Week 9: Gators post-game news and notes

Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) snuck a 34-31 overtime win by the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, at EverBank Field. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

OH HENRY!

By now everybody knows what happened Saturday – after missing his initial field goal attempt wide left in the first quarter, Florida senior punter Chas Henry nailed two in a row including a 37-yarder in overtime to ice the game. However, what is not known is how much that one kick meant to Henry. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “The main thing that went through my mind was how I let my team down two weeks ago against Mississippi State. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. I got so much support through the coaches, my family and friends, and my brothers in the locker room. The internal family we have is as strong as you can get. I let them down one time. I was never going to let it happen again. It felt great. Unbelievable.”

Henry’s field goal was so emotional that it caused head coach Urban Meyer to immediately drop to his knees according to those on the scene. Why exactly did he do that? “After he hit that field goal? It was Chas Henry hitting a damn field goal. Think about that for a minute. That’s not easy,” Meyer said. I didn’t realize I did that. It was a good moment.”

Meyer gave Henry three opportunities to kick field goals Saturday because he had confidence in the young man after seeing how he played in practice on Thursday. “He’s got a strong leg; he just has not majored in that,” he said. “We thought we were going to have Caleb [Sturgis]. Caleb came out Wednesday and kicked beautifully. Then his back, he could’ve pushed it but we’re not going to do that – it could hurt him for a long time if he hurts it more. On Thursday, Chas came out and hit every field goal. We always go right-left, right-left, right-left, right-left, and he went right up to 42 yards, I think he was seven-for-seven.”

THRICE IS NICE FOR WILL THE THRILL

Though only two of his three interceptions will count when looking at the box score 10 years from now, senior safety Will Hill’s performance will be remembered for some time. Following in the footsteps of some of the Gators’ other terrifying free safeties, Hill came through when it counted by saving a two-point conversion and starting Florida’s celebration early with an 89-yard interception return (that did not go for a score) in overtime. He had been struggling all season and even failed in protection on an early Georgia touchdown, but Hill got some of his mojo back by the time the whistle sounded.

“[Ahmad] Black had good coverage on A.J. [Green],’’ Hill said of the overtime interception. “He tipped the ball and it just fell in my lap. I just saw an opportunity and made the best of it. I was struggling earlier in the season and coaches never gave up on me, teammates never gave up on me. And for me to come out and playing like this, it’s just like paying the team back.’’

“Big play of the day,” Meyer said of Hill’s overtime pick. “And from what [defensive coordinator] Teryl Austin mentioned in [the locker room], he said it was Will Hill’s best game. We’ve been waiting for that all year. Will Hill played very well tonight.” Austin had his thoughts as well. “You saw it today. He played. He played like a Florida safety plays,” he asid. “He made some wonderful plays out there today. He was physical, he hit guys, he intercepted the ball, he did a great job for us today. Really proud of him.”

FLORIDA FINDS A LONG-LOST “EDGE”

Aside from injuries and execution, one of the main reasons the Gators’ offense has been so vanilla this year is because the team found it difficult to find an edge. Meyer believes Florida found exactly that over the last two weeks and wishes he would have identified it and installed it earlier this year. “I could kick myself for not doing that more this summer,” Meyer said of using a steady two quarterback rotation. “I did not anticipate…Trey Burton’s one of those guys, I didn’t know he was that good as a runner. I thought he was pretty good and then he was dynamic. Jordan Reed did a nice job, came in and gave us some two-plus yardage plays. We’re going to do more of that. We have to find that edge. Florida’s always had the edge.

“In ’05 we really didn’t really have one, and then ’06 we had some edge when we recruited Percy [Harvin] and then Dallas [Baker] came on. Then obviously Tim [Tebow] went crazy in ’07, ’08 you had a bundle of them – there’s edges all over the place. […] We’re just still trying to find what that edge is. You can’t play offensive football without it. You can sit and run between the tackles, you can run perimeter plays or you can throw, and if you don’t have that edge than it’s just a mess. And that’s kind of where we’ve been. We’re looking at tempo as an edge, multiple quarterbacks as an edge and development of players. You want to get that speed back with [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps, that helps us a lot as well.”

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION

Ask any of his teammates or the player himself, and it is obvious Rainey has had a tough few weeks after being suspended indefinitely following his arrest. In addition to being scolded by the coaching staff, administration and the media, Rainey has been hard on himself and made a concerted effort to turn his life around. Saturday’s game was the first he had played in more than a month, and Rainey made the most of it going off for 241 all-purpose yards including 84 rushing yards.

“Rainey stood up after the game and thanked God for giving him a second chance. He’s taking full advantage of it,” said senior center Mike Pouncey, one of Rainey’s best friends. “He thanked the whole administration – [athletic director] Jeremy Foley and the president [Bernie Machen] – and he thanked God as well. He thanked everyone for giving him a second chance because without Jeremy Foley and President Machen, it wouldn’t be possible for him to play right now. I love Chris like a brother. [...] He’s been living with me since high school, and we have a special relationship. I felt his pain those weeks he was out. He loves football. He’s a great person, and I know that was one of the happiest moments of his life just to be out there with us playing.”

Meyer attributes Rainey’s presence to many of the other big plays made during the game. “The threat of a perimeter issue opens up – the Trey Burton touchdown, that was a lot of the Tim stuff we used to do when you had Percy,” he said. “If you have a threat of this [holds arms out], it sometimes opens that [em>points arms to middle] up. That’s the mix of perimeter and interior rushing. That’s a direct result of having a perimeter.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Henry holds off Dogs as Gators win OT thriller

On the eve before Halloween, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, was filled with tricks and treats including a game-winning 37-yard field goal in overtime from senior punter Chas Henry to push the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) over the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) 34-31.

Tied at 31 in overtime, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was picked off by Florida junior safety Will Hill on third down after redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins tipped Murray’s pass. Hill nearly returned the ball for a touchdown to ice the game but stepped out at the four; the Gators got the ball back at the 25 for their attempt. Failing to gain a first down on their first three plays, Florida turned to Henry who made his second field goal of the night to help the Gators snap a three-game losing streak and win their 18th in the last 21 games against the Bulldogs.

With junior running back Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey active for Florida, the Gators running game came alive. Demps rushed nine times for 38 yards, and Rainey carried 16 balls for 84 yards – both had a touchdown. Rainey also led UF with 241 all-purpose yards as he was the team’s primary kick returner. However, it was freshman QB Trey Burton who really helped move Florida’s offense, keeping 17 balls for 110 yards and two scores including a 51-yard touchdown run.

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, who was 16-of-25 for 193 yards with an interception, spread the ball around evenly. Sophomore WR Omarius Hines caught four balls for a team-high 50 yards, redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. hauled in three for 46 yards, Demps took two for 43 yards, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson caught two for 36 yards and Burton gained 35 yards on a team-high five receptions.

Georgia took it to Florida on the ground and through the air, rushing 34 times for 126 yards and a touchdown as a team and gaining 313 yards passing on Murray’s 18-of-37 performance with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins picked off Murray on the first play of the game, but the Gators offense stalled and failed to gain points after Henry missed a field goal. Hill intercepted Murray twice during the game and once more on a failed two-point conversion in the second half.

With the win, Florida moves into second place in the SEC East standings and within striking distance of earning a berth to the 2010 SEC Championship game should they defeat Vanderbilt (next Saturday at 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network) and South Carolina. Saturday’s game was the first time the Gators had gone to overtime in a contest since Nov. 5, 2005; Florida now holds a 3-2 record when playing in extra time.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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10/13: Austin, Heater talk defensive improvement

Florida Gators defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater spoke to the media Wednesday taking a look back on the tough loss to the LSU Tigers and ahead to the match-up against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at home on Saturday night.

WHAT’s UP WITH WILL HILL?

A five-star recruit coming out of high school, special teams dynamo and one of the reasons now-senior safety Ahmad Black was partially forced out of his starting job last year, junior S Will Hill missed the first two games of the 2010 season due to team discipline and has not been the same since. Heater says the Hill is struggling most with his tackling but that the staff remains confident he will turn things around.

“He’s had some missed tackles. That’s a situation you’re always coaching against on the back end because a missed tackle on the back end can become a problem in a hurry,” Heater said. “He’s not the only guy [doing that], but he’s a guy we’re trying to improve and he’s trying to improve and get where he wants to get to.”

ELAM’s CONCUSSION KEEPS HIM OUT

Speaking of the secondary, freshman S Matt Elam (who has been playing nickel cornerback this year) was concussed during the LSU game. He has yet to practice this week and could be held out of the Mississippi State game if he does not improve later in the week. “He’s getting close, missed a few days this week but he’s getting closer,” Heater told the media Wednesday. “He observed practice today. We’ll reevaluate tomorrow. They have a whole systematic approach to these things so I just defer to the trainers. I think he’s making progress. He’s certainly better than he was two days ago and he’s able to do more things today than he did yesterday, so he’s making progress.”

The Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser spoke with Elam’s high school coach, Jack Daniels, who said he has never had a concussion before.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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10/6: Austin on Lemmens, Elam, Hill and tackling

Florida Gators defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin along sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter spoke to the media Wednesday as the team took a final look back on its crushing loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and ahead to its match-up against the LSU Tigers at home on Saturday night.

LEMMENS “BETTER THAN YOU THINK”

Though he began the season as a starting defensive end, senior Duke Lemmens is now playing a hybrid role in what the Gators call their “heavy package,” where a larger player is used as a stand-up linebacker in an effort to close rushing lanes. Austin raved Wednesday about what Lemmens brings to the table and how effective he has been.

“What we’re getting from Duke is great effort. He plays in space better than you think. He’s a big guy, he’s a 250 lb. guy on the edge, and that really helped solidify some of the run lanes,” Austin said. “Duke’s done a great job with it and we’re going to keep moving forward with it. Because of his size he gives you a real stout guy at the edge of the defense to hold the edge of the defense, but he also gives you some pass rush being a former defensive end.”

YOUNGSTERS RESPOND TO VETERAN LEADERSHIP

With more than half of Florida’s players in their first or second year on the team, rebounding from a tough road loss is a difficult thing to do. Austin noted that the veteran leadership on the defense has gone a long way to making the younger players get over the loss and concentrate on the game ahead. “[There are] not a lot of losses around here to reach back and dig from and talk about, but the one thing they did [say] what happened Saturday we can’t change that so what do we have to do to get better this week? The seniors and the older guys have really led the way and they’re trying to bring the young guys [in],” he said. “We’ve had two pretty good, spirited practices, and that’s really what you’re really looking for as a coach – the guys really coming out, competing and trying to get better. Because what happened last Saturday has no effect on what happens this Saturday.”

THE TIME IS NOW FOR HILL TO IMPROVE

Over the last few weeks OGGOA has been poking and prodding around to find out what exactly has been going on with the development of junior safety Will Hill. The most anyone would tell us was that he was inconsistent in practice and not showing the same gumption he did in the offseason. Austin confirmed exactly that Wednesday when asked directly about Hill’s performances.

“No. [He has to] play better,” said Austin about Hill’s consistency. “He has the ability really to be an impact-type player because he’s big, he has range, he can tackle, he can do all the things you want a safety to do – [what] all the great safeties around here have done. He hasn’t taken that step yet so we need him to take it. It starts out there on the practice field and hopefully carries over to the game. Because he’s been working hard. We gotta get it to carry over into games, and I think hopefully it will start this week.

“Right now he’s just not playing up to the ability he has right now, and that will come. I’m not worried about him. I think he’ll play better this week and he’ll continue to play better as we move [forward] because he had an outstanding fall camp. You want him to play better, but I know he can play better and he will.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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10/4: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Updated Oct. 5 at 1:15 p.m.

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

DEMPS REMAINS PROBABLE, GILLISLEE TOO

The last thing Florida needed after having junior running back Jeff Demps at less than 100 percent on Saturday was another one of its top rushers to go down; unfortunately, that is exactly what happened as sophomore RB Mike Gillislee badly bruised his ankle against Alabama. Meyer noted that both players are Probable (read: 75 percent) for Saturday night’s game against LSU. Expect them to play.

In addition to limiting him in the backfield, Demps’ injured foot kept him off of special teams with Gillislee handling kickoff returns. As long as both are able to play Saturday, expect that to continue until Demps is completely healthy and able to practice at full speed for an entire week without “sharp pains” in his foot.

RED ZONE REVERSE

Entering the Alabama game Florida had gone 14-for-14 in the red zone over the previous two games with 13 touchdowns and a field goal. In fact, the Gators’ red zone efficiency on the season was 89.5 percent including 16 touchdowns. That changed for the worse Saturday as Florida went 1-for-4 in similar opportunities, something that has certainly gotten Meyer’s attention.

WEEK FIVE CHAMPIONS

Meyer did not announce any Champions for the Alabama game because, let’s face it, there was little to be proud of when the game was over. In lieu of his accolades, OGGOA has decided to name senior punter/kicker Chas Henry our week five champion for his top-notch performances during the contest. Henry averaged 62.3 yards per punt with a career-long of 75 and, filling in for injured junior K Caleb Sturgis, knocked through field goals of 39 and 22 yards for the Gators’ only points of the game.

He also received a honorable mention from the Southeastern Conference on Monday and this statement from Meyer: “If we had won the game, his contributions would have probably been player-of-gamish.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Grading the Florida Gators vs. Kentucky game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Kentucky Wildcats in the fourth game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
Standing on his own, redshirt junior John Brantley had an “A-” performance on Saturday, completing over 68 percent of his passes (24-of-35) for a career-high 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Though his 131.81 passer rating was his third-best of the season (due to the turnover), Brantley posted the best performance of his career and was instrumental in the Gators converting 7-of-11 third downs. Of course Brantley’s positive output was overshadowed by freshman Trey Burton, who accounted for six touchdowns on the day. Playing as single wing QB, running back, wide receiver and tight end, Burton rushed for 40 yards and five touchdowns, caught five balls for 37 yards and a touchdown and completed a pass on his only attempt for 42 yards. When you combine Brantley’s significant improvement with Burton’s stellar evening, there is truly no other grade to give his unit.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
After a monster 267-yard performance against South Florida, Florida’s running game came back down to earth against Tennessee. It returned to prominence once again against Kentucky, with all three of the team’s rushers posting good statistics. Junior Jeff Demps (who left the game in the second half with an injured foot) rushed eight times for 57 yards (7.1 average), redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody gained 46 yards on 10 carries (4.6 average) and sophomore Mike Gillislee ran the ball six times for 32 yards (5.3 average). Burton, a QB, scored all of the Gators’ rushing touchdowns, but these backs were instrumental in all six of UF’s scoring drives.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Kentucky game after the jump…
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9/27: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

AILING DEMPS SHOULD PLAY SATURDAY

Junior running back Jeff Demps aggravated a foot injury on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, something that forced him to get X-rays after the game (they were negative). Doctors have diagnosed Demps with a sprained foot and have placed him in a temporary boot so it can heal for a few days before he returns to practice. “[We are] hearing positive things about [Demps returning] later in the week,” Meyer said Monday. “We’ll update you as we go. It’s not broken. It’s not a stress fracture. [The X-ray] came back negative. Now [we] just gotta get him healthy. […] I think we are going to have Demps, so I’d rather not even think that way.”

WEEK FOUR CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced that 24 Florida players graded out as Champions after the Kentucky game, more than double any other game so far this season. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt junior QB John Brantley and redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard were singled out as Players of the Week.

Offensively, senior center Mike Pouncey; wide receivers redshirt junior Denote Thompson, redshirt senior Carl Moore and redshirt sophomore Frankie Hammond, Jr.; running backs Demps, redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee; redshirt senior left guard Carl Johnson; redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert; redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt; sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon; and redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio were honored. Nine players on defense – senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; safeties senior Ahmad Black and junior Will Hill; cornerbacks junior Janoris Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown; linebackers redshirt senior A.J. Jones and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins; and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter – shined Saturday.

It appears that there were even more Champions this week, but Meyer said there were too many to name. “There’s too many names on there to get into each one of them,” he said.

Burton was also named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday for his school-record six touchdown performance. He is the fifth Florida player this year to win a weekly SEC honor and the second to win Freshman of the Week.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Grading the Florida Gators at Tennessee game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Tennessee Volunteers in the third game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

QUARTERBACKS: B-
Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley has not had a stellar start to the season; however, in the same respect, he hasn’t played poorly either. A week after seeing his completion percentage fall by 10 points, Brantley once again hovered around 60 percent, going 14-of-23 for 167 yards and a touchdown. He also showed his mobility Saturday, rushing four times for 19 yards. For a second-straight week Brantley did a better job finding open receivers and even spread the ball around a bit more to seven different pass catchers. Most notably was his efficiency on third down, in which he completed six passes to keep drives going. However, Brantley also made a number of mistakes during the game including poorly managing the play clock and tripping over himself. For that reason, his grade remains the same as last week.

RUNNING BACKS: B
No, the Gators did not rush for 267 yards like they did last week and the unit certainly wasn’t as efficient either (three players averaged over 7.3 yards per carry). Even so, junior Jeff Demps (26 carries for 74 yards) and sophomore Mike Gillislee (eight rushes for 27 yards) were impactful and an important reason why their team emerged victorious. Demps will not be able to shoulder such a load game-in and game-out, especially as the schedule gets tougher, and the unit as a whole gets an “A” for effort.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Tennessee game after the jump…
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