10/16-17: Florida players discuss team, USC game

Five Florida Gators players – redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., senior safety Josh Evans, sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green – met with the media this week to discuss No. 2 Florida’s upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks. Below are a few choice quotes from the players.

» Hammond on if he wishes the Gators threw the ball more on offense: “I’m a receiver. I’d rather them throw it to me the whole game because I’m the receiver. I want the ball. But you got to understand, that’s not the motive of the game. You got to run, you got to throw, you got to be balanced. If running is working, I have no problem blocking down field for [Mike] Gillislee, Matt Jones or any of those guys in the backfield. We’re just doing what it takes to win ballgames.”

» Evans on Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore: “He’s a good back, physical guy. I think he lost a step a little bit from what we’ve seen before, but he’s still showing statistics. Nothing to take away from him. [...I think that’s due to the [ACL] injury.”

» Evans on head coach Will Muschamp ensuring that Florida plays better at home this year: “That’s something he talks to us about every day, about holding down The Swamp and make sure we keep everybody happy. [Losing] is one thing you don’t like to do. It’s a bad day when you lose in The Swamp. Everybody’s down and it takes a lot to get back after that. Winning in The Swamp means a lot to the defense and this team.”

» Evans on how the fans help each week: “Fans being behind us 100 percent gives us the energy and strength to move forward.”

» Joyer on not carrying the ball much and having a quiet role: “I really don’t care. That doesn’t bother me at all. I’m not looking for TV time or my name to be talked about a lot. I just want the team to do well and success for all of us.”

» Halapio on Gillislee: “Somehow he just finds little creases, little holes here and there. I feel like, when he gets to the second level, there is no stopping him.”

» Green on strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman: “Coach Dillman, he’s got a great plan and offseason for strength and containing. We like him a lot. We put a lot of our success towards him and the stuff he does. It benefits us on the field. We feel like we’re in the best shape we’ve been in, so we credit him a lot.”

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10/13: Florida at Vanderbilt post-game report

No. 4/6 Florida Gators football (6-0, 5-0 SEC) kept the positive momentum going on Saturday with a 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN. The Gators became bowl eligible with the victory and matched their win total from the 2011 regular season while getting off to the team’s best start since 2009. Florida head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida now holds a 22-game winning streak against Vanderbilt including 21-straight in the annual series dating back to 1992. Those 21-straight wins rank second-longest nationally in an uninterrupted series (UF’s 26-in-a-row over Kentucky ranks first).
» The Gators have started the season 6-0 for the first time since 2009.
» UF is 11-1 against unranked opponents and 2-5 against ranked teams since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Florida is 9-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 10-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points and 8-3 when scoring first.
» The Gators had been converting 41.7 percent of their third-down attempts this season but went just 2-of-11 (18.1 percent) against the Commodores.
» Florida had been holding opponents to 25.3 percent on third-down conversions but allowed Vanderbilt to convert 7-of-17 attempts (41.2 percent) on Saturday.
» UF out-possessed opponents by an average of 10:38 through five games but let VU win the possession battle by 6:20.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 98-23 in the second half and 54-10 in the fourth quarter. The Commodores’ 10 fourth-quarter points on Saturday were the first UF has allowed all season.
» Florida had not allowed a touchdown in nine-straight quarters before Vanderbilt scored on on its opening drive Saturday.
» The Gators are +7 in turnover margin through five games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (329) since 2000.
» Florida did not grab an interception for the first time this season.
» Vanderbilt sold out a home football game for the first time since 2008.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring), who was expected to be active for the game, was indeed dressed but did not play as his injury gave him issues. Muschamp believes he will be fine for the South Carolina game.

Redshirt senior left guard James Wilson, who had started all five games this season, injured his eye in practice on Wednesday and could not make the trip, Muschamp explained. He is expected to miss practice on Monday, return Tuesday and be able to play against USC.

Junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who tore his ACL last season and has experienced swelling in his knee throughout the season, had more again this weekend and did not dress for the game. He should also be able to play next week.

Five players got injured on Saturday. Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (upper body), redshirt junior center James Harrison (arm), freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle), freshman tight end Kent Taylor (ankle) and redshirt junior TE Jordan Reed (eye/head) all got hurt with Reed the only one to return to the game. Muschamp did not have more extensive updates on the players but said he would on Monday.

“I’m extremely pleased to be able to rush for that many yards and have three starting offensive linemen down. That says a lot about our guys stepping up and ‘man down and man up,’” Muschamp said, pointing to freshman LT D.J. Humphries, redshirt sophomore LG Ian Silberman and senior senior C Sam Robey. “When you run for 300 yards, you’ve done something right. Very pleased with those guys stepping up and doing a nice job for us.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 10/13: Florida at Vanderbilt post-game report

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QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

The Vanderbilt Commodores gave the No. 4/6 Florida Gators everything they could handle on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN, but it simply was not enough to pull off the upset as Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) always had an answer for Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3 SEC) and picked up a hard-fought 31-17 victory.

The Gators out-rushed the Commodores 327-126 in an effort led by Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel, who scored three rushing touchdowns and bested Tim Tebow by setting a school single-game record for a quarterback with 177 rushing yards.

Vanderbilt got on the board first, completing a six-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in quarterback Jordan Rodgers’s first touchdown pass since the second week of the season. The Commodores benefited from a 15-yard penalty at the beginning of the drive when kick-catch interference was called on Gators sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for hitting the punt returner too soon after he caught the ball.

Purifoy then got beat by wide receiver Chris Boyd for a 37-yard reception, and Florida junior safety Matt Elam was leapt over in the end zone three plays later as WR Jordan Matthews hauled in the touchdown. It was the first touchdown UF had given up in nine quarters dating back to the Tennessee game in week three.

The Gators finally registered some points on their first possession of the second quarter. Florida took over at its own nine yard line and put together an 11-play, 91-yard drive to score its first points of the game. Senior running back Mike Gillislee tallied 27 yards on the possession, but it was sophomore QB Jeff Driskel who scampered 37 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown.

UF then decided to go for two and converted as junior RB Trey Burton took a keeper into the end zone on a spread-out formation to give the Gators an early 8-7 lead.

Read the rest of the Florida-Vanderbilt story…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

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FOUR BITS: Evans, O’Day, Taylor, McDonald

1 » Florida Gators senior safety Josh Evans opened up to the New York Post recently about the difficulties he faced after losing his mother over six years ago while still in eighth grade. In fact, Evans had to come to grips with the situation head-on considering he was the only one in the house at the time of his mom’s passing. “I was actually there. My mother had been dealing with cancer for a couple of years, and I had no clue, I didn’t know she had cancer because I was young, my parents didn’t want the baby boy to know that she was sick to that magnitude,” he explained. “It was toward the end of the school year, graduation was coming up, eighth grade, I had a day off from school. So my father went to work and he said, ‘Make sure you check on her every 10-20 minutes.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I will.’ After he left, 10, 15 minutes went by, I walked back in the room to check on her and that was it. I saw something that changed my life forever.” Read more.

2 » Two former Florida baseball players began the 2012 MLB Playoffs late last week though only one remains past the wild card qualification weekend. Right-handed pitcher Darren O’Day has already seen action as a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles as the team got past the wild card stage and is now engaged in a five-game series with the New York Yankees. Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross, on the other hand, hit a two-run homer in his team’s game but is now out of the playoffs due to the Braves losing.

3 » Former Florida jumpers Christian Taylor and Will Claye – who took home gold and silver, respectively, in the triple jump at the 2012 London Olympics over the summer (Claye also won bronze in the long jump) – are two of six male athletes nominated for 2012 Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year, an award that recognizes track & field’s best male and female athlete. The award will be officially presented on Dec. 1. with fans receiving the opportunity to vote for their favorite.

4 » San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald may not post the gaudy stats like some of his contemporaries, but he is just as integral to his team’s success as any of the top players at his position in the NFL. Speaking with the 49ers’ team website last week, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio raved about what McDonald brings to the table each day. “He has a tremendous impact on any game and on our defense,” he said. “When teams have a hard time running, he’s right in the middle of that. Whether he’s being credited with a tackle or not is irrelevant.” After playing sparingly as a reserve in his first few seasons, McDonald was signed to a starter’s contract in 2011 (five years, $20 million) and moved into that role last year. He is more than living up to his end of the bargain and could be in line for a raise before his deal expires in 2015.

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10/6: Florida vs. LSU post-game report

Florida Gators football (5-0, 4-0 SEC) came away with a signature win on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL as they upended the LSU Tigers (5-1, 1-1 SEC) in a match-up of top-10 teams. It was the Gators’ first victory over the Tigers since 2009 and marked an important win in the young career of head coach Will Muschamp, who spoke with the media following the contest.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida is 2-0 against ranked opponents in 2012 after going 0-5 against such foes in 2011. UF has also improved 3-0 when trailing at the half in 2012 after going 0-5 in similar situations just one year ago.
» The Gators are 8-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 9-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points.
» Florida is outscoring opponents 78-13 in the second half and 41-0 in the fourth quarter through five games in 2012.
» The Gators have not allowed a touchdown in nine-straight quarters.
» Florida has started a season 5-0 for the first time since 2009.
» The Gators defeated a ranked opponent at home for the first time since Nov. 15, 2008.
» Florida defeated an SEC West team in Gainesville for the first time since Oct. 17, 2009.
» The Gators have held opponents to just 19-of-75 (25.3 percent) on third down conversion attempts.
» Florida won the time of possession battle by 14:52, nearly a full quarter. It is the second-straight week in which UF held a similar margin (15:22 vs. Kentucky).
» The Gators ran the ball on 25 consecutive plays to end the game.
» Florida has registered at least one interception per game this season.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who returned to action Saturday with a cast on his hand after missing two full games with a broken thumb, barely got a chance to make an impact as he went down with a hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return to the field. Muschamp said after the game that Jenkins likely just tweaked his hamstring and team doctors expect him to be able to return to practice in a few days.

Read the rest of what Muschamp and the players had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 10/6: Florida vs. LSU post-game report

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Gameday: (18) Florida Gators at (23) Tennessee

Location: Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, TN [Capacity: 102,455]
Weather Forecast: 78°F, mostly cloudy, winds NNE at 4 mph
Time: 6:00 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
SiriusXM: 137/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network (affiliates)
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(18) FLORIDA GATORS (23) TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Derek Dooley
Record: 2-0 (1-0 SEC) Record: 2-0 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3; O/U 48

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what happened with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Florida one win away from hitting “start fast” goal | Pease: Offensive line remains the strength | Freshmen contributing defensively | QB Driskel, TE Reed can get offense rolling | Gators are tougher, more experienced

EXTRA CREDIT: Four things Florida must do to take down Tennessee in Knoxville

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Florida is looking to extend its seven-game winning streak against Tennessee, which dates back to 2005. The Gators are 22-19 all-time against the Volunteers but just 11-10 in Knoxville. Additionally, UF is 20-6 against UT (9-4 in Knoxville) since 1976.
» Saturday’s game will be featured as the host site for ESPN’s College GameDay. It is the 23rd time (15-7) that Florida will be on the road for College GameDay and the team’s 34th occasion in which they have been featured on the program. The Gators were the visiting team for College GameDay last week as well and defeated Texas A&M.
» It is the seventh time in the history of the television program that UF-UT will be featured on College GameDay (second-most all-time). ESPN will be in Knoxville with the show for the first time since 2004.
» Florida is 9-1 against unranked opponents and 0-5 against ranked teams since Muschamp took over the program in 2011. Tennessee is 13-4 against unranked teams and 0-10 against ranked opponents since Dooley took the helm in 2010.
» Muschamp and Dooley know each other well having previously worked together under head coach Nick Saban at LSU (2001-04) and with the Miami Dolphins (2005).
» The Gators and Vols are both ranked heading into their showdown for the first time since 2007. UT is ranked for the first time, period, in 64 polling weeks.
» For the first time since 1996, Florida was not slated to open its SEC schedule against Tennessee (UF played TAMU last weekend). The Gators and Volunteers game will not be aired by CBS at 3:30 p.m. for the first time in eight years.
» UF won its eighth-straight league opener last Saturday.
» Florida was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but has started the 2012 season 1-0 in that category after outscoring Texas A&M 10-0 in the second half last Saturday.
» The Gators are 5-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. Florida is also 6-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points and 6-3 when scoring first.
» UF has converted just 8-of-28 third-down attempts (28.6 percent) this season.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 8-of-31 on third down (25.8 percent); UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 23-7 in the second half and 17-0 in the fourth quarter through two games this season.
» Florida’s defense is one of 10 nationally that has not allowed a passing touchdown.
» Tennessee’s offense has eclipsed 500 total yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2000 and hit that mark in its first two games for the first time in school history.
» The Volunteers are ninth nationally in passing offense (353.5 yards per game) and 15th nationally in scoring offense (43 points per game).
» Tennessee has four scoring drives of 34 or fewer seconds through two games.
» The Vols are 10-1 under Dooley when eclipsing 25 points (13-3 when scoring 20+).
» Tennessee’s defense is +3 in turnover margin this season and nabbed four interceptions against N.C. State in the teams’ season opener.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida captured its seventh-straight victory over Tennessee when the programs met last season with the Gators defeating the Volunteers 33-23 in Gainesville, FL. UF took an early 16-0 lead on UT thanks in part to three field goals by Caleb Sturgis though Tennessee scored just before the half to reduce their deficit to 17-6. Florida wasted little time in expanding their lead, scoring two touchdowns (one an 83-yard pass from John Brantley to Chris Rainey) in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to jump ahead 30-7. The Gators’ defense softened from there as the Vols outscored them 17-3 over the remainder of the game, but Florida’s early lead catapulted them to victory and their seventh consecutive 3-0 record to start the season.

ESPN: KEYS TO THE GAME

Read the rest of the Florida-Tennessee preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both sides of the field.
Continue Reading » Gameday: (18) Florida Gators at (23) Tennessee

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Injuries pile up for Florida Gators: Jenkins, Riggs out; Powell re-injured; Gillislee good to go

One would think the news would be more positive for the No. 17/18 Florida Gators coming off a big win on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies, but head coach Will Muschamp actually spent most of his weekly Monday afternoon press conference delivering plenty of bad news as it pertains to his team’s health.

“We’ve kind of got a saying around here: ‘Man down, man up,’” he said.

Muschamp announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (fractured foot) will both miss at least a month after being injured against Texas A&M.

Jenkins, who had surgery on Monday, will definitely be out at least for this week’s road game against the Tennessee Volunteers but may be able to return sooner than his timetable dictates if doctors approve a protective device for his hand.

Riggs, however, could be out as long as six weeks depending how his foot heals as doctors said he does not need surgery on the fracture.

Freshman LB Antonio Morrison will take over for Jenkins as the starter at Will, but the Gators will also see plenty of redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor in a reserve role at both inside positions. Junior Darrin Kitchens will also have a bigger role in the defense.

Defensive backs sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers both filled in for Riggs on Saturday and will continue doing so in the near future. Junior Matt Elam will likely transition back to playing much more safety while junior Jaylen Watkins, who moved into the starting cornerback role last week, will take over at nickel.

The bad news continued as Muschamp added that junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April during the team’s spring game and hoped to return sometime in October, re-injured his knee while rehabbing and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“He is being reevaluated next week. He has got some swelling on the knee. We took the MRI – probably a little too much swelling to tell really where he is right now,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to reevaluate him next week. Very disappointing for him. Really a setback as far as where he is and where we thought he would be at this point as excelled as his rehab has gone.

“Talking to him [Monday] morning and his parents throughout the weekend, more than likely Ronald will redshirt this year. It’s just disappointing for him, a guy that mentally has been a rock, just been amazing in how he’s handled the process. And again, he’s handled it very well. The diagnosis is not totally final yet; we want to look at it again next week. Certainly it has put a speed bump in the recovery process. Very disappointed for him and us.”

Not all was negative on the injury front.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has four of his team’s five touchdowns this season and appeared to hurt his groin while scoring in the fourth quarter on Saturday, only “strained” the muscle and will be able to practice all week.

“He’s going to be fine. He’ll be fine for this weekend,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to practice [Monday]. We just had a staff meeting and they said he is going to practice, so I think he should be fine. We probably won’t rep him 40 times [in practice]. We’ll make sure he’s ready to go for Saturday [and] we feel like he’s fully available.”

Senior safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (cramps) are both good to go as well.

Florida will also get sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders (hamstring, suspension) and freshman tight end Kent Taylor (concussion) back for the Tennessee game though redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (strained pectoral) will probably be out until the bye week (at least two more weeks).

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9/8: Florida at Texas A&M post-game report

No. 23/24 Florida Gators football (2-0, 1-0 SEC) struggled in the first half but turned things around in the final 30 minutes and defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (0-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. After the game head coach Will Muschamp discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a good win for our team. The guys continue to fight hard and play the game and play it for 60 minutes. And it wasn’t always pretty – first half defensively. Third down was an adventure. You’ve got to give them credit. Johnny Manziel is a fantastic athlete. He’s a guy that really has got legs and he extended plays and made plays for them. You got to give him credit. A lot of off-rhythm plays, very difficult to defend. We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference. There was no magic potion. We came in and told the guys just to squeeze blocks, play thicker on blocks, quit running up the field. You get an illusion that these guys are a passing football team and really they’re not right now with Johnny. They’re a running football team; a screen, short, controlled passing game. He’s going to have high percentages in every game because of the throws that they’re making and asking him to do.

Offensively I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Obviously whether it was protection, holding the ball too long at the quarterback position or we had a busted route I know on one of the sacks where the ball should have gone – we got to get that stuff cleared up. A 3rd-and-1 late in the game was critical for us; we did not convert, which was very disappointing. But we ran the ball well, we stayed balanced in the game, and we moved the football. Coming into this environment, which is a pretty solid environment, I thought our guys responded well, hung in there and did what we had to do to win the game.

Guys, we’re going to have a lot of games like this now. It’s just who we are. We’re going to grind it out. We’re going to win. That’s what we kind of are as a mentality as a football team as we continue to grow and mature through the year.”

WINNING THE FOURTH QUARTER

SEC opponents outscored the Gators 72-22 in the fourth quarter during Muschamp’s first season in 2011. Florida was much better not only in the fourth quarter but in the entire second half on Saturday, coming from behind out of the break for the first time in Muschamp’s tenure (1-5). The coach undoubtedly noticed this improvement and praised his team for its efforts.

“The second half we just played more disciplined football. They were 0-for-6 on third down; we forced six punts. We did a nice job of flipping the field in some situations,” he said. “[We] really won the game on offense there at the end. When they knew we were going to run it, we ran it. We had to run it. The 3rd-and-1 [failure] was disappointing but other than that, heck man, when you line up and are able to run the football and people know you’re going to run it, that’s what you have to do.”

He continued, “Last year, I don’t know, man. I don’t know if we win this ballgame. As far as running the football when you had to [in order] to win. Making stops defensively when you had to. Doing the things you got to do to win football games.”

Muschamp said the biggest change defensively in the second half was the defensive line. Florida’s aggressiveness was hurting them as Texas A&M invited the rushers to run up the middle while Manziel hit the creases that were created by those actions.

“I told them, ‘I’m firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage, squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That’s what you want to do. Just sit on the line of scrimmage and get your hands on people and play thick on people. If you’ll do that then we won’t have run lanes anymore.’ And we didn’t have any run lanes in the second half,” he explained.

Muschamp called the final possession the “happiest moment in Florida history for me – that and the Ohio State game,” noting that being able to run it successfully when your opponent knows that is your intention puts a smile on his face. He was also ecstatic about the victory as a whole, especially one coming in such a tough road environment.

“I told our team, ‘I’m not big into those sort of things.’ With all of our hospitality in the SEC, we’re trying to make everybody happy. Everybody wanted the glory story here with A&M and they didn’t get it. I’m very proud of our team to come in here, play well and do what we had to do to win the game,” he said.

“We played two games and we’re 2-0. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

”I’M NEVER GOING TO…APOLOGIZE FOR WINNING”

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M post-game report…after the break!

Continue Reading » 9/8: Florida at Texas A&M post-game report

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