Week 9: Gators post-game news and notes

Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) snuck a 34-31 overtime win by the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, at EverBank Field. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

OH HENRY!

By now everybody knows what happened Saturday – after missing his initial field goal attempt wide left in the first quarter, Florida senior punter Chas Henry nailed two in a row including a 37-yarder in overtime to ice the game. However, what is not known is how much that one kick meant to Henry. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “The main thing that went through my mind was how I let my team down two weeks ago against Mississippi State. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. I got so much support through the coaches, my family and friends, and my brothers in the locker room. The internal family we have is as strong as you can get. I let them down one time. I was never going to let it happen again. It felt great. Unbelievable.”

Henry’s field goal was so emotional that it caused head coach Urban Meyer to immediately drop to his knees according to those on the scene. Why exactly did he do that? “After he hit that field goal? It was Chas Henry hitting a damn field goal. Think about that for a minute. That’s not easy,” Meyer said. I didn’t realize I did that. It was a good moment.”

Meyer gave Henry three opportunities to kick field goals Saturday because he had confidence in the young man after seeing how he played in practice on Thursday. “He’s got a strong leg; he just has not majored in that,” he said. “We thought we were going to have Caleb [Sturgis]. Caleb came out Wednesday and kicked beautifully. Then his back, he could’ve pushed it but we’re not going to do that – it could hurt him for a long time if he hurts it more. On Thursday, Chas came out and hit every field goal. We always go right-left, right-left, right-left, right-left, and he went right up to 42 yards, I think he was seven-for-seven.”

THRICE IS NICE FOR WILL THE THRILL

Though only two of his three interceptions will count when looking at the box score 10 years from now, senior safety Will Hill’s performance will be remembered for some time. Following in the footsteps of some of the Gators’ other terrifying free safeties, Hill came through when it counted by saving a two-point conversion and starting Florida’s celebration early with an 89-yard interception return (that did not go for a score) in overtime. He had been struggling all season and even failed in protection on an early Georgia touchdown, but Hill got some of his mojo back by the time the whistle sounded.

“[Ahmad] Black had good coverage on A.J. [Green],’’ Hill said of the overtime interception. “He tipped the ball and it just fell in my lap. I just saw an opportunity and made the best of it. I was struggling earlier in the season and coaches never gave up on me, teammates never gave up on me. And for me to come out and playing like this, it’s just like paying the team back.’’

“Big play of the day,” Meyer said of Hill’s overtime pick. “And from what [defensive coordinator] Teryl Austin mentioned in [the locker room], he said it was Will Hill’s best game. We’ve been waiting for that all year. Will Hill played very well tonight.” Austin had his thoughts as well. “You saw it today. He played. He played like a Florida safety plays,” he asid. “He made some wonderful plays out there today. He was physical, he hit guys, he intercepted the ball, he did a great job for us today. Really proud of him.”

FLORIDA FINDS A LONG-LOST “EDGE”

Aside from injuries and execution, one of the main reasons the Gators’ offense has been so vanilla this year is because the team found it difficult to find an edge. Meyer believes Florida found exactly that over the last two weeks and wishes he would have identified it and installed it earlier this year. “I could kick myself for not doing that more this summer,” Meyer said of using a steady two quarterback rotation. “I did not anticipate…Trey Burton’s one of those guys, I didn’t know he was that good as a runner. I thought he was pretty good and then he was dynamic. Jordan Reed did a nice job, came in and gave us some two-plus yardage plays. We’re going to do more of that. We have to find that edge. Florida’s always had the edge.

“In ’05 we really didn’t really have one, and then ’06 we had some edge when we recruited Percy [Harvin] and then Dallas [Baker] came on. Then obviously Tim [Tebow] went crazy in ’07, ’08 you had a bundle of them – there’s edges all over the place. […] We’re just still trying to find what that edge is. You can’t play offensive football without it. You can sit and run between the tackles, you can run perimeter plays or you can throw, and if you don’t have that edge than it’s just a mess. And that’s kind of where we’ve been. We’re looking at tempo as an edge, multiple quarterbacks as an edge and development of players. You want to get that speed back with [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps, that helps us a lot as well.”

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION

Ask any of his teammates or the player himself, and it is obvious Rainey has had a tough few weeks after being suspended indefinitely following his arrest. In addition to being scolded by the coaching staff, administration and the media, Rainey has been hard on himself and made a concerted effort to turn his life around. Saturday’s game was the first he had played in more than a month, and Rainey made the most of it going off for 241 all-purpose yards including 84 rushing yards.

“Rainey stood up after the game and thanked God for giving him a second chance. He’s taking full advantage of it,” said senior center Mike Pouncey, one of Rainey’s best friends. “He thanked the whole administration – [athletic director] Jeremy Foley and the president [Bernie Machen] – and he thanked God as well. He thanked everyone for giving him a second chance because without Jeremy Foley and President Machen, it wouldn’t be possible for him to play right now. I love Chris like a brother. [...] He’s been living with me since high school, and we have a special relationship. I felt his pain those weeks he was out. He loves football. He’s a great person, and I know that was one of the happiest moments of his life just to be out there with us playing.”

Meyer attributes Rainey’s presence to many of the other big plays made during the game. “The threat of a perimeter issue opens up – the Trey Burton touchdown, that was a lot of the Tim stuff we used to do when you had Percy,” he said. “If you have a threat of this [holds arms out], it sometimes opens that [em>points arms to middle] up. That’s the mix of perimeter and interior rushing. That’s a direct result of having a perimeter.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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FOUR BITS: ESPN coverage of Florida basketball

1 » With Florida Gators basketball’s 2010-11 season set to begin Thursday in the form of an exhibition match against Florida Tech, ESPN heaped some praise on the program Tuesday. First up was Andy Katz, who sees a team that is ready to return to a championship level of play after a few years of mediocrity.

“It definitely feels like the last three years, that I’ve been another player, not been able to do anything great with my teammates for the fans and the University of Florida to remember me,” senior forward Alex Tyus told Katz during a recent interview. “If we have a great year this year, hopefully they’ll remember the guys who came in after Al and Jo and left with their piece of the pie.”

Fellow senior forward Chandler Parsons recounts what happened that first season after the Gators’ best six players left. “It was as tough a time as I’ve ever been through,” he said. “We got kicked out of here [the Florida practice facility] and practiced in high school gyms two or three times a day when we were getting ready for the NIT and then after the season was over. But that’s what coach [Billy] Donovan does — he pushes you and puts your back against the wall to get the most out of you.”

Katz touches on a number of other topics in his article including junior point guard Erving Walker noticing a lack of leadership upon arriving in Gainesville, FL, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton setting his sights on the Final Four and freshman power forward Patric Young never wavering on his commitment.

2 » Also spotlighting Florida on Tuesday is ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has named Young as the No. 2 overall 2011 NBA Draft prospect in the Southeastern Conference. Ford believes Young “looks like a 27-year-old NBA player in his prime” and calls him “an absolute physical specimen that has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard.” Saying Young is “already an elite defender and rebounder,” Ford spoke with a NBA general manager who said “He’s one kid who could step in right now and play for an NBA team because of his defensive ability. Where he goes offensively really determines his ceiling, but his floor is already very high.”

3 » To Young’s credit, he told The Florida Times-Union in April that he plans to play for the Gators for either three of four years while earning his degree. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but I have a backup plan and that’s to have an education,” he said. “That ranks second, right behind my faith, in terms of importance. I eventually want to do something else in basketball, whether it’s to be an announcer, work for a team or have a business involved in the sport.”

4 » Former Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus, now a writer for ESPN Insider, has tabbed UF to win the SEC this year. He also took a humorous look at how Florida and its Gator Chomp still haunts his dreams. “I had nightmares about the Gator Chomp for weeks after losing the 2007 National Championship to Florida. But even though I hate it so much, there really is nothing like it in college basketball. […] Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go battle the recurring night terrors of Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer opening and closing their arm-jaws amidst a wave of confetti. Thanks, Florida.”

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 7 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 7 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance.OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the seventh week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Three receptions for 51 yards, touchdown (targets: 6, long: 37)
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Three rushes for 41 yards (long: 17), rushing touchdown, team-high five receptions for 65 yards (targets: 8, long: 37), three kickoff returns for 81 yards (long: 48)
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Interception return for touchdown, tackle

Videos of Cooper and McDonald’s plays available by clicking here.

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Two solo tackles
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Six tackles (one solo)
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Two receptions for 25 yards (targets: 4, long: 16)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Reception for 10 yards
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Three tackles (one solo)
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Six tackles (five solo)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Denver Broncos: Team-high four receptions for 54 yards (targets: 9, long: 22)
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Team-high 10 tackles (seven solo)
DT JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Tackle
LB CHANNING CROWDER, Miami Dolphins: Three solo tackles
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Three solo tackles
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Team-high five receptions for 54 yards (targets: 8, long: 24)
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Tackle
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Two quarterback hits
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Two rec. for 29 yards (targets: 4, long: 20)
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Fumble recovery
LB BRANDON SILER, San Diego Chargers: Solo tackle

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
LT Max Starks (Steelers); G Cooper Carlisle (Raiders) – DE Jarvis Moss (Broncos), QB Tim Tebow (Broncos), DE Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), FB Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

BYE WEEK
DT Joe Cohen (Detroit Lions)

INACTIVES
S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), CB Lito Sheppard (Vikings), RB Fred Taylor (Patriots)

NOTES
- Murphy re-injured his clavicle and left the game.
- Cooper recorded his first NFL touchdown. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, telling Cooper that he should celebrate, did a Gator Chomp on his behalf on the sideline.
- McDonald recorded his first NFL interception.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6

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Former Gators McDonald, Cooper shine Sunday

Though OGGOA will still be posting our Florida Gators in the NFL week seven recap on Monday, we wanted to take a moment to showcase the performances of two players in particular who made big plays for their respective teams on Sunday.

» San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald with a pick-six:

» Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper brought in a great 43-yard reception. He also scored his first career NFL touchdown and was taught how with a Gator Chomp to celebrate by teammate running back LeSean McCoy:

Special thanks to OGGOA Twitter follower John C. for the final video.

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TWO BITS: volleyball wins, Crowder on helmets

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (17-1, 10-0 SEC) improved to 9-1 against top 25 opponents this season with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-20) shutout victory over the No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers (15-5, 7-4 SEC) on Wednesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Florida junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the Gators with a team-high 12 kills. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy contributed a match-high 15 digs along with seven kills and 17 assists, while senior OH Callie Rivers added nine kills and seven digs. Florida is rated No. 1 in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and has won 12-straight matches since falling to then-No. 1 Penn State on Sept. 10.

2 » Former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins, spoke out Wednesday when asked about the NFL’s decision to seriously crack down and possibly suspend players for helmet-to-helmet hits. “If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me,” Crowder said. “They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it. If I’m knocked out, I don’t know where I’m at, I can’t say my name, now I can’t play football. If I get hit in the head and black out for a second and now I get back up dizzy, OK, I’m ready to go.” Crowder believes the NFL is “making a big deal about nothing, adding, “They want to save the receivers and quarterbacks because they sell all the jerseys. They don’t give a damn at all about the defensive players because we don’t sell as many jerseys as them. If they want to change football to a graceful sport, change it all the way to a graceful sport. Don’t try to save the quarterbacks and receivers because they make the money, which that’s what they’re doing.”

Extra BIT » Over the summer we here on OGGOA covered former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s journey with World Wrestling Entertainment as he “competed” on the WWE NXT television program created to find the company’s next breakout star. Though he was eliminated early on, Bullard’s background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers; he even did a Gator Chomp at the top of the entrance ramp before entering the ring. As his in-ring character Titus O’Neil, Bullard returns to Gainesville on Friday, Oct. 29 as he competes with current and future WWE superstars in a Florida Championship Wrestling event at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. A member of UF’s Hall of Fame, O’Neil was also a Student Body Vice President in 2000.

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TWO BITS: Hammond ticketed, Shands Chomps

1 » Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., whose DUI case came to a close Wednesday after he reached a resolution with Alachua County court, was ticketed for a traffic violation on Aug. 31, according to court records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. Per the records, Hammond was late for an appointment with a therapist he was seeing to meet the conditions of his DUI case and, after his planned ride fell through, hopped on a moped or motorcycle to make it on time. Police cited him for not wearing headgear during the ride, which he took with a suspended license. Hammond’s original punishment – a year of probation, 50 hours of community service (and a $500 fine) – has been adjusted to a year of probation and 20 work-crew days, as Hammond has already completed 15 community service hours.

2 » Shands at the University of Florida is currently running a Chompetition for Gators fans to get their very own music video on the scoreboard at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the team’s last home football game of the season on Nov. 20. Listen to the song below and Do the Chomp with instructions found here!

Do the Chomp!

And here is the latest Shands commercial featuring the Gator Chomp:

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TWO BITS: Volleyball splits, soccer wins in OT

1 » Hosting the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, over the weekend, No. 4 Florida Gators volleyball squared off against two of the best teams in the country – the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions and No. 5 Texas Longhorns. The Gators (6-1) were able to split their two games, falling 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-23) to the Nittany Lions (7-0) but winning 3-2 (25-11, 27-25, 16-25, 20-25, 16-14) against the Longhorns.

In the two matches, junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy posted a total of 27 kills, 37 assists and 20 digs, earning her a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Joining her on the team was senior outside hitter Callie Rivers, who posted 16 kills and 16 digs combined in the two matches. The schedule does not get any easier for Florida, which will take on No. 16 Kentucky to begin Southeastern Conference play on Friday.

2 » Just behind volleyball rankings-wise is No. 6 Gators soccer (6-0), which utilized an overtime victory to top the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (4-2) 2-1 on Friday at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, FL. Well into the second half, Florida sophomore midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak gave the Gators an early lead with a deflected goal at 62’. Things were looking bleak for FSU until Janie Cayman knocked one through at 89’ just before regulation time expired. However, UF redshirt sophomore MF McKenzie Barney obviously had somewhere important to be, because it only took her 15 seconds into the overtime period to turn a serve from senior defender Nicky Kit into a golden goal for the Gators.

Extra BIT » President Barack Obama may be doing a Gator Chomp on Monday as Florida’s 2009-10 NCAA National Championship-winning men’s track and field and women’s swimming and diving teams will be recognized for their accomplishments at the White House. The Gators will be joined by 31 other NCAA title teams who will have the opportunity to honored by the President on the White House lawn.

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Emmitt Smith apologies for omitting Gators

From the moment his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech concluded Saturday night, speculation surrounded running back Emmitt Smith’s omission of the Florida Gators when discussing his career and progression to the NFL.

Did he purposely snub the University of Florida, or did he accidentally forget to mention them due to the emotion and importance of the evening?

Smith took the first step in making amends Sunday, answering the questions head-on via four posts on his Twitter account. The following quote is an edited summary of his tweets:

Thanks for all of the good wishes about the Hall of Fame…need to say a special hello to my Gator Nation. I sincerely, sincerely apologize for not mentioning you last night in my Hall of Fame speech, Gator Nation. I just got caught up in everything. Pleaase charge it to my mind, not my heart! Once a Gator always a Gator. I loved everything the University of Florida gave me.

The Gators’ Ring of Honor member was also interviewed during Sunday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. He once again recognized Florida when prompted by Al Michaels:

“Technically my speech was supposed to be less than 20 minutes, so I stretched it out to 24…and I forgot one most important ingredients: my Gator Nation. And I sincerely apologize for not recognizing the University of Florida and Urban Meyer and Jeremy Foley and all of the Gator Nation. Because the Gator Nation truly helped me get on the platform on the collegiate level which led to where I’m at right now here in Canton.”

Smith concluded his interview segment with a Gator Chomp.

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