No. 7 Florida Gators at No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 23,500]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(7) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 19-4 (7-1) Record: 23-1 (9-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +9; O/U 142.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 90-33, and the Gators are just 13-20 against the Wildcats since Donovan took over the team.
» Florida is 0-7 against Kentucky all-time when the Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the country; however, all seven of those games were played before Donovan was coach with UK’s most recent victory in such a matchup coming in 1996. Since then the Gators are 2-0 against top-ranked opponents (both wins under Donovan), defeating Duke in 2000 and Ohio State in 2007 (for the national title).
» Kentucky is 65-2 all-time at home as the No. 1 ranked team in the AP poll.
» Calipari is one of three coaches (Frank McGuire) to lead three different schools to No. 1 rankings; he has accomplished that feat in five total seasons.
» UF’s seven-game winning streak is their longest since 2009-10 (eight games) and lengthiest in-conference streak since 2006-07 (13 games). UK, on the other hand, has a 16-game winning streak including a number of blowout victories.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 16 of 23 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 674 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF has posted a positive assist-to-turnover margin in 16-of-19 victories but has put forth a negative ratio in that category in all four of their losses.
» The Gators are 284-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is one victory away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Kentucky holds a 48-game home winning streak at Rupp Arena, the longest such home winning streak in the nation.
» The Wildcats lead the SEC in rebounding margin (+7.8 per game).
» Kentucky has more wins (2,075) than any other NCAA team – ever.
» The Wildcats also have five players averaging double figures.
» Kentucky is 68-1 under Calipari when holding an opponent to 67 points or fewer.
» The Wildcats’ defense has been outstanding recently as UK has held their last four opponents to an average of 47.5 points per game.
» Florida is ranked No. 9 in scoring offense (80.1 points), No. 8 in scoring margin (14.1 points), No. 1 in three-pointers (10.5 per game), No. 12 in field goal percentage from three (40.2 percent), No. 16 in assists (16.3 per game) and No. 5 in assist/turnover ratio (1.48) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Gators are also 189th (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (68.4 percent).
» Kentucky is ranked No. 19 in scoring offense (78.2 points), No. 9 in scoring defense (57.5 points), No. 2 in scoring margin (20.5 points), No. 14 in field goal percentage (48.6 percent), No. 1 in field goal percentage defense (35.8 percent), No. 9 in rebound margin (+7.8) and No. 1 in blocked shots (9.4 per game) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Wildcats are No. 10 in fouling, committing 15.2 per game and No. 225 (out of 338 teams) in three-pointers (5.5 per game).

LAST TIME OUT

After splitting the regular season series 1-1 with each squad winning at home, Kentucky upended Florida 70-54 in the championship game of the 2011 SEC Tournament in the teams’ last meeting. Brandon Knight was one of four Wildcats in double figures and scored a game-high 17 points in the contest, while the Gators struggled offensively (38.6 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from the line) and saw Kenny Boynton lead the way with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Florida lost both halves and Kentucky’s 42.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc kept UF at a distance the entire contest.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (3,906) and treys (264) but also ranks second in points (1,620), assists (495), steals (149) and free throws made (400). Walker is No. 6 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No.23 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (687) and No. 4 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 80.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.6 points and an SEC-best 5.1 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (47.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,405) and third in three-pointers (229). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 17.6 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the line while playing a team-high 33.4 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 10.7 points, 6.5 boards and 1.0 blocks per game.
» Forwards junior Erik Murphy (#33) and sophomore Will Yeguete (#15)…who are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 46.1 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is netting 4.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 22.9 minutes per game.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 15.8 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.2 points while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

KENTUCKY
» F Anthony Davis (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounding (10.1 boards) while shooting a team-best 66.3 percent from the floor (third nationally). He is also the country’s leading defender with a NCAA-best 4.8 blocks per game and a team-high 1.5 steals (eighth in the SEC). Davis has set the SEC freshman blocks record with seven games left to play and is in consideration for a number of top conference and NCAA awards.
» G Doron Lamb (#20)…who is one of the Wildcats’ “veterans” as a sophomore and is the team’s second-leading scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. He shoots 47.0 percent from the field and team-highs of 47.8 percent from three and 82.4 percent from the charity stripe.
» F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#14)…who is another dazzling freshman, averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.0 minutes per game, the second-most on the team.
» F Terrence Jones (#3)…who is the third member of the Wildcats’ big frontcourt, hauling in 12.5 points and 6.4 boards per game. Unlike Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones also has range and is netting 36.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc while still averaging 49.5 percent shooting all-around.

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2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

Set to play their third game in six days and square off against their third top three-ranked opponent of the season on the road in the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators and head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss a number of topics relevant to the upcoming game.

DIFFICULTIES IN TAKING ON A NO. 1 TEAM KENTUCKY

After Tuesday’s game is over, Florida will have faced all three teams currently ranked in the top three of both the USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls in road games. The Gators are hoping to come away with their first victory in such an environment and will attempt to do that by looking at the Wildcats not as the No. 1 team in the land but rather just another SEC opponent.

“We never really look at it as where a team is ranked or not ranked getting prepared for them. You always look at the team because rankings and things like that are going to change throughout the course of the year,” Donovan said. “Whether they’re ranked No. 1 or No. 5, clearly they’re one of the best teams in the country. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just more getting ready for how we got to defend, what we have to do on offense and what we got to do to prepare for them.”

His mentality has obviously been passed on to Florida’s players. “We don’t really view it as playing a No. 1 team. It’s just Kentucky,” freshman guard Bradley Beal said. “It’s a league game, so we’re just coming in with the mentality that we’re going to play our game and focus in on what we need to do.” Junior G Kenny Boynton added, “It’s just a ranking at the end of the day. We’re just going to go in there to compete and win.”

DON’T GIVE DAVIS ANY EXTRA OPPORTUNITIES
Continue Reading » 2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

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Getting to know new Florida OC Brent Pease

Who is Brent Pease and how will he fit as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Florida Gators? While the second part remains to be seen, OGGOA attempted to get you some answers to the first question and four others by checking in with beat writer Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, who has been covering the Boise State Broncos throughout Pease’s entire tenure on staff.

QUESTION: What kind of coach do you perceive Pease to be in terms of his manner on the field and the way in which he interacts with his players?
CHADD CRIPE: “The best I can tell he’s got a very good relationship with the players. He’s a fiery guy, particularly when he was the wide receivers coach. It’s pretty famous around here that he got into it pretty good with Titus Young on the sideline at Hawai’i when Titus [Young] had decided to fly the hang loose sign when he scored touchdowns that day. I think he did it two or three times, and the last time he got a penalty for it, so the coaches were not happy.

“He definitely has a fiery side to him. My understanding of the relationship with the players is that they have appreciated what he has done for them in terms of what he has taught them and the way he’s pushed them. I actually talked to Titus the other day and he mentioned sort of how Pease helped him get where he is. You look at the players he’s coached and the results they’ve gotten. He’s coached some of the best wide receivers in the history of Boise State and gotten their best years out of them. With Kellen [Moore] this year, he got Kellen’s best season out of him. The results are very good.”

Background: Pease has coached and developed four of the best wide receivers in school history including Young, Austin Pettis, Jeremy Childs and BSU single-season touchdown record holder Tyler Shoemaker (16, 2011).

Continue Reading » Getting to know new Florida OC Brent Pease

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Gators basketball in top 10 of preseason polls

The preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll was released Friday and, like the USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll announced last Thursday, has the North Carolina Tar Heels slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with 62 of 65 first-place votes. North Carolina, which received 30 of 31 first-place votes in the USA TODAY/ESPN poll and returns all five starters from 2010, is one spot ahead of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Four Southeastern Conference teams made the respective polls including Kentucky [No. 2-USA, No. 2-AP], Vanderbilt [No. 7, No. 7], the Florida Gators [No. 10, No. 8] and Alabama [No. 17, No. 19].

The 2010-11 Gators were ranked No. 11 and No. 13 heading into last season, which saw them win the SEC and end the year with a record of 29-8 (13-3 SEC) that included an appearance in the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
Preseason 1-5: UNC (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Memphis, Florida
11-15: Pittsburgh, Baylor, Kansas, Wisconsin, Xavier
16-20: Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA
21-25: Marquette, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
Preseason 1-5: UNC (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh
11-15: Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin
16-20: Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama, Texas A&M
21-25: Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Demps, Rainey run wild as Gators rout Cats

It took the No. 15 Florida Gators a few drives to get their offense rolling, but after they did it was off to the races at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY on Saturday evening as Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC) dismantled the Kentucky Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 SEC) 48-10.

The Gators extended their winning streak against the Wildcats to 25 games by attacking their opponent on the ground, rushing for the sixth-most yards in school history (405) and most as a team since 1989. Senior running back Jeff Demps set a career-high with 157 yards on 10 carries and also scored twice, while redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey carried it 15 times for 106 yards and had the evening’s most awe-inspiring play.

After consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, the Gators got on the board rather quickly. On the Wildcats’ second possession of the game, running back Josh Clemons fumbled the ball. It was recovered by redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, and Florida took over at Kentucky’s 45-yard-line. On the very next play, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley threw a strike down the middle of the field to redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian for an early touchdown.

With the ball back in their hands, the Gators again took advantage of great field position. Brantley hit redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. for 20 yards, and Demps – thanks in part to a great block Rainey – took Florida the rest of the way with a 20-yard stretch run for a touchdown.

The Wildcats’ miscues continued as, on third-and-10 at their own 29, QB Morgan Newton was picked off by Gators sophomore safety Matt Elam, who returned it 18 yards to Kentucky’s 28-yard-line, setting up another short field.

One play later, Rainey took a handoff to the left, stopped, reversed field and ran it 27 yards to UK’s one after being spurred by blocks from redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio, redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar and redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson. Florida sophomore RB Trey Burton scored on a touchdown run from one yard out, his seventh against Kentucky in his two-year career.

Kentucky answered back with a 29-yard pass to tight end Nick Melilo on their next possession. Three more first-downs later, the Wildcats kicked a 24-yard field goal to reduce their deficit to 21-3. The three points were the first scored against the Gators’ defense during the first quarter this season.

Following a Florida punt, Kentucky took over at their own seven. On second down, a sack by junior linebacker Jon Bostic forced the ball to pop out of Newton’s hand and into those of redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard, who ran it two yards into the end zone for another Gators touchdown, their first defensive score of the season.

After another Wildcats punt, UF decided to keep the ball on the ground, running it on nine-of-11 plays on their next drive to set-up a 46-yard field goal attempt, which redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis converted after clanging the ball off the uprights. Brantley got injured on the last play of the drive and headed to the locker room, resulting in freshman QB Jeff Driskel taking over for Florida’s next possession.

Driskel was hit as he threw incomplete on first down before being sacked and fumbling the ball on second down. Kentucky took advantage of the short field, scoring two plays later when Newton threw it to WR La’Rod King for a 19-yard touchdown.

With the first half winding down, Driskel again returned to the huddle and again turned the ball over. After Rainey ran the ball three times for 34 yards, Driskel threw to Hammond, who caught it on the goal line; unfortunately, the ball popped out of Hammond’s hands and into those of LB Avery Williamson to end the half.

Forcing the Wildcats to punt on the opening possession of the second half, the Gators found themselves backed up at the one-yard-line. Three consecutive rushes resulted in a Florida first down, and two plays later Demps hit a big hole on the left side and exploded for an 84-yard touchdown run to put UF ahead 38-10.

The Gators gained possession again when redshirt freshman LB Michael Taylor Taylor intercepted Newton at Florida’s 25 and returned it 30 yards across midfield to Kentucky’s 45. After stalling in the red zone, Sturgis connected on a 27-yard field goal for UF, giving his team a 31-point lead with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter. He remains perfect on the season with 11 field goals and 18 extra points.

With 11:40 left in the game, Florida junior RB Mike Gillislee took consecutive carries, fumbling the second one after bumping into the referee. Kentucky was unable to capitalize, however, and Gillislee got redemption on the Gators’ next drive, replicating Rainey’s run from earlier by rushing to the right, changing direction and taking off on a career-long 60-yard run down the field for a touchdown.

Demps’s 84-yard run was the sixth-longest in school history and the longest since Emmitt Smith’s 96-yard score in 1988. Florida now has four-straight games with a 100-yard rusher, the most since they had five-in-a-row in 1999. Additionally, the Gators had two players (Demps, Rainey) each run for at least 100 yards in the same game for the first time since Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin did so in the 2009 BCS Championship.

Florida has now scored 40 or more points against Kentucky 15 times during their 25-game winning streak dating back to 1986.

Brantley, who was in-and-out of the game after being hurt, finished 8/15 for 114 yards and a touchdown, his lowest total output of the season. Christian and Hammond were the only Gators to catch more than one pass, totaling five receptions for 98 yards including Christian’s first-quarter score.

Florida returns to the friendly confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next Saturday for a showdown with No. 2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC). The game will air live on CBS at 8 p.m. UF has not defeated UA since 2008, falling in consecutive contests – the 2009 SEC Championship and during the 2010 regular season.

Photo Credit: Ed Reinke/Associated Press

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No. 15 Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Gameday

Location: Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 67,942]
Weather Forecast: 67°F, partly cloudy, winds 5 mph
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 217/200
Online Video: ESPN3
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(15) FLORIDA GATORS KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 3-0 (1-0) Record: 2-1 (0-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -20; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. on the road.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Kentucky 44-17 and has won 24-straight contests including 11-in-a-row in games played in Lexington dating back to 1988. UF is also 30-1 against UK since 1980.
» The Gators achieved more turnovers (two interceptions) against Tennessee than they did in their first two games combined (one fumble).
» Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis (of Florida) and co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter (of Kentucky) served on the same staff when Weis was head coach of Notre Dame.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offense has been impressive early this season with only three three-and-outs in 35 total offensive drives and only six punts in three games.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed one sack this year, making them the only SEC team and one of six nationally to accomplish that feat through two three.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (307) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (70) since 2008.
» Though Florida is 15-for-16 (93.8 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on nine of those opportunities.
» Teams are averaging just 1.2 yards per carry against Florida’s defense this season. The Gators are first in the country, allowing just 30.7 rushing yards per game, and are one of six teams in the nation that have not allowed a rushing score in 2011.
» Florida is No. 6 nationally in scoring defense (8.67 points per game) and No. 7 in total defense (209.33 yards per game).
» The Gators’ defense has only allowed 7-of-25 (20 percent) third-down conversion attempts to be achieved against them over the first three games.
» UF has blocked a total of two punts in three games so far this season.
» Saturday’s game is Kentucky’s SEC opener for 2011.
» The Wildcats upset then-No. 10 South Carolina last season at home.
» Kentucky is 5-0 under Phillips in games that they win the turnover margin.
» The Wildcats are 11th nationally in net punting, allowing 42.1 net yards per punt.
» UK has forced six turnovers in their first three games – all interceptions.
» Though it is early in the season, Florida is head and shoulders above Kentucky in national averages heading into Saturday’s contest. The Gators top the Wildcats in passing average 232.0-155.3 (58th-108th), rushing average 210.3-119.3 (30th-91st), points scored 37.7-19.3 (27th-100th) and points against 8.7-13.3 (6th-18th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida may have started the 2010 season slow, but they still took it to Kentucky with a dominant 48-14 victory at home in Gainesville, FL. Quarterback Trey Burton scored a school record six-touchdowns as Florida helped Urban Meyer become the sixth-fastest head coach in NCAA history to reach 100 career victories. The Gators also had a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jeremy Brown in the second quarter and saw starting QB John Brantley throw for a career-high 248 yards on 24-of-35 passing.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The Gators will not be featured on Saturday morning’s edition of ESPN‘s College GameDay, though former dazzler and current reporter Erin Andrews will host the 9 a.m. version and make an appearance on the primary program beginning at 10 a.m. Florida is one of two sites (the other being Madison, WI) expected to be in contention to host next week’s College GameDay. The Gators will take on Alabama on Oct. 1.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

» Active: Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (suspension)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (lower body), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown), redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail (performance)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 65.3 percent of his passes (47-of-72) this season for 637 yards and three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the opener. Brantley had a career-high 248 yards last year vs. Kentucky.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 520 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 19.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 6.8 yards per carry so far this year including 105 in the season opener. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps returned Saturday against Tennessee and now has 163 yards and two touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (eight) and fourth-most receiving yards (68) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver. He has already scored three touchdowns this season and has totaled 98 yards on 15 total touches.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role. He has the second-most tackles on the team with 13 including a career-high seven and his first forced fumble against UAB.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (20 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) throught he first three games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who have combined for 29 tackles. Bostic, the leading tackler on the team, has already registered three for a loss, and Jenkins has accounted for four pass breakups already this season. Each player also has a sack.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 1.5 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has seven tackles on the season including 1.5 for losses.
» Redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is the team leader in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two pass breakups and seven total tackles.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on nine field goal attempts (long: 51) and 12 extra points, leading the nation in both categories while leading the Gators with 39 points scored this season.

KENTUCKY
» WR La’Rod King (#16)…who leads the team with 226 yards and three touchdowns and achieved the first 100-yard game of his career this year against Central Michigan.
» QB Morgan Newton (#12)…who set career-highs against Louisville by going 27-of-41 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 466 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions over the first three games.
» S Winston Guy, Jr. (#21)…who is the second-leading tackler on the team with 30 (four for losses) but leads the Wildcats with two interceptions and a sack on the year.
» RB Josh Clemons (#20)…who is a freshman leading rusher with 193 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. He posted a career-high 128 yards against Central Michigan and combined for just 67 yards on 23 carries in the other two contests.

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Track the Floida Gators en route to Lexington

The Florida Gators are on their way to Lexington, KY, to face the Kentucky Wildcats in their first road game of the 2011 regular season. An ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive EXCLUSIVE, the following is the flight information for the Gators, who are flying over on an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 twin-jet. You can also track the flight live in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Blue Grass Airport (KLEX)

DURATION: 1 hour 9 minutes

DEPARTURE: 3:35 p.m. EDT [scheduled 3:30 p.m. EDT]
ARRIVAL: 4:44 p.m. EDT [scheduled 4:55 p.m. EDT]

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9/21: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

Updated at 1:00 p.m.

With the Florida Gators just days away from their fourth game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. against the Kentucky Wildcats, he spoke with the media during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week three action.

GATORS’ PUNTING SUCCESS IS VERY STRAIGHTFORWARD

If you follow OGGOA on Twitter (and you should), then you may have seen a retweet we sent out Tuesday evening from a Kentucky sportswriter who believes Florida is skirting the rules on punt blocks. This was triggered by something Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips said during a press conference on Tuesday about the Gators’ punt block team: “They’ve got big guys pulling this guy that way, and this guy that way and a little fast guy with world-class speed comes up the middle to block it. And you can’t get off the block,” he said. “We’ve got to punch them in the mouth when they try to grab you and get their hands off of you and come off and block the little guy that tries to split the gap.”

Asked about the play Tuesday, Muschamp responded with one of his (now standard) quips. “We just play hard. We play hard and coach hard,” he said. “I’m real pleased with what we do. They didn’t throw any flags on that play, did they? OK. We just ran a guy through a gap.”

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, whose team was victimized by the punt block on Saturday, brushed off the question, too. “If we do our job, we’re not even having this discussion,” he said.

Muschamp also expanded on why Florida has been so successful blocking punts over the last few years. “We have good players – that’s the first thing that jumps out at you. We’ve got some guys that got some special ability. There’s been a huge emphasis on special teams, obviously when Urban [Meyer] was here, and I’ve carried that over. Special teams are very important to me,” he said.

“I always talk to the players in terms of, if you want the opportunity to play in the National Football League, the old Bill Parcells line, ‘If you’re not a quarterback or an offensive lineman and you don’t play special teams, you’re a selfish football player.’ I live by that. Our guys understand our best payers will play on special teams – you look at what Chris Rainey and a lot of our starters do – we have good players.

“Second thing is we have good speed. You create space plays in special teams, you got to have guys who can run. And then the third thing, I think D.J. Durkin – our special teams coordinator – does an outstanding job. He puts his guys in the right spots, he does a great job with scheming guys to get good players free in certain situations whether it’s the returning game or specialist or whatever. He takes a combination of all those things, that’s why we are where we are.”

He even discussed how the Gators blocking a punt can significantly affect the outcome of that particular game. “The percentages of winning the game go through the roof. It’s such a deflating thing for the punt team,” he said. “I don’t think off the top of my head I’ve won many games if we’ve had a punt blocked. It’s hard to do. The change in momentum, obviously you can easily score off of it either by the scoop or the next offensive possession. The momentum of the game certainly can slip pretty quickly.”

Asked to clarify his comments at the end of the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, Phillips said he was not trying to insinuate that anything Florida was doing was against the rules. “There’s nothing illegal with that. Nothing,” he said. “Everybody does it. We try to do it also. There’s nothing illegal about it. I wasn’t saying there was anything illegal about it. I was saying they do a great job of it.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp said redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed has a “lower body” injury that is not specifically a hamstring problem. It is the same injury that kept him out last week, but the team has an outside chance of seeing him return to the field. “We still got a shot. He’s been moving around a little bit. He’s a little gimpy here and there, but who knows, we got a lot of time until Saturday,” he said.

» Opening statement: “[I’m] very pleased to be 3-0 with a good conference win over Tennessee. Heading to Lexington this weekend is our first road game. We got 16 guys in our two-deep who have not been on the road yet or got on a plane. It’ll be interesting there. Kentucky is playing very well defensively; they’re giving up 13 points a game and leading the SEC in kickoff coverage and punting. They’re playing well so we’ve got our work cut out for us, especially with the newness of what we’re trying to do.”

» On linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins being so in sync: “Over a period of time as far as practice is concerned, they’ve played together last year, first of all. Number two, they’re very close off the field. Generally in my experience in coaching, guys that are close on and off the field generally have a bond. […] As much as anything, they’re both highly intelligent young men, very driven. They’re good football players and very productive for us. Those guys have a good bond of the field and they see things the same on the field.”

» On if redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey is doing well off the field, too: “I can only judge from the time I’ve been here. He’s done everything we’ve asked and then some as far as being accountable on and off the field as a football player, a member of our football team and this university. He’s a guy that is early in the meetings, works extremely hard as far as workouts are concerned and practiced, [and] does everything that’s asked of him academically. He’s been a great example for the rest of our football team.”

» On if Rainey should be in the race for the Heisman Trophy: “I think you look at the first three ball games and his production and what he’s done for our football team – running, catching and all the special teams [like] the return and blocking kicks – you’re talking about value to a football team. It’s a long season. We need to continue to play consistently well at his position and what he’s doing for our team. There’s nothing that tells me he won’t from the standpoint of how he’s working in practice and how he’s approaching the game.”

» On the Gators’ depth at running back: “We’ve really consistently played that group of guys [Rainey, Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee, Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer] and have been very productive at the position. A lot of that credit should go to Charlie [Weis]. Here’s a guy that’s identified, ‘OK these guys are playmakers. These guys can do good things for us. Let’s narrow their role down based on what they can do and their skill set.’ I think he’s done a really good job of identifying what they do well.”

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