FOUR BITS: Tebow, Noah, Stamper, soccer/NCAA

1 » Not a lot of news came out of Monday’s weekly press conferences with head coach Urban Meyer and senior quarterback Tim Tebow, hence the absence of OGGOA‘s weekly post. One point Tebow did make to the press yesterday was that he is as healthy as can be. “I actually feel the best physically that I’ve felt in any season this late in the season,” Tebow said. “[My] body feels good and I feel refreshed, so that’s exciting going down the stretch.” Not receiving any more injections or special treatments is a testament to the work of strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, whom Tebow credits for his health. “He did a really good job of just training me to be able to go out there and take hits. I felt like when I came into this season, I was in the best shape of my life.”

2 » Nick Friedell of the new ESPNChicago.com sat down with former Florida Gators forward/center Joakim Noah, now of the Chicago Bulls, for a wide-ranging interview on Monday. Noah touched on NBA fans hating him, making the playoffs with the Bulls, how he improved his game over the summer, the popularity of Tebow and his passion, respect and love for the University of Florida. “I felt like I was lucky enough to play on a team where guys really played for the right things,” Noah said of his time at Florida. “It wasn’t a question of who was scoring the ball or who was getting all the shots or anything like that. It was just all about winning.” He continued, “I think I went back [to Gainesville] three times this summer. I go back for a football game, and I go back for the elite camp for Coach [Billy] Donovan. And I think that’s something I’m going to do every year because I want to give back.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, Noah, Stamper, soccer/NCAA

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Grading the Florida vs. Vanderbilt 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 Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday night at home in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

QUARTERBACK: C+
After two consecutive weeks of below-average play, Tim Tebow came back big against the Georgia Bulldogs last week in Jacksonville, FL. Back in The Swamp, Tebow still contributed to the victory but struggled mightily in the process. His numbers of 15-for-20 for 208 yards and a touchdown are misleading, considering 64 yards came on a meaningless late catch-and-run by tight end Aaron Hernandez, and his sole score through the air was on a tipped pass that wound up in the hands of wide receiver David Nelson. Sacked four times mostly because of his inability to get rid of the ball when under pressure, Tebow also struggled on the ground averaging 1.7 yards per carry on 16 attempts (27 yards). In mop-up duty, back-up John Brantley went 3-for-3 for 19 yards. For his two touchdowns (he also punched one in on the ground), Tebow gets a plus, but his performance was extremely average.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
Last week, I mentioned that “it is tough to expect this unit to make an impact when the three main players combined for 16 total attempts.” This week, Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey combined for 19 carries, though their averages were much better. Gaining 8.1, 4.3 and 3.0 yards per carry, respectively, the trio combined for 103 yards on the ground. In other words, they did the best they could with the limited attempts provided to them. For avoiding mistakes and contributing when given the opportunity, these guys played just fine.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Vanderbilt game after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Vanderbilt game

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Poll Reviews: Basketball, MVP, Spikes and Meyer

This week, OGGOA asked you five poll questions and responses were a plenty. Ranging from whether or not Florida Gators basketball should be in the preseason Top 25 polls to senior linebacker Brandon Spikes’ punishments, responses were both varied and interesting. So let’s stop wasting time and get straight to the results.

See the results of all five polls and a summary after the jump…
Continue Reading » Poll Reviews: Basketball, MVP, Spikes and Meyer

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SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Vanderbilt

1 » Florida Gators linebackers have accounted for seven of the team’s last eight interceptions. That’s scary for opposing offenses considering the Gators secondary is so strong. Throw it short or throw it long, Florida looks to have a good chance to come up with a turnover. A.J. Jones had two against the Georgia Bulldogs and one vs. the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Brandon Spikes grabbed one of his own against Georgia, Ryan Stamper took one away from Georgia and another this week against the Vanderbilt Commodores, and Dustin Doe picked one off at Mississippi State.

2 » Winning streaks, touchdown records and overall solid play have been the toast of the Gators this season. But one of the most overlooked accomplishments has been that of punter Chas Henry and the special teams unit. Having previously not allowed a single punt return yard all season, Henry and the special teams finally let up, allowing Commodores returner Alex Washington to gain six yards on Henry’s 58-yard punt in the first quarter. Six yards? We’ll let that go. Just don’t let it happen again.

FOUR more BITS including Urban Meyer on the offense, tight end Aaron Hernandez’s dominance and the Gators’ ravenous defense AFTER THE JUMP…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Vanderbilt

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Florida breezes by Vanderbilt 27-3 in The Swamp

Looking to rebound from a week full of criticism and questions, the No. 1 Florida Gators (9-0, 6-0 SEC) did little to quiet their critics even though they rolled to a 27-3 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-8, 0-6 SEC) Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida extended its winning streak to a nation-high 19 games but continued to struggle on offense even through all of their personnel were healthy and active.

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow scored the 52nd rushing touchdown of his career in the third quarter and threw one that was tipped by senior wide receiver Riley Cooper to redshirt senior David Nelson with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Tebow ran 16 times for only 27 yards and went 15-for-20 for 208 yards through the air, including a 64-yard catch-and-run by sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez in the fourth quarter. The Gators also scored on a 25-yard run by sophomore Jeff Demps in the first quarter and two field goals by sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis of 27 and 45 yards in the first half.

Florida’s defense did not lose a step without senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, giving up only 199 yards of total offense to the Commodores. Redshirt senior linebacker Ryan Stamper grabbed an interception in Spikes’ stead. The special teams, however, did allow Vanderbilt’s senior punt returner Alex Washington to gain the first return yards on junior punter Chas Henry all season.

One week after finally showing signs of life by putting up 41 points on the Georgia Bulldogs, the Gators offense once again looked anemic, just as it did four of the five weeks prior. Along with Spikes, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin and Oakland Raiders WR Louis Murphy watched from the sideline as both are on their team’s respective bye weeks.

Florida goes on the road to Columbia, SC, next week for its final Southeastern Conference regular season game this year against the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-4, 3-4 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 14. Full coverage will be available throughout the week here on OGGOA.

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Week 10: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 7:15 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 83°F – Partly Sunny

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD
Online: ESPN360.com.
Sirius: 220; XM: 200

Florida Gators Vanderbilt Commodores
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Johnson
Record: 8-0 (6-0) Record: 2-7 (0-5)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -35, O/U 48
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow…who has rushed for eight touchdowns this season, bringing him to 51 for his career, breaking the all-time SEC record held by Herschel Walker (Georgia, 1980-82). Tebow broke Walker’s record last week with a 23-yard score against Georgia. He also set the SEC career record for rushing yards by a quarterback last week, amassing 2,588 and passing Matt Jones (Arkansas, 2001-04).
- Vanderbilt Commodores quarterback Mackenzi Adams…he is filling in for starter Larry Smith who is out for the season with a torn hamstring.
- Defensive ends junior Carlos Dunlap and senior Jermaine Cunningham…who lead the team with six and five sacks, respectively. Terrors on the line, each could have career days while feasting on a weak Vanderbilt front.
- Running backs sophomore Jeff Demps and redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey…who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2-T among SEC running backs and top five nationally in yards per touch. Rainey is returning from a shoulder injury last week.
- Redshirt senior linebacker Ryan Stamper…who is replacing suspended team captain Brandon Spikes in the middle. Stamper has 45 tackles, as well as a sack, forced fumble and interception on the season.
- Freshman kick returner Warren Norman…who is already only the second player in SEC history to record three touchdowns on kickoffs in a season. Warren can break the SEC all-time single-season kickoff return yardage mark with 51 more Saturday.

STREAKS:
- The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 18 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the SEC in the past 15 years since the Auburn Tigers won 20 straight from 1993-94. 17 of Florida’s 18 wins have been by a double digit margin.
- Florida has won 10 straight games against Eastern Division opponents and is on an 18-game winning streak against Vanderbilt. The Gators lead the all-time series 30-9-2 and are 17-1-1 in The Swamp against the Commodores.
- Florida leads the SEC in total offense (446.6), rushing offense (252.3), scoring offense (36.0) and third-down efficiency (.470).
- On defense, the Gators have only surrendered eight touchdowns all season (fewest of any team in the nation) and average 11 points per game (No. 2 in the nation). The defense has also recorded 16 sacks over the past four games.
- Florida’s special teams have yet to give up a single punt return yard on the season, the only team in the nation to accomplish this feat.

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

Continue Reading » Week 10: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt

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SIX BITS: Antwine’s injury, Vandy KR, soccer wins, Kiffin runs mouth (again), Harvin develops

1 » Battling back from what was a potential career-ending back injury in 2007 and a torn knee ligament in 2008, Florida Gators redshirt junior defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is facing a long recovery once again. Antwine re-injured his shoulder against the Mississippi State Bulldogs two weeks ago and is considering season-ending surgery. “Your heart bleeds for him because he’s all Gator, he’s 100 percent in and he’s a really good player,” coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s fighting like a maniac.”

2 » Drawing the attention of Meyer this week is Vanderbilt Commodores kick returner Warren Norman. Norman, who as a freshman became only the second player in Southeastern Conference history to record three touchdowns on kickoffs in a season, can break the SEC all-time single-season kickoff return yardage record with just 51 more. “I’ve never seen a freshman return three kickoffs for touchdowns and it’s not against one of those smaller schools. It’s against SEC opponents,” Meyer said. Meyer wants to prevent that from happening, though considering the Gators are giving up 19.5 yards per kick return, he should be able to pass it in two or three attempts.

3 » In the opening round of the 2009 SEC Championship Tournament in Orange Beach, AL, the No. 8 Florida soccer team (15-4-2, 8-1-2 SEC) defeated the Tennessee Volunteers (8-9-3, 4-5-2 SEC) 1-0 in two overtimes. The one-seed in the tournament, the Gators will move on to face the the No. 15 South Carolina Gamecocks (16-3-1, 7-3-1 SEC) on Friday, Nov. 6 at 8:30 p.m.

Three more BITS on Kiffin, Georgia and Harvin after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Antwine’s injury, Vandy KR, soccer wins, Kiffin runs mouth (again), Harvin develops

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BREAKING NEWS: Spikes now suspended for entire Vandy game, punishment for Meyer?

After being suspended half a game by head coach Urban Meyer on Monday for reaching into the helmet of Georgia Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey on Saturday, Florida Gators senior linebacker Brandon Spikes decided to remove himself from the entire game this week against the Vanderbilt Commodores. According to Meyer, Spikes sat down with him and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong on Tuesday night and expressed that he thought it would be best for the team if he sat the entire game. The threesome came to a group decision on a full-game suspension.

“I really don’t want to be a distraction to the team,” Spikes told reporters in a brief statement. “I want the guys to prepare without any negative things going on, and I feel like if I would play it would be a big thing. I’m just trying to stay out of the way and just motivate the guys and I’m pretty sure that [Ryan] Stamper’s got my back and my teammates support me my decision.”

Spikes and Meyer have both received heavy criticism this week. Spikes for his maneuver and Meyer for supposedly dealing out a “soft” punishment (one which was agreed upon by the Southeastern Conference). Whether or not you believe what Spikes did was “dirty” or that Meyer’s punishment was lenient, you must respect the player for stepping up, taking the pressure off the team and owning up to his mistake for a second time.

“A lot of the negative things out there are really weighing heavy on his heart,” Meyer said. “[Spikes sitting the entire game is] a group decision and we’re doing it out of respect for our team so we can focus on trying to win our ninth game. We think it’s the right thing to do and we support Brandon for it. We look forward to him getting back and finishing the season the right way.”

As for Meyer, he is now subject to a potential fine or suspension after commenting about a missed personal foul call on a cheap shot thrown by linebacker Nick Williams on quarterback Tim Tebow. “I don’t want to step out of line, (but) there should have been a penalty, in my opinion,” Meyer said. “You have to protect quarterbacks, that’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. I’m not sure how they’re going to handle that, but we do send it in and that was one of the plays we did send in.”

Meyer and the Gators staff sent in tape of the play for the SEC to review, but his comments came one week after commissioner Mike Slive laid down the hammer on coaches criticizing conference officials. What Meyer said in this regard was more of a “comment” than a “criticism,” as he was directly responding to a posed question and made it a point to say he had “great respect” for officials both before and after making the statement. Nevertheless, ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low (who spoke with conference officials) believes some type of punishment is coming for Meyer.

OGGOA will have more on these stories as information is made available.

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