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44 posts from November 2008

November 30, 2008

Percy Harvin not practicing for Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- SEC championship week began on Sunday and already Alabama is trying to sabotage the Gators.

Florida coach Urban Meyer spoke with league reporters on Sunday via telephone conference call and the fire alarm inexplicably sounded inside the Gators' football facility during the interview. "What the heck is that?" said Meyer, who joined the press conference 15 minutes late.

--The Gators lost junior Percy Harvin to an ankle injury in the first half against FSU and Meyer said on Sunday that Harvin is questionable for Saturday's game against Alabama. Florida's coach said that Harvin would not practice on Sunday. The Gators' off day is Monday. Harvin left Doak Campbell Stadium in crutches and a protective boot on Saturday.

--Saturday's game between No.1 Alabama (12-0) and No.2 Florida (11-1) is the first match-up of the nation's top ranked teams in the SEC championship game.

--Florida remained at No.4 in the BCS standings on Sunday. Oklahoma (11-1) jumped ahead of Texas (11-1) to No.2 in the BCS standings, meaning the Sooners will play Mizzou in the Big 12 championship game by way of the league's fifth tie-breaker, which states that in the event of a tie in divisional play, then the highest ranked team in the BCS standings will play for the conference championship. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are all tied for first place in the Big 12 South.

--If Oklahoma loses to Missouri in the Big 12 championship game, then could USC could be in a position to play the winner of the SEC championship game in the BCS title game on Jan.8? No. USC (11-1) is ranked No.5 in the BCS, behind Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. If Oklahoma loses, then Texas could play for the national championship.

--If Florida beats Alabama in the SEC championship game, could there be a rematch between Alabama and Florida in the national championship? It's unlikely but could become an outside possibility if Oklahoma loses to Missouri and Florida beats Alabama in a classic game.

--UF defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is doubtful for Saturday's game against Alabama, according to Meyer. Antwine is the second defensive tackle to suffer a knee injury in as many weeks. Against The Citadel, Matt Patchan injured a ligament in his knee. Meyer said that Florida will use a four-man rotation at defensive tackle in Atlanta: Terron Sanders, Torrey Davis, Lawrence Marsh and Jaye Howard. Like Patchan, Marsh injured his knee against The Citadel but played at about 70 percent on Saturday, according to Meyer.

--Meyer said that defensive end Carlos Dunlap could move inside to play defensive tackle.

-jo-

November 29, 2008

FINAL: Florida Gators 45, Florida State 15

TALLAHASSEE -- As usual, there wasn't much to blog about in the second half on Saturday. It was another incredible performance for the Gators. The 45-15 final score was a record for UF at Doak Campbell Stadium for points in a game.

A few notes before I drive back to Gainesville tonight...Well, I'm catching a ride since my car broke down (read more about that at the bottom of this post).

--The 30-point margin of victory by Florida was the its largest in Tallahassee. The 45 points scored by the Gators today were their most in Doak Campbell Stadium since 1972.

--Florida has won five straight against FSU, marking the longest streak since UF won six-straight wins over FSU (Doug Dickey win seven straight.)

--Florida has allowed FSU to score one touchdown in the last two meetings.

--UF totaled 502 yards of total offense, its third-straight game over 500 yards.

--The Gators gained 317 yards rushing to exceed 300 yards on the ground for the third game in a row.

--UF is undefeated in the road games this season and has won each of its last six on the road.

--Florida has scored 42 or more points in each of its last seven games, which is the longest active streak in the nation. UF is the only team that has ever been a part of the SEC to score 42 or more points in seven straight games.

--Tim Tebow had his 12th rushign touchdown of the year midway through the second quarter. Half of Tebow's rushing touchdowns have come against Top 25 teams. His six rushing touchdowns against Top 25 teams this year leads all players nationally.

--Tebow's rushing touchdown in the first half was the 43rd of his career. Tebow's total is tied for fifth all-time in SEC history with Auburn's Bo Jackson. Herschel Walker owns the league record with 49.

--Chas Henry's 67-yard punt midway through the first quarter was the longest of his career and the longest since Eric Wilbur's 75-yard punt against Tennessee in 2003.

--Major Wright's interception midway through the first quarter was the 21st by the Gators this year and the third by Wright. UF entered the game tied second nationally in interceptions.

--UF has outscored its last seven opponents 136-3 in the first quarter of games.

--Brandon Spikes' interception on the first play of the second half was his fourth of the season. Spikes is one of three linebackers nationally to have four interceptions in a season vs. Top 25 teams.

--Jermaine Cunningham had his first blocked extra point by a Gator since Jarvis Moss in 2006. UF has blocked eight kicks this season.

*UF's sports information department contributed to these notes.

LIVE BLOG BELOW
Halftime stats: Tebow leads UF in rushing with 71 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Jeff Demps has 65 yards on five carries. FSU senior running back Antone Smith has 32 yards on six carries. (That's already a career high for Smith against the Gators.)

--UF leading 28-9 with 57 seconds left in the first half. Like last season, UF is scoring touchdowns and FSU is kicking field goals. The Gators' final touchdown drive of the half was a beautiful use of the two-minute drill, considering UF never gets a chance to run its hurry-up offense. The drive (five plays, 76 yards, 1:03) ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez has two touchdowns.

Tebow moved the pile four yards for a touchdown with 5:33 left in the first half to give the Gators a 21-3 lead. These muddy conditions make Tebow the Gators' most valuable player (as if he wasn't already, right?). Harvin on the sidelines with his right shoe and sitting on the training table.

--Florida junior Percy Harvin injured his right ankle with 6:44 left in the second half. Predictably, the classy FSU fans at Doak Campbell cheered the injury. Florida on the FSU 8. Tebow is pumped up. He spoke to Harvin and then pointed to the Gators' fans and began waving his arms in the air. Demps rolled his ankle pretty good. His return is questionable.

--Jeffery Demps' fumble with 10:38 appeared disastrous for the Gators but FSU's offense sputtered and the Noles settled for a 36-yard field goal by Graham Gano. Should be interesting to see if Florida goes to back-up running back Emmanuel Moody on the next series. Gators lead 14-3.

Florida with 109 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first quarter. The rain doesn't seem to be slowing the down the Gators as much as it is the Noles. FSU just attempted a reverse on third-and-2 but Bert Reed slipped in the backfield.

--This is going to be the Run-Tebow-Run game. Tebow now has seven carries for 50 yards. The Gators lead 14-3 after Tebow threw across his body and across the field to tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was wide open in the end zone. The drive's key plays were a 24-yard gain from Tebow (featuring the highlight reel trucking of FSU safety Jamie Robinson) and a 44-yard run by Jeffery Demps to the FSU 8. The touchdown drive was made possible by an interception from Major Wright on the UF 16. UF cornerback Janoris Jenkins tipped the pass, which was intended for FSU receiver Bert Reed.

--Percy Harvin gives UF a 7-0 lead but FSU finds momentum with a 63-yard kickoff return by Michael Ray Garvin. The Noles settled for a field goal but held UF to three-and-punt on the next series.

--UF quarterback Tim Tebow just slid for about five yards following a 17-yard gain. (First and only time you'll ever see that guy slide at the end of a run). ANYWAY, it's going to be interesting to see how UF deals with these conditions. The Gators just spent a timeout with 13:37 left in the first quarter.

--Jim Tartt gets the start at left guard.

PREGAME BELOW
This is a bad game for knee injuries, so playing defensive lineman Lawrence Marsh could be risky for the Gators. Marsh sprained his MCL last week but is dressed out this afternoon.

Sitting here at Doak Campbell Stadium and watching the field melt before my eyes. It rained so hard 30 minutes before kickoff that the field paint began streaming off the field in little garnet and white rivers.

The field is saturated and appears on the verge of turning into garnet and white soup. Another band of showers and standing water will begin pooling onto the field. Speaking of bands...FSU's tuba players slipped and tumbled throughout their pregame routine.

It has been a hectic day so far for the folks at Gator Clause. Our company truck broke down on I-10. Here's how many good Samaritans stopped to help: 0.0.

-jo-

November 26, 2008

Bobby Bowden disco dancing with Tim Tebow, plus more random stuff

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Saturday Night Fever! Starring Tim Tebow, Bobby Bowden and Chris Rainey.

Cup o' Links (with my own creative headlines, of course!
Percy Harvin is the Seminoles slayer
FSU freshman receiver has extra incentive against Gators
Deonte Thompson buzz'n about, by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post
FSU hasn't done diddley, by Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel
FSU, copy cats?, by Mike DiRocco of the Florida (Jacksonville) Times-Union
'Noles said no thanks to Jeffery Demps, by Antonya English of the St. Petersburg Times
Best Gators offense ever, by John Weinfuss of the Panama City News-Herald
Gators knock off Washington, men's basketball from Kansas City, Mo.

GAINESVILLE -- Random thoughts as I ingest hot liquids this morning. And by hot liquids, we do not mean stolen beverages from the Springs dormitory. We mean this!

The Gators needed 11 three-pointers to beat Washington 86-84 in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday night in a CBE Classic consolation game. That's good news and bad news. The good news is Walter Hodge shaved the name of his daughter "Kiki" into the side of his head. The bad news is Washington is awful. UF lost to Syracuse on Monday night. The 'Cuse beat Kansas in overtime on Tuesday night in the championship game of the CBE Classic. 

Back to the whole Kiki thing. I first wrote that "Kiki" was Hodge's girlfriend. That's wrong, of course. Kiki is Hodge's daughter. I've actually met Kiki, so I feel pretty silly for forgetting her name. Anyway...

Today is the day before Thanksgiving. Or, as I like to call it, "Holy Fred Funk, I forgot to thaw out the turkey!" You know you're officially old when you host your first family Thanksgiving. I've got a big family and most of them are coming down to Gainesville from Birmingham, Ala. I'm pretty sure it's the first Goldman-Goodman Thanksgiving in the history of Alachua County.

What's the one non-essential side dish you've got to have at Thanksgiving? (OK, that sentence made no sense.) Essential side dishes (as I see it) are dressing, giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and cornbread. The Goldman-Goodman Thanksgiving will feature the non-essential side dishes of collard greens, baked apples and carrot salad.

Keep the Pouncey family, your family, my family and all families in your thoughts and prayers on this day of travel. I'll do the same.

-jo-

November 25, 2008

What do Gators and 'Noles have in common? Beating 'Canes, of course

GAINESVILLE -- There's more than just national bragging rights at stake on Saturday in Tallahassee. To a lesser degree, state bragging rights are also on the line for the Gators. UF hasn't beaten both Miami and Florida State in the same season since 1985.

Both Florida and FSU beat Miami this season, so the "Sunshine Cup" is up for grabs. Florida is a 14-point favorite but something tells me it's going to be a little closer than that. FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews thinks so, too.

"It don't matter what our stats are or what there stats are," Andrews said. "It's how we go play Saturday. It ain't about what has happened in the past. What's going to happen on Saturday? That's the only thing that matters. It's going to be pretty wild and reckless around here at 3:30 Saturday."

-jo-

Pouncey twins miss practice in wake of family tragedy

GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey did not attend practice on Tuesday, one day after their father, Rob Webster, was injured while at work in Lakeland.

Webster, who works at a Lakeland feed supply business, was pinned between two train cars on Monday and lost his leg, according to a friend of the family. Webster was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and is in critical but stable condition.

"I've talked to the family," said UF coach Urban Meyer, who visited the Pouncey family in Lakeland on Monday night. "They're all part of our family."

No.2 Florida (10-1) plays at No.23 Florida State (8-3) on Saturday. Meyer said on Tuesday that he expects the Pouncey twins to practice on Wednesday.

"They will [be ready to play]," UF quarterback Tim Tebow said. "They're very resilient and determined young men. I know what their family would want is for them to come out and play with their whole heart."

-jo-

Take a sneak peek at 'officially licensed' UF smack talk

GAINESVILLE -- Think the Gators' rivalry against "The School Out West" doesn't mean much to UF's current coaching staff? Wrong. Earlier in the season, here's the first thing that greated people as they walked down the hall into the assistant coaches' offices.

UF coach Urban Meyer on the Gators' rivarly with Seminoles: "It's nasty. This is an ugly one."

-jo-

Dsc013021 

November 24, 2008

Punter Chas Henry named third-string quarterback

GAINESVILLE -- With back-up quarterback Cam Newton's future with the Florida Gators uncertain, UF coach Urban Meyer has named punter Chas Henry the team's third-string quarterback for Saturday's game against Florida State.

Henry was an accomplished quarterback in high school He led East Paulding High to the quarterfinals of the Georgia state playoffs. Henry threw for more than 1,700 yards his senior year at East Paulding and 17 touchdowns.

Newton was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing a laptop computer. Meyer said that junior receiver Percy Harvin could also play quarterback if needed.

AWARDS
Quarterback Tim Tebow is a finalist for the Maxwell Award, the postseason college football award given to the best all-around player in the country. Tebow won the award in 2007. The Home Depot college football awards ceremony will take place at Disney World after the regular season. Tebow is not a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's best quarterback.

The finalists for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's best defensive player, are James Laurinaitus of Penn State, Ray Maualuga of USC and Aaron Maybin of Penn State.

-jo-

Did Florida Gators see the last of Javy on Saturday?

GAINESVILLE -- With so many injuries at defensive line, there's a chance that Gators' defensive tackle Javier Estopinan might make an even bigger contribution this weekend against FSU than he did against The Citadel. Estopinan ran for an unlikely touchdown.

Estopinan hasn't been in UF's defensive line rotation all season but that might change now that the Gators are without defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh and Matt Patchan, who both went down with knee injuries. Raise your hand if you love everything Javier Estopinan represents: Hard work, persistance and Miami. Estopinan is like that old action hero. You know, the grizzly old guy that goes walking into the sunset only to return for the sequel when more bad guys return. Estopinan is Bruce Willis.

Monday morning link...
No.2 Florida Gators place FSU on their radar
No.18 Florida Gators facing earlier test tonight against Syracuse

-jo-

November 23, 2008

Key players out for Florida Gators vs. Florida State

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's rush defense took major hit on Saturday when defensive linemen Matt Patchan and Lawrence Marsh went down with knee injuries. Neither linemen is expected to play against Florida State.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said both players suffer from sprains of their medial-collateral ligaments. Meyer said that Patchan is out for sure and UF's coach made it sound like Patchan could also miss next week's game against Alabama.

"It's an MCL sprain that's going to take some time to heal," Meyer said.

Marsh is questionable for Saturday's away game against the Noles.

INGRAM LOBBYING FOR RETURN
According to Meyer, UF senior tight end Cornelius Ingram has been lobbying coaches for a return to the field in time for the Gators' bowl game. Ingram pleased his fans on Saturday before the Gators' final home game of the season when he sprinted onto the field from a three-point stance. Ingram's sprint was the highlight of the Gators' pregame ceremony for outgoing senior football players.

Ingram has been cleared to run and cut and could be cleared for contact in time for the Gators' bowl game.

"C.I. is having some strategic people ask me," Meyer said.

(Getting C.I. on the field...um... Sounds like a job for Shelley Meyer.)

RANKINGS RANT
Florida is ranked No.2 in the latest AP Top 25. Alabama, idle on Saturday, remained No.1.

Don't look now but those sneaking coaches are trying to vote Oklahoma into the title game. Texas was ranked ahead of Oklahoma in last week's coaches' poll but the Sooners jumped ahead of not only Texas but also Florida this week to take the No.2 spot. The coaches' poll makes up one-third of the BCS standings formula. The Harris poll and computer rankings make up the rest.

The fix is in, folks. I nailed this a few weeks ago, as some of you might recall. Texas beat Oklahoma but is going to get royally longhorned by the system.

-jo-

Two signs that Tebow might be gone

PROGRAMMING NOTE: No.3 Florida (10-1) at FSU (8-3) set for 3:30 p.m. on ABC.

GAINESVILLE -- I'm not going to spend much time on this topic because, well, I'm sick of writing about it, but for those conspiracy theorists among us there were a few signs that Saturday's 70-19 win against The Citadel was Tim Tebow's final home game.

1. Tebow dragged back-up quarterback John Brantley on a victory lap around the field, slapping hands with fans and snapping pictures. Tebow said he brought Brantley along for the ride because he wants to start a tradition. Did Tebow pass the torch to Brantley on Saturday?

2. Tebow quite literally threw in the proverbial towel on Saturday. After his victory lap, Tebow launched a Gatorade hand towel into the stands just before he jogged off the field. (OK, the second one is pretty lame.)

ANYWAY, we move forward quickly this week. Onward to Tallahassee! The 'Noles looked pretty good on Saturday night, beating Maryland 37-3. Will Saturday's game against Florida State be the Gators toughest test of the regular season? Considering what's at stake, I can't imagine Florida walking into The Okey Doak flat or uninspired. With a defense ranked No.7 in the country, the 'Noles will keep it close if they don't make any mistakes a la everyone else Florida has played in the last seven games.

-jo-

November 22, 2008

FINAL: Florida Gators 70, The Citadel 19

iGAINESVILLE -- Thanksgiving came early for UF redshirt senior Javier Estopinan this year. He just rushed for one-yard touchdown to give UF a 56-6 lead in the third quarter. Estopinan, a Miami native, has had three reconstructive knee surgeries during his career at UF.

--Kestahn Moore having a nice game on Senior Day. He just rushed for his second touchdown of the first half and has 50 yards on six carries. UF with 512 yards of offense in the first half after a 46-yard run from Chris Rainey. Rainey with 126 yards on four carries.

--John Brantley in the game at quarterback for the Gators. Looks like Brantley will get two and half quarters of work today. If Tebow is done for the day, he finished with three touchdowns and completed 9 of 11 pass attempts for 201 yards. He also rushed for 34 yards on two carries.

--For all you Guns & Roses fans out there, UF's band breaks out Sweet Child of Mine for the first time this season. Nice.

--It's getting ugly now. UF freshman defensive back Will Hill intercepted a pass (13:24, second quarter) and returned it to the CU 31. The Gators went up 35-0 on the next play when Tebow fired a bullet to Deonte Thompson.

--Percy Harvin rushes for an 11-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. The play appeared to be going no where until Harvin cut back against his blockers and outraced CU's defense for a touchdown. UF 28, The Citadel 0 (14:54, second quarter.)

--First quarter in the books. UF has outscored its last seven opponents 122-0 in the first quarter. UF 21, The Citadel 0.

--UF making it look easy against The Citadel here at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators just went up 21-0 (3:27, first quarter) on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to receiver Riley Cooper. Nice one-handed catch by Cooper in the end zone.

--UF redshirt freshman Chris Rainey bounces off a defender at the line of scrimmage and scores a seven-yard touchdown run. UF 14, CU 0. Rainey's fourth touchdown of the season.

--Percy Harvin with a nice 24-yard run on drive. I'm convinced that UF's play when Harvin goes in motion and takes the hand-off from Tebow is impossible to defend. It's worth at least 20 yards every time the Gators run it.

--UF freshman Will Hill and junior Markihe Anderson rotating at nickel.

--Senior receiver Louis Murphy with a 16-yard touchdown catch (10:34, first quarter) to get the party started. UF 7, The Citadel 0. That's Murphy's fifth touchdown catch of the season and Tebow's 20th touchdown throw.

--UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins with his second interception of the season. He returned it 16 yards to the UF 49. (Update on Marsh. He appears to have injured his left knee. He's on crutches and headed back to the locker room.)

--Bad news on the first play of the game. UF defensive lineman Lawerence Marsh went down with what appeared to be a knee or ankle injury. He was helped off the field by trainers and his now being examined on the sideline. Brandon Antwine entered the game in place of Marsh.

PREGAME BELOW
Mr. Two-Bits performed the final pregame of cheer of his career with the entire football team flanking him on the field. It was a pretty touching tribute. The 82-year-old volunteer cheerleader is calling it quits after this season.

--No sign of Florida defensive end John Brown on the Gators' sideline.

It's cold in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's open-air press box today. There was a flyover and now the Gators are taking the field minus one back-up quarterback.

--Florida's seniors being recognized right now. Today is Senior Day. Largest applause so far for Javier Estopinan, Louis Murphy, Jim Tartt, Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins. Not anymore. Cornelius Ingram just sprinted onto the field and received a standing ovation.

-jo-

November 21, 2008

UF quarterback Cameron Newton arrested for buglary, larceny

GAINESVILLE — University of Florida back-up quarterback Cameron Newton was arrested on Friday for allegedly stealing a laptop computer.

Newton was charged on Friday for burglary, larceny and obstructing justice. The burglary charge is a second-degree felony while the larceny and obstruction of justice charges are both third-degree felonies.

On Friday afternoon, a University of Florida spokesman said that Newton was suspended from the team. Florida hosts The Citadel on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Newton was in custody at the Alachua County Jail on Friday.

According to an arrest report, a University of Florida student reported his Dell laptop stolen from his dorm room on Oct. 16. An investigation into the stolen laptop linked the laptop to Newton, who allegedly used the machine to access the University of Florida’s computer network.

According to the University Police Department, Newton allegedly first logged on to the UF network using the stolen laptop on Oct. 21 while inside the university’s Academic Advising building. According to an arrest report, the university’s Computer Network Services advised a UPD detective that the username used to access the network was “cnewton,” the user identification assigned to Newton.

UPD detectives went to Newton’s dorm on Friday and, according to the report, were invited into the room by Newton. Upon entering the dorm room, detectives observed the laptop on Newton’s desk and then informed Newton of his Miranda warning. According to a UPD detective, the laptop had been “painted black on the top and had ‘Cam Newton’ written on the lid in white paint.”

UPD detectives left the dorm to confirm that the laptop in Newton’s possession matched the serial number of the stolen laptop. According the report, the detectives returned to the dorm room but the laptop had been removed.

The report states that further investigating “found that Mr. Newton threw the computer out of his bedroom window.” The laptop was later found behind a dormitory dumpster, according to the arrest report. Police do not know at this time who placed the computer behind the dumpster.

-jo-

November 20, 2008

Florida Gators 64, Southern Utah 50

GAME STORY LINK from today's paper.

GAINESVILLE -- It wasn't pretty but UF earned its third win of the season Thursday night, defeating Southern Utah 64-50. UF made just one of 16 3-point attempts. Nick Calathes led the Gators with 18 points.

UF coach Billy Donovan was surprisingly pleased with the effort. Afterwards, he credited his team with playing great defense. The Gators foreced 21 turnovers and had 14 steals. UF freshman Ray Shipman of Miami Monsignor Pace had four steals in 13 minutes.

LIVE BLOG BELOW
UF still hasn't made a 3-point basket but leads SUU 48-38 with 7:48 left in the game. Timeout on the court and UF coach Billy Donovan slammed his dry-erase board on the floor to fire up his players. Ugly game here at the O'Dome.

--UF playing aggressively to begin the second. The Gators, back in their full-court defense, forced two straight Utah turnovers with 16:14 left in the game. UF off to a 9-0 run to take a 42-27 lead.

--Ray Shipman with a steal on an SUU inbounds to convert an easy dunk. Shipman's first points of the night. UF 39, SUU 27 (18:05).

--UF freshman center Kenny Kadji with a nice turnaround off the glass to start the first half. Kadji with eight points and playing the best basketball of his young career.

HALFTIME: One halftime stat really jumps off the box score tonight. UF didn't make a 3-pointer (0-of-8) in the first half. (UF made 13 3-pointers in its last win.) Calathes with nine points in the first half. Alex Tyus and Kenny Kadji with six each.

SUU ends the first half with an 8-0 run led by some point guard (Mike Josserand, PICTURED) that looks like the hillbilly from Deliverance. UF 33, Southern Utah 25 (52.9 seconds left in half). No joke, this kid is playing basketball with braces and no mouthpiece. What a baller.

--UF forward Dan Werner with his second bucket of the game to give UF a double-digit lead. UF up 31-17 with five minutes left in the first half. Nick Calathes leading the Gators with nine points. Center Alex Tyus with six.

--UF freshman center Kenny Kadji with the first dunk of his career (11:08). Kadji with four points in the first half. UF trying to a full-court press but it's not really working. Why switch to full-court defense when SUU can't make a bucket in its half-court set? UF 19, Southern Utah 12 (8:48).

--Dan Werner goes inside with a lay-up (11:58). UF on an ugly 8-0 run. SUU hasn't scored in nearly five minutes. UF leads 13-6 with 11:40 left.

--UF is 1 of 6 from the free-throw line with 12:42 left in the first. Pretty bad effort at the charity stripe so far. Freshman Erving Walker just clanged a pair.

--Miami's Ray Shipman in the game with 14:09 left and immediately helps force Southern Utah to call an emergency timeout to avoid a 10 second violation. Shipman played at Miami Monsignor Pace.

--UF leading Southern Utah 11-6 with 14:26 left in the first half. SUU is trying to slow down the game but its not working. The T-Birds can't make a jumper, shooting 3 of 9 from the floor. UF center Alex Tyus leads the Gators with four points and three rebounds.

--Florida playing the Southern Utah Thunderbirds tonight. Trivia question: Are there any other college mascots that share the name of a low-end fortified wine? In related news, the Gators are playing like winos to begin the game.

-jo-

Moses Jenkins turning into special teams standout

GAINESVILLE -- Moses Jenkins sightings have been few and far between since the former Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson star signed with the Gators back in Febuary of 2007. There have been recent signs, however, that Jenkins is improving in practice and winning favor with his coaches.

Jenkins made special teams tackles against Georgia and South Carolina, including hits on opening kickoffs. Florida head coach Urban Meyer, also the team's special teams coordinator, even mentioned Jenkins' effort earlier this week. It's no secret among teammates that the best way to earn playing time on defense is by first proving your worth on the Gators' kickoff- or punt-coverage units. If UF takes care of The Citadel in the first half, expect plenty of playing time for Jenkins on Saturday during the second half.

Here's a great picture of Jenkins, produced by Getty Images, following the Gators' 56-6 win against South Carolina. Question: Why is Jenkins holding a camera?

Jenkins_2

November 19, 2008

Spikes' dream hit involves an ambulance

GAINESVILLE -- Brandon Spikes wears No.51 for one reason. He wants to play football like NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who wore the same number during his playing days.

Spikes, a finalist for the Nagurski Award, started watching films of his favorite linebackers -- Butkus and Mike Singletary -- when he was in high school. He learned from the best.

"There's one thing I noticed about guys like that," Spikes said. "They're really violent, so I try to mold my game after guys like that."

How violent of a hitter does Spikes consider himself? Here's his description of what it feels like to make a perfect tackle.

"You really can't explain it," Spikes said. "It's just something a linebacker dreams about: Put a guy out and let the ambulance come and get him off the field."

Spikes has made some pretty big hits this season (see Moreno, Knowshon) but he says his biggest hit is still bottled up inside, waiting to be unleashed.

"[Moreno] was a good hit but I want to knock a guy out of the game," Spikes said. "It was a great lick. I kind of wanted to get revenge from the year before."

Spikes will get his chance to KO a few D-II players this weekend. Something tells me he'll be saving his best for FSU and Alabama. As for Saturday's game against The Citadel, Spikes said on Wednesday that he wants to play a great game for "the seniors, the guys who are never going to play here again."

But what about Spikes? Might Saturday's final home game of the season be his last game in The Swamp? Will he turn pro after this season?

"It's a decision I have to make in the future but right now I'm focused on beating The Citadel," Spikes said.

That said, Spikes did reflect on his time at Florida on Wednesday. He mentioned how "it's going fast."

"It's a great place to play -- in The Swamp," Spikes said. "I come out here ... I used to take it for granted when I was younger but now it's going fast, so I just want to come out and play hard every game."

STRONG FOCUSING ON THE CITADEL
Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is no stranger to his name being shuffled around by the media as a possible head-coaching candidate. Perhaps there was a time earlier in his career when he might have gotten caught up in the speculation. Not anymore.

"My name has been out there for so many years," Strong said. "I have a great job here and I don't even listen to it anymore because, you know what, if you let yourself get consumed with it then it will take away from what you're doing now. And my job now is to work at the University of Florida and get this team prepared to play The Citadel and that's all I'm concerned about."

-jo-

Florida Gators named finalists for national awards

GAINESVILLE -- Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive college football player.

The award will be announced Dec.7 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Spikes is one of five finalist for the award. The other finalist are TCU end Jerry Hughes, USC linebacker Ray Maualuga, Texas end Brian Orakpo and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith.

Spikes (6-3, 245 pounds) leads the Gators with 70 tackles this season, including eight tackles for a loss. All three of Spikes' interceptions this season have come against teams ranked in the Top 25. He is one of three linebackers in the nation with two interceptions for touchdowns this season, which equals the UF single-season record.

Spikes is the third Gator to be named a finalist for the Nagurski Award. He joins Alex Brown (2001) and Reggie Nelson (2006).

--Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is a finalist for the Wooden Cup, given to a collegiate and a professional athlete who have made the greatest positive influences in the lives of others. The award recipients will be announced at a ceremony held at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club on Jan. 14.

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November 18, 2008

Saturday could be Tim Tebow's last game in The Swamp

GAINESVILLE -- There is a very real chance that the Gators' game on Saturday against The Citadel will be the final home game in the career of UF junior quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow indicated earlier this season that he might turn pro and forgo his senior year of eligibility. That means one thing: If you were thinking of skipping UF's final home game of the 2008 season because it's against The Citadel, you might be skipping your last chance to show appreciation for one of the greatest players in Florida football history.

Just something to think about as you plan your week. Even if Tebow returns, Saturday will likely be the last home game for several junior stars ... not to mention the entire senior class. (More on the seniors later this week.)

DONOVAN: TEAM CHEMISTRY NEEDS WORK
The Florida men's basketball team is 2-0 and hosts Southern Utah on Thursday. Florida dominated its first two opponents of the season -- Toledo and Bradley -- but in both games UF's offense and defense appeared disjointed while UF coach Billy Donovan experimented with different line-ups.

On Tuesday, Donovan says his team chemistry needs work. It's not that his players don't get along. The Gators just lack experience and are still recovering from the departure of nine players in two seasons. Five players have left early for the NBA, two players have graduated and two players have transferred.

"They have to get used to playing with one another and because of that roles change," Donovan said. "Probably my first 10 years or so we were very fortunate even when we lost Donnell Harvey, we lost Mike Miller, we lost Jason Williams ... even Kwame Brown -- it was only one player on a team. You talk about Humphrey and Richard being seniors and then losing four underclassmen, it's hard to just recuperate from that in one year."

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November 17, 2008

Can Percy Harvin play running back in the NFL?

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer wants to know how NFL coaches plan on using junior Percy Harvin once he makes the jump to the NFL.

Meyer indicated on Monday during his weekly press conference that he has asked a few NFL coaches how they think Harvin's unique skill set will translate to Sundays. Meyer is close friends with New England coach Bill Belichick and Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio.

"I think he's going to have a great career at the next level," Meyer said. "I'm intrigued and I've already approached people how they're going to use him and I think it's going to be a lot like I use him."

We're assuming all this talk of Harvin and the NFL means there's no chance he returns to Florida next season. Of course, I'm sure everyone was expecting that already. How do you think Harvin will be used in the NFL? Is Harvin better than Reggie Bush?

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who has NFL coaching experience, said on Saturday that if Harvin was a full-time running back, then he would be the best in the country. At the beginning of the season, Harvin classified himself as a receiver who is running the ball at Florida to help the team win.   

The Southeastern Conference named Harvin the league's offensive player of the week for his efforts against South Carolina. Harvin rushed for 167 yards on eight carries in the Gators' 56-5 win against South Carolina.

"I'm not sure he has the body to handle 25 to 30 inside-the-tackles type games but pound for pound [Harvin] is as strong as we got," Meyer said. "I think the way we utilize him -- You'd like to get him more involved in the pass game and I think we're going to try and get him more involved. -- but for what we do with him, he's in the right offense at the right place because there are some places that don't really have the knowledge or experience or personnel to use him the way we do."

UF junior Jermaine Cunningham was named SEC defensive lineman of the week. Cunningham had a game-high eight tackles, including a sack. He also forced a fumble and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. Speaking of juniors leaving early, will Cunningham forgo his senior year and make himself eligible for the NFL Draft?

UF ASSISTANTS LEAVING?
Speculation is beginning to heat up around the Florida football facility about assistants leaving Florida for head coaching positions. Offensive line coach Steve Addazio has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Greg Robinson at Syracuse. Syracuse finally fired coach Robinson (According to the New York Times, the school hired a search committee to replace him earlier in the season.) and Addazio is the top choice of former Syracuse players who played during the Donovan McNabb years.

Other Florida assistants -- namely defensive line coach Dan McCarney, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and, to a lesser degree, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen -- could also be in line for interviews. Meyer intimated on Monday that outside sources are showing interest in some of his lieutenants. "We've already had some people sniffing around," he said. "If things happen, then we'll have the appropriate discussion at that time."

Meyer also said Monday that he is keeping his "eyes open" for possible replacements. "I have some stuff right now," he said.

PRAISE FOR BRANDON HICKS
Meyer named UF linebacker Brandon Hicks the team's defensive player of the game on Monday. Hicks forced two interceptions against South Carolina and had a sack during an amazing four-play sequence in the first quarter. Hicks started on Saturday for linebacker A.J. Jones, who is nursing a slight injury. Hicks and Jones will battle this week mortal combat style to see who gets the start against The Citadel.

"[Hicks] is one of our better players on the team right now and that all happened within a couple weeks," Meyer said. "He was actually floundering for a little while. He has a hard time grasping the defense. He's a great athlete. He's exactly what you go recruit -- a 225-pound linebacker that can run like the wind -- and now he's starting to get confident. Coach Strong has a lot of confidence in him right now and that wasn't the case two weeks ago."

COULD UTAH WIN IN THE SEC?
It's no secret that Meyer still has a great affinity for the Utah football program. Utah is 11-0 and ranked No.7 in the USA Today coaches' poll. Meyer is a voter in that poll this season. On Monday, Meyer said he voted Utah "real high" this week.

"They're a hell of a team," Meyer said.

Meyer was asked on Monday if he thought Utah was better than some of the SEC's elite teams? Meyer indicated that he believes his former team might be that good this season.

"I'd get blown completely out of the water if I answered that truthfully so I'm not going to," Meyer said. "And that's not one way or the other."

Meyer said on Monday that the year (2004) he led Utah to an undefeated season and a BCS bowl, he was a "big proponent of the playoff." Now, not so much.

"Could that team realistically have just survived the level of competition we just played? No," Meyer said.

MEYER ON OBAMA
President-elect Barack Obama made news earlier this week when he once again talked about the need for an eight-team playoff for major college football. Meyer might not agree but he likes that President-elect Obama has an interest in college football.

"Any time a President-elect or any people place the value on athletics like we all do, I thank that's good," Meyer said. "I think that's good for our country. I don't know if [a playoff] is the right thing to do but some people will make that decision down the road."

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November 15, 2008

FINAL: UF 56, USC 6

GAINESVILLE -- UF running back Chris Rainey joins the scoring party with a three-yard TD run with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter, giving UF a 56-6 lead. UF needs one more rushing touchdown tonight to match the total number of rushing touchdowns the USC defense allowed this entire season entering Saturday.

TEBOW TO HERNANDEZ
A five-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to tight end Aaron Hernandez gives UF a 49-6 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. A 39-yard punt return from Brandon James set up the drive. James has 427 yards on punt returns this season, a UF record.

DEMPS' LONG RUN
After a two-game drought, UF running back Jeffery Demps finally busts a long play. The 38-yard touchdown run gives UF a 42-6 lead with 6:58 left in the third quarter. Tebow offered the lead block on the play. Time to take him out of the game.

HARVIN'S 80-YARD RUN
Now isn't that a nice way to being the second half. First play of the third quarter, Percy Harvin, inside draw, 80-yard touchdown run. That's Percy's second rushing touchdown of the game and his 14th touchdown of the season.

Harvin has rushed for 147 yards on five carries today. USC entered the game allowing a team average of 101.4 yards rushing. UF 35, USC 3; 14:47.

SECOND QUARTER BELOW
UF quarterback Tim Tebow goes over the top to receiver Deonte Thompson for a 46-yard score. UF 28, USC 0 and the rout is officially on.

South Carolina entered the game with the nation's third best defense.

--UF with its second fumble of the game. This time Chris Rainey missed a pitch from Tebow. USC linebacker Eric Norwood recovered at the 20 and returned it to the USC 48. Not that a UF fumble is going to matter much today. USC's offense is absolutely terrible today. The Gamecocks game 27 yards of total offense in the first half off of 15 plays.

It's time to see what UF running back Emmanuel Moody can do.

FIRST QUARTER BELOW
OK, this is getting silly and out of hand. South Carolina just made its third mistake in less than a minute, leading to easy points for Florida. UF is winning 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.

After tossing two interceptions, South Carolina gave the ball away a third time. This time the lapse happened on special teams. Obviously pressing, USC called for a trick play on a kickoff with 3:43 left in the first quarter and it went terribly awry. UF's James Smith recovered a fumble at the USC 4 and returned it to the UF goal line. Tebow rushed for a score three plays later. UF 21, USC 0.

THREE SCORES IN 54 SECONDS! ALMOST
If not for a terrible call on James Smith's fumble recovery and return to the goal line (He appeared to score but was ruled down at the one-foot line.), UF nearly scored 21 points in 54 seconds. Here's a crazy statistic: In the last six games, UF has outscored opponents 101-0 in first quarters. UF has outscored opponents 125-7 this season in first quarters.

BLACK INTERCEPTION, HARVIN SCORE, UF 14-0.
Another UF interception and another easy score for the Gators. This time UF safety Ahmad Black intercepted USC quarterback Chris Smelley at the 33 and returned it to the USC 26.

UF linebacker Brandon Hicks once again applied the needed pressure on Smelley. Hicks tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage and Black stepped in front of a USC receiver to finish the play. It was UF's second interception in three USC plays and UF scored one play later when Percy Harvin rushed for a 26-yard score. That's Harvin's 13 touchdown of the season and sixth rushing score.

SPIKES' INTERCEPTION, UF 7-0
UF linebacker Brandon Spikes returned a 12-yard interception for a touchdown with 4:37 left in the first quarter to give UF a 7-0 lead. Linebacker Brandon Hicks supplied the pressure on USC quarterback Chris Smelley, who backpeddaled into the end zone before throwing the interception.

--UF has returned five interceptions for touchdowns this season

--UF running back Emmanuel Moody (the Southern Cal transfer) is in the game on the Gators' second series. UF running back Jeffery Demps fumbled on the Gators' first offensive series. USC middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley caused the fumble with a devastating hit.

PREGAME BELOW
It's cold (67 degrees, ehh) and wet at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium today. Good thing I'm in the press box. Does the rain favor UF or South Carolina today? I don't think it matters.

A few things to keep in mind during the first half.

1. UF has outscored opponents 104-7 in the first quarter.
2. With Urban Meyer as its coach, Florida has blocked at least one kick each time it has played South Carolina. Florida has blocked five USC kicks under Meyer.

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November 14, 2008

UF probe leads to Calathes, according to report

GAINESVILLE -- A University of Florida internal investigation of alleged student-athlete gambling revealed that UF men's basketball point guard Nick Calathes ran up a $600 online poker debt, according to a report.

University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said on Friday that he learned about the allegations "over the weekend" and UF "immediately looked into it."

"We reviewed everything very thoroughly and are satisfied with our results," Foley said in a statement. "We have no eligibility issues and are very comfortable that this issue is resolved based on our review.''

The NCAA does not prohibit athletes from playing online poker but betting on sporting events is an NCAA violation. Calathes played in the Gators' season opener on Friday night against Toledo.

According to a report on Yahoo.com citing unnamed sources, the UF men's basketball staff learned of Calathes' online gambling debt during the preseason. The staff was informed by a team manager, according to the report.

In 2001, former UF guard Teddy Dupay was kicked off the team after a six-month investigation by the University of Florida police department. Dupay admitted he was gambling on sporting events.

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