GAINESVILLE -- So long, 2008. A quick toast to the future before we "gnarfle the Garthok" ...
In the spirit of hope, since that's the catch phrase these days, Gator Clause wishes a Happy New Year to you and your friends and slow and agonizing stomach cramps to your enemies. May all your dreams come true and may all those who oppose your dreams suffer the pain of 10 lanced hemorrhoids. To life! L'Chaim!
It was a great year to be a Florida Gator. Let's review. Listed below are the Gators' top-five moments of 2008 as voted on by the editorial staff here at Gator Clause...Leave a comment and let us know your top-five moments of 2008.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS
1. The Comeback: Easily the best day of 2008 for Florida Gators fans came on Dec.8 in Atlanta when the Gators defeated Alabama 31-20 in the SEC championship game.
1a. With 17 seconds left in the third quarter and Alabama at the UF 10, Florida linebacker Dustin Doe dives and catches the foot of Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson. Wilson stumbles forward and throws the ball out of bounds, forcing the Crimson Tide to kick a 17-yard field goal. Alabama dominated the second half to that point. Later, former UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen would call Doe's effort and the defense's stop at the end of the third quarter the most important moment of the game.
1b. With 12:57 left in the fourth quarter and UF trailing Alabama 20-17, Florida needed four yards for a first down at the UA 46 but only gained three yards when Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower grabbed UF running back Jeffery Demps and tossed him to the turf. But wait! There's a flag! Hightower grabbed Demps' facemask! A 15-yard penalty is assessed and UF's drive continues.
1c. Same drive. With 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Florida faced third and 5 at the UA 9. With UF trailing 20-17, this would be one of game's decisive moments. A perfect play needed to be called. How about a shovel pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez? Tebow relays the information to his linemen with 10:38 on the clock. The ball is snapped and Tebow sells the play beautifully, faking an option pitch to Jeffery Demps. Meanwhile, UF tackle Jason Watkins slams into UA defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, clearing a narrow running lane for hard-charging Hernandez. Tebow shovels the ball to Hernandez, who sidesteps Alabama linebacker Ali Sharrief and then levels Alabama defensive back Justin Woodall for the first down at the UA 3.
1d. Same drive. With Florida on the UA 1, everyone inside the Georgia Dome is expecting Tebow to take the snap from center Maurkice Pouncey and slam into the middle of Alabama's beefy defensive line. Not the case. UF lines up in the offset I-formation and runs an option to the right. UF redshirt senior tight end Tate Casey makes a perfect goal-line block on Alabama All-American safety Rashad Johnson with 9:19 left in the game and Demps leaps into the end zone to give UF a 24-20 lead.
1e. UF 24, UA 20; With 8:27 left in the fourth quarter, Alabama faced third and 8 at its own 41. Alabama freshman receiver Julio Jones was injured two plays earlier during a jump-ball situation with UF cornerback Joe Haden. Jones sat out UA's second-down play -- a two-yard gain by running back Glen Coffee -- but the Freshman All-American receiver trotted back onto the field for a crucial third-and-long situation. It didn't matter. Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson dropped back to pass but was sacked by UF linebacker Jermaine Cunningham of Atlanta (Stone Mountain), Ga., with 8:18 left in the game. Cunningham lined up on the left edge but cut inside after the snap and rushed up the middle untouched to drop Wilson for an 11-yard loss.
1f. With 2:50 left in the fourth quarter, UF receiver Riley Cooper of Clearwater cut to the inside of Alabama defensive back Marquis Johnson of Sarasota. You know the rest. UF quarterback Tim Tebow threw a perfectly placed pass on third down and Tebow's roommate, Cooper, caught a five-yard touchdown to give UF a two-score lead. Ball game.
2. UF 49, UGA 10; Revenge!
2a. Brandon Spikes set the momentum earlier. How early? 45 seconds to be exact. Just ask UGA running back Knowshon Moreno. Surely, he remembers. Or maybe he doesn't remember being slammed into the Jacksonville Municipal Stadium turf by Spikes for no gain on second and 13 from the UGA 15. Here's a reminder, Knowshon. You took the hand off from quarterback Matthew Stafford, thought about bouncing the play outside, then cut upfield. Bad move, kiddo.
2b. This game was actually pretty close for awhile and UGA was threatening with an impressive drive midway through the third quarter. That all changed with 8:09 left in the quarter when UGA's Stafford dropped back at the UF 30 and made one of the biggest mistakes in his career. The downfield pass was intended for A.J. Green but UF cornerback Joe Haden jumped the route near the Florida sideline, intercepted Stafford's attempt at the UF 11 and return the ball 88 yards to the UGA 1. Tebow rushed for a one-yard score on the next play, giving UF a 21-3 lead.
3. Pain in the Rain: Jamie Robinson meet Tim Tebow. UF 7, FSU 3; first quarter: Facing third and 9 from his own 17, UF quarterback Tim Tebow turned in what will be remembered as one of his career's best highlights when he scrambled left for a first down, smacked cornerback Korey Mangum to the soggy field and then decimated Robinson, FSU's unfortunate safety, with exactly 2:48 left in the first quarter.
4. Torching the Tigers: On Oct. 11, UF led by 13 points near the end of the third quarter and were looking to put away the LSU Tigers. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium erupted with 62 seconds left in the third when freshman running back Jeffery Demps took a pitch from Tebow and went 42 yards for a touchdown. UF tight end Aaron Hernandez provided the initial block at the line of scrimmage against LSU freshman cornerback Patrick Peterson of Pompano Beach Ely. UF center Maurkice Pouncey cleared the rest of the path 20 yards downfield with an amazing block against LSU safety Harry Coleman. Demps' star was born on that night in Gainesville.
5. Carl Moore's elbow: Florida beat Miami 26-3 on Sept. 6 but it was an exciting game for three quarters. The game -- and the season -- might have turned out a little differently had UF receiver Carl Moore not made one of the most important receptions of the season. Leading by six points with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, UF faced third and 9 from the UM 33. It was time for Moore, the junior college transfer from northern California, to earn his scholarship. Moore streaked down the right sideline and leaped high into the Gainesville night for a perfectly placed deep ball from Tebow. Moore made the catch with 32 seconds on the clock before being leveled by Miami safety Randy Phillips. Phillips' hit appeared to carry Moore out-of-bounds and jar the ball loose for an incompletion. The line judge ruled the play incomplete. The play was reviewed, however, and overturned after the replay showed Moore's elbow landed inbounds. Officials determined that Moore lost possession after he landed out of bounds. First and goal from the UM 5. Percy Harvin scored on a two-yard option five plays later.