Streaks and records following Florida at USC

- The No. 1 Florida Gators extended their nation’s-best and school-record win streak by recording its 20th consecutive victory on Saturday. The Gators’ winning streak is now sixth in Southeastern Conference history, tying the Auburn Tigers (1993-94).

– Defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks by 10 points, Florida’s has now won 19 of their 20 straight games by double digits.

– Head coach Urban Meyer moved into first place on the list of all-time winningest SEC coaches in conference games (minimum five years), going 32-8 with a .800 percentage.

– Senior quarterback Tim Tebow matched Kevin Faulk’s SEC record of 53 touchdowns with a one-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Tebow has set three all-time SEC records this year (rushing touchdowns, rushing yards by a QB).

– UF is now 23-4-3 all-time against South Carolina and 10-4-1 on the road in Columbia, SC. They have won 18 of their last 19 games against the Gamecocks and gone 4-1 against former head coach Steve Spurrier.

– The Gators have now won 12-straight SEC Eastern Division games.

– Florida’s defense forced three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble – giving it 11 in the past four games. It also collected a season-high six sacks including four in the fourth quarter, two from senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

– Senior kick return Brandon James became the SEC’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, amassing 2,538 yards on 105 returns (Derek Pegues, Mississippi State).

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Gators win, first perfect SEC season since 1996

The No. 1 Florida Gators (10-0, 8-0 SEC) completed their first perfect Southeastern Conference season since 1996 with a 24-14 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5 SEC) in Columbia, SC, at Williams-Brice Stadium. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow accomplished a feat of his own on Saturday, tying the SEC touchdown record with a rushing score in the fourth quarter.

The Gators went up 7-0 early in the first quarter after Tebow threw a slant to wide receiver Riley Cooper who took it for 68 yards into the end zone. It would not take long for the Gamecocks to answer, as running back Brian Maddox capped a 14-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game. Florida kept up the pressure, adding a 32-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis and a 17-yard rushing score from redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody to take a 10-point lead with 10:28 left in the second quarter.

From there, things started to unravel for the Gators. After recovering a fumble, UF was hardly able to move the ball, and Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. The Gamecocks capitalized with another lengthy drive that resulted in a nine-yard passing touchdown from QB Stephen Garcia to tight end Weslye Saunders. Florida would then, on consecutive drives, punt twice, miss a 54-yard field goal and turn the ball over on downs after Tebow was stopped on a dive play around midfield.

With South Carolina threatening to score and in the middle of an 11-play, 49-yard drive that began at 6:29 in the third quarter, junior defensive tackle Justin Trattou intercepted a tipped pass thrown by Garcia and returned it 53 yards to the Gamecocks’ 26 yard line. The Gators would turn that miscue into Tebow’s record-tying score, going back up by 10 with a quarter to play. Struggling to get to Garcia all day, Florida’s defense – led by senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham – would record four of its six sacks in the fourth quarter. Junior cornerback Joe Haden (who also had two forced fumbles and 11 tackles on the day) intercepted Garcia and returned the ball 20 yards with 3:19 left to ice the game.

After the game, Gators head coach Urban Meyer called Trattou’s interception one of the greatest plays in Florida football history. Trattou, who is playing with a torn left biceps, was humble in accepting praise for his heads-up play. “Every week, someone has to step up,” Trattou said. “It’s usually someone different each week. Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was candid when discussing Trattou’s game-changing play. “That turnover took a lot of steam [out of us],” Spurrier said. “Give Florida credit. They played pretty well. I don’t know if by their standards they thought they played super.”

Florida finishes its 2009 regular season schedule with two consecutive nonconference games against the Florida International University Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles. The Gators will then head to Atlanta, GA, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.

Game Notes:
– South Carolina wore camouflage uniforms created by Under Armor to honor veterans hurt defending the United States as part of the Wounded Warrior Project. After his touchdown pass, Garcia saluted the crowd in keeping with the theme of the day.
– In addition to missing two field goals beyond 50 yards, Sturgis placed a kickoff out of bounds and pulled a 28-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter, finishing only one-for-four on the day.
– The Gamecocks attempted a fake punt in the first quarter that would have been successful save for an illegal shift penalty.
– Cooper had two additional scoring opportunities in the game, missing one catch that was slightly overthrown in the end zone and plainly dropping another in a similar spot.

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Week 11: No. 1 Florida Gators at South Carolina

Location: Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, SC [Capacity: 80,250]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 75°F – Partly Sunny

TV: CBS / CBSHD
Online: CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 218; XM: 200

Florida Gators South Carolina Gamecocks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Record: 9-0 (7-0) Record: 6-4 (3-4)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -17.5, O/U 43.5
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow…who has rushed for nine touchdowns this season, bringing him to 52 for his career, breaking the all-time SEC record held by Herschel Walker (Georgia, 1980-82). Tebow broke Walker’s record two weeks ago with a 23-yard score against Georgia. He has also set the SEC career record for rushing yards by a quarterback, passing Matt Jones (Arkansas, 2001-04).
South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier…who is taking over play calling duties for the first time all season.
– Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes…who returns to action this week following a one-game suspension for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey two weeks ago. Spikes has missed three of the last four games, two of them due to injury.
– Special camouflage jerseys…which will be worn by the Gamecocks as part of the Wounded Warrior Project to honor military veterans.
– Florida’s 2009 senior class…who go into Saturday’s game with a 44-6 SEC record and have a chance to becoming the winningest class in conference history. The SEC record of 45 wins is shared by the 1996 Gators, 1994 Alabama Crimson Tide, 1998 Tennessee Volunteers and 2005 Georgia Bulldogs.

STREAKS:
– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 19 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the SEC in the past 15 years since the Auburn Tigers won 20 straight from 1993-94. 18 of Florida’s 19 wins have been by a double digit margin.
– Florida has won 11 straight games against Eastern Division opponents and three straight against South Carolina.
– The Gators have won 17 of its last 18 games against the Gamecocks, with its last loss coming in Columbia four years ago. Spurrier is 1-3 against his former team while Florida is 22-4-3 all-time against South Carolina.
– The Gators lead the SEC in rushing offense (240.7) and third-down efficiency (.451). They also come in No. 2 in total offense (438.7) and scoring offense (35.0).
– On defense, the Gators have only surrendered eight touchdowns all season (fewest of any team in the nation) and average 10.1 points per game (No. 1 in the nation). The defense has also only allowed 12 field goals for a total of 91 points and has recorded eight interceptions over the past three weeks (best in the nation).
– South Carolina is on a seven-game home winning streak, though they have never defeated the No. 1 team in the nation.

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

Continue Reading » Week 11: No. 1 Florida Gators at South Carolina

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Track Florida Gators en route to Columbia

The No. 1 Florida Gators are on their way to Columbia, SC, to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. 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: Columbia Metropolitan Airport (KCAE)

DURATION: 53 minutes

DEPARTURE: 4:31 p.m. EST [scheduled 4:24 p.m. EST]
ARRIVAL: 5:24 p.m. EST [scheduled 5:16 p.m. EST]

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SIX BITS: Donovan on Boynton. Spurrier > Meyer? Johnson to play? Henry honored. More commits.

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is doing his best to keep the pressure off five-star freshman guard Kenny Boynton. “He’s one guy on the team and I hope that our other players want to step up and provide more for him,” Donovan said. “But we are not going into this putting a lot of emphasis on him to make us productive. He’s going to be a good player here, but I think that the expectation that he’s going to be this total impact player is unfair to him.” Boynton has already been impressive in Florida’s two exhibition games and will certainly play a large role when the Gators open the 2009-10 season on Sunday.

2 » OGGOA makes it a point to not direct you to many of Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s columns. Why? Well, our mothers always told us that if you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything. That being said, when he decides to write a column proclaiming loudly that South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier is “still a greater Gator” than head coach Urban Meyer, we feel like it is something you should check out and decide for yourself.

3 » On Wednesday, Spurrier told the media that injured defensive end Cliff Matthews, who had previously been ruled out with a shoulder injury, could return to face Florida on Saturday. Matthews ran around at practice on Monday and has been cleared by doctors, yet coaches are still calling him a game-time decision. “Even if he does play, [defensive coordinator Ellis] Johnson said there will be small, specialized packages for him. In other words, don’t expect a fully healthy, ready-to-go Matthews,” The Post and Courier reported Friday.

Three more BITS on Henry and a bunch of new UF commitments after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Donovan on Boynton. Spurrier > Meyer? Johnson to play? Henry honored. More commits.

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SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

1 » Following big signings by the Florida Gators baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball teams, softball head coach Tim Walton announced Thursday that two highly coveted high school players have signed national letters of intent to play for the Orange and Blue starting in 2010. Utility player Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, FL) and shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, CA) are both extremely talented women who will bring a lot to the program. For more on their accomplishments, check out this article on GatorZone.

2 » Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is garnering heavy interest from the Memphis Tigers for their head coaching vacancy, according to reports. OGGOA believes Strong should not take the job if offered, simply because we feel he deserves and can receive the head job at another big-time program rather than a second-tier school (football-wise). Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley shares similar thoughts while Miami Herald beat writer Joseph Goodman thinks Memphis would be a good fit. “I just have to work and continue to do this job right now,” Strong said when asked about the rumors. “My whole focus is making sure our defense goes out and plays well.”

3 » In recruiting news… Four-star small forward Stacey Poole, Jr., the son of former Gators standout Stacy Poole (who ranks as the team’s No. 4 all-time scorer), has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and head coach John Calipari. Poole is one of the best forwards in the country and the first signee for Kentucky’s 2010 recruiting class.

Three more BITS about Spurrier, big plays and special teams after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

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FOUR BITS: Meyer/Spurrier, Matthews practices, Kiper’s Big Board, Scripps Heisman poll

1 » One Southeastern Conference coaching relationship that is surprisingly both polite and friendly is that between Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer and South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier. Both spoke to the media on Wednesday and exchanged pleasant comments about their respective opponents. Meyer said he respects the appreciation Gators fans have for Spurrier and still sees his success all over The Swamp. “It’s always going to be there,” Meyer said. “Just walk out of the stadium and look on the wall at a bunch of great stuff Coach has done. I think it’s still there, and it should be.” Spurrier said he still roots for Florida when he is not going head-to-head with the Gators and thinks that the team is playing perfectly fine. “Sometimes they were so good last year, maybe [they] haven’t been quite as proficient I guess, scoring as many points,” he said. “They score when they have to and they’ve won all their close games.”

2 » Another tidbit Spurrier dropped on the media Wednesday was that injured defensive end Cliff Matthews, who had previously been ruled out with a shoulder injury, could return to face Florida on Saturday. Matthews was running around at practice on Monday; if he does play, it would allow South Carolina to revert back to the 4-3 formation that it has gotten away from since he initially got hurt.

3 » Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap continues to skyrocket up ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s NFL Draft Big Board. Moving up from No. 7 last week to No. 4 on Wednesday, Dunlap’s “physical tools are off the charts” and he is potentially filled with “unlimited upside,” according to Kiper. [OGGOA has long held that Dunlap will easily be a top five selection and potentially the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.] Also on the list are junior cornerback Joe Haden, who held down the No. 11 spot for a second consecutive week, and senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who dropped one spot to No. 25. Kiper believes Haden is a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match,” while he says Spikes is a “complete MLB, solid in all areas.”

4 » Following a less than stellar performance against the Vanderbilt Commodores, Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow once again lost the top spot in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy poll. Though he accounted for two touchdowns in the game, Tebow fell to No. 3 on the list, earning three first-place votes. Ahead of Tebow were Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram (4) and Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum (3), while Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy (0) and Stanford Cardinal RB Toby Gerhart (0) rounded out the top five. Voting tabulations are made on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, with each voter ranking a top five.

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SIX BITS: SC confident; Spurrier; Addazio speaks; Harvin/Murphy; coaching salaries; Walker Q&A

1 » In 2008, the Florida Gators defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks 56-6 in The Swamp, handing head coach Steve Spurrier the worst loss of his career. A year later, Gamecocks players are inspired and more confident in their ability to compete and potentially defeat the Gators. “They haven’t done as much as they’ve done last year,” defensive tackle Nathan Pepper said. “But they’ve definitely done a lot this season.”

2 » Speaking of South Carolina, Spurrier said Tuesday that he will be taking over his team’s play calling beginning this week against Florida. Spurrier’s decision came based on the fact that the Gamecocks are struggling to score points and have not scored more than 16 in any of their last four Southeastern Conference games.

3 » Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio had an interesting day in front of the media on Tuesday. According to transcripts, Addazio went on…and on…and on…for eight minutes about his offense, game planning and the team being undefeated. You can read the “short” form here, listen to the audio here or read the entire transcript here.

More on Harvin and Murphy, SEC coaching salaries and Walker after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: SC confident; Spurrier; Addazio speaks; Harvin/Murphy; coaching salaries; Walker Q&A

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