Spikes probable, Trattou doubtful for Miss. State

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has had a rough start to his final season with the Florida Gators. Diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, Spikes has been taking pain injections and limping – both literally and figuratively – through practices and games all year. He seemed to have overcome his injury two Saturdays ago, tallying 11 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble against the then-No. 4 LSU Tigers.

That performance earned Spikes an SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor as well as nominations to the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award and Butkus Award watch lists. He was looking to follow it up with a strong game this past weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks on homecoming weekend in The Swamp.

Instead, Spikes aggravated a groin injury that some believe he first suffered during practice on Wednesday. He came out of the game immediately and was in street clothes when the second half began. Even so, head coach Urban Meyer, during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, has declared Spikes probable for Saturday’s game at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

[UPDATE:] Meyer also spoke about defensive end Justin Trattou, who injured his biceps tendon during the Arkansas game. Trattou is listed as doubtful for Saturday.

OGGOA will keep you updated on Spikes’ health and status throughout the week.

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis honored, UF No. 2 in AP, Mullen meeting, Marsh’s return

1 » Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis has been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after going 3-4 on field goal attempts Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks including a game-winner with 0:09 left on the clock. [UPDATE:] Sturgis was also named one of the Lou Groza National Collegiate Placekicker Award’s “Stars of the Week.” Sturgis missed his initial 37-yard attempt but went on to hit, consecutively, from 30 yards, 51 yards and 27 yards. Sturgis’ final kick earned him a spot in Florida football lore, potentially saving the Gators’ season and chances at a third National Championship in four years.

2 » Astoundingly, Florida fell to No. 2 in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll with the Alabama Crimson Tide jumping into the No. 1 spot. Apparently the Gators’ 23-20 last-second victory was not enough for the voters, who dropped Florida in a 30-vote swing. It is not so much being No. 2 that bothers me; it is that there was such a heavy swing of votes following a hard fought victory by one team (UF) to another team (Alabama) that only won 20-6 at home, scoring their only offensive touchdown late in the fourth quarter. At least it doesn’t bother the players. Regardless, the Gators were ranked ahead of the Crimson Tide in the first BCS Rankings released Sunday.

3 » Moving on. This Saturday night will be the first time head coach Urban Meyer and his former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen go face-to-face across the gridiron. Mullen, now head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, has his new team off to a 3-4 (1-2 SEC) start including a close home loss to the then-No. 7 LSU Tigers at home at Scott Field. Mullen remains close friends with Meyer and worked with him from 1999 until last season, where he helmed the offense that won the Gators two National Championships in 2006 and 2008. He also remains close with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Sturgis honored, UF No. 2 in AP, Mullen meeting, Marsh’s return

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FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

1 » Former Florida Gators student-athlete Ryan Lochte is one of the most decorated swimmers in school history. A star in college, Lochte moved on to win three gold, one silver and two bronze medals combined in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Looking to return the 2012 Games in London, Lochte is not the only member of his family with aquatic tendencies. His brother Devon, 19, is a redshirt freshman at Florida and plans to compete in mid-distance free style and butterfly this season. “[Devon] has got some real good physical tools and a nice feel for the water,” said Gators swimming coach Gregg Troy. While Devon not nearly as good as his older brother, he is getting there. “If he’s 110 percent devoted and dedicated and willing to push his body, I think he’s going to be better than me,” Ryan said. In truth, all that Devon cares about is getting to the Olympics and achieving his secret lifelong goal. “We never really told anyone, but we want to be in the Olympics on the same relay team,” Devon said.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

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Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

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 Arkansas Razorbacks in The Swamp.

QUARTERBACK: B
It is tough to evaluate Tim Tebow week-in and week-out, because you feel tempted to grade him an A every time. In looking at Saturday’s game, you see Tebow led the Gators on a 14-play, 69-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter that resulted in a 27-yard, game-winning field goal by Caleb Sturgis. You also see that he went 17-for-26 for 255 yards passing, one touchdown (the longest of his career) and added 69 more yards on the ground. But that would be looking over the two fumbles he had in the first half, the fact that it took him 27 carries to get those 69 yards and the six sacks he suffered – a handful of which he could have avoided by throwing the ball out of bounds when he was outside the pocket.

RUNNING BACKS: C-
For most of the game, the entire Florida rushing attack was averaging 1.2 yards per carry. For a unit that led the nation most of the year in rushing, that is simply unacceptable. Arkansas game-planned for the dive play, and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio kept calling it – so it is hard to put all the fault on the backs. Even so, 3.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts is just not acceptable. Jeff Demps saved the unit from complete failure with his run and touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Continue Reading » Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

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SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Arkansas

1 » There is plenty to look at following the No. 1 Florida Gators 23-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps most important are the injuries that occurred throughout the game and how they will impact the team in the future. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes injured his groin and limped off the field in the first quarter. He would never return, coming out for the second half in street clothes and standing alongside defensive coordinator Charlie Strong for the remainder of the game. Cornerback Joe Haden left the game in the beginning of the third quarter after playing in coverage on special teams, but returned just a few plays later. There is no update on his specific injury. Wide receiver Riley Cooper suffered a hip pointer early in the game, came out late from the locker room and was able to contribute down the stretch with some clutch catches and first downs. Finally, defensive end Justin Trattou, who abused Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett all day, injured his shoulder Saturday. No information was given on his status after the game, either. Starting defensive tackles Jaye Howard (knee) and Lawrence Marsh (ankle) never even dressed for the game as both are still recovering and hoping to return sooner than later.

2 » You will probably never see this one immortalized outside of the stadium, but senior quarterback Tim Tebow gave a rousing speech to his teammates at halftime of the game. You may call it “The Promise II,” but that would only be because he used the word. “It wasn’t like a fiery speech. His face wasn’t red,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “He was just like, ‘I promise you, we’re going to do our thing. I trust you, you’re my brothers.’ It was more like he was reiterating his confidence in us. Don’t get too nervous about the situation, don’t start thinking we’re going to lose. Just believe in yourself, believe in each other and we’ll come out victorious.”

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Arkansas

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Sturgis saves No. 1 Gators with late field goal

Missing a 37-yard field goal early in the first quarter, Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis rebounded with makes from 30 and 51 and a game-winning 27-yard attempt to help the No. 1 team in the country overcome four turnovers to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 23-20 on homecoming night in The Swamp.

In front of a crowd of 90,508 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida improved to 6-0 (4-0) on the season and kept a school record and nation-leading 16-game winning streak alive. Tied 20-20 with 4:19 remaining in the game, the Razorbacks missed a 38-yard field goal, returning the ball to the Gators on their own 21 yard line. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow led Florida on a 14-play, 69-yard drive down the field to set up Sturgis for his 27-yard kick with nine seconds remaining on the clock.

“I got kind of down on myself early,” Sturgis said about missing his first field goal attempt in the game. “I wanted to make [the last field goal] for my teammates. They work so hard, and I don’t do much [by comparison]. I was ready to hit that ball from 57 [yards] when it was third down.”

It seemed to be Murphy’s Law for the Gators throughout the game, as just about everything that could go wrong did. Florida had four fumbles (three inside the red zone), dropped three passes and allowed Arkansas to hit on a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett to wide receiver Greg Childs in the fourth quarter. Mallett threw for 224 yards while kick returner Dennis Johnson, who started at running back in place of injured Michael Smith, ran for 107 yards in his stead.

Tebow finished 17-of-26 for 255 yards and a touchdown with 69 more yards on the ground; he also accounted for 52 yards in the team’s final drive. During the game, Tebow became the all-time SEC record holder in touchdown responsibility with 123 (75 passing, 48 rushing), passing former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez led all receivers with career-highs in receptions (seven) and yards (92), while wide receiver Deonte Thompson added one 77-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Wide receiver Riley Cooper was clutch throughout the game, grabbing six balls for 58 yards and numerous first downs.

While it took the Gators the entire game to recover from their errors and squeak out a win, Tebow was hopeful that the hard fought victory would serve a purpose for his team throughout the remainder of the season. “A win like that brings you so much closer together,” Tebow said. “That will lead up to a great week of practice this week.”

Florida returns to the road next week, heading to Starkville, MS, to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN/ESPN2.

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Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 68°F – Partly sunny

TV: CBS-HD
Online: Live for FREE at CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 217; XM: 201

Florida Gators Arkansas Razorbacks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Record: 5-0 (3-0) Record: 3-2 (1-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -24.5, O/U 58
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow…who is currently second all-time to former Georgia Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker in Southeastern Conference rushing touchdowns with 48. He needs one more to tie Walker’s record.
- The UF secondary…which has an interception in 17 straight games back to 2008.
- Arkansas Razorbacks running back Michael Smith…who torched the Gators for 133 yards on 20 carries and 43 more on six receptions in 2008. Smith will be a game-time decision to play with a hamstring injury.
- Linebacker Brandon Hicks…who was shoved by Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett after making a hard tackle along the Arkansas sideline in 2008. Revenge?

STREAKS:
- The Gators have won seven consecutive games against the Razorbacks, never scoring less than 33 points in each victory. Florida is 7-1 all-time against Arkansas.
- Saturday’s game pits the top rushing offense in the SEC, Florida at 284.6 yards per game, against the top passing offense in the conference, Arkansas with 318.2 yards per game. The Gators also lead the nation in total defense (202.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.4 yards per game).
- Last time the Razorbacks played a No. 1-ranked team, they defeated the LSU Tigers 50-48 in three overtimes in 2007. Arkansas is 4-11 all-time in games against the No. 1-ranked AP team.
- The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 15 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and are tied with the Auburn Tigers for the longest winning streak in SEC history.
- Scoring at least 41 points in four of their first five games, Arkansas has already beaten a ranked team this season, the then-No. 17 Auburn Tigers 44-23 last week.
- On Saturday, Florida looks to win its 21st consecutive homecoming game.

Read OGGOA’s complete Florida vs. Arkansas preview after the jump…

Continue Reading » Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

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FOUR BITS: Florida Gators defense edition

1 » ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low sat down with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to speak about his career and the 2009 UF defense. “I told Urban Meyer this summer that Charlie’s a better coordinator than he was three years ago,” South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said in an interview. “Not only do they have outstanding athletes, but they’re very well-coached, disguise coverages very well and seem to know what the other team is doing all the time.” Great interview by Low; I highly recommended that you give it a once over.

2 » Expanding on Strong is the Gainesville Sun, who adds more from Spurrier and picked the brain of LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles as well. Spurrier continued, “Charlie, like all good coaches, if there is a better way to do something, he looks for it.” Miles agreed. “The way he attacks you,” Miles said, “he’s constantly stirring the pot looking to be better.” Strong’s defense faces their toughest test of the season Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. If some Florida fans had their way when Meyer was hired, Strong wouldn’t even be the one coaching the unit. “I got killed [for retaining Strong] … e-mails, phone calls, letters. What are you doing?” Meyer said. “Florida’s defense wasn’t very good. But I did some research. Obviously, it was a great hire. I’m glad he’s part of our staff. I fight to keep him every year. He’s on top of his game right now.”

3 » Defensive end Carlos Dunlap could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Yet you never would have thought that if you were following him throughout last season. Back then, he was just a player with great potential – a guy who had all of the talent and ability in the world but did not work hard enough for Meyer or Strong to make them think he could be a solid contributor to the Gators defense. Now? All of that has changed and something clicked in Dunlap that is fueling him to be the dominant force that was always inside him. “He is much, much improved right now from any time last year,” Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s working harder. His attitude is better. His practice habits are better. I’m really proud of him.”

4 » The Gators coaching staff’s focus on Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks is not one dimensional. In addition to trying to beat the Arkansas on the gridiron, Florida wants to win over the recruits that will be in the stands. That list of recruits just got bigger as Gators coach McCarney contacted junior defensive tackle Brodrick Lee of Tarpon Springs High School and invited him to take an unofficial visit to Gainesville on Saturday. 6’2″ and 285 pounds, Lee draws double teams in high school and is very athletic. He has already drawn interest from the Auburn Tigers, but the Gators being involved is obviously a coup for the youngster.

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