FOUR BITS: Strong, SEC title, Syracuse, baseball

1 » Louisville Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday about his continuing talks with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to become his school’s next head football coach. Jurich he is “further along today than I was yesterday, so that’s good,” but that he would have another conversation with Strong on Tuesday. “I don’t really have a status update, it’s on-going,” Jurich said. “I tell you what though, he’s very impressive, a very impressive guy, he’d be great for our community.” An official contract offer has not yet been made, and the Gators are expected to make Strong a counter offer to stay on board.

2 » Two days after their heartbreaking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida players put the blame on themselves for not playing like they practiced throughout the week. “We thought we would have won the game with the way we practiced,” senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “It was just like any other practice — probably one of our better practices. We had juice in the locker room; we had juice when we went out on the field. We just couldn’t get the job done.”

3 » Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Monday that the team may be without sophomores guard/forward Ray Shipman (mid-foot sprain) and sophomore center Kenny Kadji (lower back) for Thursday’s game against the No. 7 Syracuse Orange (8-0) in the SEC/Big East Invitational from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL. Both players received MRIs and are considered questionable for the game. “We’re down to eight right now,” Donovan said. Speaking of Florida basketball, the team moved up to No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, in this week’s AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls. Beginning the season unranked, the Gators are an undefeated 8-0 including a win over the then-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans.

4 » Shortstop recruit Casey Turgeon (Dunedin, FL), one of the best players in the state, committed to the Florida baseball program before his junior high school season.

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Tim Tebow selected as Heisman Trophy finalist

Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow was named as one of five finalists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy on Monday. Only the second player in history to be a finalist for the award three times (Herschel Walker, 1980-82), Tebow will compete against running backs Mark Ingram (Alabama Crimson Tide) and Toby Gerhart (Stanford Cardinal), defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska Cornhuskers) and QB Colt McCoy (Texas Longhorns). Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and finished third in 2008 but is not projected to be in the top three this season.

“Having the chance to go back to New York means a lot to me,” Tebow said. “It is a special honor but it wouldn’t be possible for me to have this opportunity without my teammates and coaches.”

The 2009 winner will be announced at the Nokia Theatre in New York, NY, on Saturday, Dec. 12. Prior to the Heisman ceremony, Tebow will be up for the Maxwell Award (best college football player) and Davey O’Brien Award (best college quarterback), both of which will be presented on Thursday night. Tebow has won back-to-back Maxwell Awards (one of only two players to do so) and took home the Davey O’Brien Award in 2007. He has already won the Academic All-America of the Year for the second consecutive season, the first student-athlete ever to do so.

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FOUR BITS: No excuses, Foley, rating, softball

1 » Speaking with reporters following the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong refused to make excuses for his unit’s shortcomings. “We just didn’t play well at all,” Strong said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. We can’t worry about one player [junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap]. He could have been hurt on the first play. [Alabama] showed nothing new. If you don’t tackle well, you give up big plays.”

2 » Saturday’s game garnered the highest rating ever for the SEC Championship on CBS, scoring an 11.8/24 or 13 percent higher than 2008’s 10.4/21. The rating peaked at a 13.0/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. (EST). It also reportedly set a record for CBS’s online streaming service, at least quadrupling their previous high of requests.

3 » The Birmingham News praised Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for showing class and going over to the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s athletic department at the end of the game to congratulate them. “There’s a reason the Florida AD is considered the best in the business, and it’s not just because of all the championships his teams have won and all the money his school has made,” the article states. “That was a championship moment by a man whose team just saw its championship run come to an end.”

4 » Lake Wales, FL, softball pitcher Hannah Rogers always wanted to play for the Gators. When she was not offered a scholarship early on in the recruiting process, Rogers committed to the Florida State Seminoles. That was until a roster spot opened up on Florida’s roster and head coach Tim Walton offered her a scholarship. “It’s exciting because ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Florida,” she said. “It was a real emotional decision […], but I knew that Gainesville felt more like home to me.”

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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

QUARTERBACKS: B
Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

RUNNING BACKS: I
Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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Streaks and records following SEC Championship

- Alabama Crimson Tide increased its record to 21-14 all-time against Florida Gators.

– The loss snapped Florida’s nation’s best and school-record 22-game winning streak, which will go down as the fourth-best in Southeastern Conference history.

– The last time the Gators lost a game outside of Gainesville, FL, was the Capitol One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008, when Florida lost 41-35 to the Michigan Wolverines. Alabama’s 32 points were the most allowed by the Gators’ defense since that game (41).

– Head coach Urban Meyer is now 2-2 against the Crimson Tide, and Florida’s two-game Georgia Dome winning streak was snapped with the loss. The Gators are now 6-3 all-time in the building.

– Having only allowed one rushing touchdown in its previous six games, Florida gave up three to Alabama running back Mark Ingram on Saturday.

– Junior safety Ahmad Black recorded his first career sack during the game.

– Senior quarterback Tim Tebow‘s interception to Javier Arenas was the first he had thrown since the Mississippi State Bulldogs game on Oct. 24.

– 75,514 fans attended the 2009 SEC Championship, the fourth-most in history.

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No. 5 Gators set for Sugar Bowl vs. No. 3 Bearcats

Falling to the now-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship on Saturday, the No. 5 Florida Gators also lost their shot at the 2010 BCS National Championship. Instead, the Gators have been awarded a berth to the 2010 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010, against the No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats. While Cincinnati is not a common opponent for Florida, the Bearcats are quite familiar to one member of the Gators. Head coach Urban Meyer spent his college football playing career as a walk-on defensive back at Cincinnati from 1983-86. Only the second meeting ever between the Gators and Bearcats, the previous contest took place on Oct. 20, 1984, with Florida toppling Cincinnati 48-17 on homecoming.

This is the Gators’ eighth all-time Sugar Bowl appearance. Florida is only 2-5 in their previous seven games in this bowl: 1965 (L – Missouri), 1974 (L – Nebraska), 1991 (L – Notre Dame), 1993 (W – West Virginia), 1994 (L – Florida State), 1996* (W – Florida State), 2000 (L – Miami).

* National Championship

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Gator Bites for Sunday, December 6th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across too many news items we want to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

– Reports were released early Sunday that Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer was hospitalized late Saturday night with chest pains. However, Meyer actually checked himself into Shands hospital in Gainesville, FL, early Sunday morning. He was treated and released for dehydration. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Meyer “worked late recruiting Saturday night after the Southeastern Conference Championship game loss to Alabama, which may have contributed to his dehydration.” ESPN has the story:

– Four-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL), a recruit who was highly coveted by the Gators, committed to the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday according to Aaron Shepard, one of his high school coaches. “He said he’s been a fan since he’s been a little kid and it just felt like home since he went up there this weekend,” Shepard told The Orlando Sentinel on Sunday.

– Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong told reporters on Saturday that he has not yet spoken to the Louisville Cardinals and had no planned meeting with the school on Sunday. Sunday morning, the Cardinals spoke with Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and received permission to speak with Strong about the job opening. According to ESPN’s Joe Schad on twitter, Strong and Louisville AD Tom Jurich have plans to meet Sunday night in Gainesville, FL.

– The Gators will likely face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl. Meyer played defensive back for the Bearcats from 1983-1986.

– Former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Shaun Alexander, a close friend of senior quarterback Tim Tebow for some time, was seen consoling him late after the game in the Georgia Dome.

– Prior to the Miami Dolphins game on Sunday, former middle linebacker Channing Crowder ran out of the tunnel and gave a huge Gator Chomp to the crowd (which received a surprising ovation). Crowder was responsible for the game-clinching interception with 0:35 left in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots.

– Also a huge day for former Florida wide receiver Louis Murphy with the Oakland Raiders. Murphy caught four balls for 128 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers to give his team a 27-24 win.

– Competing in the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game are the following Florida commitments: Joshua Shaw (CB; Palmdale, CA), Jonathan Dowling (S; Southeast, FL), Demar Dorsey (S; Boyd Anderson, FL), Solomon Patton (WR; Murphy, AL), Leon Orr (DT; Gulf, FL), Mack Brown (RB; Martin Luther King, GA), Ian Silberman (OT; Fleming Island, FL). These recruiting prospects (among others) will also be playing in the game: Chris Dunkley (WR; Pahokee, FL), Kadron Boone (WR; Trinity Catholic, FL), Lamarcus Joyner (CB; St. Thomas Aquinas, FL), Cody Riggs (CB; St. Thomas Aquinas, FL), Chaz Green (OT; Tampa Catholic, FL), Devin Gardner (QB; Inkster, MI), Eric Mack (OG; Calhoun County, SC). For the star ratings of the Gators commits found in this list, visit OGGOA‘s recruiting page.

OGGOA will continue to update you with news throughout the day, so stay tuned.

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Tide roll Gators 32-13 to win SEC Championship

The No. 1 Florida Gators (12-1) were denied a chance at their third National Championship in four seasons, falling 32-13 to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA, while playing for the 2009 SEC Championship. The second consecutive meeting between the two schools for the SEC title, Alabama got revenge for its defeat in 2008 and will move on to the BCS National Championship game. Florida looks forward to an at-large bid and a likely berth in the Sugar Bowl.

Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram and quarterback Greg McElroy carved up the Gators’ defense to the tune of 490 total yards (the most ever allowed under head coach Urban Meyer) and 32 points (the most allowed by Florida since its loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in 2008). Ingram finished with 189 total yards and three touchdowns as he made a strong bid to claim Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy. McElroy was 12-of-18 for 239 yards and a touchdown and also made numerous big plays with his legs.

For the Gators, senior QB Tim Tebow was 20-of-35 for 247 yards and a touchdown; he ran the ball a team-high 10 times for a team-high 63 yards on the ground. His main target, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez, caught eight passes for 85 yards, while senior wide receivers Riley Cooper (three receptions for 77 yards) and David Nelson (four for 53 yards and a touchdown) led Florida on the outside.

Up 9-0 with 5:33 left in the first quarter, the Crimson Tide gave up a 48-yard field goal to junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to bring the game within a touchdown. Alabama would get the ball back and kick another field goal, though Florida followed that up with a 70-yard touchdown scoring drive in 1:36 to close the lead to 12-10. Seemingly back in the game, the Gators’ next shot on defense was short lived. Ingram took a McElroy screen pass 69 yards on the first play of the next possession, setting up his own three-yard scoring run to extend the lead back to 19-10. A celebratory Florida crowd immediately fell silent.

On the Crimson Tide’s first second half possession, McElroy finished a 74-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to TE Colin Peek, bringing the lead to 26-13. Then, up 32-13 after another Ingram score, Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas put a dagger in the Gators by picking off Tebow in the end zone with 11:51 left in the game.

Throughout the contest, ill-timed penalties haunted Florida. All five incurred by the Gators either negated a big play or an important defensive stand. The defense, which had only given up nine scrimmage touchdowns in its first 12 games, allowed the Crimson Tide to score four on Saturday night. Florida never led in the contest and went away from its run-first mentality, rushing the ball 14 times all game, 10 of which went to Tebow. Sophomore RB Jeff Demps only had one carry for nine yards while redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey touched the ball twice for seven yards.

The Gators will find out their bowl game fate on Sunday at 8 p.m. during the official BCS Selection Show on FOX. Florida is projected to receive an at-large bid for a spot in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.

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