#12 Florida Gators vs. #2 Alabama Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, clear, winds N-NW at 6 mph
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(12) FLORIDA GATORS (2/3) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 4-0 (2-0) Record: 4-0 (1-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Alabama -4.5; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. on the road.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 22-14 and is 5-2 against UF dating back to 1999. The Crimson Tide defeated the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship game (32-13) and during the 2010 regular season (31-6).
» Florida achieved more turnovers vs. Kentucky (two interceptions, two fumbles) than they did in their first three games combined (two interceptions, one fumble).
» The Gators’ 405 rushing yards last week was the sixth-best single-game performance in team history and the most the team has accounted for since 1989.
» Muschamp, Saban and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart all worked together when Saban was head coach of LSU from 2001-04. Muschamp, Saban, Smart, Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and UA tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams all worked under Saban with the Miami Dolphins during his short tenure (2005-06). Muschamp and Smart previously worked together at Valdosta State in 2000.
» Saban is 4-4 in his career against UF.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offense has been impressive early this season with only six three-and-outs in 52 total offensive drives and only 11 punts in four games.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed two sacks this year, making them the only SEC team to give up two or fewer sacks and one of seven teams nationally to average fewer than 0.5 sacks per game.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (311) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (72) since 2008.
» Florida is fifth nationally and third in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing just 56.5 yards per game. Alabama is third nationally and first in the SEC in the same category, allowing just 45.75 yards per game.
» Conversely, the Gators and Crimson Tide are 1-2 in the SEC and 9-19 nationally in rushing offense with 259.0 and 230.75 yards per game, respectively.
» Florida has had a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games, the team’s second-longest streak ever. One more game of 100+ rushing yards would tie the school record streak of five games first set in 1999.
» Though the Gators are 18-for-19 (94.7 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on 11 of those opportunities.
» UF’s defense has only allowed three first-quarter points through our games.
» Florida is No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (9.0 points per game) and No. 5 in total defense (231.8 yards per game); however, Alabama is No. 2 nationally in both scoring defense (8.0 points per game) and total defense (184.0 yards per game).
» The Gators have blocked a total of two punts in four games so far this season.
» Florida has made 16-straight field goals dating back to the 2010 season, which is the third-longest streak in school history and the longest active streak in the nation. Two more made field goals will give the team its second-longest streak ever behind 28-straight makes from 1984-85.
» The Crimson Tide have the second-most wins (40) since 2008, two more than the Gators (38) in that same period of time.
» Alabama is returning 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 team.
» The Crimson Tide’s defense has surrendered just 47 first downs through four games while holding opponents to 30.43 percent (21-of-69) on third-down conversion attempts.
» Florida and Alabama are split down the middle when it comes to the four major statistical categories. The Gators top the Crimson Tide in national averages of rushing yards 259.0-230.8 (9th-19th) and points scored 40.3-38.5 (15th-21st), while Alabama leads Florida in passing 225.3-202.8 (64th-79th) and points against 8.0-9.0 (2nd-4th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

After starting out the 2010 season with a 4-0 record, Florida was brought back down to earth when Alabama trounced them 31-6 in Tuscaloosa, AL. The Gators turned the ball over four times in the contest but otherwise held even with their opponent in yards gained and time of possession, snapping their 24-game regular season winning streak as the Crimson Tide rushed for 170 yards including 63 from Trent Richardson and 47 along with two touchdowns from Mark Ingram. Florida’s John Brantley threw two interceptions in the game and fumbled the ball on Alabama’s one-yard-line in the third quarter, negating any chance of a late UF comeback.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators will be prominently featured during Saturday’s broadcast. There will be a live interview with Muschamp, and former head coach Urban Meyer will also be live on the program speaking about the Florida-Alabama match-up. The three hosts and guest picker Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from Entourage) will make their selections as to who will win the game, and there will also be an entire segment about the game.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (lower body), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee)
» To be determined: Redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail (performance)

ALABAMA
» Inactive: Starting LB C.J. Mosely (elbow)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 64.0 percent of his passes (55-of-86) this season for 752 yards and four touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Brantley turned the ball over three time in last year’s loss against Alabama.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 625 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 19.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He has also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 9.4 yards per carry so far this year including a career-high 157 last week. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps now has 320 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (nine) and fifth-most receiving yards (70) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver. He has already scored four touchdowns this season and has totaled 135 yards on 22 total touches.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary in only his second year. He is tied for second on the Gators in tackles (17) and has created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble, interception, interception).
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (21 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) through the first four games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-2 on the team in tackles. Bostic (26) and Jenkins (17) have eached excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has three tackles for a loss and two sacks while the latter has one sack and four pass breakups on the year.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 2.0 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has nine tackles on the season including two for losses.
» Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is second on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two pass breakups and eight total tackles.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on 11 field goal attempts (long: 51) and 18 extra points, leading the nation in both categories while leading the Gators with 51 points scored this season.

ALABAMA
» RB Trent Richardson (#3)…who is one of the best players at his position in the nation and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. Richardson has rushed for at least 111 yards in three-straight games and started the season with eight rushing touchdowns through three contests.
» RB Eddie Lacy (#42)…who is Richardon’s back-up but is playing just as well this year. Lacy is averaging 8.9 yards per rush and has four touchdowns on the ground this year. He has only carried the ball 41 times but has amassed 365 yards already this year.
» QB A.J. McCarron (#10)…who (like Brantley) has thrown four touchdowns this season but posted two interception in Alabama’s season opener against Kent State. McCarron is completing 66.3 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns last week against Arkansas in his best performance of the young season.
» WR Marquis Maze (#4)…who is the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver but has fallen relatively silent over the last few weeks. Maze posted 118 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in the season opener but has caught 12 balls for just 108 yards since. He is also the team’s punt returner and already brought back one for a score this year.
» LB Dont’a Hightower (#30)…who is one of the most feared defenders in college football this year. He is his team’s leading tackler with 25 on the season (4.5 for loss) and will be charged with ensuring Florida’s running backs do not reach the second level.

CBS SPORTS VIDEO PREVIEW

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Muschamp and Saban push relationships aside, put Saturday’s focus on Florida vs. Alabama

It would be nice to forget the Star Wars references and the other minutiae surrounding Saturday evening’s showdown between the No. 12 Florida Gators and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL, but the truth is that it is just the second of three games during the 2011 season in which Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s relationship with his former co-workers becomes a hot topic of conversation.

At least this story does not involve a beach house.

A linebackers coach and eventual defensive coordinator under now-Alabama head coach Nick Saban for four years at LSU and one with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Muschamp undoubtedly learned quite a bit from the two-time national champion who is considered to be one of the nation’s top college football minds.

Muschamp recounted Monday that, more than anything else, the mutual respect Saban shared with his staff is why people are so loyal to him to this day.

“Nick never asked me to do anything as an assistant coach he didn’t do as a head coach from a work standpoint as far as film preparation, from a recruiting standpoint as far as evaluation and going out and recruiting,” he said. “He’s a guy who works extremely hard. He’s got a great work ethic in what he does.”

Even though he is compared to his former boss on what seems like a daily basis, Muschamp explained that they are not and should not be considered the same coach.

Some of their philosophies, however, are indeed parallel.

“I wouldn’t just say you could point one thing and say it’s this [is what I learned from Saban]. I think there’s a lot of things,” he said. “Program management. Philosophically knowing who you want to be. Offense, defense, special teams. Identifying in the recruiting process what kind of player you’re recruiting from a critical factor standpoint – not just from what the speed and the height and the weight. All the intangible qualities. From a total program management [standpoint], [I’ve learned] a lot.“

It all started back in December 2000 when Muschamp visited good friend Jimbo Fisher, a quarterbacks coach and eventual offensive coordinator under Saban at LSU, as his team was preparing for the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, GA. Muschamp and Saban hit it off and parted ways 20 minutes later. Little did the young coach know he would receive a phone call that offseason from Saban to come in for an interview.

That meeting that led to a job offer and a five-year working relationship.

“I wouldn’t be probably standing here today if it wasn’t for the opportunity he gave me at LSU to be a position coach and then naming me the coordinator,” Muschamp said.

Saban looked back Monday on the characteristics that made Muschamp stand out then and continue to make him a successful coach to this day.

“Will is a good coach because he’s a great teacher,” Saban said. “He is a really hard worker. He’s got about as much passion and enthusiasm as anyone that you’re ever going to be around, and he relates well with the players. The players sort of feed off his passion and enthusiasm, in terms of the way he coaches and what he does. He believes in the fundamental of discipline and hard work, commitment, those types of things that are sort of fundamental to being successful. He’s always done a great job.”

Though the two have “a really good relationship,” according to Saban, they have not spoken this season as each is too busy for pleasantries. That will change on Saturday when the former co-workers see each other before and after the game.

Saban did not go into too much detail about his thoughts on Florida’s team during his press conference on Monday, mostly commenting about the speed of running backs redshirt senior Chris Rainey and senior Jeff Demps as well as the improvement of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley.

Muschamp, on the other hand, was thorough in his depiction of Alabama.

“When you turn the film on, you see a physically tough football team that plays with fundamentals. That’s what [Saban] is and that’s what he preaches everyday and it certainly carries over on film as far as who they are and what they are,” he said.

“Offensively, Jim McElwain – their coordinator – is a guy I have a lot of respect for. He’s not a guy that’s concerned about stats. He’s concerned about winning football games. They do a good job of running the football and the play actions off of that. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy are two outstanding backs. A.J. McCarron is very efficient with only two interceptions so far this season – managed their football team well in what they’ve asked him to do. Marquis Maze is a young man who you’ve got to always account for him. He’s played there a long time. He’s been a four-year starter for them and in the return game has done a nice job for them. And their offensive line does a really good job in the run game, getting a hat on a hat.

“Defensively, Kirby Smart’s a guy that I think does a great job and they’ve got a bunch of guys that have played a lot of football. You look at [Mark] Barron and [Dont’a] Hightower, [Dre] Kirkpatrick, [Courtney] Upshaw, all those guys played two years ago there in Pasadena. They were starters then. They do a nice job defensively. Playing on the line of scrimmage they’re very well tied together as far as their unit is concerned.”

Luckily for both coaches, their relationship will not factor into the result of the game. That will be decided on Florida Field when the Gators and Crimson Tide meet at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game will air live on CBS.

“I know there will be a lot of [wondering] if there is an advantage. There is no advantage. He knows me as well as I know him. There is no advantage in this game,” Muschamp said matter-of-factly. “Thank goodness for the 90,000 people in The Swamp and for the millions watching. He or I will not take a snap Saturday night, so that’s the very positive thing.”

Photo Credit: Icon SMI

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Rainey storms No. 16 Gators past Vols 33-23

In a game filled with mistakes and miscues, redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey‘s 212 yards of offense and a raucous crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium proved to be too much for the Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1 SEC), which fell 33-23 to the No. 16/17 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) in Gainesville, FL on Saturday.

Florida defeated Tennessee for the seventh-straight season in front of a sold-out crowd of 90,744 fans in The Swamp, a venue the Volunteers have not won at since 2003.

Rainey, who ran the ball 21 times for 108 yards and caught two passes for 104 yards, earned a touchdown on an 83-yard reception in the third quarter to help complete the first 100/100 game of his career. He also blocked the fifth punt of his career early in the second quarter, setting an all-time school record in the process.

The Gators began the contest by scoring 16 unanswered points. Sophomore running back Trey Burton caught a one-yard pass from redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley for the team’s first touchdown, completing a nine-play, 80-yard drive that opened the contest.

A 17-yard reception by redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson was followed by a 28-yard rush by senior RB Jeff Demps to set up the score, and Brantley went 5/5 through the air on the drive. He also completed his first eight passes of the game.

The Volunteers responded with a long drive of their own, but a missed 37-yards field goal by Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy gave the ball back to Florida. The Gators put together a 12-play, 68-yard drive as a response but failed to get in the end zone, settling for a 28-yard field goal from redshirt junior K Caleb Sturgis.

Florida also struggled with two short field opportunities, again settling for a pair of field goals in the second quarter. After Rainey’s blocked punt, the Gators ran a four-play drive that did not gain a yard; following a punt from the Vols’ end zone, Florida went just six yards in four plays and allowed Sturgis to put one through from 46 yards out to take a 16-0 lead with 8:31 remaining in the first half.

Volunteers signal caller Tyler Bray threw the first of his three touchdowns in the second quarter via an eight-yard strike to Marlin Lane to complete a six-play, 89-yard drive just under two minutes before halftime.

Leading 16-7 heading into the locker rooms, Florida hoped to regain their offensive momentum and stall the newfound success Tennessee found on that side of the ball.

Following a pass interference call that helped the Vols continue their touchdown drive, Gators junior safety Josh Evans sought out to redeem himself and did just that, nabbing an interception on Tennessee’s first possession of the second half.

Rainey took his second hand-off of the drive 14 yards and drew a late hit penalty to put the ball in the red zone. Florida chipped away at the yardage before handing the ball to Burton for his second score of the day, a one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal.

The Volunteers punted on the next drive, giving the Gators the ball on their own 20 after a touchback. Rainey lost three yards on a carry to the right side to start the series but caught from Brantley over the middle which he took to the house for his 83-yard score, putting Florida ahead 30-7 with 8:08 to play in the third quarter.

Down 23 points, Tennessee felt the pressure and began to chip away at their deficit. After the Vols punted yet again, Demps fumbled the ball on a rush up the middle and UT took advantage with a 14-yard slant from Bray to WR Da’Rick Rogers for a touchdown.

A holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff forced UF to start at their own 10. Two short rushes and a pair of incomplete passes led to a punting situation, which senior David Lerner shanked just 22 yards to the Gators’ 31-yard-line.

Bray saw an opportunity and, even though his offense was backed up following a bad snap, completed consecutive 18-yard and eight-yard passes, the latter of which found the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon.

With Florida starting to see their lead slip away, Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis relied on Rainey to bring the ball down field. UF’s speedster touched the ball seven times on Florida’s 12-play, 50-yard drive, which resulted in a 42-yard field goal by Sturgis, his fourth of the game.

The Volunteers would not go down without a fight. Tennessee started the next possession at their 40-yard-line, and Bray threw eight passes on nine plays, totaling 54 yards through the air (60 total) and ending the series with a 18-yard touchdown pass.

Getting the ball back with 1:49 to play, the Vols again tried to make a move. After moving the ball 39 yards to the Gators’ 45-yard-line, Bray threw his second pick of the game to sophomore safety Matt Elam.

Florida’s defense, though it nabbed two interceptions and registered three sacks on the afternoon, failed to convert a number of major opportunities and was easily the most penalized unit on the field.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who had six tackles and a sack on Saturday, dropped two potential interceptions and committed a pass interference penalty. Freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson, the victim of two pass interference calls and a holding penalty, also failed to catch two balls that hit him in the hands.

Evans, sophomore CB Cody Riggs and freshman S De’Ante Saunders also committed pass interference penalties, giving the Gators six total. As a team, Florida committed an astounding 16 miscues for 150 yards, significantly more than Tennessee, which was also mistake prone with 10 penalties for 94 yards.

The Gators outgained the Vols by 68 yards but committed penalties that provided opportunities for UT to continue drives that otherwise would have fallen short. Florida held Tennessee to -9 rushing yards, but UT outgunned UF 288-213 through the air.

Brantley finished 14/23 for 213 yards and two touchdowns, while Bray completed 26-of-48 passes for 288 yards with three scores. The latter was intercepted twice but had falls find his opponent’s hands quite often throughout the contest.

Heading out of Gainesville for their first road game under head coach Will Muschamp, the Gators will face the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, KY. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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No. 16 Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 87°F, scattered thunderstorms, winds 8-9 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET) [3:39 p.m. kickoff]

TV: CBS/CBSHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(16/17) FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Derek Dooley
Record: 2-0 Record: 2-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9.5; O/U 50.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week three action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Tennessee 21-19 and holds a 10-5 record at home in those games. The Gators have won six-straight contests against the Volunteers and, since the teams began playing annually in 1990, hold a 15-6 head-to-head record.
» UF has begun the season outscoring their first two opponents by a combined total of 80-3. This just the second time Florida has allowed three of fewer points to a pair of opponents to start a season (1933).
» The Gators’ shutout of UAB was the team’s first since 2006 (Western Carolina).
» It took UF seven quarters to achieve their first turnover of the season.
» Head coaches Muschamp (of Florida) and Dooley (of Tennessee) previously worked together on staffs under the stewardship of head coach Nick Saban at LSU (2001-04) and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins (2005).
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offensive line has not allowed a sack this year, making them one of two teams in the SEC and one of five nationally to accomplish that feat through two contests.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (305) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (68) since 2008.
» Though Florida is 11-for-12 (91.7 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on seven of those trips.
» Teams are averaging just 1.9 yards per carry against Florida’s defense this season.
» The Gators’ defense has only allowed three-of-23 (13 percent) third-down conversion attempts to be achieved against them over the first two games.
» The Vols are looking to start their season 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Should they win, it would also be their first three-game road winning streak since 2005-06.
» Though it is early in the season, Florida and Tennessee have each excelled in different areas heading into Saturday’s contest. The Gators top the Vols in rushing average 248.5-127.0 (16th-82nd) and points against 1.5-19.5 (1st-45th), while UT leads UF in passing average 358.0-241.5 (9th-47th) and points scored 43.5-40 (20th-30th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida may have started the 2010 season slow, but they still took it to Tennessee with a 31-17 defeat in Knoxville, TN. The Gators let their running game do the work with Jeff Demps carrying the ball a career-high 26 times for 73 yards and Mike Gillislee scoring two of the team’s four touchdowns that afternoon. Aside from a pair of field goals, the Volunteers only touchdown came on a 49-yard strike midway through the third quarter.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from ESPN reporter Erin Andrews hosting the 9-10 a.m. version of College GameDay on ESPNU, the Gators will be covered extensively on the latter portion of the show from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. In an OGGOA exclusive, we have learned that former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will break down how his former team will have to attack Tennessee’s offensive line. Following that segment, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso will have a discussion specifically about the Gators’ defense under Muschamp.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

» Active: Senior running back Jeff Demps (shoulder), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (suspension), sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark (hamstring), freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (meniscus), redshirt freshman WR Stephen Alli (hamstring), redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (hamstring), redshirt freshman DE Lynden Trail (performance), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (suspension)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 67.3 percent of his passes (33-of-49) this season for 424 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions in the season opener. Brantley only had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010 with more picks than scores and remains the starter this year.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 308 combined yards this season with four total touchdowns including a punt block return. Rainey is averaging 7.3 yards per carry and 12.2 yards per reception and became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 8.2 yards per carry so far this year including 105 in the season opener. He sat out most of the team’s second game with a shoulder injury and is Florida’s returning rushing leader from a year ago. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark in the first game of the year.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role. He is the leading tackler with 11 and recorded the first forced fumble of his career against UAB.
» Sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (#73)…who will play his first game of the season after sitting out the first two due to suspension. Floyd moved to end this year even though he is a true tackle and will start for the Gators.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (19 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for three tackles for loss through the first two games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who have combined for 15 tackles. Bostic has already registered two for a loss, and Jenkins earned the team’s first Hard Hat Award for a big hit in week one.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on nine field goal attempts (long: 51) and five extra points.

TENNESSEE
» QB Tyler Bray (#8)…who has completed 78.5 percent of his passes for 698 yards and seven touchdowns without throwing an interception in two games this season. He is only the second passer in team history to throw for more than 400 yards in a game, has tossed two or more touchdowns in eight consecutive games and set his school’s record for completion percentage with an 82.9 percent mark against Cincinnati.
» RB Tauren Poole (#28)…who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry in his first two contests this season and had the seventh 100-yard rushing game of his career against Cincinnati.
» WRs Justin Hunter (#11) and Da’Rick Rogers (#21)…who have combined for 502 yards and five touchdowns this year. Hunter’s SEC-leading 302 yards tops the team, and the duo both recorded 10 catches in a single game for the first time in school history.
» LBs Curt Maggitt (#56) and A.J. Johnson (#45)…who are two freshmen in the Vols starting front seven, the first linebackers in their class to ever do so for the team. The duo has combined for 10 tackles (1.5 for loss) in two games.

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Gators smoke Blazers 39-0 in The Swamp

Saturday night in The Swamp may not have been as electrifying as fans had hoped for going into the game, but the No. 18 Florida Gators (2-0) were plenty effective in their effort, earning the team’s first shutout since 2006 in a 39-0 defeat of the UAB Blazers (0-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey turned in a career performance, compiling 162 yards of total offense and a rushing touchdown on 16 carries and three receptions one week after scoring three touchdowns in a single game. As a team, the Gators posted 512 yards of total offense with the defense holding the Blazers to 300 less (212).

Led out of the tunnel by American flags, Florida commemorated September 11th throughout the evening with ribbons on the stadium’s orange walls, a pre-game video tribute, coaches wearing FBI hats, a stirring halftime rendition by the Pride of the Sunshine marching band, and a variety of other actions to remember those lost a decade ago.

Receiving the ball first, Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose returned the opening kickoff 50 yards, and redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley followed that up with a wobbly 40-yard flea-flicker caught by redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar just five yards from the end zone. Florida was unable to convert a touchdown, however, settling for the first of three field goals from redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis.

The Gators used Rainey and senior RB Jeff Demps almost exclusively on their next drive with the duo combining for 61 of 62 yards earned. Sturgis kicked a 35-yard field goal as Florida failed to take advantage of consecutive red zone opportunities.

After a three-and-out, UF got the ball back again and counted on Rainey and Demps to lead them down the field. A 32-yard touchdown run by Rainey was negated by a holding call on redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio, but Brantley hit redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson with a 24-yard strike to put the Gators on the Blazers’ 18-yard-line. Down at the three, freshman fullback Hunter Joyer took the first carry of his career in for a touchdown, giving Florida an early 13-0 in the first quarter.

Senior punter David Lerner saw action for the first time after a six-play, 27-yard drive stalled in the second, and the Gators added Sturgis’s third field goal of the contest on their next drive after sophomore RB Trey Burton impressed with three carries for 30 yards including a big 26-yard gain down to UAB’s four-yard-line.

Starting from their own 21, the Blazers were forced backward as junior linebacker Jon Bostic sniffed out a reverse and completed a 13-yard tackle for loss. Three plays later, UAB snapped the ball past their punter and UF earned a safety.

Receiving the ensuing kick at the Blazers’ 37-yard-line, the Gators charged right down the field. Brantley completed an 18-yard strike to Debose, and Burton finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown run to put Florida ahead 25-0 at the end of the first half.

UAB got the ball back to start the second half and began driving on UF, but sophomore safety Matt Elam stripped a 16-yard completion – the first forced fumble of his career – which was recovered by freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson for the defense’s first turnover of the young season.

Brantley found Dunbar over the middle for 18 yards and Burton took a draw play 12 yards in the ensuing seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive, but Rainey accounted for 42 of the yards including the 19-yard touchdown that gave the Gators a 32-0 lead.

The Blazers attempted a fake punt on their ensuing drive but fell a yard short of converting, turning the ball over to Florida just 36 yards from the end zone. Junior RB Mike Gillislee, who entered the game for Demps in the first half, carried the ball three-straight times for 19, four and 13 yards, his final rush resulting in a score.

The Gators took their foot off the pedal after that, entering their entire second-team offense and defense in the game and winding the clock down with their running game. Florida possessed the ball nearly 13 minutes longer than UAB (36:29-23:31) and achieved 17 more first downs (28-11) in the contest.

UF totaled 300 rushing yards on the evening and did not turn the ball over once. Sturgis, in addition to making all of his kicks, forced two touchbacks deep into the end zone.

Brantley finished a respectable 12/19 for 195 yards on the evening, and Dunbar was the team’s leading receiver with 58 yards. Rainey led the Gators with 119 yards on the ground, followed by Gillislee (79) and Burton (46). All three rushers averaged more than 7.2 yards per carry. Elam registered a team-high seven tackles; and Bostic added five.

Florida converted all seven of their red zone attempts but only scored touchdowns on four occasions. The Gators were 4/12 on third down and held the Blazers to 1/10 in the same scenario; however, UF’s defense did not register a sack the entire evening and the team has a whole committed nine penalties for 55 yards, a stat head coach Will Muschamp was none-too-pleased with after the game.

Saturday’s win marks the seventh-straight season that Florida has started 2-0, and the Gators hope to improve to 3-0 for the sixth consecutive year next week as they take on Tennessee at home. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: John Raoux

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No. 18 Florida Gators vs. UAB Blazers Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 83°F, isolated thunderstorms
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: WatchESPN
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(18) FLORIDA GATORS UAB BLAZERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Neil Callaway
Record: 1-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -23.5; O/U 53.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week two action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in The Swamp.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against UAB, defeating the Blazers 51-3 in 2002, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators are 36-15-3 against current members of Conference USA and have not lost to one such opponent since 1979. Florida last squared off against C-USA member Central Florida in 2006 and claimed a 42-0 victory.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (118-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 56-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Nine Florida players earned their first starts last Saturday in the season opener as freshmen safety De’Ante Saunders and cornerback Marcus Roberson; redshirt freshmen tight end Gerald Christian, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and right tackle Chaz Green; sophomores defensive tackle Dominique Easley and S Matt Elam; redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray; and redshirt senior transfer left guard Dan Wenger took the field with the Gators’ first team. It is the first time in school history that a pair of true freshman started the season opener in UF’s secondary.
» Florida’s offensive line did not allow a sack last Saturday.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (304) since 2000; however, UF did not obtain any in its season opener, finishing with a -3 turnover margin (interceptions). Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (68) since 2008.
» UF did not punt the ball last week but sophomore WR Solomon Patton blocked one which was returned for a touchdown. He has blocked a punt in back-to-back games dating back to last season (2011 Outback Bowl).

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and UAB have only met on one other occasion – Aug. 31, 2002 – when the Gators stomped the Blazers 51-3 in Ron Zook’s first game as the team’s head coach. Florida outgained UAB 643-240 in the contest and Rex Grossman went 16/26 for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor Jacobs broke the Gators’ single-game receiving record with 246 yards and two scores on eight receptions, while Earnest Graham took 13 carries down the field for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

INJURIES

» Acitve: Soph. RB Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson (head)
» Probable: Redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Questionable: Redshirt jr. CB Jeremy Brown (knee), soph. WR Robert Clark
» Inactive: Soph. DT Sharrif Floyd (suspension), fresh. TE A.C. Leonard (meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley…who completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) in the season opener for 229 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions. Brantley only had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010 with more picks than scores but is said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey combined for 272 total rushing and receiving yards with five touchdowns against FAU. Rainey became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, while Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark and had four runs over 20 yards in the contest.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role in 2011. He notched four tackles in the season opener good for second-best on the team
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell started one game as a true freshman but has earned that role permanently this season and achieved a sack against FAU.
» Defensive tackles Easley and redshirt senior Jaye Howard…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (18 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard had a sack in the season opener, while Easley registered three tackles including one for a loss.
» Redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins…who had a team-high five tackles last Saturday including a big-time hit that earned him the team’s first Hard Hat Award.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on two field goal attempts including Florida’s first points of the season – a 51-yarder on UF’s first drive.

UAB
» QB Bryan Ellis…who started the final nine games of the Blazers’ 2010 season and finished with 2,940 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He leads a strong UAB passing attack that hopes to keep UF on its heels throughout the contest.
» RB Pat Shed…who is the team’s leading rusher for a year ago with 847 yards on the season. He also plays a role in the passing game and amassed 471 receiving yards as well as seven total touchdowns for the Blazers.
» LB Lamanski Ware…who is UAB’s defensive leader as well as a team captain in his senior campaign.

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Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Alex Brown (football), Abby Wambach (soccer) and Udonis Haslem (men’s basketball) – will be inducted as the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2012 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Wednesday that the honors will be bestowed upon them at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 6, 2012 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2012 class includes Gator Greats Hazel Clark Riley (women’s track & field), Kristen Guise Lee (gymnastics), Jeff Morrison (men’s tennis) and Stephanie Nickitas (women’s tennis) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Travis (football).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the break.
Continue Reading » Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

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9/3: Muschamp, players speak after opener

The No. 22 Florida Gators (1-0) defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls (0-1) in their season opener at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Below are choice quotes from head coach Will Muschamp, the game’s most valuable player redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey and redshirt senior starting quarterback John Brantley following their team’s first victory of 2011.

HEAD COACH WILL MUSCHAMP

Opening statement: “It was a good opening night. If you had a script of what you wanted to occur in the night for the most part… We faced some adversity. I thought we did some very positive things in the game. Procedural issues. Offensively we were at a minimum, we did have a couple issues we got to get ironed out, but I thought we moved the ball well, I thought John played extremely well in the game and we got the ball to our playmakers – Charlie [Weis] does a phenomenal job of accentuating those guys. Defensively I thought we played pretty clean in the game. We had a couple issues I think we’ve got to tie up. Obviously in the kick game, on our coverage units on the kickoff coverage, was disappointing. We have covered very well all through training camp and it was disappointing to see some of that tonight.

“To open the game with a kickoff return – and then we got called for holding there – but if they call it, it’s holding. [I was] really excited to see Jeff [Demps] and Chris on the field. [...] they are very special with the ball in their hands. Very pleased with how john directed our offense, and thought we played pretty clean defensively – just have to clean some things up. They say your most improvement is from your first to second game and I’m looking forward to that because we certainly have some things we need to work on.”

On what Brantley did well: “Taking what they gave him. How many swing passes did we throw to Jeff and Chris? Get the ball in space to your playmakers. I thought they did a great job with that. […] Just very pleased with how he directed the offense. Got us in the right runs, got us in the right protections, took the ball to the right spots. Certainly we’ve got some things to clean up, but for a first ball game, first offense, new scheme, all the newness to everything we’re doing, [I was] very pleased with the performance.”

On Rainey’s three touchdowns: “He’s just a very talented young man. He works extremely hard. If you came to practice, you’d see a guy that gives 100 percent all the time in everything he does. He loves competing and he’s a lot of fun to coach because he really enjoys the game of football.”

On coaching his first game: “It was exciting. The preparation I enjoy as much as anything, and then game day being able to run out of the tunnel and knowing the excitement our players had. It’s about players to me. It’s about seeing those guys fulfilling a lot of their work and seeing their work coming to a conclusion as far as game time and playing a game. I enjoy that as much as anything.”

On the bad snap in the first quarter: “We had the dagum bad snap there, we got to get that ironed out. I know you all rolled your eyes when you saw that there, didn’t you? That was disappointing.”

On the orange jerseys: “Our seniors wanted to wear orange today. Our staple uniform will be our blue jersey at home and white pants. And if you get mad and want to e-mail, e-mail me. Don’t e-mail anybody else. I was the one who made the decision.”

On how encouraged he is by the first performance: “Well I think we need to be realistic here – we will face better opponents through the season. [...] As we roll through the season, we’re going to get to know our team a lot better. We didn’t face as much adversity as maybe we would have hoped for in the game … but I’m very pleased with the attitude and the effort of our players. They worked awful hard, they compete – that’s a credit to Urban [Meyer] and his staff. These guys know how to practice. They know how to come and approach work every day and they’ve had a great attitude in everything they’ve done. I’ve been very pleased with that and we’ve got to continue to improve and get better because we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”

RUNNING BACK CHRIS RAINEY

On his three touchdowns: “I’ll give all the credit to the offense. They were really good out there.”

On his spin move for a rushing touchdown: “That’s a God-given gift, so I can’t explain that one. You got to ask God. [Laughing] I did a stretch play, just reading the tackle and I guess I read it right and scored a touchdown.”

On if Brantley’s confidence is back: “Oh he definitely do. He looks like the old John Brantley you saw in high school – being a leader, taking over, got all of his confidence back, feel good in the pocket, trust everybody.”

On his touchdown return on the punt block: “I love special teams, especially on punt block. We work on that every day all day. That’s our favorite phase of the team, so you’re going to see a lot of blocked punts this year.”

On the limited offensive playbook: “We only did like six plays – that’s it – the whole game.”

On Muschamp being excitable on the sideline: “Well he scared me on the sideline. He was too fired up. [Laughing] I don’t know what he said, but he was yelling at the officials.”

QUARTERBACK JOHN BRANTLEY

On how comfortable he felt on the field: “We felt real comfortable. We had great preparation throughout camp this past week, and we were just happy to be able to go out and execute.”

On how confident he is after Saturday’s performance: “My confidence is pretty high right now. The team played well; the offensive line blocked amazing. The running backs ran very hard and those receivers got open. So right now confidence is high – not just with me but this team. The team played great and also that offensive line did amazing, too.”

On Rainey’s performance: “Chris is a huge factor for this team and he did a great job tonight – running back, slot receiver, everything. He’s all for doing that and he’s going to have a great season.”

On freshman QB Jeff Driskel’s first pass interception: “That’s always tough for your first pass for that to happen, but he’s a great quarterback and he knows to forget about it and move on. […] Once he got a first couple of plays underneath his belt, I saw his confidence growing, and he did a great job on that one drive [in the fourth quarter].”

On winning Muschamp’s opener: “It feels to introduce Coach Muschamp to the Gator Nation [with this win]. That was a good feeling.”

On Rainey saying they only ran a few plays the whole game: “It seemed like it. It seemed like we were calling the same plays. But Coach Weis, if it’s working, he’s going to keep calling them until they don’t work.”

On Rainey’s impressive spin move for a touchdown: “I didn’t see that when it actually happened and I looked on the replay a couple drives later. I was impressed. I’m happy to see he’s using what I taught him on the field.”

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