Grading the Florida Gators at Alabama game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we decided to change things up a bit when looking at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fifth game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL.

OFFENSE: D
Florida scored six points on Saturday via the kicking game with the offense failing to post a single touchdown for only the second time under head coach Urban Meyer. In fact, the Gators’ output was the team’s lowest total since Meyer’s first game in Tuscaloosa five years ago. After Florida came out of the gates hot with four first downs, 74 yards gained and an opportunity score from the goal line on their first offensive possession, the offense stalled only posting a total of 27 yards the remainder of the first half. Just like they started the game, the Gators began the second half with gusto, posting a 69-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Truth be told, the second half as a whole showed better execution with Florida running 38 offensive plays for 222 total yards (vs. 28 for 101 yards in the first half). But worse than the unit’s first half production was its propensity for turnovers with redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley throwing two interceptions (one returned for a TD), freshman QB Trey Burton tossing one on a jump pass and redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody fumbling a hand-off in the red zone.

DEFENSE: C
The defense got off to a rough start on Saturday, allowing Alabama to score three touchdowns and a field goal on its first four offensive possessions. After holding the Crimson Tide to an opening drive field goal after they drove 68 yards in 10 plays, the Gators let them put together back-to-back touchdown drives and allowed a third after Brantley’s first interception. Once that barrage ended, Florida only allowed Alabama 31 total yards on their next four possessions (including a kneel down to end the first half). In fact, the Gators only gave up three first downs in the second half, two of which came on the Crimson Tide’s final possession. QB Greg McElroy was held to 84 yards passing, Heisman Trophy winning RB Mark Ingram only gained 47 yards on 12 carries and RB Tony Richardson ran 10 times for 63 yards because of one 30-yard burst.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Meyer loves special teams and we here at OGGOA love special teams. So when a guy like senior punter/kicker Chas Henry puts on a performance like he did last Saturday, it is our desire to give the unit an “A+” and go “on to the next one.” Unfortunately his career-long 75-yard punt, 62.3 yards per punt average and two made field goals were simply bright spots on a unit that showed a major flaw. Alabama WR Julio Jones‘ 41-yard punt return put a black eye on Florida’s special teams, a unit that had not allowed a single punt return yard in 20 of 22 previous games before giving some up in each of its last four contests.

COACHING: D+
Unlike last season, one thing that has stands out this year in regards to the Gators’ coaching staff is its ability to make halftime adjustments. On both offense and defense Florida drastically improved after the half though offensive coordinator Steve Addazio’s unit was still unable to cross the goal line. The first half was filled with errors on both sides of the ball; the offense started strong but was deflated after Burton’s interception and the defense just did not seem able to stop a motivated Alabama offense. Though execution is primarily at fault for the team’s misfortunes, coaching and preparedness was obviously not at the level it needed to be going into the game.

PLAY CALLING / EXECUTION / TURNOVERS
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No. 1 Tide topple No. 7 Gators 31-6 in Tuscaloosa

The rubber match of the last two Southeastern Conference Championship games was expected to be a heavyweight battle. Instead, the No. 1/1 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) showed their might with a 31-6 victory over the No. 7/7 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL, on Saturday evening.

Scoring on their first four offensive possessions, Alabama took a 24-0 lead over Florida halfway into the second quarter. The Crimson Tide scored a field goal on their opening drive and intercepted a pass from Gators freshman quarterback Trey Burton on the following possession in the end zone on fourth down.

Alabama would then get on the board with back-to-back rushing touchdowns from Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in the second quarter, also scoring on a 19-yard pass from wide receiver Marquis Maze to tight end Michael Williams with 6:09 left in the first half. Maze’s touchdown pass came after redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley threw his second interception of the season to cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on 3rd and 11 from Florida’s 27.

Gators senior punter Chas Henry, filling in for junior kicker Caleb Sturigs, ended the second quarter with a 39-yard field goal and opened the third quarter with a 21-yard field goal to give Florida its only points of the contest.

Down 24-6 halfway through the third quarter, Brantley threw another interception, this one to linebacker C.J. Mosely on 2nd and 5 from Florida’s 33 yard line, which Mosely returned for a touchdown to give Alabama its 31-6 lead.

Even with the Gators’ poor execution, the offense outperformed the Crimson Tide’s 281-273. Brantley was 16-of-31 for for 202 yards compared to Alabama QB Greg McElroy’s 11-of-17 performance for 84 yards. Ingram was held to 47 yards on 12 carries, though RB Trent Richardson ran for 63 yards on 10 touches. Florida RB Jeff Demps carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards, and redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson led the Gators with 60 yards on three receptions.

Hoping to rebound from their worst performance of the season, the Gators will take on the No. 10 LSU Tigers (5-0, 3-0 SEC) in Gainesville, FL, next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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No.7 Florida Gators at No.1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Location: Bryant–Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, AL [Capacity: 101,821]
Weather Forecast: 67°F, clear skies
Time: 8:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
Sirius/XM: 122/143
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 7 FLORIDA GATORS No. 1 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 4-0 (2-0) Record: 4-0 (1-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Alabama -8; O/U 48

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida has won 24 consecutive regular season games, 13-straight road games and 16 regular season SEC games in a row. Combined with Alabama, the duo have combined to win 52-straight regular season games. The teams have also won three of the last four national titles and have two of the last three Heisman Trophy winners.
» UA is 21-14 all-time against UF, holding a 6-5 lead in the series at Tuscaloosa. The Gators and Crimson Tide are an even 8-8 in the state of Alabama and have split the last two SEC Championship games with Florida winning in 2008.
» The Gators are 4-10-2 against defending national champions all-time, 3-2-1 since 1990, 4-6 when the team is from the SEC (3-0 since 1993). Florida is also 3-7 against Associated Press No. 1-ranked teams all-time and 2-1 in those contests under Meyer.
» The Gators lead the nation with 12 interceptions through three games. Their +8 turnover margin is tied for fourth in the country.
» For the third time in four games this season, Florida got a defensive touchdown via an interception return against Kentucky. UF has recorded at least two interceptions in every game this year, four coming from outside the secondary.
» Alabama (11.3) and Florida (12.8) are ranked first and second in the SEC (second and fourth, respectively, in the nation) in fewest points allowed per game since 2009.
» The Gators have the best red zone touchdown percentage in the SEC since 2007 (156/226 – 69%) and have the best red zone scoring defense in the nation (59/82 – 72%) in that same time period.
» Florida has gone 14-for-14 in the red zone over the last two games with 13 touchdowns and a field goal. The Gators’ red zone efficiency is 89.5 percent on the season including 16 touchdowns and one field goal.
» UF has scored 30+ points in five straight games, the longest active streak in the SEC.
» Florida has committed a nation-low 87 turnovers since 2005 and has had 24 games in which they did not give up a single turnover (best in the nation). Alabama is ranked third in the nation, only having given up 90 turnovers in the same time span.
» The Crimson Tide’s defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 38-straight games.
» Gators redshirt sophomore LT Matt Patchan attended Armwood High School (Tampa, FL) with the Crimson Tide’s Petey Smith.
» Florida redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert and freshman wide receiver Solomon Patton both attended St. Thomas Aquinas high school (Fort Lauderdale, FL) along with Alabama’s Nick Williams.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who threw 156 consecutive passes without an interception and has a 16-2 TD/INT ratio while playing for the Gators. He set career-highs in completions (24), attempts (35) and yards (248) vs. Kentucky.
» Freshman QB Trey Burton…who set a school record and SEC freshman record by scoring six touchdowns in a single game last week. Burton has eight scores on the season and has been working extensively out of the Wildcat formation while also playing H-back, WR, tight end, fullback and special teams.
» Junior running back Jeff Demps…who has led the Gators in rushing in every game this season with totals of 98, 139, 73 and 57 yards. He ran the ball a career-high 26 times two weeks ago against Tennessee and left the Kentucky game early with a sprained foot. Demps is also No. 2 in the SEC with a 32.5-yard kick return average.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson…who set a career-high in yardage (86) for the second time this season last week. As Brantley’s primary pass catcher, 16 of Thompson’s 18 catches this season have been for first downs.
» Redshirt senior WR Carl Moore…who is improving each week. After catching two first downs against Tennessee, Moore notched four more on four catches against Kentucky.
» Florida’s secondary…which has intercepted eight balls this season. Senior safety Ahmad Black (three), redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown (three) and junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins (two) and are leading the way for the unit. Brown returned one for a touchdown last week, and Black is tops on the team with 30 tackles on the year while also being the conference’s active leader in interceptions (11) and interception return yards (233). Jenkins leads the SEC with seven passes defended.
» Sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic…who has nabbed three interceptions in four games (all in UF territory) and been a tackling machine (20 in the last three contests).
» Senior punter Chas Henry…who has not only been Florida’s most valuable special teams player but will also be handling all kicking duties for the Gators for the foreseeable future with junior kicker Caleb Sturgis out of action.
» Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard…who had one of the best games of his career against Kentucky and will pay tribute to deceased walk-on defender Lamar Abel by wearing his No. 62 jersey.

» Alabama’s “Start Fast – Finish Strong”…which is a motto held by the team that has been utilized extensively this year. The Crimson Tide have a 56-16 edge in the first quarter and a 31-3 advantage against opponents in the fourth quarter this season.
» Crimson Tide RB Mark Ingram…who has 12 100-yard performances in his career and is second on his team with 33 carries for 308 yards and four touchdowns after missing the first two games of the season.
» Alabama RB Trent Richardson…who leads his team with 47 carries for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
» Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones…who leads his unit in receptions (20), yards (303) and touchdowns (2). The team has three receivers with double-digit catches this season.
» Alabama QB Greg McElroy…who has yet to lose a game as a starter in college (18-0) and is 34-0 dating back to his senior year of high school. McElroy has not lost a game since the 8th grade. He has thrown 70.9 percent of his passes for completions this year with 899 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
» Crimson Tide S Robert Lester…who leads the SEC with four interceptions.

INJURIES and INACTIVES
Injuries
Game-time decision – Junior RB Jeff Demps (foot)
Out – Redshirt sophomore LT Matt Patchan

Inactives
(Will update closer to game time)

FLORIDA ON ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The Gators are set to be heavily featured in during ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU (hosted by Erin Andrews) and continuing from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. Even though the “World Wide Leader in Sports” did not choose to host the event in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Florida and Alabama will be given an entire segment during the main program. There will be a “rivalry revisited” look at the recent history between the two teams and how the series has played out over the last few years, columnist Pat Forde will take a look at the game, and Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit will talk about UF’s defense. The Crimson Tide will also receive a feature on McElroy, while the Gators get one on Burton. Chris Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso will conclude by discussing the Gators’ chances of an upset while making picks at the end of the show. [Notes in this section are as of press time.]

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide preview after the jump!
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9/30: Florida Gators week five practice notes

No. 7/7 Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer met with the media after practice on Thursday and divulged a few important notes about the team’s fifth game Saturday against the No. 1/1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni also spoke on Wednesday. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details which you can check out below.

DEBOSE CONTINUES TO GROW

As Meyer alluded to last week at this time, redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose saw his first legitimate action last Saturday against Kentucky, catching four passes in the first quarter for 36 yards. Azzanni explained on Wednesday that Debose’s limited time on the field was by design based on the number of plays to which he had been assigned.

“[We] just had a small package for him. He practiced really hard last week. When you’re a young guy, the way you practice dictates how much you play here. That’s how it is,” Azzanni said. “He practiced great last week. So what did I do? I put together a little package for him and said, ‘This is your package. Go get it.’ […] He had a good game. […] He’s a young guy. I want him to go play really hard, really fast, and I don’t want him thinking a bunch. […] I thought he executed his package well. The way he practices this week, the package will grow.”

Meyer had similar things to say Thursday about Debose’s improvement.

“[He's] getting close. He had a good week. He’s still very much involved,” he said. “I made the comment last week and it’s going to [stay true] for the next week: If he doesn’t practice very well [he won't see the field]. He’s really coming on. Good to see that, too.” Part of what Meyer is looking for is how Debose understands and executes the playbook. “He just can’t handle it [all] right now,” Meyer continued. “That’s where a guy like [freshman quarterback] Trey [Burton] does. It’s amazing. Trey – boom – got it and go. But that’s not uncommon. It took [redshirt junior WR] Deonte [Thompson] a while. [Debose]’s doing a good job. Really good week of practice.”

DEMPS REMAINS PROBABLE

Even though he was limited in practice on Thursday, junior running back Jeff Demps continues to be listed as Probable on the Gators’ unofficial injury report. Demps had been wearing a protective boot for the last few days, which is now off according to Meyer. “[He was] limited today still. We’re going to try to practice him [Friday] more. But he’s still limited. He’s probably for the game Saturday. He wasn’t full speed moving around.”

Should Demps have difficulty playing, it was made clear that redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee will have increased roles. Meyer also mentioned that freshman Mack Brown could see additional time. “[Brown’s] a freshman with really big wide eyes. A nice guy that has a lot of talent and he’s getting a lot better,” he said.

OTHER INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh (hamstring, stitches) and Brandon Antwine (shoulder) are both “ready to go,” according to Meyer, who also said junior kicker Caleb Sturgis is slowly recovering from a nagging back injury. “He’s got that back issue. He fought through it [during] last week’s game,” he said. “It’s going to be something he’s going to have to deal with and work through and he has been. He’s done a nice job with it.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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9/27: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

AILING DEMPS SHOULD PLAY SATURDAY

Junior running back Jeff Demps aggravated a foot injury on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, something that forced him to get X-rays after the game (they were negative). Doctors have diagnosed Demps with a sprained foot and have placed him in a temporary boot so it can heal for a few days before he returns to practice. “[We are] hearing positive things about [Demps returning] later in the week,” Meyer said Monday. “We’ll update you as we go. It’s not broken. It’s not a stress fracture. [The X-ray] came back negative. Now [we] just gotta get him healthy. […] I think we are going to have Demps, so I’d rather not even think that way.”

WEEK FOUR CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced that 24 Florida players graded out as Champions after the Kentucky game, more than double any other game so far this season. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt junior QB John Brantley and redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard were singled out as Players of the Week.

Offensively, senior center Mike Pouncey; wide receivers redshirt junior Denote Thompson, redshirt senior Carl Moore and redshirt sophomore Frankie Hammond, Jr.; running backs Demps, redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee; redshirt senior left guard Carl Johnson; redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert; redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt; sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon; and redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio were honored. Nine players on defense – senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; safeties senior Ahmad Black and junior Will Hill; cornerbacks junior Janoris Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown; linebackers redshirt senior A.J. Jones and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins; and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter – shined Saturday.

It appears that there were even more Champions this week, but Meyer said there were too many to name. “There’s too many names on there to get into each one of them,” he said.

Burton was also named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday for his school-record six touchdown performance. He is the fifth Florida player this year to win a weekly SEC honor and the second to win Freshman of the Week.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

QUARTERBACKS: B
Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

RUNNING BACKS: I
Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
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Tide roll Gators 32-13 to win SEC Championship

The No. 1 Florida Gators (12-1) were denied a chance at their third National Championship in four seasons, falling 32-13 to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA, while playing for the 2009 SEC Championship. The second consecutive meeting between the two schools for the SEC title, Alabama got revenge for its defeat in 2008 and will move on to the BCS National Championship game. Florida looks forward to an at-large bid and a likely berth in the Sugar Bowl.

Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram and quarterback Greg McElroy carved up the Gators’ defense to the tune of 490 total yards (the most ever allowed under head coach Urban Meyer) and 32 points (the most allowed by Florida since its loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in 2008). Ingram finished with 189 total yards and three touchdowns as he made a strong bid to claim Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy. McElroy was 12-of-18 for 239 yards and a touchdown and also made numerous big plays with his legs.

For the Gators, senior QB Tim Tebow was 20-of-35 for 247 yards and a touchdown; he ran the ball a team-high 10 times for a team-high 63 yards on the ground. His main target, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez, caught eight passes for 85 yards, while senior wide receivers Riley Cooper (three receptions for 77 yards) and David Nelson (four for 53 yards and a touchdown) led Florida on the outside.

Up 9-0 with 5:33 left in the first quarter, the Crimson Tide gave up a 48-yard field goal to junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to bring the game within a touchdown. Alabama would get the ball back and kick another field goal, though Florida followed that up with a 70-yard touchdown scoring drive in 1:36 to close the lead to 12-10. Seemingly back in the game, the Gators’ next shot on defense was short lived. Ingram took a McElroy screen pass 69 yards on the first play of the next possession, setting up his own three-yard scoring run to extend the lead back to 19-10. A celebratory Florida crowd immediately fell silent.

On the Crimson Tide’s first second half possession, McElroy finished a 74-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to TE Colin Peek, bringing the lead to 26-13. Then, up 32-13 after another Ingram score, Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas put a dagger in the Gators by picking off Tebow in the end zone with 11:51 left in the game.

Throughout the contest, ill-timed penalties haunted Florida. All five incurred by the Gators either negated a big play or an important defensive stand. The defense, which had only given up nine scrimmage touchdowns in its first 12 games, allowed the Crimson Tide to score four on Saturday night. Florida never led in the contest and went away from its run-first mentality, rushing the ball 14 times all game, 10 of which went to Tebow. Sophomore RB Jeff Demps only had one carry for nine yards while redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey touched the ball twice for seven yards.

The Gators will find out their bowl game fate on Sunday at 8 p.m. during the official BCS Selection Show on FOX. Florida is projected to receive an at-large bid for a spot in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.

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FOUR BITS: Florida wins, Saban finds a way

1 » CBSSports.com pit two of their national columnists – Mike Freeman and Dennis Dodd – against each other on Friday. Their task, respectively, was to argue why the No. 1 Florida Gators or No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide would win the 2009 SEC Championship game. Freeman began with this: “There simply isn’t enough time to list every reason why Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC title game, so let’s just start with a few: Urban Meyer is a big-game coach and Nick Saban isn’t; super-virgin [senior quarterback] Tim Tebow; a faster defense; more depth and more speed overall.” He then focuses on Crimson Tide QB Greg McElroy, calling him “pedestrian” and explaining that the Gators’ defense will overwhelm the Alabama offense in every way.

2 » Dodd responds by calling Saban a “mad scientist” who will “create [a] way to beat the Gators.” He even admits that “it’s hard to pick against the Gators in this game.” Yet his entire argument rests on running back Mark Ingram rushing for 150 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy, kick returner Javier Arenas grabbing an interception and scoring a return touchdown (against a special teams that has barely allowed double-digit punt return yards the entire season) and Saban using revenge to fuel his team to victory.

3 » As part of his brand new television show, Sports Jobs with Junior Seau, the future Hall of Fame linebacker played the part of a reporter and followed around Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples during the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in October. The story that Seau came up with? Gators senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is “a monster” and absolutely dominant on the field. More coverage from SI includes Stewart Mandel’s article focusing on the weight of expectations the Gators face, Andy Staples’ column about the absences of junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Corey McCartney’s three reasons why Florida will lose on Saturday.

4 » No. 13/17 Florida basketball hits the road Friday night for its first true road game of the season against the Jacksonville Dolphins at 7 p.m. at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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