TWO BITS: Meyer and Tebow, Floyd and Elam

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow went out for dinner in Morristown, NJ recently in a sit down that was reportedly not completely focused on trading stories and favorite bible verses. According to the New York Post, Meyer “pitched Tebow on the idea of helping him recruit for the Buckeyes” while the player “focused on the food, even picking at Meyer’s meal of [pappardelle] after having plowed through his own.” It should be noted that the Post’s story is primarily focused on how Tebow consumed “four heaping plates of food during a single meal” and not the topic of conversation between the two diners.

2 » With the Gators now at 3-0 and 2-0 in SEC play, NFL analysts are beginning pay extra attention to some of Florida’s most talented players. In the latest editions of their Big Board and Top 32, respectively, Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay each listed one UF player as talented enough to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Kiper placed junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 20 on his Big Board ($), noting that “his quickness is more menacing on the interior and he has a great burst, drawing double-teams and penetrating.” McShay entered junior safety Matt Elam at No. 27 on his list of the Top 32 ($), saying that “he’s simply playing too well to be kept out of the rankings.” He continued: “He’s solid in run support and coverage, and always seems to be around the ball, like when he was making 10 tackles last week against Tennessee.”

Two five-star recruits for the Gators in 2010, Floyd and Elam receiving recognition and interest at this point is not surprising. It has long been believed that both players could leave the team early though a source close to Elam’s family told OGGOA last week that Abe Elam, Matt’s brother and a seven-year NFL veteran currently playing for Kansas City, would only allow Matt to depart if he is a sure-fire first-round selection.

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Gators men’s tennis team eliminated from NCAAs

It has taken years of jokes and a round of 16 men’s tennis match in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, but the Ohio State Buckeyes have finally defeated the Florida Gators. No. 5 Ohio State (34-3) eliminated No. 12 Florida (16-10) from the event with a 4-1 win on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Friday’s loss marks the second-straight year that the Gators have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the round of 16. Florida has never won a team national title.

The Buckeyes easily took the doubles point with a pair of 8-1 and 8-3 victories, but the Gators were much more competitive in singles action. No. 42 junior Bob van Overbeek (3-6, 3-6) and No. 48 junior Tripper Carleton (4-6, 1-6) were defeated in straight sets, but sophomore Florent Diep (6-4, 6-2) picked up a victory and sophomore Mike Alford (7-6, 1-6, 0-6) took his opponent to three sets. Florida was in the middle of two other highly contested singles matches when Alford was defeated to end the competition.

The Gators will regroup for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships scheduled for May 23-28. Florida’s singles competitors and doubles teams will look to win the squad’s first national titles since 1999 and 1993, respectively.

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 12-9 SEC) continued to falter over the weekend, dropping two of three games to the Arkansas Razorbacks (31-13, 11-10 SEC). Florida has now lost 10 of their last 20 games (including one each to North Florida and South Florida) while also struggling to put forth consistent performances at the plate and on the mound. For instance, the Gators scored just five runs in 27 innings over the weekend. Florida picked up a 3-2 victory on Friday before falling 5-1 on Saturday and 3-1 in 10 innings on Sunday. The Gators were supposed to get a reprieve with a nine-game homestand but instead went just 5-4 over that span of games. Florida will have three full days off before travelling to Kentucky for a three-game series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. UF fell to No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 and No. 7 in the Baseball America rankings on Monday.

» Gators softball (43-8, 20-5 SEC), also ranked No. 2 heading into the weekend, dropped their final home series of the regular season to the Kentucky Wildcats (26-27, 12-13 SEC) over the weekend. Florida fell 2-0 in the series opener (their second-straight shutout and fourth of the season) before picking up a 5-0 win on Senior Day Saturday and dropping the rubber match 5-1 on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger picked up a win on Saturday and a loss on Sunday to bring her to 13-4 on the season while sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-4) added a loss Friday despite pitching quite well over the weekend. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) began her Senior Day with a big-time solo homer in her first at bat on Saturday, giving her another nice memory for her career. UF will conclude the regular season with a three-game road series at Alabama over the weekend.

» Florida five-star 2013 point guard commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) threw down a strong dunk over the weekend and followed it up with a Gator Chomp while staring straight into the camera. Think he’s ready for the big time?

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

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SIX BITS: Rainey, Noah, softball, lax, tennis, NBA

1 » NFL.com’s Gil Brandt took a look back at the Florida GatorsPro Day on March 13 and came away with some very interesting information. He clocked Rainey in at 4.41 and 4.35 seconds in his 40-yard dashes and said that he also impressed while working out at wide receiver. Brandt (among others) believes Rainey is a sure-fire third-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. He also noted that WR Denote Thompson “ran blistering 4.31 and 4.32 40s” and also worked out as a defensive back and “looked good, even though he has no experience playing there.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was ejected from Saturday’s game after throwing a ball near a referee but was contrite and apologetic on Sunday when asked about the situation. “I don’t know what’s going to happen about that,” Noah said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I just want to apologize to the ref. I just feel bad for what happened. I just want to apologize to the ref for coming at him like that. It was wrong of me. I was just frustrated. I just hope he reads this and accepts my apology.” The NBA decided not to suspend Noah for his actions, which were not overly aggressive.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (29-1, 10-1 SEC) swept the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12, 2-9 SEC) in three-straight games over the weekend, earning three impressive victories on Friday (6-0), Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (5-0). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1, S3) led the way for the Gators on the mound, registering two wins and a save in the three contests. She combined to pitch 15.0 innings and allowed just six hits and six walks while registering 15 strikeouts. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was dynamite at the plate, going 8/11 with two homers, four RBIs, six runs and a walk. She was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday.

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (10-2, 1-0 ALC) continued their winning ways with a 10-8 victory over the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 0-1 ALC) to open conference play on Saturday. Florida’s veteran junior class combined for just three goals on the afternoon as a pair of freshman midfielders led the way by putting most of the numbers up on the scoreboard. Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy combined to score six goals on 10 shots, propelling the Gators over the Buckeyes.

5 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (13-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 11 Gators men’s tennis (10-7, 3-3 SEC) each registered weekend victories over the No. 19/unranked Ole Miss Rebels. The women won 6-1 at home in Gainesville, FL behind victories from all but one of their ranked players, while the men earned a 5-2 win on the road in Oxford, MS in nearly identical fashion.

6 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford updated his latest top 100 prior to the 2012 NBA Draft. Ford currently has three Florida players listed on his rankings: freshman guard Bradley Beal (No. 3), sophomore center Patric Young (No. 25) and junior G Kenny Boynton (No. 93). Young has already said that he intends to stay in school for his junior season, but Beal and Boynton have both been mum about their respective futures. Beal would be a “lock” in the top five and potentially as high as No. 3 overall, according to Ford, while Boynton is unlikely to be selected in the draft and would likely play overseas if he left.

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FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, softball, gym

1 » Having returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, nine-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-12) picked up a hard-fought 70-65 victory over the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-7) in first-round action on Sunday. Florida led early and maintained their advantage throughout the contest, eventually pulling away in the final few minutes for the win. Junior forward Jennifer George led the way for the Gators with 16 points (she also added six rebounds), but senior guard Lanita Bartley was the player of the game with 15 points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Florida will now face top-ranked Baylor (35-0) and player of the year Brittney Griner on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. live on ESPN2.

2 » No. 1 Gators baseball (19-1, 3-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 17 games, sweeping their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) with another pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday. Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-5 over the weekend, beginning with a 10-2 victory in their Southeastern Conference opener on Friday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators pulled out a 5-1 win on Saturday on the heels of one of junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson’s best outings. Johnson improved to 3-0 while recording a career-high nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings and giving up just two singles. UF was up 1-0 through 4.5 innings but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth including two RBIs apiece from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, HR, R, BB) and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/5, R). Florida captured Sunday’s contest with an 8-2 victory behind another solid outing from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The Gators offense was fueled by a trio of solo homers from Tucker (1/3, RBI, 2 R, BB), freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1/4, 2 RBI, R) and freshman second baseman Casey TurgeonSEC Player of the Week award in his career on Monday.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (26-2, 7-1 SEC) also swept a conference opponent over the weekend, taking down the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-12, 2-6 SEC) by a combined score of 17-3 over three days at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers and freshman RHP/first baseman Lauren Haeger dominated the weekend for the Gators. Rogers (14-1, S 2) earned two victories and a save, while Haeger (8-1) picked up a win and also went 5/8 over the three-game stretch with a homer, six RBIs and a run scored.

4 » No. 6 Florida lacrosse (8-2) defeated the William & Mary Tribe (2-6) 21-8 on the road Saturday. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led Florida with five goals, and UF added four more each from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

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Florida basketball celebrates tournament wins

The Florida Gators men’s and women’s basketball teams were each victorious in their respective games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The seven-seed men defeated the 15-seed Norfolk State Spartans 80-54 in the evening after the nine-seed women topped the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes 70-65 in the afternoon.

Below are a pair of videos courtesy of GatorVision.tv featuring the men’s team and women’s team celebrating their respective victories in the post-game locker room.

The Florida women’s team will take on top-ranked and undefeated Baylor in second-round action on Tuesday, while the Gators’ men’s squad will square off against three-seed Marquette in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

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2012 Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State post-game

The Florida Gators (7-6) capped their lackluster 2011 season with a rousing victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Monday. After the contest, head coach Will Muschamp and some Florida players were made available to the media to discuss some of the notable occurrences before, during and after the game.

MUSCHAMP’s TWO POST-GAME STATEMENTS

Accepting the trophy on stage after the team sang the school alma mater and fight song, Muschamp delivered the following statement to his players, their families and the fans remaining in the crowd after the game:

“I can’t talk real well right now. I’m proud of these players, fighting through a tough situation, a tough transition, but they hung with us all the time. I appreciate the Gator Nation. We’re building a program, not a team, and it takes time, and I appreciate your patience. I’m going to tell you what. We’re going to have a better football team next year because of these young men you got right here. And you’ve got an outstanding staff. Go Gators.”

He began his post-game press conference in a similar fashion:

“[This was about] sending the seniors out the right way. We got a lot of good kids in that locker room. We got some guys that have had a very frustrating year. The realization of this whole thing, if you really want to see big picture, is in the last two years at the University of Florida we’re 15-11. That’s unacceptable. That’s what we are. We’re one game’s difference from last year. We’re 7-6; we were 8-5 last year. Sometimes I think you got to put your realistic glasses on of where you are and what you are as a program right at this point. And it’s not where we’re going to be very long, I can assure you of that. We’re moving in the right direction.

“I’m very pleased with the attitude and the effort and the drive of our young men. They kept fighting in the game and kept playing; they did it the entire season. I don’t think you could turn the tape on and watch a team that wasn’t giving effort, wasn’t trying to play with the right kind of toughness. It wasn’t always what we wanted at times. It was frustrating at times, and I appreciate the backing of our administration in what we’re trying to do. I’ve said it before and I mean this sincerely: We’re not building a team, we’re building a program. That takes a foundation to start, it really does. You stay the course with what you’re trying to do and what you believe in and the hardcore values of what you want. It isn’t always what you want. You get criticized and those sort of things, and that’s part of the deal. That’s part of being the head coach at the University of Florida, and I fully accept that.

“[I’m] excited for our football team. We need to get better and that starts with me. For our entire organization, 7-6 is not acceptable at the University of Florida. We’re looking forward to getting started on January 9. When we start school, we’re going to have a good team meeting that day and get these guys ready to go. That’s when our season starts for next year. It’s good momentum. There are a lot of guys out there knowing their opportunity to come a place like Florida, get an outstanding education, play for a great staff and be a part of a winning tradition..”

HIRING PROCESS WILL NOW BEGIN
Continue Reading » 2012 Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State post-game

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Special teams, defense lead Florida to 24-17 win over Ohio State in 2012 Gator Bowl

Offense was not the Florida Gators’ strong suit this season, but Florida (7-6) got just enough of it Monday to compliment a sterling effort from their special teams and defense en route to a 24-17 toppling of the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

The Gators and Buckeyes were tied at a touchdown apiece minutes into the second quarter until a kickoff return and punt block were each brought back for touchdowns to give UF a 21-10 lead and help the team pull out a much-needed victory to end a tough first season under first-year head coach Will Muschamp.

Florida started out at their own 40-yard-line after the opening kickoff fell out of bounds at the one. The Gators got two quick first downs before redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was hit from behind and, after a review that overturned an incomplete pass, the loose ball was ruled a fumble and given to the Buckeyes. OSU moved down the field but consecutive sacks by UF sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd forced a punt.

The Gators took over on their own 20, and Brantley began leading his team down the field once again. On first-and-10 from the Buckeyes’ 22-yard-line, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) and Brantley (right forearm) both went down with injuries when the latter was sacked. Brantley would return to the game and two plays later threw a 17-yard strike on third down to redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thomspon for the first touchdown of the game.

Thompson’s reception was questioned by Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell as it appeared the ball came loose when he hit the ground, but Florida got on the field to kick the extra point before he could call a timeout to force a review.

A review wound up being called on the ensuing possession when OSU running back Dan Herron fumbled the ball on first down. UF recovered and won the challenge but coughed it back up to the Buckeyes just two plays later when Brantley mishandled a snap.

Ohio State took advantage of the miscue by tying the game. QB Braxton Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the first quarter, completed three throws for 41 yards as part of an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a touchdown with 11:25 left in the first half.

Florida responded even quicker as redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, going down the field untouched and putting his team ahead 14-7 while setting a school record for longest play in a bowl game and a Gator Bowl record for longest play. He was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player after the game.

Two possessions later, the Gators were stopped for a three-and-out, but a shanked punt by freshman Kyle Christy allowed the Buckeyes to take over at midfield. After gaining two first downs, Miller was sacked for an 11-yard loss as redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard broke through the offensive line. OSU kicked a 47-yard field goal to reduce their deficit, heading into the half down four.

Forcing Ohio State to punt on their first possession of the second half, Florida had both redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey and sophomore WR Solomon Patton break through the formation. The former blocked the punt, which was picked up by freshman linebacker Graham Stewart and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth blocked punt of Rainey’s career, setting a SEC record.

The Gators got another defensive stop and began moving the ball once again until Brantley’s third down pass was intercepted by LB Tyler Moller at Florida’s 47-yard-line. However, just three plays later, Miller completed a pass to Posey that was quickly fumbled (forced by freshman cornerback Louchiez Purifoy), recovered by UF, fumbled again and picked up by junior safety Josh Evans.

Brantley made up for his pick with a great 32-yard pass to redshirt junior TE Omarius Hines on his next play, starting the Gators off on a eight-play, 53-yard drive that stalled a half-yard short of the end zone. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs netted a 17-yard field goal to provide Florida with a two-touchdown advantage.

Though the Gators stifled the Buckeyes’ offense much of the second half, Miller led Ohio State on a seven-play, 88-yard drive in just 2:08 that ended in an 11-yard touchdown pass to WR Jordan Hall, who made several players miss on his way to the end zone.

Florida, however, recovered the onside kick and kneeled the ball to end the game and earn the hard-fought victory.

Brantley finished his final contest in orange and blue 12/16 for 132 yards with a touchdown, interception and two fumbles. Rainey had team-highs in carries (16), rushing yards (71) and receptions (three) while also coming through with the game-changing punt. Thompson’s touchdown was his first of the season, and Demps was also efficient with eight touches for 34 yards.

Miller was also quite efficient, going 18/24 for 162 yards in the air and two scores; he also carried the ball 15 times for 20 yards, losing a lot of ground due to the number of times he was sacked.

OSU outgained UF 299-263, passing and rushing for more yards, but was held to just 2-of-10 on third down conversion attempts. The Buckeyes also forced one more turnover (3-2) than the Gators and held the ball for slightly under five minutes longer. Florida, however, converted 50 percent of their third downs (6-of-12) and scored twice on drives of one play or fewer.

The Gators avoided a losing season but handed the Buckeyes their first seven-loss campaign since 1897. Florida now has 24-straight winning seasons and 32 consecutive years ending with a record at or above .500, two accomplishments which lead the country. UF also posted four-straight bowl wins for the first time in school history.

Ohio State is now 0-10 all-time against SEC teams in bowl games due to a victory in 2010 being vacated. The Gators also improved to 2-0 all-time against the Buckeyes with their last victory coming 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.

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