Sturgis saves No. 1 Gators with late field goal

Missing a 37-yard field goal early in the first quarter, Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis rebounded with makes from 30 and 51 and a game-winning 27-yard attempt to help the No. 1 team in the country overcome four turnovers to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 23-20 on homecoming night in The Swamp.

In front of a crowd of 90,508 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida improved to 6-0 (4-0) on the season and kept a school record and nation-leading 16-game winning streak alive. Tied 20-20 with 4:19 remaining in the game, the Razorbacks missed a 38-yard field goal, returning the ball to the Gators on their own 21 yard line. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow led Florida on a 14-play, 69-yard drive down the field to set up Sturgis for his 27-yard kick with nine seconds remaining on the clock.

“I got kind of down on myself early,” Sturgis said about missing his first field goal attempt in the game. “I wanted to make [the last field goal] for my teammates. They work so hard, and I don’t do much [by comparison]. I was ready to hit that ball from 57 [yards] when it was third down.”

It seemed to be Murphy’s Law for the Gators throughout the game, as just about everything that could go wrong did. Florida had four fumbles (three inside the red zone), dropped three passes and allowed Arkansas to hit on a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett to wide receiver Greg Childs in the fourth quarter. Mallett threw for 224 yards while kick returner Dennis Johnson, who started at running back in place of injured Michael Smith, ran for 107 yards in his stead.

Tebow finished 17-of-26 for 255 yards and a touchdown with 69 more yards on the ground; he also accounted for 52 yards in the team’s final drive. During the game, Tebow became the all-time SEC record holder in touchdown responsibility with 123 (75 passing, 48 rushing), passing former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez led all receivers with career-highs in receptions (seven) and yards (92), while wide receiver Deonte Thompson added one 77-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Wide receiver Riley Cooper was clutch throughout the game, grabbing six balls for 58 yards and numerous first downs.

While it took the Gators the entire game to recover from their errors and squeak out a win, Tebow was hopeful that the hard fought victory would serve a purpose for his team throughout the remainder of the season. “A win like that brings you so much closer together,” Tebow said. “That will lead up to a great week of practice this week.”

Florida returns to the road next week, heading to Starkville, MS, to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN/ESPN2.

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Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 68°F – Partly sunny

TV: CBS-HD
Online: Live for FREE at CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 217; XM: 201

Florida Gators Arkansas Razorbacks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Record: 5-0 (3-0) Record: 3-2 (1-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -24.5, O/U 58
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow…who is currently second all-time to former Georgia Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker in Southeastern Conference rushing touchdowns with 48. He needs one more to tie Walker’s record.
- The UF secondary…which has an interception in 17 straight games back to 2008.
- Arkansas Razorbacks running back Michael Smith…who torched the Gators for 133 yards on 20 carries and 43 more on six receptions in 2008. Smith will be a game-time decision to play with a hamstring injury.
- Linebacker Brandon Hicks…who was shoved by Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett after making a hard tackle along the Arkansas sideline in 2008. Revenge?

STREAKS:
- The Gators have won seven consecutive games against the Razorbacks, never scoring less than 33 points in each victory. Florida is 7-1 all-time against Arkansas.
- Saturday’s game pits the top rushing offense in the SEC, Florida at 284.6 yards per game, against the top passing offense in the conference, Arkansas with 318.2 yards per game. The Gators also lead the nation in total defense (202.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.4 yards per game).
- Last time the Razorbacks played a No. 1-ranked team, they defeated the LSU Tigers 50-48 in three overtimes in 2007. Arkansas is 4-11 all-time in games against the No. 1-ranked AP team.
- The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 15 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and are tied with the Auburn Tigers for the longest winning streak in SEC history.
- Scoring at least 41 points in four of their first five games, Arkansas has already beaten a ranked team this season, the then-No. 17 Auburn Tigers 44-23 last week.
- On Saturday, Florida looks to win its 21st consecutive homecoming game.

Read OGGOA’s complete Florida vs. Arkansas preview after the jump…

Continue Reading » Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

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FOUR BITS: Injury updates. Hogs’ Smith out? Tebow/Mallett are opposites. Gator Growl.

1 » Florida Gators injury update for Saturday vs. Arkansas Razorbacks:
CB Moses Jenkins (concussion) – Out. Read this OGGOA story.
LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle) – Doubtful.
DL Lawrence Marsh (ankle) – In protective boot again. Doubtful.
DL Jaye Howard (knee) – Called “50-50” by Meyer. Questionable.
- Redshirt freshman Omar Hunter and senior Troy Epps will rotate on the inside.
WR Carl Moore (back) – Remains Out and struggling to get healthy.
CB Jeremy Brown (back) – Also remains Out, progressing faster than Moore.

2 » Arkansas Razorbacks star running back Michael Smith is being called a “game-time decision” by head coach Bobby Petrino to play on Saturday against the No.1 Florida Gators. Smith’s status remains in doubt after he tweaked his right hamstring in a Hogs win over the Auburn Tigers last weekend.

3 » Standing 6’7″ and 238 pounds, Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett is an example of your prototypical NFL passer. Tim Tebow, at 6’3″ and 242 pounds, serves as more of a physical threat with his strength, but often tucks and runs when Mallett would bide more time in the pocket. To paraphrase Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel, Tebow has finally met his physical match – and polar opposite – at quarterback.

4 » Featuring former Gators National Championship and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel as host and entertainment including comedian Dana Carvey, band O.A.R. and dance troupe Jabbawockeez, the 2009 Gator Growl is looking to be a big-time hit. The world’s largest student-run pep rally is in its 86th year of existence and looks to entertain Gators fans and visitors Friday night in The Swamp!

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FOUR BITS: Petrino vs. No. 1; Kiper’s Big Board; Harvin update; LSU cries about TD

1 » Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino will face a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in his coaching career Saturday afternoon when he takes on the Florida Gators. Losing to Florida 38-7 at home last season, Petrino and the Hogs have plenty of motivation to come back and attempt to take it to the Gators. Running back Michael Smith, who went for 133 yards against UF last season, tweaked his hamstring against the Auburn Tigers last week and is day-to-day.

2 » ESPN’s NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. has come out with his new Big Board, which lists his top 25 NFL prospects. Gators on the list include defensive end Carlos Dunlap at No. 7 (down one spot from last week) and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes at No. 19 (up one spot from last week).

3 » In a story that always seems to draw news, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin missed practice Wednesday. Harvin injured his shoulder last week against the St. Louis Rams but did not miss any game time.

4 » As if only scoring three points last Saturday night was not humiliating enough, the LSU Tigers have decided to be sore losers and ask Southeastern Conference officials to review Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper’s touchdown catch. Cooper grabbed the shirttail of cornerback Chris Hawkins and used it as leverage to get wide open in the end zone and catch a pass from quarterback Tim Tebow. The touchdown gave the Gators a 10-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the first half. “Yeah, we sent that in,” LSU head coach Les Miles said Tuesday. “I’m savoring the opportunity to call in there.”

Extra BIT » Cleveland Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip and left big toe on Tuesday. It will take the former Gators first baseman 4-6 months to recover from the injuries, which may slow him down to start the 2010 season.

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