Too sweet! No. 5 Florida Gators savor Sugar Bowl

Coming of a week filled with seemingly endless questions and distractions, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-1) eased tensions and erased any doubts (at least temporarily) with a dominating 51-24 victory over the No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats (12-1) in the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome.

In the final game of his college career, Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow went 31-of-35 for a career-high 482 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air. He also carried the ball 14 times for 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Completing his first twelve passes in what was arguably the best performance of his entire career, Tebow finished with 533 total yards – more than anyone in both BCS and Sugar Bowl history. Tebow’s three touchdown passes went to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez and redshirt sophomore WR Deonte Thompson.

“It was incredible,” Tebow said of his third BCS bowl game victory. “Just a great game. It was exactly how you want to go out with these seniors and these coaches in your last game and your last time together. It just really doesn’t get any better than this.”

Cooper caught seven passes for a career-high 181 yards, Hernandez brought in nine balls for 111 yards and Thompson snagged five for 63 yards. Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards; he also rushed four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior transfer RB Emmanuel Moody had the first two touchdown game of his career though freshman RB Mike Gillislee ended up as the team’s leading rusher (79 yards) after taking a hand-off for 52 yards in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, junior cornerback Joe Haden once again shut down his assignment, allowing Bearcats senior wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to gain only 41 yards. Florida’s pass rush and blitzing was on-point all night, holding Cincinnati senior QB Tony Pike to 27-of-45 passing for 170 yards. Pike, however, completed three touchdown passes after the game was out of hand. Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap earned two of the team’s three sacks on Pike, the secondary had numerous interception opportunities and senior linebacker Brandon Spikes was flying around the ball all evening.

The Gators outgained the Bearcats 660-to-246 in total yardage, though the time of possession battle was close to even because Florida scored quickly. The Gators’ 660 yards was also a Sugar Bowl record. With the win, Florida became the first school in Football Bowl Subdivision history to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.

Going into the game, the Gators were without senior kick returner Brandon James (foot), redshirt junior LB A.J. Jones (knee) and redshirt junior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (hip), though additional injuries piled up before and during the game. Junior center Maurkice Pouncey spent five hours in the hospital earlier in the day passing a kidney stone and left the game in the second half to pass another. Sophomore RB Jeff Demps dislocated his elbow early on and redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson hurt his shoulder. Sophomore CB Janoris Jenkins and redshirt senior LB Ryan Stamper were both down on the field for a while but would return to action.

Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who resigned on Saturday before changing his mind and deciding to take a leave of absence instead on Sunday, said at the trophy presentation after the game that he hoped to return to the sidelines for the 2010 season. “I plan on being the coach of the Gators,” Meyer said. On Tebow, Meyer said he “will go down as one of the great players, if not the greatest player, in college football [history].” Tebow won the game’s Most Outstanding Player Award, thanking the coaches, his teammates and Gator Nation while accepting it on the podium. He took a moment to specifically thank Meyer for making him a Gator, telling him that he loved him and hugging him.

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BCS: 2010 SUGAR BOWL – (New Orleans, LA) – No. 5 Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats

Location: Louisiana Superdome – New Orleans, LA [Capacity: 72,968]
Time: 8:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: N/A

TV: FOX / FOXHD
Sirius: 120; XM: 140

No. 5 Florida Gators No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Interim Head Coach: Jeff Quinn
Record: 12-1 Record: 12-0
Division: SEC East Division: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -13, O/U 57
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida’s 2009 senior class…the winningest group in Southeastern Conference history with a 47-7 overall record. The seniors will be playing in their third BCS game and fourth January bowl in four years.
- Seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes…two of the best players in school history who do not wish for their last memories in the Orange and Blue to be back-to-back losses.
- Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap…who is returning from suspension for a DUI and, according to coaches, is raring to make up for his mistake to his teammates, coaches and Gator Nation. It is undecided if Dunlap will start.
- Junior cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver Mardy Gilyard…who will face-off in what could potentially be the match-up of the game between one of the best CBs and one of the best WRs in the nation. Haden has already been a menace to Alabama Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones and Georgia Bulldogs WR A.J. Green this season.
- Head coach Urban Meyer…who is 3-0 in BCS bowls and a combined 5-1 in his career in bowl games. Meyer and his wife Shelley both attended the University of Cincinnati. As a player for the Bearcats, Meyer faced the Gators in the teams’ only previous meeting, a 48-17 Florida victory on Oct. 20, 1984.
- Experienced players…the Gators feature 19 starters and 44 players who saw action in the 2009 BCS National Championship.

STREAKS:
- The Gators are appearing in a bowl game for the 19th straight season, the second-longest active streak in the nation. Friday’s game is Florida’s sixth appearance in a BCS bowl game and eighth appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
- Though the Gators are 5-1 against teams from the state of Ohio (1-1 in bowl games), they are only 7-3-2 all-time against the Big East.
- Florida has allowed 15 touchdowns this season, tied for fewest in the nation; the 11.5 points per game it allows ranks No. 3 in the country.
- The Gators are the only team in the country that has posted over 2,800 rushing and passing yards and are only one of four teams in the nation to score at least 25 rushing and passing touchdowns.
- Florida’s defense has recorded interceptions in 11 of 13 games and 23 of 25 games.
- The Gators have not lost back-to-back games since Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 2007.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. Cincinnati Bearcats preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » BCS: 2010 SUGAR BOWL – (New Orleans, LA) – No. 5 Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats

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SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

1 » Friday’s game has plenty of implications for both sides, but the 2010 Sugar Bowl will be especially sweet for a senior class that ranks as the most accomplished in Southeastern Conference history. Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow leads a group that will wear Orange and Blue for the last time (at least in college). “It’ll be fun. It’ll be exciting to go play for the last time as a Gator and have another opportunity to suit up and get that bad taste out of our mouth,” Tebow said. “Honestly, that would be really nice. [Winning this game] means a lot. Not just for being my last game, but for all of our seniors. I want to go out the right way and finish the season 13-1.”

2 » Though OGGOA has shied away from the story over the past week in lieu of other more pressing matters, one big, local non-game story was an argument between FOX and Bright House Networks, whose contract comes to an end Friday before the Sugar Bowl. The two entities have had trouble negotiating a new deal, leaving thousands of Gators fans in Central Florida to wonder whether or not they would have the opportunity to watch the big game. In fact, the companies were even sued by two Florida lawyers for a stay so locals could watch the Gators play. Though the suit played no part in the decision, FOX and Time Warner Cable (which owns Bright House) have agreed to a three-hour contract extension, allowing the game to air in that section of the state.

Four more BITS including spoiled fans and end of era questions after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

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Urban Meyer fibbed to protect family, players

Speaking at press conference for the 2010 Sugar Bowl Thursday, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer admitted he and the University of Florida attempted to cover up the reason for his hospital visit after the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship in order to protect his family and players.

“I have three children [11, 16, 19] that mean more to me than anything. I have a football team that means more to me than anything. […] I didn’t want it to get out at all. And then we were very careful. I didn’t want anybody alarmed” Meyer said. “You do what you’ve got to do to protect them. I think at some point, whether you’re a football coach, whether you’re a lawyer or whatever, you think at some point there would be a lot of respect for families involved. If that means not coming clean with full details about something very personal, if you can’t understand that, then, first of all, I think you’ve got to recheck yourself.”

Avoiding additional questions about his health, Meyer tried to focus the media on the upcoming game. “I love my players. I’m not ashamed to say that. I love Florida. And I want to win this game in the worst possible way,” Meyer said. “Not for myself, not for our staff, not for Steve, not for whomever, but for our players. And so has there been a little bit of a good push, I think there’s been a good push.”

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Top 10 moments of Tim Tebow’s college career

In anticipation of Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow‘s final college game on Friday in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Dan Shanoff – author of TimTeblog.com and close friend of OGGOA, has ranked the Top 10 moments of Tebow’s career. Shanoff’s site has been obsessively covering the “Tebow phenomenon” all season and wraps up 2009 with this list, complete with extended commentary. Check out the Cliffs Notes version here then head over to TimTeblog for the rest!

Check out the Top 10 moments of Tim Tebow’s career after the jump!
Continue Reading » Top 10 moments of Tim Tebow’s college career

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Defense takes responsibility for SEC title game

The Florida Gators defensive unit was made available to the press Tuesday, three days before they face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Aside from every player and coach being asked about the health of head coach Urban Meyer, one of the hottest topics was the defense’s collapse in the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Special thanks to the Palm Beach Post and ESPN affiliate GatorCountry for providing the quotes below.

Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong:
“Looking back, we just didn’t play well. We played well all the way up to that game, and just weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good job of coaching that day and just didn’t play well, and it showed.”

“Guys understand we have to be prepared to play each week, and we didn’t do a good job of coaching that day. We always talk about, if there’s 10 or less missed tackles, you have a good chance of winning the game. We exceeded that in the first half.”

Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper:
“The last game was a disappointment, but we want to just come out and play hard and show that we are still one of the best defenses in the country. We just want to come out and play the way we are capable of playing.”

“Blown coverages, missed coverages, guys out of gaps – we’ve never had that many missed assignments all season. Guys just weren’t into the game. You could see that on film.”

Junior cornerback Joe Haden:
“I haven’t even looked at the game. We haven’t watched film or anything. The equipment staff, when Major [Wright] asked them for the DVD, was like, ‘Why do you want to see that?’ It’s like nobody wants to bring it up.”

Junior safety Major Wright:
“We didn’t play Florida defense. We weren’t playing physical enough. We usually go out and have fun, chest bump, every play. But it wasn’t happening.”

“[Winning the Sugar Bowl is] very important. For one, just getting the taste out of our mouth from our last game, and start the season off right. We’ve got a lot of young guys who can come out and get better, make plays and show what they got.

Junior safety Ahmad Black:
“I don’t think we were ready. They wanted it a little bit more than we did.”

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Cooper says white helmets will be shelved

As part of Nike‘s roll-out of their Pro Combat line of football gear, the Florida Gators sported new uniforms during the final home game of the season against the Florida State Seminoles. Senior wide receiver Riley Cooper said the players liked the look of the white “F” helmets so much that they elected to wear them for the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. “They look cool,” Cooper said. “We all liked how they looked.”

Head coach Urban Meyer seems to have a superstition with uniforms, shelving certain color combinations and utilizing others more often when the team has success wearing them. Such is the reason, OGGOA believes, that fans no longer see the white jersey-orange pants combination and often see the all-blue and all-white uniform choices. Even the white jersey-blue pants uniform has become a rarity, though the blue jersey-white pants combination is used often.

Though the Nike Pro Combat uniforms were only a one-time promotional ploy, the Gators’ sporting the white “F” helmets for a second straight game led many fans to worry they might end up replacing the good ol’ orange helmets with the cursive “Gators” script.

Those fans should no longer be concerned with breaking tradition, according to Cooper. “It didn’t work out for us, so I don’t think we’ll wear those again,” he said. “I’m not wearing mine.” Not that Cooper would have a chance, seeing as Friday’s 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats is the last game of his college career.

While Florida’s 2010 uniforms will look the same as they have in the past, it is believed that the athletic department will use some of the Nike Pro Combat gear from a technical standpoint. Better gloves, lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics and lighter shoes are all things that can give the Gators an advantage – especially in the smoldering Florida heat.

Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms are said to be 37% lighter than current designs and utilize a four-way stretch twill that does not hold sweat or water. Additional features include Nike’s Dri-FIT technology, evaporation and cooling zones, more padding zones and improved ventilation and breathability. Players also wore Nike Vapor Trail 2.0 gloves and Nike Zoom Air cleats that are lightweight and feature better cushioning in the heel.

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FOUR BITS: Gilyard, Daniels, Tebow, Saban

1 » Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Mardy Gilyard is the most explosive (and most vocal) member of his team. Though he may run his mouth on the sideline, in the huddle, on the line of scrimmage and after the play, one place Gilyard is not talking is his dreams – which have always included the Florida Gators in one way or another. Growing up in Bunnell, FL, Gilyard rooted for the Gators and always dreamed about either playing for or against Florida in a big game. “It’s always a real close game, going back and forth, and right before the end of the game I wake up,” he said. “So I’m anxious to see how it’s going to go.” ESPN’s Brian Bennett has written a great piece on Gilyard and the trials and tribulations he has experienced throughout his life.

2 » Another Bearcats player who has overcome adversity and won over the media with his charisma is defensive tackle Alex Daniels. Calling Friday’s 2010 Sugar Bowl “my national championship game,” Daniels defied the odds by making it out of a bad neighborhood in Columbus, OH, and turning his life around as a football player. “I’m playing against Tim Tebow in the Sugar Bowl,” Daniels said. “It’s Florida, man, come on! This experience, to be in New Orleans – I have to embrace Bourbon Street, to see the Big Easy. I’m soaking it all in.”

3 » There is no question that Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow is going to go down as the greatest player in the history of the program. It should come as no surprise that he is considered by many to be possibly the best player in the history of the sport on a collegiate level. Those beliefs are exactly why other Southeastern Conference teams are foaming at the mouth for Tebow to call it a career on Friday. Chris Low of ESPN, the site’s SEC blogger who lives in Knoxville, TN, and covered the Tennessee Volunteers as a beat writer for 10 years, relates a quote that tells the story of a conference which decided that rather than try to beat Tebow, it would be best to wait him out. “The playing field’s going to be level for everybody else when Tebow is gone,” numerous people in the SEC told Low. But, of course, the story turns to question the future of the Florida program: “Life after Tebow [is] one big unknown for the Gators,” Low titles his piece.

4 » Gators head coach Urban Meyer‘s name is popping up every time a reporter speaks to a head coach these days whether said coach is leading a college football team or not. It should then come as no surprise that Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban was asked about Meyer’s situation on Monday. “I think college football is a lot better off with people like Urban Meyer in our profession,” Saban said. “He’s a true professional in what he does. He’s done a fantastic job every place he’s been. He does it with a lot of dig­nity and class and profes­sionalism. We not only have a lot of respect for him as a person, but also the wonderful job that he’s done everywhere he’s been, especially at the University of Florida.” Tight end Colin Peek echoed Saban’s sentiments. “I think it’s very sad to see a coach in his prime have to deal with a situation like that,” Peek said. “I thought it was going to be cool to have this rivalry of Florida vs. Alabama hopefully every year in the SEC Championship. I have so much respect for the man and the program that he’s built.”

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