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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Soccer, tennis fall; Volleyball sweeps Georgia

Friday was a tale of two outcomes for University of Florida sports teams, with soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball all in action across the country. The most important game of the day was No. 8 Florida Gators soccer (15-5-2, 8-1-2 SEC) taking on No. 15 South Carolina Gamecocks (17-3-1, 7-3-1 SEC) in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference Championship Tournament in Orange Beach, AL.

After winning the regular season and defeating the Tennessee Volunteers in the first round, the Gators fell 1-0 to the Gamecocks. Ironically enough, Florida defeated South Carolina 3-0 one week ago in Gainesville, FL, to clinch the SEC regular season title. The Gamecocks scored their lone deciding goal off of a penalty kick at 10:36 in the first half, the first to be successfully scored against the Gators all season.

Also in action were players from the school’s tennis teams. Freshman Allie Will dropped a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision to Pichittra Thongbach of the Boise State Broncos in the round of 16 at the ITA National Indoor Tennis Championships. Considered the second leg of the collegiate Grand Slam, Will was the lone Florida female to earn a spot in the event and now holds a 20-3 singles record and 13-3 doubles mark on the season. The men’s doubles team of junior Alexandre Lacroix and redshirt senior Antoine Benneteau, who were previously undefeated, lost an ITA quarterfinal match 8-6 to Tennessee’s Boris Koncic and Rhyne Williams. Lacroix, who was also competing in singles consolation action, won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 over Patricio Alvarado of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

Last but certainly not least on the evening was No. 9/11 Gators volleyball (19-3, 13-2 SEC), who earned their seventh consecutive sweep of a league opponent by taking down the Georgia Bulldogs (14-11, 5-9 SEC) 25-16, 25-20, 25-14. Four Florida players hit better than .500 and sophomore hitters Kristy Jaeckel and Kelly Murphy combined for 23 kills on the night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Volleyball will be back in action on Sunday against the Auburn Tigers in Gainesville at 1:30 p.m. The match will air live on Sun Sports.

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Slive, SEC slap Urban Meyer with $30K fine

For his comments about Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nick Williams‘ blindside hit on Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow that were made during a Wednesday Southeastern Conference phone call with reporters, head coach Urban Meyer has been fined $30,000 by commissioner Mike Slive.

What did Meyer say that was so blasphemous?

“I’m not sure I’m allowed to give you that, what they said,” Meyer said. “I don’t want to step out of line. Once again, I’ve always had great confidence in [SEC officials]. That should have been a penalty in my opinion. You’ve got to protect quarterbacks. That’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. But once again I have great [respect for the SEC officials]. 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.”

He barely seems to bend (let alone break) the SEC bylaw being enforced.

SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 requires that coaches, assistant coaches, players, support personnel and others associated with the institution’s athletics program refrain from public criticism of officials.

Head coaches are advised that suspensions and fines for violations of Bylaw 10.5.4 made by assistant coaches or other support personnel will be enforced against the head coach.

“Coach Meyer has violated the Southeastern Conference Code of Ethics,” Slive said Friday. “SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 clearly states that the coaches, players and support personnel shall refrain from public criticism of officials. The league’s Athletics Directors and Presidents and Chancellors have made it clear that negative public comments on officiating are not acceptable.”

In this particular instance, Meyer did not publicly criticize the officials, which is what the rule is about. Meyer did make a comment about the play, but he did not criticize. He went out of his way to ensure this by actually propping up SEC officiating twice. There is a HUGE difference between what Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin said (questioning the integrity of the conference and its officiating) and Meyer’s innocuous comment following-up on a reporter’s question.

“As I stated last week, I have great respect for Commissioner Mike Slive and the Southeastern Conference and I respect this decision,” Meyer responded. “There was no intent to criticize an official after being asked about a situation that occurred last Saturday, and I apologize for my remarks.”

Even so, Slive had no choice but to levy the fined. Not because Meyer violated the rule (he didn’t), but because Slive’s hands were tied. He couldn’t suspend Meyer because that would have been absurd. Yet he could not refrain from giving Meyer any punishment because he had to enforce a rule that was only five days old at the time. Meyer was strictly a victim of circumstance.

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SEC bylaw on potential Meyer fine/suspension

Rather than simply speculate on how Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive will rule on Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer after comments he made about a single play call in Saturday’s Georgia Bulldogs game, OGGOA went straight to the source and acquired the bylaw that is applicable in this situation.

SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 requires that coaches, assistant coaches, players, support personnel and others associated with the institution’s athletics program refrain from public criticism of officials.

Head coaches are advised that suspensions and fines for violations of Bylaw 10.5.4 made by assistant coaches or other support personnel will be enforced against the head coach.

What is important to note is that the amount of the fine and/or the length of the suspension are at Slive’s discretion. In this particular instance, Meyer did not publicly criticize the officials, which is what the rule is about. He actually followed Slive’s instructions almost perfectly by first sending in the video with a complaint through the proper channel. Meyer did make a comment about the play, but he did not criticize. He went out of his way to ensure this by actually propping up SEC officiating both before and after his statement. There is a HUGE difference between what Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin said (questioning the integrity of the conference and its officiating) and Meyer’s innocuous comment following-up on a reporter’s question.

Even so, Slive must levy be fined. Not because Meyer violated the rule (he didn’t), but because Slive’s hands are tied and he has no other choice in the matter. He cannot suspend Meyer because that would be completely absurd. Yet he cannot refrain from giving Meyer any punishment because the conspiracy theorists would immediately be up in arms. Meyer will, unfortunately, be a victim of circumstance.

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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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Notes from Urban Meyer on Rainey, Georgia

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer made himself available to the media on Wednesday and touched on a few specific topics.

– Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey is all set to play Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores “unless there is a setback” with his re-injured shoulder.

– Meyer said Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nick Williamslate hit on senior quarterback Tim Tebow “should have been a penalty in my opinion.” He submitted tape of the incident to the Southeastern Conference for review and received an answer, though that particular answer has not been made available.

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Olympic swimmer Beisel will attend Florida

Now 17, Elizabeth Beisel has already competed in one Olympic Games – 2008 in Beijing, China. She finished in fourth in the 200-meter individual medley and fifth in the 200-meter backstroke. While she trains hard and attempts to earn her way back to the 2012 Games in London, England, Beisel has decided to attend the University of Florida in the fall.

A native of Rhode Island, Beisel informed Florida Gators swimming and diving coach Gregg Troy last Saturday that she would be wearing the Orange & Blue in the coming school year. Most recently, she won two individual titles at the U.S. National Swimming Championships in June and a bronze medal in the 200-yard backstroke in August at the World Championships in Rome, Italy.

In other Gators swimming news… All-American Shaune Fraser was named the National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week for the second time so far this season. Fraser helped Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) win its third dual meet of the 2009-10 season (defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 139-104), earning first place individually in both the 200 fly and 200 IM, while contributing to the UF 400-yard medley relay with his butterfly stroke.

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