Georgia’s greatest blunder came from sidelines

Against the Florida Gators in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday, Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray threw three interceptions including one in overtime that was a big part of his team losing the game. Georgia also let Florida – with a struggling offense – tear them up for 450 total yards of offense including 231 and four touchdowns on the ground.

However, in an age where actions are brought to light after-the-fact and football players are run through the ringer because someone happened to capture a heat-of-the-moment action on video, we come to you this Tuesday and wonder why coaches are not being held to the same standard.

Exhibit A

The first thing many of you will notice about that video clip is Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt calling a timeout in an attempt to ice and rattle Gators senior punter/kicker Chas Henry. (Hint: It didn’t work, Henry made a 37-yard game-winning field goal just moments later.) But if you look just a bit closer, you will see Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wringing his hands around his own throat and screaming out to Henry, “You’re gonna f’n choke! You’re gonna choke!”

Grantham was so loud and so violent in his motion that Henry appears to have noticed it while on the field preparing for one of the biggest moments of his life.

Exhibit B

Just one year ago, after a video of former Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes appeared on YouTube showing him clearly jamming his fingers in Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey‘s facemask but not hurting him in any way during a rough tackle, head coach Urban Meyer addressed the situation and suspended him for a half. The media laughed and ridiculed Meyer for his light punishment leading Spikes to release a statement and then voluntarily sit the entire game on his own accord as not to distract his team.

Remember: In football, if a player makes a great play and celebrates by even motioning his hand under his neck in any manner, it’s a penalty.

Yet more than 48 hours have passed since Grantham, a leader for young men in an amateur sport, gave this clearly obscene gesture and not only has no apology been provided (even simply to his employer – the University of Georgia), the team’s coaches and school administration have failed to address the situation and refused comment.

Where are the columns of outrage from Paul Finebaum, Mike Bianchi, Dennis Dodd and Gregg Doyel? Why haven’t Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon whined about Graham’s actions on Pardon the Interruption?

Hypocritical? Yes. Surprising? No.

Grantham didn’t hurt anyone. He didn’t put his hands on an opposing player or hold up the middle finger or anything of the sort. Nevertheless, he should be held accountable for his actions – an adult in a position of authority should know better no matter how excitable and important the moment.

No one is calling for Grantham to be fired or even suspended. He made a mistake – mistakes happen. People lose their cool. It is understandable. But at least have the decency to stand up like a man and apologize when you’re wrong. If you ask that from a 21-year old college senior, it is the least you can expect from a 44-year-old coach.

UPDATE: A response from Richt…though not nearly what one would expect. “I’ll just say that emotions run high,” Richt said. “People do things they probably wish they didn’t do, so I think that [the choke sign] was what was being communicated. I don’t think he’s necessarily proud of it. We’re just going to learn from it and move on.”

UPDATE II: Tuesday evening, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught up with Grantham who appeared to halfheartedly express regret about making the gesture but refused to provide any sort of apology or admission of guilt. “As a competitor, sometimes you get caught up in the heat of the moment,” Grantham said. “I wish the situation hadn’t happened. It was a tough, hard-fought game. They won it, and I’m ready to move forward and finish out the year strong.” Grantham also told the paper he spoke to Richt and athletic director Greg McGarity about the incident. Asked whether or not he owes an apology to Henry, Grantham said: “I’ve kind of basically said what I’m going to say.” Great example to set for your students, Todd.

FOUR BITS: Andrews, Smith, SEC title, awards

1 » Two former Florida GatorsESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith – partied together last night as the ABC television show Dancing with the Stars celebrated its 200th episode. Andrews snapped this picture of the duo doing the Gator Chomp during the event. Enjoy.

2 » Florida Gators women’s cross country captured the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship on Monday in Columbia, SC, while competing at the title meet. Florida (60 points) bested the second-place finisher Arkansas Razorbacks (61 points) by a single point to take the crown. It is the fifth time the Gators women have won the conference title and second time in program history that they did so in back-to-back years (1996-1997). The Florida men’s team (69 points) failed in their effort, coming in third behind winner Arkansas (34 points) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (62 points). Monday’s win marks the second 2010 SEC title captured by UF so far this season with the soccer team coming through with a big win over the weekend.

3 » With the game-winning goal in the above mentioned 2010 SEC title game over the weekend, No. 8 Gators soccer senior defender Nicky Kit took home two additional honors on Monday – SEC Defensive Player of the Week and (one of) CollegeSoccer360.com’s Primetime Players of the Week. Kit earned the recognition for her 20-yard free kick goal to end the first half that ended up being a game-winner.

4 » Adding two more wins to their 20-1 record (13-0 SEC), No. 1/1 Florida volleyball also earned some recognition for two of its players on Monday. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week (fourth time this season) and junior middle-back Cassandra Anderson earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

11/1: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, freshman QB Trey Burton, junior running back Jeff Demps, senior center Mike Pouncey, senior safety Ahmad Black and senior linebacker Brandon Hicks answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their win on Saturday over the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

BRANTLEY, BURTON COMFORTABLE WITH EACH OTHER

Brantley waited for his turn. He sat behind the legendary Tim Tebow and watched as he returned to school after winning a Heisman Trophy and BCS National Championship in back-to-back seasons. He has been criticized softly by some of his coaches and harshly by many of his team’s fans, yet Brantley has kept his cool and is embracing head coach Urban Meyer’s decision to share his position with a true freshman who has a Tebow-like talent for running the option. Just ask him.

“We run the option really well – it’s what we’ve done really well here for the past few years. We wanted to get that back in the system,” Brantley said. “If that means to put someone else back there to run it, by all means let’s do it. That’s what’s been successful and that’s what we’re going to keep doing. […] Anything that can help the team I’m all for. […] I knew coming into the season we’re an option team. If that means to bring in another quarterback, do that, I’m all for it.”

While Gator Nation certainly appreciates Brantley’s flexibility, he has also made it easy on Burton by befriending him while sharing the spotlight. “He’s a great dude, awesome football player,” Burton said of Brantley on Monday. “I love hanging out with him. Him and I joke around every day, every time I see him we say ‘What’s up?’ to each other. We hang out all the time. I can’t say enough about him. He’s one of my best friends on the team. […] Whatever we can do to win, him and I both have the same feelings. It doesn’t matter if we play or we don’t play, as long as we win, we’re happy. And that’s truly how both of us feel.”

DEMPS “SLOWLY BUT SURELY” GETTING HEALTHIER

Hobbled for three consecutive games before returning at 90 percent capacity on Saturday against Georgia, Demps (foot) remains on the mend but is trying to reach perfect health. Unfortunately, he is still experiencing sharp pains going through the top and side of his foot when attempting to change direction while running, something he has high hopes will be corrected soon. He is currently wearing a soft protection brace on his foot – not tape – and is getting 20-25 reps each practice in order to stay in game shape.

“It’s coming along pretty good – slowly but surely. [I’m] getting good treatment by our training staff,” he said. “Right now I’m able to practice in limited reps, but the reps that I am getting are quality reps. Right now I’m able to run straight ahead pretty well, but it’s kind of hard for me to change direction. […] It’s been tough. At times I’ve gotten frustrated, but at the same time I have to stay positive and keep my teammates going and at the same time they have to keep me going.”

GETTING OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN

For the second-straight game, Florida’s defense is having difficulty getting off of the field on third down. Against Mississippi State, UF was unable to stop the run; with Georgia the problem was stopping QB Aaron Murray from completing long third down passes.

“Third down is key. That’s like our money down. I’ve been on this team a while and third down used to be us getting off the field a little bit quicker,” Black said. “We can improve, we can get better. That’s what practice is for.” Hicks also notices it is an issue. “To let a team convert on a third down, and it’s third and long, it hurts the defense as well. It feels like we didn’t do our job,” he said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/1: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Horford, Hawks agree on 5-year, $60M extension

Less than one month after former Florida Gators teammate center Joakim Noah agreed in principal to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, forward/center Al Horford has decided to accept a similar deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had been feverishly working over the last two months to sign the back-to-back national champion and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to an extension.

“From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success,” executive vice president Rick Sund said in an official release from the team. “The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward.”

Last season, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team after averaging career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of the Hawks’ games.

“It happened like I’ve been predicting – down to the wire,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “When we finally kind of agreed on everything, I was super excited. It’s great to be able to get it done and have peace of mind. It makes me able to come out and just focus on basketball, which is my priority to begin with. So I’m happy about that part.”

He was named a team captain this offseason and has incentives in his new contact, according to ESPN, that could add an additional $8 million to the deal. ESPN also reports that Horford will earn a flat $12 million annually, higher than Noah’s $10 million.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

OGGOA Related: Bulls, Noah agree to five-year, $60M extension

11/1: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Think Saturday’s win meant something to Meyer?

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday before the Florida Gators compete in a game the following Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

CHAMPIONS AND AWARDS

After three consecutive losses and an overall lack of things to celebrate post-game, a tough win allowed Meyer to announce that 17 Gators had earned the designation of Champions after Saturday’s win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Offensively, Meyer named redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, freshman quarterback Trey Burton and redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. as his most valuable players along with senior center Mike Pouncey, redshirt junior QB John Brantley, redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio and redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks as his champions. On the defensive side of the ball, junior safety Will Hill won the MVP award, while senior safety Ahmad Black, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins, and senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens were champions.

The Southeastern Conference honored senior punter/kicker Chas Henry with its Co-Special Teams Player of the Week award and Burton with its Tri-Freshman of the Week award on Monday. Henry was 2-of-3 on his field goal attempts including a 37-yard game winner, and Burton rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown.

IMPROVEMENT IN FOUR DEFICIENT AREAS

One week ago, Meyer mentioned four particular areas in which Florida was struggling on offense and needed to drastically improve on in order to turn around the season. Here is how the Gators fared in those four areas against the Bulldogs:

1. Turnovers – 4-to-1 ratio with Brantley’s interception coming when sophomore WR Omarius Hines quit running a route.
2. Big plays – Florida had five against Georgia after none in the previous five games combined – a big turnaround.
3. Pass efficiency – UF’s quarterbacks were 30 points more efficient (120) than average.
4. Red zone efficiency – The Gators converted 5-of-6 red zone opportunities with a miscue coming on a missed field goal by Henry on the first offensive drive of the game.

OFFENSE REBOUNDS, DEFENSE CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE

While the offense spent two weeks of practice being retooled and streamlined, the defense’s goal during the bye week was figuring out how to get off the field on third down. Mississippi State ran the ball down Florida’s throats in its upset victory two weeks ago, and Georgia accomplished a similar feat through the air. Meyer was blunt when speaking about what had to be improved on that side of the ball.

“We’re not playing great defense. It’s just the way it is. We’re not and we have to improve,” he said. “Does that mean we didn’t have some great efforts? We certainly created turnovers and short fields, which our defense has done a decent job of all year. Back to compartmentalize – it’s third downs and red zone. We were 3-of-3 [in red zone scores] we gave up and third downs are not good.”

Asked if he will reevaluate the defense the same as he did the offense, Meyer responded: “I just don’t have time. I’ve never done that. These are the issues, get them cleaned up immediately. We have very good coaches. We just got to clean up a few things because at times we play outstanding defense. It’s getting off the field that has been a situation for us.”

GAME BALL TO MR. ANDREU

To begin his press conference, Meyer handed a game ball to long-time Gainesville Sun writer Robbie Andreu, whose father passed away in October. Today, Nov. 1, also happens to have been his father’s birthday. Best wishes from OGGOA.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/1: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Safety Dowling kicked off Florida football team

During his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer announced that freshman safety Jonathan Dowling is no longer a member of the football program due to a violation of team rules.

Rated as a five-star athlete coming out of high school by ESPNU, Dowling was also listed as the best at his position and the No. 10 recruit in the country last year. Rivals and Scout each considered him a four-star prospect and one of the top safeties in the nation.

Dowling is the third player from Florida’s highly touted freshman class to leave the program. Safety Jordan Haden and wide receiver Adrian Coxson transferred in Aug.

Unlike other dismissals, Meyer noted that Dowling is “done” with the team and will not be returning to the program. He refused to comment further.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas

FOUR BITS: volleyball, Harvin, Grossman, Richt

1 » No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball (20-1, 13-0 SEC) looks unstoppable these days, especially if you ask their opponents. Take the Ole Miss Rebels (16-6, 10-3 SEC) for example, who were trounced 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-17) by the Gators at home on Friday in Oxford, MS. Florida junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy achieved her nation-high sixth triple-double on the season with 10 kills on .562 hitting, a team high 16 assists and a match-high 10 digs. The Gators have seven matches left in the regular season, which ends for them on Fri., Nov. 26.

2 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has suffered his fair share of injuries both at the University of Florida and already in the NFL, but one that hit him pretty hard on Sunday may be bothering him for quite some time. In the first quarter of the Vikings’ game on the road against the New England Patriots, Harvin significantly hurt his left ankle and was unable to get off the field without help from two medical staffers. After sitting out a number of plays, Harvin’s ankle was taped and he reentered the game where he ended up registering team-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (104) along with a spectacular two-point conversion catch later in the game. Even so, he had a severe limp in the locker room after the contest and claimed that “adrenaline got me through” the game.

3 » Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman saw his first action of the season on Sunday, and it came at the tail end of his team’s game against the Detroit Lions when he was substituted for a healthy Donovan McNabb because he apparently knows the two-minute offense better than the Pro Bowler. While that may be the case, head coach (and former Florida offensive coordinator) Mike Shanahan’s decision-making was certainly questionable considering, on Grossman’s first play from scrimmage, he was sacked and fumbled the ball which was returned by Detroit for a touchdown.

4 » Since we here at OGGOA also have a strong following on Twitter, we figured it was a good idea to share with you a link that has come our way almost a dozen times this morning. While ESPN picked up a five-year-old website calling for head football coach Urban Meyer‘s firing two weeks ago, we present to you a more creative site – one that supports retaining Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt: KeepMarkRicht.com.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Florida soccer wins fifth straight SEC title

The 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season soccer title came down to a final match between the No. 8 Florida Gators and No. 17 South Carolina Gamecocks. Friday evening, the Gators (15-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks (14-4-2, 8-2-1 SEC) 1-0 on the road at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium in Columbia, SC, to win their fifth straight conference title and 11th in SEC history.

Florida head coach Becky Burleigh, who has led the team throughout its entire 16-year existence, watched as the team’s three seniors won their fifth title. “I feel great. I am really, really happy for the seniors,” Burleigh said. “Nicky [Kit] scored the winning goal. Ashlee [Elliott] and Katie [Fraine] won their fifth SEC title, which is unprecedented. So it is just really exciting for our entire team.”

For Kit, a defender, her moment of the match came at 44:58 when she took a 20-yard free kick off the near post and into a goal for the match’s only score.

The Gators move on to the 2010 SEC Tournament where they have been awarded a No. 1 seed and are set to face No. 8 Vanderbilt on Wed. Nov., 3 at 3 p.m. Florida could meet up with No. 2 seed South Carolina in the SEC Tournament final should both programs win both of their opening round contests.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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