TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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FOUR BITS: Powell, Yeguete, gymnastics, Prather

1 » Florida Gators linebacker Ronald Powell has been listed as one of the “most controversial prospects” in the 2014 NFL Draft by new NFL Media draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki. “Had his tires pumped since high school — entitlement was an issue as a young player and his personality could rub some people the wrong way,” writes Nawrocki. “Has developmental value as a stand-up rush linebacker, but must dedicate himself to the craft and realize he’s no longer the big man on campus.” Deadspin.com points out that Nawrocki is a former Pro Football Weekly senior editor who is notoriously known as the analyst that said Cam Newton had a “fake smile” and considers himself a “straight shooter” by delivering harsh criticisms that may not always be accurate. In the case of Powell, he admitted at times over the last two seasons that he felt entitled as a freshman, but his Florida teammates and coaches have done nothing but rave about him since.

2 » Well-known is the relationship between Gators senior basketball forwards Will Yeguete and Patric Young with four-year-old Kaedyn Ballew, a cancer patient the two met in the hospital last year. Inside Gator Basketball, a weekly show hosted by Mick Hubert with head coach Billy Donovan as a guest, aired this package over the weekend. It takes a closer look at Yeguete’s relationship with Ballew.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Powell, Yeguete, gymnastics, Prather

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Fastbreak: No. 10 Florida beats Arkansas in OT

It took five extra minutes on Saturday afternoon, but the No. 10 Florida Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) fought back from a seven-point second-half deficit to force overtime and pull off an 84-82 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (11-4, 0-2 SEC) on the road at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR.

Florida snapped Arkansas’ 25-game home winning streak while pulling off its seventh-straight victory and 12th in the last 13 contests. OnlyGators.com breaks it all down:

It was over when: Gators senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained two free throws with six seconds remaining, extending UF’s lead to five – just enough to ward off a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the Razorbacks that would have tied the game.

Perfect play: A missed free throw at the end of regulation gave Florida new life. His team trailing by two with 17.1 seconds remaining, Wilbekin dribbled out the clock before driving the lane and pulling up, draining a prayer that tied the game at 66 with 2.0 seconds left and sent the contest into overtime.

Prominent players: Redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith put together the best game of his career on Saturday, hitting 7-of-14 shots for a career-high 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to boot. He also picked up three assists and three steals. The double-double was Finney-Smith’s second of the season and came at the most opportune time possible for UF. Wilbekin was also huge for the Gators, matching a career-high with 18 points while hitting 8-of-10 free throws on the afternoon. He scored Florida’s last six points – all at the line – on eight attempts.

Guard Rashad Madden did everything he could to help Arkansas win at home, going 9-for-16 (5-for-10 from three) for a game- and career-high 23 points with five boards.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the, well, break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 10 Florida beats Arkansas in OT

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Florida at Arkansas preview: Four Gators on injured list; Prather out Saturday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Jimmy Dykes)
SiriusXM: 117/200 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN appLive Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(10) FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 12-2 (1-0 SEC) Record: 11-3 (0-1 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +2.5 | O/U 141

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida lead the all-time series against Arkansas 16-11 (16-6 under Donovan) but is just 4-8 on the road against Arkansas (4-5 under Donovan).
» The Gators are 6-1 in their last seven games against the Razorbacks but got routed 80-69 in Fayetteville in their last meeting on Feb. 5, 2013.
» UF is on a six-game winning streak and has been victorious in 11 of its last 12 games.
» UA had its seven-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday with a surprising 69-53 loss on the road at Texas A&M.
» Arkansas has won 25-straight home games, the second-longest streak in the nation.
» Florida is 65-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» The Gators are 5-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign.
» Florida defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» The Gators are 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.
» UF is 1-2 in true road games this season.

INJURIES PILE UP – AGAIN

Following up on Thursday’s announcement that senior forward Casey Prather had joined senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (ankle) as a non-participant in practice after Prather’s knee swelled up in the morning after Wednesday night’s game, Donovan provided additional details on the ailments facing his team.

Regarding Prather, Donovan explained that a Thursday MRI revealed a bone bruise with fluid built up in the joint. He ruled Prather out of Saturday’s game, the first contest that Florida’s leading scorer – who has averaged double-digit points in all 14 games – will miss this season.

“Took place last game, he’s had some swelling. We actually thought it maybe have been some cartilage tear with the way his knee was swollen. He had an MRI [Thursday] night. Cartilage tear, knee structure, that stuff’s all fine, but he’s out [Saturday],” Donovan said.

Continue Reading » Florida at Arkansas preview: Four Gators on injured list; Prather out Saturday

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Advancing in SEC Tournament, Gators soccer looks to add to its impressive 2013 haul

No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (16-3-1, 9-2 SEC) put together a heck of a regular season but has not received the attention it’s deserved due to the tumultuous and something-new-happens-every-day nature of its football counterpart.

Nevertheless, Florida is currently on a month-long, eight-match winning streak while being led by freshman forward Savannah Jordan, who is putting together one of the greatest goal-scoring seasons in program history.

Jordan on Monday was named the 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first freshman in league history to receive the honor. It should be no surprise that she was chosen as the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year while also being named an All-SEC (first team) and SEC All-Freshman player.

Junior midfielder Havana Solaun and sophomore defender Christen Westphal joined Jordan on the All-SEC team, while freshman MF Pamela Begič also picked up an SEC All-Freshman honor.

Jordan has already surpassed Abby Wambach’s freshman goal scoring record and is on pace to find a spot among the greatest single-season goal scorers in school history. She has already found the back of the net 21 times, putting her two goals out of the top-five and the Gators freshman record held by Andi Sellers.

Her latest goal came in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament as one-seed UF picked up a 1-0 victory over the eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks (13-8-0) on Wednesday in Orange Beach, AL.

Florida will square off against Ole Miss in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. The Gators have already won the regular season 2013 SEC Championship, splitting the title with Texas A&M. It was UF’s eight-straight SEC regular season crown. Florida is now looking to win its third tournament title in the last four seasons.

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10/7: Muschamp recaps Arkansas, previews LSU

No. 17/17 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 30-10 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks and his team’s upcoming road contest against the No. 11/10 LSU Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 12. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air live on CBS.

WEEKLY AWARDS

Offensive Players of the Game: Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton
“He’s playing at a high level, creating plays after the catch. … Really proud of Solomon and how he’s playing. He’s a great young man, works extremely hard, has really dedicated himself to developing himself as a receiver and certainly is getting great results.”

Scrap Iron: Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia
“Max is a smart guy. … Max is pretty solid all over. He was a guy that did a lot of things well for us. He can play left tackle, he can play multiple positions. He’s been a really good fit for us.”

Big Plays (Offense): Patton, senior WR Trey Burton, redshirt junior WR Quinton Dunbar, sophomore running back Matt Jones, redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy

Defensive Players of the Week: Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy
Purifoy was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Ball Hawks: Purifoy, junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings, sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., redshirt junior LB Michael Taylor

Hard Hat: Freshman LB Jarrad Davis

Special Teams Player of the Week: Senior safety Jaylen Watkins

COULD MUSCHAMP HANDLE THE DEFENSE ALLOWING 50 POINTS?

LSU’s suddenly impressive offense has registered some huge outputs in its first six games of 2013 (including three SEC contests).

The Tigers scored 35 and 59 points in respective victories over Auburn and Mississippi State and also posted 41 points in a loss to Georgia.

Asked Monday if he would be able to handle his defense coughing up that many points, Muschamp explained that it would have been a concern for him in the past but now all he cares about is leaving each game victorious.

“As long as we win, I don’t care what happens. I’ll be honest with you. I got real caught up with all of that stuff when I was a coordinator. But I’m a head coach. I want to win. If it takes 51-50, let’s go,” he said. Watch the film on Sunday and we’ll figure out what we need to do to get better.

“But I can tell you right now, I used to grab the stat sheets when I was a coordinator. Not anymore. There’s one stat that matters and that’s winning. Do what you got to do to win games. It’s hard enough on Saturday afternoon to worry about all that other stuff. Just do what you got to do to win.”

Fowler concurred that winning is most important to Muschamp but was honestly concerned with the possibilities of what could potentially happen if the Gators gave up that many points in a single game.

“He’ll be happy that we won, but 50 points? Nah, he wouldn’t be happy with that,” he said. “Oh, no, not 50 points. Even if we win, I’ll have a nightmare. Scared. Jesus. No. … I don’t even know how he would physically handle that. I honestly don’t know what would happen. I wouldn’t want to know. That would be crazy.”

Continue Reading » 10/7: Muschamp recaps Arkansas, previews LSU

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Florida’s Solomon Patton transforms from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking wide receiver

It’s fair to say senior wide receiver Solomon Patton was an afterthought for the vast majority of his career with the Florida Gators.

As Florida struggled to find playmaking wideouts in each of his first three years with the program, Patton (5-foot-9, 177 pounds) was viewed as not much more than speedy guy who could play a role on special teams and occasionally be used as a gadget player.

And he did all of those things quite well. In 2010, Patton appeared in 10 games on special teams. He returned some kicks, brought back a blocked punt for a touchdown against Vanderbilt and blocked a punt of his own in the bowl game against Penn State. In 2011’s season opener against Florida Atlantic, Patton blocked another punt.

Then in 2012, head coach Will Muschamp and then-new offensive coordinator Brent Pease handed him a new task – running jet sweeps on offense. Patton succeeded there as well, taking 14 for a total of 140 yards (with a long gain of 54) before breaking his arm against Georgia and missing the remainder of the season.

Through three seasons, Patton had registered just eight receptions for 79 total yards with a long gain of 17. The coaching staff, and Patton himself, decided it was time for a change in his final collegiate season.

Muschamp challenged Patton to become more than just a “jet sweep guy.” He wanted him to improve his route running and become a complete receiver, someone the Gators could count on to make vertical plays rather than just horizontal ones.

The first sign of his hard work paying off was the second week of the season against Miami when Patton grabbed a career-high six receptions for a career-high 118 yards and the first receiving touchdown of his career. He gained more receiving yards that game than in his previous three seasons combined.

Continue Reading » Florida’s Solomon Patton transforms from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking wide receiver

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10/5: Florida vs. Arkansas post-game report

The No. 18/19 Florida Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC) prepared all week for a hard-nosed, physical contest and got just that from the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. After winning the game 30-10, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on his team and its latest victory.

CHRIS DIMARCO AS MR. TWO BITS

HIGHLIGHTS

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida extended its winning streak against Arkansas to nine games dating back to 1995 and hold a 9-1 record in the all-time series. The Gators have won nine-straight contests against the Razorbacks. UF has yet to lose a game to UA since the latter program joined the SEC in 1992.
» The victory pushes Florida to 3-0 in SEC play, marking the second-straight season it has begun the conference slate undefeated through three games.
» UF’s 20-point margin of victory is its largest so far in 2013.
» The Gators improved to 7-9 under Muschamp when rushing for fewer than 150 yards, 18-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 8-6 when an opponent scores first and 18-1 when leading at the half.
» The Hogs have not defeated a ranked opponent since 2011.
» Florida improved to 18-1 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» The Gators won the time of possession battle once again and have done so in every game this season. But the 32:22-27:38 margin was the smallest of the 2013 campaign.
» Florida registered two sacks on Arkansas, more than three times the average number of sacks the team was allowing per game entering the contest (0.60).
» The Gators have forced at least one turnover in 16-straight games.
» UF has forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (358).
» Florida has registered a nation-leading 104 interceptions since 2008. UF is also first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (17) and interception return yards (1,832).
» The Gators registered at least one passing touchdown for the seventh-straight game but were held without a rushing score for the first time since Nov. 10, 2012.
» Florida gave up 275 yards of total offense to Arkansas, the most allowed by UF’s defense in a single game this season.
» The Gators have now yielded eight red zone trips through five games. In those eight appearances, opponents began two of drives already in the red zone.
» UF has held 12-straight SEC opponents to 20 points or less.
» Florida did not commit a penalty in the first half, the first time that has happened in a single half under Muschamp during his three seasons with the team. UF was flagged eight times for 84 yards in the second half, however.

» Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy completed 72.7 percent of his passes (16-of-22) for 240 yards and three touchdowns, all career-best marks.
» The Gators have not failed to score in the red zone since Murphy took over as the primary signal caller. UF is a perfect 9-for-9 on scoring opportunities inside the 20.
» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton also set career marks with 124 yards, two touchdowns and six receptions (tying a career-high) on Saturday. He is the first wideout since Riley Cooper to catch two touchdowns in a single game and register two 100+ yard games in a single season (2009).
» Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy grabbed his first career interception and celebrated by returning it 42 yards for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble on a sack.

Continue Reading » 10/5: Florida vs. Arkansas post-game report

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