Gators tame Bulldogs despite Tebow’s miscues

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, yet the Florida Gators (7-0, 5-0 SEC) held on to defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-5, 1-3 SEC) 29-19 on the road Saturday night in Starkville, MS. In an environment where Florida has not earned a victory in their last four visits, the Gators played dominating defense and held the Bulldogs’ offense to six points on two early field goals.

Florida’s defense held Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon to a season-low 53 yards. The Bulldogs’ defense did their job, too, stymieing the Gators in the red zone all night long. Florida was kept out of the end zone on their first four trips in the area. Tebow scored a 26-yard rushing touchdown early to tie Georgia Bulldogs RB Herschel Walker‘s SEC rushing touchdown record (49), and RB Chris Rainey scored an eight-yard touchdown after the Bulldogs muffed a fake punt. Rainey would also block a punt in the game. Linebacker Dustin Doe intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown, though he seemed to fumble near the goal line when showboating. The touchdown was upheld by the officials.

Mississippi State’s two interception returns for touchdowns were from cornerback Jonathan Banks, who brought back one for 100 yards and caught another when Tebow’s arm was hit mid-throw in the Gators’ end zone. Tebow had just one pick-six in his collegiate career prior to Saturday night’s game. Florida linebacker A.J. Jones caught his first career interception in the game, safety Major Wright added one of his own, and kicker Caleb Sturgis missed both a 37-yard field goal and an extra point.

In the second quarter, Florida RB Jeff Demps injured his neck and has undergone X-rays to determine the extent of his injury; cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis was also injured, aggravating his hamstring. Head coach Urban Meyer said during his post-game press conference that he is not sure of the health status of the two players. Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes was dressed for the contest but did not play while nursing a sore groin.

The Gators continue to own the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games and, with their latest win, have extended their SEC road game winning streak to nine straight games. Florida will travel to Jacksonville, FL, next weekend for their annual meeting against Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

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Week 8: No. 1 Florida Gators at Miss. St. Bulldogs

Location: Davis Wade Stadium – Starkville, MS [Capacity: 55,082]
Time: 7:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 52°F – Clear skies

Online: Live for FREE at ESPN 360.
Sirius: 121; XM: 141

Florida Gators Mississippi State Bulldogs
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Dan Mullen
Record: 6-0 (4-0) Record: 3-4 (1-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22.5, O/U 49.5
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

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. Tebow has also thrown a touchdown pass in 32 of his 33 career starts.
– The UF secondary…which had its streak of grabbing an interception in 17 straight games snapped last week. It will be interesting to see if the unit, especially cornerback Janoris Jenkins, rebounds from last week.
– Florida’ Urban Meyer…who can become the first Gators head coach since Galen Hall in 1985 to win in Starkville.
Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Anthony Dixon…who set a new school record in career rushing yardage last week when he eclipsed 3,299 yards.
– Head coach Dan Mullen, offensive line coach John Hevesy, strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis and graduate assistant Angelo Mirando…all of whom previously worked for the Gators but are now on the Mississippi State coaching staff.
– Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez…who had career highs in receptions (seven) and yards (92) last week vs. Arkansas Razorbacks. He has led Florida in receptions four times this season.
– Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis…who made three of four field goals last Saturday including a 51-yarder and game-winning 27-yard shot with nine seconds left.

– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 16 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the longest in the SEC since the Auburn Tigers won 20 straight from 1993-94 .
– With a win Saturday, Florida will go 3-0 in the SEC West for the first time since 1998.
– Florida is on an 8-0 road game winning streak, dating back to 2007. Their two best played games this season – against the Kentucky Wildcats and LSU Tigers – were both on the road.
– Florida leads the all-time series vs. Mississippi State 32-18-2, though the Bulldogs lead the series at their home 7-3.
– The Gators lead the SEC in total offense (470.5), rushing offense (259.8), scoring offense (36.3) and third-down efficiency (.514).
– Florida has converted 48.6% of its offensive drives into points in 2009, best in the SEC.

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

Continue Reading » Week 8: No. 1 Florida Gators at Miss. St. Bulldogs

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Track Florida Gators en route to Starkville

The Florida Gators are on their way to Starkville, MS, to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 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 while it is in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Golden Triangle Regional Airport (KGTR)

DURATION: 1 hour 10 minutes

DEPARTURE: 7:11 p.m. EDT [scheduled 7:24 p.m. EDT]
ARRIVAL: 7:21 p.m. CDT [scheduled 7:33 p.m. CDT]

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Starkville gearing up for game vs. Gators

Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen has all but begged the residents of Mississippi to not only sell out Saturday night’s game against the Florida Gators but set an attendance record in doing so. Based on ticket sales, the school’s athletic director Greg Byrne believes Mullen will achieve that goal or surpassing the current record of 56,118.

But Mullen is not the only one in Starkville, MS, trying to turn up the intensity for Saturday. His players are just as pumped up and confident that a victory over the BCS No. 1-ranked Gators is possible.

“You can just feel it everywhere you go,” senior running back Anthony Dixon said. “The intensity in that stadium is going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen around here. It’s going to take us and the fans, the whole Mississippi State program, for us to pull this off. I don’t want to say much because I want to keep [the game plan] a secret. [Mullen] just told us that we have a chance, that we can beat them. I don’t want to say too much else and don’t want to give away our secret plan of knocking off the champs. But if we go out there and play hard and play our game, we can win this game.”

Having won four straight games against the Gators in Starkville is reason enough for the Bulldogs to be confident, but they have never faced a Florida team as talented as this one – even with the potential for three starting defensive players to miss the game. And they have yet to face head coach Urban Meyer at home, either.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, October 22nd

From time to time, OGGOA will come across tidbits and small news items we want to share with our readers. In those instances, we will be present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer said Thursday that senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is “50-50″ (questionable) for Saturday vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs. Meyer also said junior defensive lineman Justin Trattou is officially out.

– Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is campaigning for a record attendance at Scott Field on Saturday. He also told reporters that he spoke with Florida senior quarterback Tim Tebow by text message Thursday afternoon.

– According to Rivals, quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler “spent almost an entire day last week” scouting four-star dual-threat QB recruit Devin Gardner – a Michigan Wolverines commitment.

– Five-star offensive lineman recruit Seantrel Henderson, the No. 1 prospect in the nation, has delayed his visit to the University of Florida until December because of scheduling difficulties. Florida is one of six top programs vying for his services. (Rivals)

– Freshman wide receiver T.J. Lawrence is expected to miss a few weeks after having his meniscus scoped Thursday. “[Lawrence] is getting close,” Meyer said. “He had a couple good weeks.”

– The Gators coaching staff are big fans of four-star safety recruit Tony Jefferson, who wishes to visit Gainesville, FL, for the Florida State Seminoles game in November. However, Florida is reluctant and most likely will not have Jefferson visit because they want to satiate five-star S commit Matt Elam. (Rivals)

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TWO BITS: Don’t forget Hevesy; UF next for UGA

1 » OGGOA has been reporting all week on the match-up of Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer and new Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen, Meyer’s former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Florida Today points out that most are overlooking another familiar face, Bulldogs assist. coach/running game coordinator and former Gators tight ends/asst. offensive line coach John Hevesy. “I was real close to Hevesy,” Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez said. “We basically consider each other as family. It will be a little weird, but we won’t be thinking about it when we’re playing.”

2 » While Florida concentrates on Mississippi State this week, another set of Bulldogs are already setting their sights on the nation’s No. 1 team. On a Bye, the Georgia Bulldogs‘ next opponent is the Gators at the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL. Talking about the game, quarterback Joe Cox said his team has not planned any excessive celebrations like two years ago. “No,” Cox said smiling, “I don’t think we want to kick off from the 7.” On potentially beating Florida, Cox said Georgia needs to show “passion.” He continued, “We need to get a couple of big plays as a spark and then keep it going.” On stopping the Florida offense, defensive tackle Jeff Owens said the Bulldogs must hit Gators quarterback Tim Tebow low. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Owens was more colorful but decided not print his quotes as head coach Mark Richt “was nervous about them providing bulletin board material.”

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4 of 6 Florida DTs could be out for Saturday

Over the last two weeks, OGGOA has reported on the slow and steady depletion of starters on the Florida Gators defensive line. The unplanned lack of depth is getting increasingly worrisome with senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes hampered by groin and Achilles tendonitis injures, further softening the middle of the defense.

Defensive tackles redshirt junior Lawrence Marsh (ankle), redshirt sophomore Jaye Howard (knee), junior Justin Trattou (biceps tendon) and redshirt junior Brandon Antwine (shoulder) lead the interior of the line – and all four are either questionable or doubtful for Saturday evening’s Mississippi State Bulldogs game. In their stead, redshirt freshman Omar Hunter and junior Terron Sanders filled in admirably against the Arkansas Razorbacks, both being named to head coach Urban Meyer’s Champions Club.

With four of six tackles potentially out for the game Saturday, Florida has scratched and clawed in order to find some depth in senior Troy Epps (who has played so rarely it took me five minutes to find a picture of him in action), redshirt defensive end Earl Okine and junior DE Duke Lemmens. Egads!

Defensive line coach Dan McCarney updated the status of his unit: “It’s day-to-day on Howard, don’t know on him. Marsh is day-to-day, I’d say he’s doubtful. I’m hoping he gets back next week. Earl Okine, we’re working in at tackle. Omar Hunter or Tank Epps can play in there at nose or tackle. Duke Lemmens can jump in there at tackle if we needed him to. I can only coach the guys who practice. We’ve got to get those guys ready. We’re thin right now, but we were still able to win an SEC game here (last Saturday) with four of my six guys that didn’t play.”

The best part of that quote, unfortunately, is that Epps’ nickname is “Tank.”

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Gators football Tuesday 10/20 injury update

Florida Gators seniors, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (groin, Achilles tendonitis) and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (groin), both sat out practice on Tuesday. On Monday, head coach Urban Meyer told reporters Spikes is probable for Saturday’s game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Meyer confirmed on Tuesday that both Spikes and Cunningham are probable, so one would assume they were just being given extra time to rest and rehab.

Also off to the side on Tuesday were redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard (knee), junior DE Justin Trattou (biceps tendon) and redshirt junior DT Lawrence Marsh (ankle). Meyer said he is hopeful that Howard will be able to play Saturday, while Marsh and Trattou both remain doubtful.

As far as players who have already been ruled out for the 2009 season, freshman wide receiver Andre Debose (hamstring) is expected to be able to participate in spring practice while sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan (torn ACL) has been ruled out but should be able to return for summer practice.

Additional note: Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, speaking to reporters about his running backs after Tuesday’s practice, noted that he was becoming more and more impressed with the play of redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody. It was noted that Moody saw limited action Saturday because the Arkansas Razorbacks were forcing runs to the edges while Florida prefers to run Moody up the middle. However, Addazio added as a caveat that he also had two other good tailbacks (alluding to sophomore Jeff Demps and redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey) on the team.

Special thanks to Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel and Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post for some of the information contained in this post.

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