just a scare and that he and the team did not lack in preparation with his absence. “It felt bad enough for me to go [to the hospital],” he said. I went, got it checked out, getting a little older so I better make sure I’m taking care of myself,” he said.

Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the players who spoke with the media on Wednesday.

THIS ONE’s FOR MEYER

Though the players – especially the seniors – obviously want to win their final game in the orange and blue for themselves, they all realize that it is important to send head coach Urban Meyer out on top. That was a common topic of conversation Wednesday.

“We are going to do everything possible to get this win, not only for us, but for him. It’s his last game as well as ours,” senior linebacker Brandon Hicks said. “It’s going to be an emotional time for all of us. I know he’s going to have some tears. Some guys may have some tears. I don’t know, I may have tears. Coach Meyer was a great person, a great coach, and it’s something that you can’t really exchange that for anybody.”

Redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones shared a similar sentiment. “I know it’s going to be pretty emotional because Coach Meyer’s a great man,” he said. “He’s done a lot for us and he’s done a lot for this program. As we want to go out with a bang, the seniors, we want to send him out with a bang, too. Because we know how much we’ve done for each other.”

Senior center Mike Pouncey recalled his thoughts of Florida under Meyer. “Dominant. When we stepped on the field, we never thought we would be beat. We won a lot of games,” he said. “He’s a real emotional coach. He loves to attack other teams, especially on special teams. That really gives him the edge, that he’s a real aggressive coach.”

EARLY THOUGHTS ON MUSCHAMP

They will not have the chance to play under him in Gainesville, FL, but Hicks and Jones also had positive things to say about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp in the little they have seen and heard from him recently.

“He’s going to do great here. He’s a coach that has a lot of drive and a lot of want-to to win,” Hicks said. “He’s excited about the program and what direction he can take it in. They’re going to get the program rolling,” added Jones. “When [athletic director] Jeremy Foley said he was going to be a coach in here, I knew he was going to bring in the best coach possible.”

REDEMPTION FOR THE GATORS

Hicks also sees Saturday’s game as an effort for the team to get a little redemption. “We are going to go out this last game and show what we can do, what we should have done and what we are going to do,” he said. Senior punter Chas Henry agrees. “It’s going to be a very emotional, very hard-fought game,” he added.

TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON

Looking back, Pouncey points to LSU’s come-from-behind win on a fake field goal and fourth down conversion as the turning point where things nose-dived for Florida. “That was the swinging point of our season. If we would have won that game, we would have had all the momentum going into homecoming to beat Mississippi State,” he said. “It came down to them faking a field goal and getting a first down on fourth and four. That’s how the game swung. Once your team has momentum, it’s hard to beat a team with momentum. We lost all our momentum especially when we thought we won the game again.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

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