4 BITS: Horschel, tough schedule, Florida Field

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel was in contention to win the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship…all until his second shot on the final hole of the event. Trailing by one stroke, Horschel was 198 yards away from the hole and set to reach the green in two on the par-5 18th, a hole he birdied thrice before, when he instead chunked a 6-iron into the marsh. Instead of finishing with an eagle or birdie, which respectively would have won him the tournament or forced a playoff, Horschel posted a bogey on 18. He finished in a three-way tie for second, losing the event (and the chance for the full winner’s purse of $1.44 million) to Georgia’s Chris Kirk. Horschel still brought home $597,333. Horschel’s second-place finish vaulted him from 82nd to 20th in the FedExCup, and he should receive a spot in the 2014 Tour Championship. He could also be a dark horse candidate for the United States’ Ryder Cup team.

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2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

The 2014 Orange & Blue Debut is in the books with the Florida Gators coming away from their spring game without a winner as the first-team Blue and second-team Orange left the field tied at 23-23 at the end of the fourth quarter.

Florida’s offense certainly looked much improved, though there were questions about the Gators defense – specifically the line – especially by the time the scrimmage concluded.

OnlyGators.com offered free live coverage of the event as well as head coach Will Muschamp post-spring game press conference and now wraps it all up with evaluations, notes and quotes in the Orange & Blue Debut Review.

OFFENSE

» The running backs showed off with redshirt senior Mack Brown (Blue) toting the rock eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Brown pulled off a tremendous 19-yard rush by stopping short on an off-tackle run, reversing field and carrying the ball down to the one-yard line before rumbling into the end zone on the next play.

» Sophomore Kelvin Taylor (Blue) only got five total touches in the scrimmage (one reception for no gain) but looked impressive while on the field. Faced with three defenders on his way to the goal line, Taylor juked inside to avoid all three and took the ball down to the two-yard line on an 11-yard gain. He found pay dirt on the next play for the first touchdown of the game.

» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (Blue) completed 10-of-17 passes for 125 yards and 31-yard touchdown on a drag route to sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Blue) in the first half. Robinson took Driskel’s pass across the middle and charged upfield for the score. Driskel went 0-for-3 on his first series but calmed down, made some nice passes and moved his unit nicely in both the run and pass game. Driskel finished 19-of-33 for 171 yards.

Muschamp said he was “real pleased” with how Driskel played, especially considering he had not played football all offseason until these 15 spring practices. “Probably one of the better throws he had today was a throwaway, a scramble pass in a one-minute situation before half that he threw out of bounds. Decision making and all those things will continue to improve as he processes information within what we’re trying to do. I think he’s in the shotgun and that’s what he was recruited here to do.”

» Robinson finished with five receptions for 53 yards on the afternoon and also had a fourth down conversion when he caught a pass on a curl route and took it for a first down. “I think we’re as deep as we’ve been at wideout with some guys that can make plays on the ball,” Muschamp said. “Demarcus Robinson is a home run threat on every play,” Driskel added.

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2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Preview

OnlyGators.com will offer full coverage of the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut via an on-site live blog on Saturday, April 12 as fans are unable to watch the spring game live for free either on television or online.

A live blog link is now available, so be sure to check OnlyGators.com to bookmark the page and stay with us as we take a first look at Florida football ahead of the 2014 season.

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees, winds east at 8 mph
Time: 1:30 p.m. (EDT)

TV (5:00 p.m. Tape Delay): Sun Sports (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Jessica Blaylock)
SiriusXM: None | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Free Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Free Live Updates: OnlyGators.com and @OnlyGators on Twitter

Reference: Roster | Schedule

EXPANDED VIEWING INFORMATION

Television:
Florida’s 2014 spring game will not air live on television but rather on tape delay at 5 p.m. due to a conflict with the Tampa Bay Rays. OnlyGators.com contacted Sun Sports and the Gators but received conflicting information as to why the game was not available live elsewhere on television, even as a pay-per-view broadcast.

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m. | Sunday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday, April 15 at 12:00 p.m. | Thursday, April 17 at 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 19 at 12:00 p.m. | Tuesday, April 22 at 4:30 p.m.

Online:
While the game is not being offered live on television, you can pay $3.99 to stream the Orange & Blue Debut live online as a pay-per-view via GatorVision.tv.

However, OnlyGators.com is running a free live blog during the Orange & Blue Debut, so you can also check here on Saturday for full coverage without paying a cent.

EVENT FORMAT

Unlike 2013, when Florida only had six healthy offensive linemen and head coach Will Muschamp felt the team did not have enough healthy players to play a true spring game, the Gators will be reverting back to that format with four 12-minute quarters and a running clock, which will only stop during the two-minute drill at the end of each half.

Though Florida, for marketing purposes, held a “selection show” picking the first 12 players of each team, Muschamp previously stated that the Gators will run “good-on-good” during the game, meaning the first-team offense will play against the first-team defense and the same for the second-team units.

Therefore, even though there are supposed to be two teams – one wearing orange, the other blue – going against each other, both defenses will wear orange and both offenses will wear blue. Good luck keeping score.

Injury report, player notes and much more…all available after the break!

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FOUR BITS: UConn wins, One Shining Moment, Orange & Blue Debut, Gator Growl

1 » Two days after eliminating the (1) Florida Gators in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the (7) Connecticut Huskies went on to win the entire thing, claiming the national championship with a wire-to-wire 60-54 win over the (8) Kentucky Wildcats. UConn’s victory was a fitting end to the 2013-14 season for Florida, which saw one of only two teams to hand it a loss during the campaign capture the title as opposed to a team in Kentucky that it beat three times in a single season.

2 » The 2013-14 incarnation of CBS‘s famous One Shining Moment tournament recap featurette included six appearances by the Gators starting with a little girl doing the Gator Chomp at the beginning. Senior center Patric Young was shown three times, first at “the ball is tipped” (0:25), then for his big block against Pittsburgh (1:39) and finally on a dunk (1:47). Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin‘s halftime buzzer-beater three-pointer against Pittsburgh was not included, but he was shown celebrating afterward (2:10). UF was also in the video on a play in which it got dunked on by UConn.

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2013 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

With the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut now officially in the books, OGGOA is here to take a look at what happened Saturday afternoon on Florida Field inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the Florida Gators spring game practice and how head coach Will Muschamp felt about the team and his players after the conclusion of the day’s events.

OFFENSE: STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
* Separate story on passing game (quarterbacks, wide receivers) to be posted Sunday.

Running Backs
A starter emerges: Sophomore Matt Jones did not see a lot of action on Saturday by design. Why? Because Jones has played so well throughout the spring that he has all but officially been named Florida’s starter in the backfield. “Matt has really had an outstanding spring. We have a good comfort level where he is as a player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a physical runner. He understands our protections. He’s got great hands in the throwing game. There’s no question he’s an all-around back. He can do everything for us and he’s shown it to us for 14-straight practices.”

Four-deep with a freshman shining: Behind Jones there are three other players competing for carriers – redshirt junior Mack Brown, freshman Kelvin Taylor and sophomore walk-on Mark Herndon. On Saturday, Brown barely got any carries with the vast majority of snaps going to the latter two players. Unlike Jones, it did not look like the coaching staff was resting Brown. Taylor looked dynamic and Herndon made it quite clear why the coaches have praised him throughout the spring with multiple nice runs including a touchdown scamper from inside the 10-yard line. Though Taylor started slow, he showed nice patience running between the tackles, looked decent in pass protection and showed shiftiness breaking a tackle and moving the ball to the outside. Late in the scrimmage, he had a 15-yard run off-tackle and later scored a red zone touchdown from eight yards out when he stuck the ball over the goal line.

Asked about Taylor after the game, Muschamp gushed about how impressive he has been just 15 practices into his Gators career. “Kelvin’s got a really strong lower body. He runs through contact extremely well. He’s got natural instincts in the run game. You get the turns and reps and [need to learn] the protections and all the things that you got to be able to do for us at running back, but [I’m] extremely pleased with his progress,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very talented runner. Some positions are easier than others to contribute as a freshman. That’s a natural instinct position. You get the guy the ball and let his natural instincts take over and run for daylight. And he can do that. It’s the other things we got to brush up on.”

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Seniors lead No. 6 Florida to 23-0 shutout of Jacksonville State, 7-0 record in The Swamp

Seniors combined to score all 23 points for the No. 6 Florida Gators (10-1) on Saturday as the team went on to finish the 2012 campaign undefeated in The Swamp by shutting out the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (6-5) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The victory marked just the third time in school history that Florida finished 7-0 at Florida Field. The Gators also achieved that record in 2006 and 2009, the latter of which was the freshman year for UF’s true senior class.

Florida got on the board first with 6:02 left in the first quarter as senior running back Mike Gillislee scored a touchdown from seven yards out. The trot into the end zone capped a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took 6:51 off the clock and included 11 runs and just one completed pass.

The Gators jumped ahead 17-0 early in the third quarter. After Florida backed Jacksonville State up near its end zone, senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic intercepted quarterback Marques Ivory on third down and brought it back seven yards for the first pick-six of his career.

Joining in on the fun was redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made three of his four attempted field goals (the other was blocked) and kicked both extra points in the contest, scoring 11 total points on the afternoon. Sturgis is now just one made field goal away from matching Jeff Chandler as the school’s all-time leader in field goals (67).

The Gators outgained the Gamecocks 356-242 on the day with JSU gaining 76 yards on its very first play from scrimmage.

Florida outrushed Jacksonville State 202-48 but once again failed to attain first downs to extend drives, going just 2-for-11 on third down conversions.

Gillislee finished with 122 yards on 20 carries, his fourth 100+ yard game of the season. He 36 yards away from crossing the 1,000 yard plateau for the 2012 campaign.

Sophomore QB Jacoby Brissett, starting for the injured Jeff Driskel was 14-of-22 for 154 yards but missed at least two long passes that would have resulted in easy touchdowns for the Gators.

Florida will conclude the regular season on Saturday when it faces Florida State in Tallahassee, FL. The game will air live at 3:30 p.m. on a yet-to-be-determined network.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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Florida seniors discuss careers, final home game

Eighteen Florida Gators football players will step on to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the last time Saturday as student-athletes at the University of Florida. Below is what each had to say about his career and final home game.

» Redshirt senior running back Omarius Hines: “It’s going to be a very emotional weekend. It’s going to be a great weekend at the same time. We can be undefeated in The Swamp – that’s always a good thing.”

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “It is [hard to believe]. Time flies fast when you’re playing ball. The four or five years I spent here have went by and the time is here. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a great experience for me. The time comes when you have to close that door, move on, and another door opens for you. … A lot of us have poured our hearts into this program. To have it finally end and to finally look at it from the outside in, come December, we’ll be spectators of the game. It will be real emotional having that hit you like, ‘Wow. I’m not playing and now I’m sitting back and watching.’ It definitely hurts but it’s time to close that door and other opportunities will come.”

» Senior safety Josh Evans: “I hope we play one of our best games, leave it all out on The Swamp. It’s going to be a very emotional day. We call came in as freshmen, grew up together and had a brotherhood, pretty much leaving a legacy of winners. I just want to leave as a winner. … It’s been very emotional, this whole senior process. Being around these players and knowing its my last year here, it’s been very emotional at times to know that I’m moving forward. I enjoyed my time here, my highs and lows here. I appreciate everything. It was amazing. Amazing staff, coaches and players that I’ve been around. I’ve had fun since I’ve been here.”

» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter: “It’s going to be fun, man. I remember getting here as a freshman and all the excitement I had my first game playing. I think it’s going to top that on Saturday. My last game in The Swamp – I’m definitely going to enjoy it, definitely going to be emotional. … I’m much more mature now. When I first came in, I wasn’t that mature. I thought everything was going to be handed to me. I saw I had to work for things and be more mature, throughout my years I’ve become better as a person and a football player.”

» Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon: “It’s just a new door opening, a new chapter in all of our lives. We put in a lot of time here, a lot of energy into this program, blood, sweat and tears. It means a lot to have one last hoorah and go through the tunnel. … [We want to be remembered] as a group that overcame a lot of obstacles and a lot of adversity and at the end of the day just stuck together and remained a family. … I plan to try to graduate first. I have aspirations for the NFL, of course, but that will come when it gets here. I’m focused on the season right now.”

» Nixon on redshirt senior left guard James Wilson: “James has evolved into a great person and a great player. He’s contributed a great amount to this team over the season.”

» Redshirt senior DT Earl Okine: “My career at Florida has been up and down. My first couple years I didn’t play as much until my third year, then injuries and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love this university. I wouldn’t have redone anything. I love this program. It will always be a part of my life. … It means a lot [being from Gainesville]. It’s a lot of pressure. … I’m pretty sure I have a shot [to play in the NFL]. I’ve heard a couple things. If this is my last year playing football, that’s fine with me. I graduated over the summer, and I might come back and finish a double major, grad school, something like that. Right now I’m concentrating on playing football for the University of Florida.”

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FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

1 » With renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium almost consistently occurring since 2003, it was only a matter of time before the University of Florida also decided to make some changes inside the bowl. In June the Florida Gators completely removed the playing surface and installed a new field of Celebration Bermuda grass, a renovation that takes place once every 7-10 years, according to Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs Chip Howard. OGGOA learned late Tuesday evening that what is being painted on that new grass will also be changing. According to information obtained by this website, the Gators will be removing the block “F” from midfield and replacing it with a Gator Head, the school’s primary athletic logo. Additionally, Florida will replace the Gator Head logos that were previously found on the 35-yard lines with the slanted “F” that is steadily being used more and more including in the end zones.

UF has also begun the process of changing the font adorning The Swamp‘s famous orange walls (see the picture above from July 27). It is believed that all four will retain their respective sayings – “This is…The Swamp,” “This is…Gator Country,” “Home of the Florida Gators” – in the new lettering. Making adjustments to the walls and field are not new for the Gators. The block “F” at midfield at one time replaced the intertwined “UF” that is still used occasionally by the baseball team. The walls were previously painted blue with orange letters in a different font prior to being repainted orange with the lettering that many have grown used to over the last few decades. One of the walls also used to read “This is…Florida Field” before former head coach Steve Spurrier coined the term “The Swamp” in the 1990s and the school decided to make a change.

Read three more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
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