Two for Tuesday: Florida football opponent previews – Kentucky and Alabama

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After a pair of seemingly “cupcake” games against Idaho and Eastern Michigan, Florida Gators football begins Southeastern Conference play in 2014 against an improving Kentucky Wildcats team before it faces arguably its biggest test of the year on the road at the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Florida kicks things off against Kentucky under the lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will air live on the SEC Network.

Head-to-Head

FLORIDA GATORS KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (Year: 4) Head Coach: Mark Stoops (Year: 2)
2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5) 2013 Record: 2-10 (0-8)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Common Opponents: 1-4 Common Opponents: 0-5
Scoring Offense: T-112th (18.8 ppg) Scoring Offense: 107th (20.5 ppg)
Scoring Defense: 15th (21.1 ppg) Scoring Defense: 89th (31.2 ppg)

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History is made: Florida Gators softball wins program’s first National Championship

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers did not start Tuesday night’s game for the Florida Gators, but her steady hand and tremendous command closed out the final two innings of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series, helping Florida softball (55-12) earn the first National Championship in program history on the back of a 6-3 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (53-13).

The Gators swept the Crimson Tide in the best-of-three series with Rogers earning a 5-0 shutout win on Monday and finding her well-deserved place on the mound in the final exciting moments on Tuesday.

It was the first time in three WCWS Championship Series appearances that Florida won a single game (0-4 combined in 2009, 2011) yet the Gators were dominant at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Florida outscored its opponents 81-10 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament with eight shutouts and six run-rule victories.

Rogers went 7-0 with a save in eight total appearances, giving up just four earned runs in 44 innings pitched while shutting out her adversaries in 42 of those frames. She was named 2014 WCWS Most Outstanding Player after the game.

Nevertheless, it was junior RHP Lauren Haeger received the call and subsequently got off to a rough start in the circle for UF, giving up back-to-back singles to open the game before a sacrifice fly advanced both base runners.

Continue Reading » History is made: Florida Gators softball wins program’s first National Championship

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Near-perfect outing from Rogers sends Florida to 5-0 WCWS win, 1-0 series lead over Alabama

It was a near-perfect night for Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers, who faced the minimum of 18 batters through six innings and delivered a shutout performance to earn a victory for her team in the first game of the best-of-three Women’s College World Series Championship Series.

Rogers saw 23 batters, two over the minimum, by the time the night was over, starting the contest perfect through the first four innings as No. 5 seed Florida (54-12) pulled off a 5-0 victory over the No. 2 seed Alabama Crimson Tide (53-12).

Monday’s win was the first for UF in a WCWS Championship Series game despite the program advancing to the finals in both 2009 and 2011.

The Gators shut out their opponent for the eighth time in 10 tries in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and are now outscoring their adversaries 75-7 in the postseason event.

Rogers (7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 K) is 7-0 in the tournament with three earned runs in 42 innings pitched. She has shut out opponents in 41 of those frames, giving up only three runs in the fifth inning of UF’s semifinal contest.

Alabama starting hurler Jaclyn Traina powered through Florida in the first two innings, striking out the side in the second while retiring six of the seven batters she faced in those early frames.

However, the Gators were quick to jump on Traina in the third with sophomore catcher Aubree Munro tearing the cover off the second pitch she saw as the leadoff hitter, homering for the third time this season and first since Feb. 14.

Continue Reading » Near-perfect outing from Rogers sends Florida to 5-0 WCWS win, 1-0 series lead over Alabama

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Florida Gators softball advances to WCWS Championship Series with 6-3 win over Baylor

Another solid performance from senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers led No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball (53-12) to a 6-3 victory over the No. 13 seed Baylor Bears (49-16) on Sunday, sending Florida to the Women’s College World Series Championship Series for the first time since 2011.

The Gators won three-straight WCWS games to earn the opportunity to play for the national title, outscoring their opponents 21-3 on the back of a trio of stellar performances from their ace in Rogers.

After stranding runners on base in each of the first two innings, Florida opened up its scoring in the third when sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt got on board with a walk, advanced to second on a groundout and scored as senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft smacked a stand-up double down to the wall in left-center.

Junior Brianna Little (2/3, 2 R) began the fourth with a stand-up triple on a grounder through the middle of the infield and scored on a squeeze bunt by sophomore catcher Aubree Munro (1/4, RBI), pushing the Gators ahead 2-0 midway through the contest.

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4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every on Sunday clinched his first-ever PGA Tour victory, winning the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL. Every, whose third-round 66 vaulted him into the lead, finished -13 for the tournament and edged Keegan Bradley by a single stroke. The victory results in him receiving earnings of $1.12 million (more than he has made in the rest of his career, combined), 500 FedEx Cup points and an automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters in April. A native of Daytona Beach, FL, Every played at Bay Hill dozens of times throughout his life and long dreamed of winning a PGA Tour event at the course, which is located about an hour from where he grew up.

At Florida from 2003-06, Every was a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He is the second former Gators golfer to capture a PGA Tour event title in as many years after Billy Horschel won the 2013 Zurich Classic last April.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

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Florida vs. Alabama post-game: Prather surges, defense struggles, Donovan tempers excitement

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) found an offensive surge in the second half on Saturday afternoon to take down the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-14, 3-7 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Following the Gators’ 78-69 victory, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the contest and his team’s difficult upcoming schedule.

GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK

Senior forward Casey Prather has been dealing with an injured ankle for a couple of weeks, but it seemed to truly start bothering him over the last two games – the first in which he failed to score double-digit points this season. In fact, Prather has looked nothing like the player that has been Florida’s leading scorer all season, combining for just 12 points and four rebounds in those two contests.

Saturday was a much-needed step in the right direction for the Gators’ most improved player, who efficiently scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed six boards and dished three assists. According to Donovan, Prather was a simple decision away from not even stepping foot on the court.

“[Saturday] morning at about 8:30, I didn’t know if we were going to play him,” he explained. “I really left it up to him. He didn’t feel 100 percent. We had talked about just resting him, maybe just giving him time and see what would happen for our next game. He made the decision that he wanted to play and try it.”

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Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida outlasts Alabama 78-69

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) pulled away in the second half on Saturday afternoon to pick up a 78-69 home win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-14, 3-7 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

UF extended a school record by winning its 15th consecutive SEC home game, a streak that dates back to Jan. 9, 2013. The Gators have also started the season 10-0 in league play for just the second time in school history (11-0, 2006-07) and have posted the second-best start to a season in program history (24-2, 2006-07).

Florida won its 15th-straight game and picked up a victory for the 20th time in its last 21 contests. UF’s 29-game home winning streak is currently tied for longest in the nation.

OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Moments after the Crimson Tide cut the Gators’ lead to single digits, sophomore guard Michael Fraizer II drained a wide-open three-pointer to give UF back a 12-point advantage with five minutes to play. UA never got back within seven points. Frazier wrapped things up with 14 points on 3-of-8 shooting from downtown with three dimes, two boards, a steal and a block.

Prominent player (first half): Senior forward Will Yeguete was Florida’s only consistent scorer in the first 20 minutes of the game, matching a season-high with 12 points by cleaning up under the basket. The Gators would not have been tied at the half had it not been for Yeguete’s early contributions. He also grabbed three rebounds, registered two swipes and dished four assists.

Prominent player (second half): Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, going 3-for-4 from downtown over the latter portion of the contest. His long-range shooting and ball handling were largely responsible for the Gators achieving a game-high 15-point lead with about nine minutes to play. He also picked up four boards, three assists and a steal.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida outlasts Alabama 78-69

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Florida-Alabama preview: Prather still hobbled

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Dick Vitale)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(3) FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 20-2 (9-0 SEC) Record: 9-13 (3-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -15 | O/U: 123.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama actually leads Florida 73-63 in the all-time series, but the Gators hold a 39-19 advantage over the Tide in games played in the O’Dome and have won eight-straight in the series. Under Donovan, UF is 20-5 against UA (9-0 at home).
» Donovan is 13-2 against his former assistants, 7-0 going head-to-head with Grant.
» Florida and Alabama are squaring off for the second time this season after the Gators earned a 68-62 victory over the Crimson Tide on the road in Tuscaloosa, AL two weeks ago on Jan. 23.
» Florida is currently riding a school-record 28-game home winning streak (third longest in the nation). UF set a program record Tuesday by recording its 14th consecutive home win against league opponents.
» The Gators have opened league play with a 9-0 record for just the second time under Donovan. The school record for best SEC start is 11-0, set in 2007.
» Florida is on a 14-game winning streak and has won 19 of its last 20 games.
» The Gators are 72-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF has started 20-2 through 22 games for the third time in school history. The first two times the Gators achieved that mark, they won the national title (2005-06, 2006-07).
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 5-2 in true road games this season.

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