Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Spikes, volleyball, soccer

1 » The Florida Gators announced on Tuesday that head coach Billy Donovan’s son of the same name has decided to transfer to Florida and walk on to the team to play for and learn from his father. Billy Donovan , who spent his last two years playing for the Catholic Cardinals (Division III) in Washington, D.C., has already joined the team and will don the No. 42 though fans will not see him on the court this year as he will be forced to ride the bench during games due to NCAA transfer rules. As was noted a year ago when Catholic traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators in an exhibition game, the younger Donovan originally chose to attend that university in order to further his passion for politics. A change of career path – he is now interested in a coaching or administrative role in a basketball organization – led him right back to where he grew up. “I never wanted it to be like I was telling him what to do career-wise,” Donovan told UF’s GatorZone.com. “I think he needs to figure that out on his own. My job, my wife’s job, is to be supportive and help put him in the best situation for him to pursue what he wants to pursue.” There is probably no better spot for the younger Donovan to learn how to coach or run a basketball team than under the wing of a future hall of fame coach.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes received some bad news on Friday when he learned that the NFL decided to fine him $21,000 for an illegal blindside block he threw in a game on Sept. 30. Spikes, who leveled Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler during an interception return for his team, told the team’s website earlier in the week that he did not believe that he did anything wrong. “A lot of guys, they know the new rules. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep it legal, but I just want to kind of try to make a point – when I hit a guy, I want him [to say], ‘Oh, that was Spikes that hit me. I know that already.”

3 » No. 11 Florida volleyball (13-2, 7-0 SEC) has been on a roll as of late, wrapping up their ninth- and 10th-straight regular season wins over the weekend while hosting a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents in Gainesville. UF registered a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-18, 25-15) the Arkansas Razorbacks (13-4, 4-2 SEC) on Friday before coming from two sets down to win 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8) against the Kentucky Wildcats (10-7, 4-3 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek of Slovenia was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts over the weekend. She registered a total of 32 kills and 14 digs combined over the two matches. Impressive in her own right was junior middle back Chloe Mann, who notched a combined 22 kills and 30.0 points on the weekend.

4 » No. 12 Gators soccer (10-3-1, 7-1 SEC) is on a roll of their own, shaking off early season disappointment to rebound with a seven-match winning streak including two big road victories over the last weekend. Florida won 2-0 over the LSU Tigers (5-5-4, 1-4-2 SEC) on Friday before, like volleyball, coming back from a deficit to take down the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (12-2-1, 6-1-1 SEC) 2-1 on Sunday. Four different players scored goals for the Gators over the weekend with senior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and sophomore MF Havana Solaun finding the back of the net on Friday and senior defender Jo Dragotta and junior F Adriana Leon scoring on Sunday. Tymrak, who garnered SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, also notched an assist on Leon’s game-winning goal.

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9/10: Muschamp talks Gators team improvement

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s 20-17 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies in the league opener for both squads on Saturday. He also discussed the game ahead this week as Florida will travel to Knoxville, TN to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 6 p.m.

EXPERIENCE AND TOGETHERNESS

Muschamp said after Saturday’s game that he is not sure if the Gators would have prevailed in a similar situation a year ago. Asked Monday why that would be the case, he pointed to two things in particular that have improved as far as the team is concerned over the last few months.

“The number one thing is experience,” he said. “We had a bunch of guys playing for the first time last year. You look at our sophomore class from last year, I know I can’t tell you the exact number of snaps they played their freshman year, but it wasn’t many. So for the first time a lot of these guys were in those situations and playing for the first time.

“Togetherness – I think this is a pretty close team. You didn’t see any finger-pointing at halftime; you didn’t have any of that. You didn’t have the offense and defense divided in what we were trying to do. As a matter of fact, [offensive line coach] Tim Davis said in a staff meeting yesterday how good it was that the defense came off the field telling the offense, ‘Let’s go. Let’s keep it going.’ When you start to see things like that and guys pulling for each other and understanding it’s bigger than what’s on the back of their jersey – that it’s about playing for each other. I think this team has shown that they are willing and able to do that.”

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison
* Muschamp said he was pleased with the way he directed the offensive line and got the team in and out of protections.

Scrap Iron: senior tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio

Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
* Muschamp said he made a bunch of good plays in space and in the run game and was also a big-time leader throughout the contest.

Hard Hat: freshman LB Antonio Morrison
* Muschamp said he liked his physicality and instinctiveness. “This guy. He’ll throw his stuff up in there.”

Special Teams Players of the Game: redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy
* Muschamp said Purifoy did an outstanding job playing coverage on punts and held a big-time returner to next to nothing throughout the game.
* Sturgis was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week

Big Play: redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown
* Muschamp said Brown’s big play came on the kickoff after the final touchdown when he blew up the wedge and made a tackle inside the 20. “What a momentum change for us – to continue to have the momentum as opposed to letting him get to the 35-40-yard line. It’s a field goal game. People don’t see those things. What a huge play he made there; really proud of his efforts.”

Scout Team Players of the Week: walk-ons redshirt freshman defensive lineman Evan Holmes, junior wide receiver Ryan Parrish, freshman WR Darius Masline

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the overall game: “It was a great effort by our team. Very pleased in a team win, and I mean that in all parts as far as offense, defense and special teams. Not always exactly what we wanted in any phase but certainly picked each other up when we needed to throughout the game. That’s a credit to our players.”

» Muschamp n dominating the fourth quarter: “Won the fourth quarter. That’s something we emphasized to our guys – making plays in those situations and opportunities when they present themselves. Thought we did a good job of that.”

» Muschamp on the defense’s resurgence in the second half: “The second half they had six possessions and five of them were three-and-outs. Our guys came out poised at halftime, understood what we needed to do to be successful. Didn’t get any turnovers. We need to start the game better. We need to play with more discipline on defense, that’s the bottom line. I said it after the game. Our effort and your enthusiasm and our want-to is off-the-charts, but we’ve got to play more disciplined as a group as far as doing your job. You can’t cross-face on blocks and back-door blocks. It’s out of effort of wanting to make a play; it’s not out of defiance of not wanting to do something. It’s just guys that are trying to do a little too much. We just need to do our job.”

» Muschamp on how well the special teams unit played: “Special teams – back to our standard. Great effort. Outstanding effort on special teams. We’ve got some guys that were straining their guts out there, playing a bunch of snaps in a hot, hot day there in Texas. Very pleased with them.”

» Muschamp on Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley and the Volunteers: “He’s done a nice job there at Tennessee, especially if you look at their football team right now from a year ago. Obviously the injuries they had last year decimated their season. [...] You got an experienced team back. They want to be physical and run the football. They want to take advantage of their strengths offensively which are at the quarterback and receiver position this time. He wanted to get more aggressive defensively, and I think they’ve done that. His background has always been in special teams and I think they’re really good on teams. I think you’re seeing a little bit more of his identify and personality in this football team as maybe opposed to the previous two years.”

» Muschamp on the luxury of having Sturgis on the roster: “He’s very accurate and very dependable, never gets shook. He just lines up and does his job. [...] In my two years as head coach to have that opportunity to have a guy like him has just been a relief.”

» Bostic on the team’s winning streak against UT: “It’s a rival you never really want to lose to. Going into the season it’s always one of the games on your schedule that’s always circled. Pretty much a statement game. That’s usually our first SEC game but this year it’s our second, so we want to keep it going.”

» Bostic on the young linebackers: “Those guys, they can play. Even though they haven’t played as much, they can play. They learned the defense just like we did. It goes by game experience now. As soon as they get in they pretty much get to play and make checks just like I am.”

» Bostic on freshman LB Antonio Morrison: “He’s a physical linebacker, especially for a freshman. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s smart, pretty much learns from our mistakes. That’s one thing – you see him after every practice he’s beating me in the film room. That’s a good thing to start out with as a freshman because a lot of freshmen really don’t understand how important watching film is.”

» Bostic on redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown: “It just shows how much of a fighter he is. He’s open of those type of guys, you see him in the training room 24/7. He’s not one of those guys who is ever down. He’s always laughing, smiling with a positive attitude. I respect him for that. He’s one of those guys who has been through pretty much everything and just keeps coming back.

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Injuries pile up for Florida Gators: Jenkins, Riggs out; Powell re-injured; Gillislee good to go

One would think the news would be more positive for the No. 17/18 Florida Gators coming off a big win on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies, but head coach Will Muschamp actually spent most of his weekly Monday afternoon press conference delivering plenty of bad news as it pertains to his team’s health.

“We’ve kind of got a saying around here: ‘Man down, man up,’” he said.

Muschamp announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (fractured foot) will both miss at least a month after being injured against Texas A&M.

Jenkins, who had surgery on Monday, will definitely be out at least for this week’s road game against the Tennessee Volunteers but may be able to return sooner than his timetable dictates if doctors approve a protective device for his hand.

Riggs, however, could be out as long as six weeks depending how his foot heals as doctors said he does not need surgery on the fracture.

Freshman LB Antonio Morrison will take over for Jenkins as the starter at Will, but the Gators will also see plenty of redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor in a reserve role at both inside positions. Junior Darrin Kitchens will also have a bigger role in the defense.

Defensive backs sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers both filled in for Riggs on Saturday and will continue doing so in the near future. Junior Matt Elam will likely transition back to playing much more safety while junior Jaylen Watkins, who moved into the starting cornerback role last week, will take over at nickel.

The bad news continued as Muschamp added that junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April during the team’s spring game and hoped to return sometime in October, re-injured his knee while rehabbing and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“He is being reevaluated next week. He has got some swelling on the knee. We took the MRI – probably a little too much swelling to tell really where he is right now,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to reevaluate him next week. Very disappointing for him. Really a setback as far as where he is and where we thought he would be at this point as excelled as his rehab has gone.

“Talking to him [Monday] morning and his parents throughout the weekend, more than likely Ronald will redshirt this year. It’s just disappointing for him, a guy that mentally has been a rock, just been amazing in how he’s handled the process. And again, he’s handled it very well. The diagnosis is not totally final yet; we want to look at it again next week. Certainly it has put a speed bump in the recovery process. Very disappointed for him and us.”

Not all was negative on the injury front.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has four of his team’s five touchdowns this season and appeared to hurt his groin while scoring in the fourth quarter on Saturday, only “strained” the muscle and will be able to practice all week.

“He’s going to be fine. He’ll be fine for this weekend,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to practice [Monday]. We just had a staff meeting and they said he is going to practice, so I think he should be fine. We probably won’t rep him 40 times [in practice]. We’ll make sure he’s ready to go for Saturday [and] we feel like he’s fully available.”

Senior safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (cramps) are both good to go as well.

Florida will also get sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders (hamstring, suspension) and freshman tight end Kent Taylor (concussion) back for the Tennessee game though redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (strained pectoral) will probably be out until the bye week (at least two more weeks).

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Driskel gets stamp of approval from Muschamp

Naming Jeff Driskel his starting quarterback on Monday may very well have been a touch decision for the coaching staff, but Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made it clear Saturday that he never had any doubt that the sophomore would be able to lead the team under any set of circumstances.

Asked immediately after his team’s 20-17 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies what he learned about Driskel following his performance on Saturday, Muschamp simply quipped, “Nothing. I knew it going into the game.”

What Muschamp knew was that Driskel can throw the ball accurately and with a measure of strength either in the pocket or on the run, create plays with his legs and get the team out of seemingly difficult situations.

He also knew about his player’s character and the type of competitor he is on the gridiron.

“The guy’s a tough guy; he’s a tough guy. He plays through it,” Muschamp said. “I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. I mean that as a very big compliment to him. I didn’t learn anything today. I knew it.”

Driskel rewarded Muschamp for his trust, completing 13-of-16 passes for 162 yards and leading the Gators to a 10:14 advantage in time of possession. He also made a number of clutch plays with his legs including a game-ending 21-yard run on a naked bootleg to ice the contest late in the fourth quarter.

“I was excited. I knew that the defense was going to bite on the power [run] up the middle, so I was excited to get a chance to get the edge and just wanted to stay in bounds and make sure I secure the ball,” he said of the play.

Driskel’s performance was not without criticism, however. He was sacked eight times during the game, a few of which were doe to him holding onto the ball too long, and lost yardage on plays where he ran out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away.

“I got to get rid of the ball, plain and simple,” he admitted after the game. “We knew they were going to pressure. I got to get rid of the ball, throw the ball away if I have to. I have to work on that a little bit.”

Muschamp was not as concerned with Driskel’s miscues.

“I thought he played well,” he said. “Again, you got to go back and watch the film with the sacks. I do think he could have gotten rid of the ball at times. Again, there were some protection issues. They have two good edge rushers. They led the country in sacks last year, so they do have some guys that can rush the passer. We had a busted route on one sack.

“Again, [he threw for a] high-percentage, took care of the football and critical third-down conversion there late in the third quarter to flip the field on a 3rd-and-6, created that. Another boot[leg] late in the game; they had it played well, he made a play. All of those situations, to me, you put a young quarterback in those situations and you get a win, that is very positive.”

Driskel is not only a young signal caller but one who on Saturday started the first game of his collegiate career behind center. He did so in front of the infamous 12th Man at Kyle Field, an environment he had only heard about until he stepped onto the field.

“That crowd was everything that was advertised,” he said. “It lived up to its hype.”

It is yet to be determined if Driskel will live up to his hype, but he is 1-0 as a starter (2-0 if you consider the fact that he played most of Florida’s season opener) and got to end Saturday’s contest in the sweetest way possible – kneeling out the clock.

“That’s the best play in football,” he said. “It was exciting, exciting to come out with a big win.”

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9/8: Florida at Texas A&M post-game report

No. 23/24 Florida Gators football (2-0, 1-0 SEC) struggled in the first half but turned things around in the final 30 minutes and defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (0-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. After the game head coach Will Muschamp discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a good win for our team. The guys continue to fight hard and play the game and play it for 60 minutes. And it wasn’t always pretty – first half defensively. Third down was an adventure. You’ve got to give them credit. Johnny Manziel is a fantastic athlete. He’s a guy that really has got legs and he extended plays and made plays for them. You got to give him credit. A lot of off-rhythm plays, very difficult to defend. We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference. There was no magic potion. We came in and told the guys just to squeeze blocks, play thicker on blocks, quit running up the field. You get an illusion that these guys are a passing football team and really they’re not right now with Johnny. They’re a running football team; a screen, short, controlled passing game. He’s going to have high percentages in every game because of the throws that they’re making and asking him to do.

Offensively I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Obviously whether it was protection, holding the ball too long at the quarterback position or we had a busted route I know on one of the sacks where the ball should have gone – we got to get that stuff cleared up. A 3rd-and-1 late in the game was critical for us; we did not convert, which was very disappointing. But we ran the ball well, we stayed balanced in the game, and we moved the football. Coming into this environment, which is a pretty solid environment, I thought our guys responded well, hung in there and did what we had to do to win the game.

Guys, we’re going to have a lot of games like this now. It’s just who we are. We’re going to grind it out. We’re going to win. That’s what we kind of are as a mentality as a football team as we continue to grow and mature through the year.”

WINNING THE FOURTH QUARTER

SEC opponents outscored the Gators 72-22 in the fourth quarter during Muschamp’s first season in 2011. Florida was much better not only in the fourth quarter but in the entire second half on Saturday, coming from behind out of the break for the first time in Muschamp’s tenure (1-5). The coach undoubtedly noticed this improvement and praised his team for its efforts.

“The second half we just played more disciplined football. They were 0-for-6 on third down; we forced six punts. We did a nice job of flipping the field in some situations,” he said. “[We] really won the game on offense there at the end. When they knew we were going to run it, we ran it. We had to run it. The 3rd-and-1 [failure] was disappointing but other than that, heck man, when you line up and are able to run the football and people know you’re going to run it, that’s what you have to do.”

He continued, “Last year, I don’t know, man. I don’t know if we win this ballgame. As far as running the football when you had to [in order] to win. Making stops defensively when you had to. Doing the things you got to do to win football games.”

Muschamp said the biggest change defensively in the second half was the defensive line. Florida’s aggressiveness was hurting them as Texas A&M invited the rushers to run up the middle while Manziel hit the creases that were created by those actions.

“I told them, ‘I’m firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage, squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That’s what you want to do. Just sit on the line of scrimmage and get your hands on people and play thick on people. If you’ll do that then we won’t have run lanes anymore.’ And we didn’t have any run lanes in the second half,” he explained.

Muschamp called the final possession the “happiest moment in Florida history for me – that and the Ohio State game,” noting that being able to run it successfully when your opponent knows that is your intention puts a smile on his face. He was also ecstatic about the victory as a whole, especially one coming in such a tough road environment.

“I told our team, ‘I’m not big into those sort of things.’ With all of our hospitality in the SEC, we’re trying to make everybody happy. Everybody wanted the glory story here with A&M and they didn’t get it. I’m very proud of our team to come in here, play well and do what we had to do to win the game,” he said.

“We played two games and we’re 2-0. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

”I’M NEVER GOING TO…APOLOGIZE FOR WINNING”

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M post-game report…after the break!

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Gators “gig” Aggies 20-17 in SEC initiation

It was a tale of two halves for the No. 23/24 Florida Gators on Saturday as they faced the Texas A&M Aggies for the first time in 35 years at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. Florida (2-0) struggled defensively in the first half but was dominant in the latter portion of the game, stifling Texas A&M (0-1) offensively and coming away with a 20-17 victory in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee led the Gators with 83 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries but missed most of the second half after seemingly pulling his groin on his second score. Joining him as an effective member of Florida’s offense was sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who made his first career start but still went 13/16 for 162 yards and made plenty of plays with his legs.

The Aggies’ offense was led by freshman QB Johnny Manziel, who was 23/30 for 173 yards and carried the ball 17 times for a net of 60 yards with a touchdown. Senior RB Christine Michael also chipped in 13 carries for 33 yards and a score for Texas A&M.

The Gators defense allowed 270 yards of offense and 17 first-half points but clamped down at the end of the game, holding the Aggies scoreless and allowing them to register a total of 64 yards of offense.

Florida’s defense looked dominant on the first two plays of the game, but a 16-yard rush by Manziel followed by a personal foul penalty on sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson gave Texas A&M the ball across midfield.

The Aggies then converted on a 4th-and-1 before being stopped in the red zone as junior safety Matt Elam and Roberson broke up consecutive fade passes. TAMU was forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal and take an early 3-0 lead.

The Gators answered back immediately with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive led by Driskel. He moved Florida down the field nicely, but UF was put in a tough spot when sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer was stopped short on 3rd-and-1 at the 16-yard line.

Florida executed a fake field goal run with junior running back Trey Burton, and a personal foul facemask added to the end of the play put the Gators in scoring position. Two plays later Burton took a Wildcat snap and handed it off to Gillislee, who tumbled into the end zone with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M game story…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators “gig” Aggies 20-17 in SEC initiation

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TWO BITS: gator meat, Muschamp’s seat

1 » Restaurants in and around College Station, TX have loaded up on alligator meat, reports KBTX television, so much so that specialty meat markets in Houston, TX and Beaumont, TX are completely sold out and ones in Austin, TX (as of Thursday) were in short supply. In this report from the station, restaurant owners discuss serving the item and welcoming new fans to the area as the No. 23/24 Florida Gators are in town set to face the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. live on ESPN. It looks like TAMU has adapted to playing in the Southeastern Conference quite nicely.

2 » Saturday’s game against Texas A&M will be the first of two road contests for Florida, which is looking to prove that the last two years were an aberration and that they are on their way back on top of the SEC. The Gators’ flat season opener did not give the average fan much hope to believe that is the direction that the program is heading, and head coach Will Muschamp has taken a lot of the heat for the team’s paltry 13-point victory over Bowling Green. That is why CBS Sports senior college football columnist Bruce Feldman was prompted on Friday to discuss how long Muschamp has to turn things around before his seat really starts getting hot.

This is his first head-coaching job. There are always bound to be some growing pains especially when a guy breaks in on the highest stage, not at a mid-major, where the pressure and the competition level isn’t the same. First-time head coaches often struggle putting together their ideal staff. They have to learn on the job. In addition, Muschamp took over an unusual situation where he not only had a significant change in schemes from his predecessor, Urban Meyer, but he also inherited a challenging dynamic in the UF locker room. He had a program full of supposed “five-star” talent, but none of those guys really were a factor in winning the national titles. So when Meyer talks about “de-recruiting” that’s a lot of what has ended up falling on Muschamp. Beyond that, there are the growing pains of breaking in two new QBs dealing with their second quarterback coach and system in two seasons. [...]

I do think Muschamp will get this program going by 2013. But there is no getting around it, the heat is rising in Gainesville. Expectations are always going to be sky high at UF after what Meyer did there. A road loss either this week at A&M or next week at rival Tennessee will only elevate the temperature even more. Losses to both would send a lot of folks down there into a panic. The Zook comparisons would then kick in. It certainly won’t also help Muschamp’s cause if FSU proves to be as good as some people have speculated either. But, as tough as this may be down there, people have to be more patient. It’s not even Year Three yet.

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