Meyer exits with a smile as Gators pick off Nittany Lions 37-24 in 2011 Outback Bowl

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer wanted to go out with a bang and senior safety Ahmad Black – perhaps Meyer’s favorite player on the team – made sure that was exactly what happened. With the Penn State Nittany Lions threatening to score a potential game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Black intercepted quarterback Matthew McGloin and returned the ball 80 yards for a touchdown to ice a 37-24 win for the Gators in the 2011 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Florida (8-5) defeated Penn State (7-6) on Saturday in Tampa, FL behind a defense that intercepted McGloin five times and an offense that did not commit a single turnover after giving up the ball twice in the first quarter. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley threw an interception on UF’s first play from scrimmage, and freshman QB Trey Burton fumbled into the end zone when the Gators were threatening to score from the one.

Rallying from a 17-14 deficit at halftime, Florida scored four straight times to end the game and did not allow the Nittany Lions to put up a single point in the fourth quarter. Meyer walked away from the Gators with a win over future Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno and a 5-1 record in bowl games.

Penn State jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when McGloin hit wide receiver Derek Moye with a five yard pass.

Sophomore tight end Omarius Hines tied the game at the start of the second quarter with a 16-yard end around run for a touchdown, and redshirt sophomore defensive end Lerentee McCray put Florida up 14-7 after returning a punt blocked by freshman WR Solomon Patton 27 yards for a touchdown.

WR Michael Zodrich evened things up for the Nittany Lions with a one-yard score just minutes later, and kicker Colin Wagner helped Penn State take a 17-14 halftime lead with a 20-yard field goal.

After Gators senior punter/kicker Chas Henry hit a 30-yard field goal to tie the game at 17, McGloin ran the ball in from two yards out to put PSU back put 24-17. Henry’s career-long 47-yard field goal near the end of the third reduced UF’s deficit to 24-20.

Sophomore RB Mike Gillislee helped Florida jump ahead 27-24 with a one-yard touchdown run to begin the fourth quarter, and Henry added a 20-yard field goal to put the Gators ahead 30-24 before Black’s game-sealing interception return.

Black also nabbed an interception off McGloin in the first quarter. Freshman cornerback Cody Riggs picked him off to start the second quarter, senior linebacker Brandon Hicks earned his first career interception at the end of the third quarter and redshirt junior CB Moses Jenkins grabbed a pick to end the game.

Henry, who helped Florida manage its field position all game and was clutch in his field goals, had an uncharacteristic 14-yard punt go out of bounds starting at the Gators 23 and failed in a fake punt opportunity. With over seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Henry had a fake punt called in which he was supposed to throw a pass to wide open junior safety Will Hill Instead he tucked it and ran four yards – one yard short of the first down. He also had a long of 58 and downed two inside the 20 (one to the one).

Penn State outgained Florida 350-279 in total yards, 211-101 in yards through the air and 32:49-27:11 in possession time. The Gators outrushed the Nittany Lions 178-139 yards. Both teams were inefficient on third down with UF going 4-for-15 and PSU connecting on 5-of-18 attempts.

Redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed, who took the vast majority of snaps behind center for Florida, finished as the team’s leading passer and rusher. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 60 yards and rushed 24 times for 68 yards. Brantley was 6-of-13 for 41 yards and an interception in mostly third down work. Redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey carried the ball six times for 66 yards (including a long of 51).

Hines was the team’s leading receiver with two receptions for 27 yards. Redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson and Burton each caught two passes for 22 yards.

McGloin finished 17-for-41 for 211 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions for Penn State. Running back Evan Royster – the Nittany Lions’ all-time leading rusher – carried the ball 20 times for 98 yards and added four catches for 51 yards.

Moye caught the majority of McGloin’s passes, finishing with five receptions for 79 yards and a number of first downs. CB D’Anton Lynn caught Brantley’s early interception and recovered Burton’s fumble in the first quarter.

After Black’s interception, chants of “Urban Meyer, Urban Meyer” rained down from the Gators side of the stadium. Florida improved to 16-0 under Meyer when blocking a punt in a game, a statistic he has always been proud of as the team’s head coach.

Photo Credit: Rob C. Witzel/Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

2011 Outback Bowl Gameday Preview (Tampa, FL): Florida Gators vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Location: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL [Capacity: 65,856]
Weather Forecast: 75°F, clear skies
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
Sirius/XM: 120/140
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Record: 7-5 (4-4) Record: 7-5 (4-4)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -7; O/U 48

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is undefeated (2-0) against Penn State in the all-time series, beating them in the 1962 Gator Bowl (17-7) and 1997 Citrus Bowl (21-6). They are also 22-14-3 all-time in Tampa but only 1-2 in Outback Bowl appearances.
» Meyer is 4-1 in bowl games with the Gators and will be coaching in the Outback Bowl for the second time in his career. He and Florida defeated Iowa 31-24 in his first bowl game with the school in 2006.
» Meyer is one of nine coaches in college football history to compile multiple 20-game winning streaks and only one of two who remain active. The other is Paterno. Meyer is, however, the only active coach with three 13-win seasons on his resume.
» Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall was Florida’s head coach from 1984-89, compiling a 40-18-1 record with the Gators. UF defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was formerly a graduate assistant with PSU from 1991-92.
» Paterno was the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator when they lost to the Gators 17-7 in the 1962 Gator Bowl.
» Florida under Meyer is 53-3 when holding an opponent under 21 points, 57-3 when leading at the half, 62-6 when out-rushing an opponent, 49-2 when scoring first and 45-4 against unranked opponents.
» The Gators out-rank the Nittany Lions in three of the four major statistical averages. Florida is 44th in rushing yards (165.6), 48th in points scored (29.3) and 31st in points against (21.1) compared to Penn State being 75th in rushing yards (142.8), 81st in points scored (24.6) and 39th in points against (22.6). PSU, however, has the 52nd best passing game in the country (231.3 yards), while UF is 85th (191.3 yards). The teams’ only common opponent – Alabama – beat both of them handily.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

FLORIDA
» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who had thrown 156 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to 2009, now has an 9-9 TD-INT ratio this season. He has completed 194-of-316 passes (61.4 percent) for 2,020 yards and has a passer rating of 118.8 on the year.
» Freshman QB Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed…both of whom will spell Brantley at quarterback in Florida’s new three-QB system. Burton set a school record and SEC freshman record by scoring six touchdowns in a single game against Kentucky. He has 12 scores on the season, has played five positions and is second on the team in rushing (73 carries for 347 yards). Reed has performed admirably in limited action, completing 18-of-33 passes for 192 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. He is also sixth on the team in rushing with 53 carries for 260 yards and five scores.
» Junior running back Jeff Demps…who is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and still leads the Gators in rushing (531 yards) after missing two full games and being limited in seven others. He was Florida’s leading rusher in its first five games of the season.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey…who returned to action against Georgia after being suspended. He has been acting mostly as a rusher for UF since returning and has amassed 300 yards on 45 carries. Rainey has also caught 22 balls for 198 yards and has five total touchdowns this year.
» Redshirt freshman WR/kick returner Andre Debose…who set a school single-season record with two kickoff return touchdowns With an 88-yard return against LSU and a 99-yard return against South Carolina, he is the only freshman nationally with two in 2010 and one of only two players nationally with two in 2010.
» Sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.…who is quickly becoming one of Florida’s most important pass catchers. He was the team’s leading receiver against Mississippi State and caught three passes for 46 yards against Georgia and another three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt the following week.
» Senior punter Chas Henry…who is the end-all be-all of Florida’s kicking game now that he has taken over for junior Caleb Sturgis (back) as the team’s field goal kicker. Henry was named the nation’s best punter this season, and Meyer often uses his leg to improve field position after offensive lapses.
» Florida’s secondary…which has intercepted 13 balls this season. Starters senior safety Ahmad Black, junior CB Janrois Jenkins, redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown, and junior S Will Hill have all picked off three balls and accounted for all but one of the unit’s picks this season.
» Black…who has led Florida in tackles seven times this season: vs. South Carolina (career-high 16), LSU (13), Georgia (12), Miami (10), Mississippi State (10), USF (8) and Vanderbilt (4). He is tops on the team overall with 102 tackles, including nine for loss.

PENN STATE
» QBs Robert Bolden and Matthew McGloin…each of whom have completed 58 percent of their passes and have thrown for over 1,300 yards this season. McGlion – with a 142.6 QB rating and 13-4 TD-INT ratio – has been more productive offensively.
» RB Evan Royster…who is the Nittany Lions’ leading rusher taking 188 carries for 916 yards and six touchdowns. He also holds career-high running back marks for PSU with 3,834 yards and 29 touchdowns.
» Penn State’s receiving corps…which consists of four pass catchers with more than 25 receptions and three with more than 400 yards. Derek Moye leads PSU with 48 catches for 806 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

INJURIES

» Active: Junior RB Jeff Demps (foot)
» Inactives: Junior CB Janoris Jenkins (shoulder), redshirt senior OL Maurice Hurt (knee), redshirt senior DT Lawrence Marsh (hip), redshirt senior DT Terron Sanders (shoulder), redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks (neck), redshirt sophomore LT Matt Patchan (broken wrist), junior K Caleb Sturgis (back), freshmen RB Mack Brown, WRs Quinton Dunbar and Chris Dunkley (hamstrings)
 

12/31: Urban Meyer’s final Outback Bowl presser

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 quotes from head coach Urban Meyer, who participated in his final press conference before the event.

Opening statement: “It’s good to be here. Not much to say other than we’ve had excellent practices. I like the attitude of our players. We are obliged to the Outback Bowl to play our best. I feel that we amongst our teams we have to have a great day of preparation and get ready to go play a major January 1st bowl game. We’re excited about it.”

On how he will feel after the game: “I would rather just worry about the game. I always talk to our players about focus and four to six seconds. It wouldn’t be right for me to also start talking about what’s going to happen after. I would be lying to you to say it hasn’t crossed my mind but I also would be lying to you saying it has been consuming me, because it’s not. I got up early this morning and watched practice film, make about four pages of notes, and I’m going to meet with the coaches afterwards about how to go win this game. With all due respect, from this point forward, just complete focus on beating a very physical Penn State team.”

On a message for Gators fans: “We made a decision as a family to stay at Florida and that’s for a lot of reasons. I think it’s the greatest job in America. I’ve got the best bosses in America and we have fans, I call them Gator Nuts, and they are; they’re out of their mind. But that’s what makes Florida so appealing and that’s what makes it so fun to go to practice. I made a comment every first day of spring practice I was concerned there was an unemployment issue in Gainesville because they’re all at our practice. I’ve also coached at places where you had to go out and ride the rail system at six o’clock in the morning with a mascot trying to sell tickets, so I’ve done that at a couple places. Very appreciative. I love Florida; I just love what it stands for.”

Read the rest…including updates on Demps and Brantley…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/31: Urban Meyer’s final Outback Bowl presser

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.

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