Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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6/21-23: Gators at 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Sixteen current and former Florida Gators are currently in Eugene, OR participating in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the opportunity to represent their country in the 2012 London Olympics. Below is an update on how they performed through the first three days of competition and a schedule for the remainder of the trials for each competitor.

Team Trials for track & field as well as swimming & diving (in Omaha, NE) continue until July 2. There are 32 additional Gators participating in the swimming & diving competitions.

EVENTS IN PROGRESS

MEN’S 100-METER DASH
Senior Jeff Demps2nd (Heat 2) – 10.18 secondsAdvanced to semifinals
Next competing: Sunday, June 24 at 5:30 p.m. (Heat 3)

MEN’S 400-METER DASH
Junior Tony McQuay1st (Heat 1) – 44.84 secondsAdvanced to finals
Next competing: Sunday, June 24 at 7:20 p.m. live on NBC (Heat 1)
Calvin Smith5th (Heat 1) – 45.61 secondsEliminated

WOMEN’S 400-METER DASH
Sophomore Ebony Eutsey6th (Heat 2) – 53.22 secondsEliminated

MEN’S LONG JUMP
Will Claye1st – 7.98m/26-2.25Advanced to finals
Next competing: Sunday, June 24 at 6:00 p.m. (Flight 1)
Christian Taylor3rd – 7.89m/25-10.75Advanced to finals
Next competing: Sunday, June 24 at 6:00 p.m. (Flight 1)
Freshman Marquis Dendy7th – 7.73m/25-4.50Advanced to finals
Next competing: Sunday, June 24 at 6:00 p.m. (Flight 1)

MEN’S HIGH JUMP
Junior Dwight Barbiasz11th – 2.15m/7-0.5Advanced to semifinals
Next competing: Monday, June 25 at 8:50 p.m. (Flight 1)

COMPLETED EVENTS

MEN’S DECATHALON
Senior Gray Horn3rd – 7,954Did not qualify

MEN’S HAMMER THROW
Junior Jeremy Postin14th – 67.51m/221-6Eliminated (Thursday)

UPCOMING EVENTS

MEN’S DISCUS THROW
Competing: Westley Stockbarger (June 25 at 6:30 p.m.)

WOMEN’S 1,500-METER RUN
Competing: Cory McGee (June 28 at 6:50 p.m.)

MEN’S TRIPLE JUMP
Competing: Will Claye, Omar Craddock, Christian Taylor (June 28 at 7:30 p.m.)

MEN’S 400-METER HURDLES
Competing: Kerron Clement (June 28 at 9:00 p.m. live on NBC Sports Network)

MEN’S 200-METER DASH
Competing: Dedric Dukes (June 29 at 4:45 p.m.)

MEN’S 110-METER HURDLES
Competing: Eddie Lovett (June 29 at 7:05 p.m. live on NBC Sports Network)

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SIX BITS: Beal, Olympics, Cup awards, Crawford

1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.

2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.

Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.

Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.

3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

4 » The University of Florida athletic program finished No. 2 in the nation in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Twelve Florida programs finished among the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 2), lacrosse (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), volleyball (No. 5), baseball (No. 7), men’s swimming & diving (No. 8), women’s indoor track & field (No. 9), men’s tennis (No. 9) and women’s swimming and diving (No. 10). It is the fourth-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four of the Cup’s final rankings and second time in the last three years (2009-10). Florida has never won the Cup but has finished in the top 10 in each of the 29 years it has been awarded. Stanford won for the 18th time, outscoring UF 1448.25-1314.00 in the final standings. Only 20 sports count for each school toward their final total, but the Cardinal have 35 to choose from while the Gators currently support 21 total sports.

5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).

6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.

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LaCaze leads Florida to 12 titles at SEC Outdoors

Florida Gators track & field was unsuccessful in its bid to win a team title over the weekend but 12 members of the team combined to win 12 individual titles at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships in Baton Rouge, LA.

Senior distance runner Genevieve LaCaze led the way for Florida with three individual titles in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:13.99), 1,500-meter run (4:13.44) and 5,000-meter run (16:26.38). She is the first student-athlete in SEC history to win both the steeplechase and 1,500-meters after picking up the second title early on Sunday and similarly became the first student-athlete in conference history to win all three championships after finishing the 5,000-meters later Sunday afternoon.

LaCaze is also the first UF female to win the Commissioner’s Trophy (awarded to the highest point scorer) since 2002 and tied the school women’s record for most points scored at an individual meet (30).

Junior jumper Omar Craddock continued the Gators’ domination of the triple jump, capturing the outdoor championship with a mark of 54-08.75. Florida has won the SEC Outdoor title in the triple jump three years in a row and both the SEC Indoor title and NCAA Indoor championship four-straight years. Craddock has completed a trifecta by winning three already in 2012 and will look for the sweep later this season.

Also finding success in the triple jump on Sunday was freshman jumper Ciarra Brewer, who won the women’s title with a mark of 44-6.75 – the best in the nation this season. UF has won four of the last five women’s triple jumps a the SEC Outdoors.

Florida’s men captured five more titles with junior sprinter Tony McQuay winning the 400-meter dash (45.48), sophomore thrower Stipe Zunic winning the javelin (77.87m/255-06), junior thrower Jeremy Postin winning the hammer (68.18m/223-8), junior jumper Dwight Barbiasz winning the high jump (2.25m/7-4.50) and the foursome of freshman Dedric Dukes, freshman Hugh Graham, junior Leonardo Seymore and McQuay winning the 4×400-meter relay (3:03.44).

The Gators’ women contributed two more championships as freshman jumper Taylor Burke won the high jump (1.83m/6-0) and sophomore multi-event participant Brittany Harrell brought home the heptathlon (5,838 points) title.

Neither the men nor women won a team title with the men finishing in fourth overall and the women finishing second after getting edged 161.5-138.0 by LSU. Florida’s men’s team captured the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championship, while the women’s team won the 2012 SEC Indoor Championship.

The Gators were without seniors sprinter Jeff Demps and heptathlete Gray Horn in the meet. Demps (hamstring) was injured and had to rest up for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, while Horn was suspended for the meet after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence in April. Their absences made it nearly impossible for the Florida men to have a legitimate shot at the team title.

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Gray Horn suspended after DUI infraction

Florida Gators track and field star senior Gray Horn has been suspended from the team just days before the 2012 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships.

Head coach Mike Holloway announced at the schools all-sports press conference on Monday that Horn would not participate in the event, a decision he likely made after learning Horn was arrested and charged for driving under the influence on April 14.

“Gray will not be competing this weekend. Gray’s been suspended from the team, not that I want to go into it right now but he won’t be competing,” Holloway said on Monday according to GTN‘s Julie Quittner.

Horn, a three-time All-American (two outdoor, one indoor), is the three-time defending SEC Outdoor champion in the decathlon. He also won the SEC Indoor title in the heptathlon in 2011 but was unable to finish competing in the event this year after going down with an injury (he led by 18 points).

Alachua County court records note that Horn filed a “not guilty” plea to the DUI charge and has requested a jury trial. His pre-trial conference is set for May 30 at 9 a.m.

The 2012 SEC Outdoor Championships begin May 10 and last through the weekend. Horn’s absence will undoubtedly hurt a Florida team looking to win its first outdoor conference title since 2010.

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No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field captures third-straight NCAA Indoor Championship

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field made history on Saturday by winning their third-straight national title at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships at Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, ID.

Florida posted 52 team points for the second-straight year to defeat the remaining top four including Arkansas (47), Arizona (41), Arizona State (31) and LSU (27).

With the victory, UF Mike Holloway became the third head coach in NCAA history to lead his team to at least three-straight men’s track & field titles, joining Arkansas’ John McDonnell and UTEP’s Ted Banks.

Leading the way for the Gators were individual national championship performances by juniors sprinter Jeff Demps and jumper Omar Craddock.

Demps won the 60-meter dash for the third-straight season with a time of 6.56 seconds, 0.04 seconds slower than the 6.52-second time that he achieved in the preliminaries on Friday. Demps’ 6.52-second run was not only a personal best but also a school record and collegiate-leading time. He posted four of the top five collegiate times in 2012 and became the first three-time champion in the event since Pittsburgh’s lee McCray won the 55-meter dash in 1986-88. Demps remains the only Florida athlete to ever win the event.

Craddock captured the triple jump with a personal-best distance of 16.75m/54-11.50, making it four years in a row that an athlete representing the Gators won the event (Christian Taylor, Will Claye).

Senior heptathlete Gray Horn was also in the process of winning an individual national title for Florida when he went down with an injury and was forced to withdraw from the men’s heptathalon. At the time of his withdrawal, Horn was up 18 points on his fellow competitors with two events to go.

Though the indoor season is now over for the Gators, the 2012 outdoor track and field season begins next Saturday with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 17.

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Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2011 (check out Friday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 On the Field Moments of the Year.

11 » JOHNSON, BRANTLEY, KITCHENS SUFFER SCARY INJURIES
Plenty of Florida student-athletes suffered injuries in 2011 but three in particular caused fans to gasp and remain worried about the future of said player. Participating in the semifinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Gators baseball wound up dropping a close game 4-3 to Georgia, a loss that forced an elimination game which Florida would later win. However, UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson was taken off a stretcher in the top of the first inning after giving up two earned runs and accidentally being beaned in the back of the head with the baseball by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino. Trying to pick off a runner stealing second, Zunino got his leg tangled with the batter, tripped and flung the ball into the head of a crouching Johnson. He was quickly stabilized, brought to the hospital and deemed responsive though he had a massive headache and was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding). Johnson missed the entire Gainesville Regional but returned to action in the Super Regional after being sidelined for more than two weeks.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was in the middle of playing the best game of his collegiate career (despite throwing a costly pick-six) when he went down with an ugly lower leg injury at the end of the first half against Alabama. Brantley had thrown a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game and was in the middle of driving Florida in for another score before being sacked twice and having his lower leg contorted the second time. Brantley was nearly immediately ruled out of the team’s next game against powerhouse LSU with a high-ankle sprain, and UF was forced to start a true freshman who had not even taken a snap in the team’s first five games in consecutive road contests against LSU and Auburn. Needless to say, the Gators lost both of those contests.

Brantley was never the same after the injury. He nearly helped Florida beat Georgia but was pretty much immobilized in the pocket and threw three interceptions in the team’s first five possessions against Florida State before being knocked out of the game with a head injury that was equally painful to watch. However, that was not the Gators’ only major injury in that game. Perhaps the scariest incident of the year came on kickoff coverage when sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens was hit hard from his blindside and laid motionless on the field while trainers attended to him. To this day Kitchens does not remember anything about being hit. Lucky for him, he was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, released from the hospital and allowed to return to practice with the team just before Christmas. He is expected to play in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

10 » LACROSSE WINS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE, REACHES ELITE EIGHT

The Florida lacrosse program has been making history since the day it signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The Gators were a young but talented group and won over the school even if falling short of some of their goals one year ago. Florida took the next step in 2011, ending the regular season with an 11-0 record at home and on a 13-game winning streak. The Gators capped their stellar regular season by defeating Northwestern for the 2011 ALC Championship just 419 days after the team played its first game in school history. Florida would fall to Northwestern just over three weeks later in the finals of the 2011 ALC Tournament, splitting the season’s conference title down the middle, but took home a number of awards from the league. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen won Player of the Year honors while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in just her second season. Two more players were All-ALC first team selections and three others earned spots on the second team. The ladies made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as well before being taken down 13-9 by Duke, their only loss at home on the season. The Gators were the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of existence and defeated some of the top teams in the country on the way to an unforgettable season that sets Florida up as a favorite heading into 2012.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: SEC titles, Lemmens, Kirby, Rollins

1 » Over the weekend, the Florida Gators men’s and women’s track and field teams both turned in second-place finishes at the 2011 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships. Though both squads fell short of team titles, Florida student-athletes took home seven individual SEC titles. Junior Gray Horn (decathlon), junior Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), senior Terrell Wilks (100-meter dash), freshman Fawn Miller (javelin) and junior Genevive LaCaze (steeplechase) all won SEC Championships, as did the men’s 4×100-meter relay team. Horn now holds the unique distinction as only the second athlete in SEC history to win three consecutive league decathlon titles. His total of 7,828 points over the weekend also set a school record for the event.

2 » As part of the continuing series “Parting Shots” on InsideTheGators.com, I sat down with former Gators defensive end Duke Lemmens for an extensive interview which spanned his entire career in the orange and blue. Lemmens spoke with me candidly about a number of topics including former head coach Urban Meyer, his place at Florida, thoughts of transferring and much more. Part one of the two-part series is available free to OGGOA readers. You can check it out by clicking here.

3 » If it was up to Florida’s four-star running back commitment Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, GA), all of his top high school teammates would be committing to the Gators this year. Though some have already made declarations for other colleges, four-star linebacker Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, GA) is set to announce his decision at his team’s spring game Tuesday night and is believed to have Florida as his leader. Kirby told InsideTheGators.com that both offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci will be in attendance Tuesday for the “first time to see me in person.” Kirby also had this to say about the Gators:

“I had a great visit when I went down there it was awesome, I got to meet all the coaches and go into The Swamp. The Swamp was awesome. I love the atmosphere down there I could definitely see myself fitting in there. I have two teammates there so it would be cool to go there with them; we have definitely talked about it. As far as football goes they have a great defense that really gives you an edge when it comes to getting into the NFL. I like Coach Muschamp as well as he is a very straight forward coach who has a lot of intensity about himself. He will have an immediate impact on the program.”

4 » He may not have been offered by Florida this time around, but Florida State University School DE/LB Keviron Rollins (Tallahassee, FL) plans to play for the Gators sooner than later. Rollins, who officially committed to Dean College (a junior college in Massachusetts) on Monday, told the Tallahassee Democrat that he hopes to be wearing orange and blue after he graduates from Dean College in two years. “My vision is I’m going to go up there for two years and then after that I’m going to transfer to UF,” he said. “I’m a diehard Gators fan. That’s my vision.”

Extra BIT » Former Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta had a great night for the Cleveland Indians. He was interviewed on ESPN‘s SportsCenter afterward:

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