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79 posts from October 2009

October 31, 2009

Tim Tebow breaks Herschel Walker's record with long touchdown run

JACKSONVILLE -- So long, Herschel Walker.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow entered Saturday's game against Georgia at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium tied with Walker for the SEC all-time career rushing touchdowns record. Tebow broke the record with 1:32 left in the first half with a beautiful 23-yard touchdown run to give UF a 24-10 halftime lead.

Florida had 244 yards of offense in the first half. Tebow has rushed for 63 yards on eight carries and a touchdown and completed 14 of 18 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He's probably not very "frustrated" right now.

-jo- 

Future NFL kickers on display at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

JACKSONVILLE -- Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis of St. Augustine just boomed a 56-yard field goal to give Florida a 17-10 lead. Earlier in the second quarter, Georgia kicker Blair Walsh smashed a 49-yard field goal. Both field goals cleared the uprights with ease.

Walsh, who was the SEC's best kicker through the first half of the season, is from Fort Lauderdale.

-jo- 

Georgia scores and excites itself with a ... sideline celebration. Is this lame?

JACKSONVILLE -- Everyone remembers Florida's staged end-zone celebration in 2007, right? Well, that just happened again but this time Georgia celebrated its first touchdown of the game with a full-team sideline celebration.

Florida leads Georgia 14-10 with 10:35 left in the second quarter. After a difficult opening quarter, Georgia's offense came to life in the second quarter. The Bulldogs made it 14-3 on a Blair Walsh 49-yard field goal. UGA cut UF's lead to 14-10 on the next series with a 65-yard drive that took just three plays and ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Joe Cox to Aron White.

After the touchdown, Georgia jumped up and down on its own sideline, an apparent nod to the end-zone celebration in 2007. Lame?

-jo-

Florida Gators Dorian Munroe returns to action on punt defense

JACKSONVILLE -- Florida safety Dorian Munroe played on the Gators' punt-defense unit on Saturday during the first half of Florida's rivalry game against Georgia.

Munroe injured his knee this preseason and had not played until Saturday. A native of Miami, Munroe missed all of last season with an unrelated knee injury.

-jo-

Florida Gators' offense clicking after first quarter; UF lead Georiga 14-3

JACKSONVILLE -- So much for those offensive woes.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is on fire in the first quarter at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and the Gators lead the Bulldogs 14-3. UF scored on consecutive drives to begin the game. Both series were displays of precision and big-play ability that the Gators have lacked recently.

Receiver Riley Cooper has two touchdown receptions. His 22-yard catch from Tebow with 12:21 left in the first quarter gave UF a 7-0 lead. Cooper had a 29-yard touchdown reception on the following series. Florida has 172 yards of offense after two drives and Tebow was 8 of 9 for 106 yards.

The Florida Gators drove 80 yards in six plays on the opening series and torched the Bulldogs on the second series with a 92-yard drive on 11 plays.

MUNROE ON STATIONARY BIKE
Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe is dressed on the sidelines for the first time this season. He warmed up on a stationary bike during the first quarter but did not play.

GEORGIA WEARS BLACK
Those wily Georgia Bulldogs surprised everyone at kickoff with black pants and black helmets. Halloweened themed? Mike-Mike McCall mentioned that they look like skeletons.

-jo-

October 30, 2009

Call it the War for the Oar! New rivalry trophy to be unveiled for Florida-Georgia rivalry

GAINESVILLE -- And to the winner goes The Oar!

College football has a brand new rivalry trophy. The Okefenokee Oar will be presented to the winner of the Florida-Georgia rivalry after Saturday's game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Naturally, Gator Clause has already renamed the rivalry the War for the Oar and is currently working on copyrighting that.

Oaragain The Okefenokee Oar, measuring 10 feet but needing some paint (just my opinion), is a collaborative idea of the University of Florida and University of Georgia student governments. The trophy will remain in the possession of the winning team for a year before returning to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in 2010 to be fought over once again. We're assuming this, anyway. We suppose Georgia could eventually just keep the trophy all to itself and display it in a museum. (Yes, Miami, that was a shot at you and your war canoe. Please, Canes fans, no emails about the City of Hollywood mayor or whatever. I already know the story.)

Gator Clause loves this idea. We are suckers for college football traveling rivalry trophies and we're sure that the War for the Oar will soon top the list of college football's most recognized rivalry names. Since Florida is 16-3 against Georgia dating back to 1992, the Okefenokee Oar will probably be spending a lot of time in Florida's trophy case.

For those who need a geography lesson: The Okefenokee Swamp is the big swamp on the Florida-Georgia border. If anyone has been canoeing in High Springs (just north of Gainesville), then you know the swamp pretty much extends all the way down to Alachua County. When it rains really hard in south Georgia, folks on the Suwannee River and its tributaries usually know it about two days later. According to the University of Florida's student government, the Okefenokee Oar was carved out of a 1,000-year old cypress tree from the swamp and was donated by someone who, according to UF's student newspaper, wanted to remain anonymous. (Probably because his first creation, "Treebow," didn't look too hot.

For those who need a history lesson: The Florida-Georgia border runs through the Okefenokee Swamp. OK, that much is obvious. But to fully understand the symbolism of the Okefenokee Oar you've got to go back a few years. Way back, actually. Like, back in the pre-colonial days.

I'd hate to bore you with the details so I'm going to wing this one. Back when Europeans started killing each other and American Indians for land in the New World, people really wanted the Okefenokee Swamp. Don't ask me why? It's a swamp and smells of decaying earth and primordial death pretty much year round. I know, I've been there. Paddled that river plenty. Beautiful swamp. Black water. Big alligators. Anyway, the Okefenokee Oar celebrates man's greed.

Ah, I'm just joking. Anything for another college football rivalry trophy! The UF and UGA student government presidents will introduce the Okefenokee Oar to the college-football world before the game on CBS.

-jo-

A Halloween costume suggestion for your favorite Florida Gator; Plus a pre-game meal suggestion for Deonte Thompson

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a link to my national college football column in Friday's paper, CLICK ME! As promised, the column is Halloween themed and offers costume suggestions for FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, Alabama coach Nick Saban, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, among other things.

It's Friday, which means it's time to suggest a pre-game meal for seemingly disgruntled Florida receiver Deonte Thompson. Thompson is not Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's favorite target. He knows it. We know it. Everyone knows it. In the three conference games Thompson has started since returning from his hamstring injury, he has four receptions for 107 yards. The large chunk of those yards came on Thompson's wide-open, 77-yard touchdown against Arkansas.

The Belle Glade native had one reception for 19 yards against Mississippi State. After waving at Tebow throughout the game to pass him the ball, Thompson became so frustrated after one play that he tossed up his arms and waved away another missed opportunity with what seemed to be palpable dismay.

Here's what Florida coach Urban Meyer had to say about Thompson's show of frustration: "I don't mind guys that play very hard and I think they share their frustration that competitors have," Meyer said. "If he's a non-competitor and I see that, he won't play. That's not the case. [Thompson] plays very hard. He runs blocks well. He runs good routes. That's fine.

"But if you ask me again next week, there's a chance Deonte won't be playing."

Deonte, here's a wise suggestion before you step over the line and show up Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Don't do it, man! Check yourself before you wreck yourself! You'll never find your way out of the doghouse! Do yourself a favor, Deonte, and mix a big ol' jug of orange Kool-Aid and drink the whole darn thing before Saturday's game against Georgia. Not the red Kool-Aid. Not the purple Kool-Aid. The ORANGE Kool-Aid! Don't even mix in the sugar. Just drink that stuff straight. Don't just swallow your pride, Deonte. This time you've got to drowned it before you wave away your chances of ever playing a meaningful role in Florida's offense. Urban Meyer has publicly warned you and so, too, have your friends at Gator Clause.

-jo-

PICTURED: Deonte Thompson's pre-game meal, aka "Smart Juice."OrangeKoolaid

October 29, 2009

ULTIMATE PREVIEW: The last-call cocktail for Tim Tebow in Jacksonville should be a Gators blowout

GAINESVILLE -- OK, so it's rivalry time again and that means it's ULTIMATE PREVIEW time again. First, here's a link to my story in today's paper. You know, the one I teased last night with the Book of Revelations quotes. A fun read. So, do yourself the favor. LINK!

And here's a link to Mike-Mike's daily practice rail. LINK! Mike-Mike writes that stopping Georgia basically boils down to one thing: shutting down UGA receiver A.J. Green.

First, a programming note: The editorial board at Gator Clause decided to publish the ULTIMATE PREVIEW a few days early this week. In rivalries past, we published the ULTIMATE PREVIEW on Saturday mornings as a game-day preview. Looking back, that seemed kind of like a waste because who the heck reads Gator Clause on a Saturday morning?

THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW'S EXPANDED CAPSULE
TEAMS:
No.1 Florida (7-0, 5-0 SEC); Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC)
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m., Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville
SERIES: Georgia leads the all-time series 46-38-2 but Florida is 16-3 against the Bulldogs since 1990.
COACHES: Urban Meyer (90-17 overall; 51-9 at UF, fifth season; 29-8 vs. SEC; 4-0 vs. UGA); Mark Richt (86-25 overall/at UGA, ninth season; 51-21 vs. SEC; 2-6 vs. UF)
Florida game notes LINK!
Georgia game notes LINK!

GATORS, DID YOU KNOW? Since Urban Meyer became the head coach in 2005, the Gators have a 13-1 mark against their primary rivals (FSU, UGA, UT and UM).

BULLDOGS, DID YOU KNOW? Georgia currently leads the country with 12 consecutive seasons with eight or more wins, but that record seems to be in jeopardy in 2009.

SEC, DID YOU KNOW? If Florida defeats Georgia on Saturday and South Carolina loses to Tennessee, the Gators will clinch the SEC Eastern Division title. Book your tickets to Atlanta, folks.

LAST YEAR: Florida defeated Georgia 49-10 in a game where pretty much everything went right for the Gators. Tebow rushed for three scores and passed for two more. In all, Florida converted 5 of 5 times inside the red zone. Florida's defense intercepted former UGA quarterback Matt Stafford (No.1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) three times, including and 88-yard interception return by UF cornerback Joe Haden.

TIM TEBOW RECORDS WATCH: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow needs one rushing touchdown to break former UGA running back Herschel Walker's SEC record for career rushing touchdowns (49). Tebow needs Tebow three more touchdowns (rushing or receiving) to tie him with former LSU running back Kevin Faulk (53) for the SEC record for career touchdowns.

[PICTURED, Tebow before there was eye black.]

Tebow needs two touchdown passes to tie him with former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman (77) for seventh in the SEC and third at UF. Tebow needs seven more rushing attempts to tie former Florida running back Earnest Graham (603) for fourth at UF. Tebow needs 17 completions to tie him former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell for seventh at UF. Tebow needs 36 passing yards to tie him with Bell (7,585) for fifth at UF. Tebow needs two passing touchdowns to tie Grossman (77) for third at UF. Tebow needs 11 more plays to tie him with former Florida quarterback Chris Leak (1,636) for first at UF.

BRANDON JAMES RECORD WATCH: Brandon James needs 68 more kickoff-return yards to tie him Brandon with former Mississippi State Bulldog Derek Pegues (2,498) for the SEC career record. 

[PICTURED, James is another Jackonsville-area native looking to go out big on Saturday.]

James needs one more kick return (kickoff or punt) to tie former Mississippi State Bulldog Tony James and former Auburn Tiger Thomas Bailey (199) for the SEC record. James needs one more punt return for a touchdown to tie former Vanderbilt Commodore Lee Nalley (5) for second all-time in the SEC. James needs one more kick return for a touchdown (kickoff or punt) to tie him with Nalley (6) for second in the SEC. James trails former LSU Tiger Robert Dow 19.1-18.2 for the SEC record in total average per kick return (kickoff and punt).

FLORIDA INJURY REPORT (bold means starter or former starter this season)
PROBABLE: DT Lawrence Marsh (ankle), DT Jaye Howard (knee), MLB Brandon Spikes (groin), Jeff Demps (probable)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Wondy Pierre-Louis (undisclosed), CB Moses Jenkins (concussion), SS Dorian Munroe (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle)
OUT: DT Justin Trattou (bicep), DT Brandon Antwine (shoulder), LT Matt Patchan (knee), WR Carl Moore (back), WR Andre Debose (hamstring), LB Brandan Beal (neck), TE Desmond Parks (knee), WR Paul Wilson (foot), LB John Jones (transfer).

GEORGIA INJURY REPORT
QUETIONABLE: FB Shaun Chapas (neck), CB Chad Gloer (hamstring), DE Kiante Tripp (shoulder), CB Vance Cuff (suspension), LB Marcus Dowtin (finger), LB Akeem Dent (hamstring)
OUT: DE Roderick Battle (knee), OT Trinton Sturdivant (knee), TE Bruce Figgins (suspension, redshirt), WR Kris Durham (shoulder), TE Bryce Ros (toe), OL Tanner Strickland (shoulder), WR Tony Wilson (ankle), S John Knox (transfer). 

THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW'S EXPANDED SCOUTING REPORT
WHEN FLORIDA HAS THE BALL
The Gators' lead the SEC in rushing (258.3) and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been the dominant force at the line of scrimmage. Tebow has 121 rushing attempts this season, compared to 143 combined rushing Moody attempts by running backs Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody. 

[PICTURED, Moody wouldn't mind a few more carries on Saturday.]

Tebow's tough running is the main reason why Florida leads the SEC in third-down conversion percentage (45.98 percent). He leads the SEC in passing efficiency (151.1 rating) despite tossing two interceptions last week against Mississippi State. 

Turnovers, sacks and converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns have been problems for the Gators. Tebow has been sacked 16 times in seven games and UF's quarterback has turned the ball over four times in his last two games (two fumbles against Arkansas; two interceptions against Mississippi State). Florida continues to struggle in the red zone. In conference play, Florida is 7 of 25 in converting red-zone chances into touchdowns.

In his last two games, UF sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis has missed two field-goal attempts from the 37-yard line. Sturgis made 3 of 4 field goals against both Mississippi State and Arkansas. His final field goal against the Razorbacks was the game winner.

Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez leads the Gators with 33 receptions. Combined, Hernandez and receiver Riley Cooper make up the large majority of UF's receiving offense. Hernandez and Cooper have combined for 60 receptions, which is more than the rest of the Gators' skill players combined (46). In conference play, senior receiver David Nelson and senior receiver Brandon James have caught five passes each. Sophomore receiver Deonte Thompson has four receptions in conference play.

Protecting Tebow inside the pocket has become a major concern for Florida's coaching staff. The left side of the offensive line appears to be the problem. It wasn't great to begin with but took a major hit when starting left tackle Matt Patchan tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee during the Gators' bye week. Florida began the year with a strong right side (center Maurkice Pouncey, right guard Mike Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert), but UF has since moved Mike Pouncey to left guard to balance the line. Florida Nixon experimented in practice this week by moving freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon into the starting rotation. Nixon could receive his first significant amount of playing time against Georgia.

[PICTURED, Is Xavier Nixon ready for the big time?] 

That UF coach Urban Meyer even suggested this week that Nixon, a true freshman, could be an option against Georgia likely means that Florida guards James Wilson and Maurice Hurt are to blame for UF's offensive line woes. Starting Nixon at left tackle would allow Carl Johnson (current starting left tackle) to shift inside and play his natural position (left guard). Florida's coaches are concerned with Georgia's dominant defensive tackles from Broward County (Geno Atkins of Fort Lauderdale and Jeff Owens of Sunrise). To limit Atkins and Owens, Florida could also move both Pounceys to the guard positions and start redshirt freshman Sam Robey, leaving Johnson at left tackle.

WHEN GEORGIA IS ON DEFENSE
Georgia's passing defense is ranked eleventh in yards allowed (238.3 ypg) and pass-defense efficiency (131.5) in the SEC entering Saturday's game. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet torched the Bulldogs for 408 yards and five touchdowns and Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton looked like an All-American Crompton against the UGA defense. Crompton passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the Vols' 45-19 win. Against Tennessee, Georgia's defenders did not record a sack or a quarterback hurry.

[PICTURED, This guy punked Georgia? Wow!]

Georgia's defense ranks last in the SEC in scoring (27.7 ppg) and that number does not match up well with the Gators' offense, which ranks first in the SEC in scoring (35.3 ppg). The problem seems to be lack of playmakers. Celebrated safety Reshard Jones has one interception and Georgia has recorded just five interceptions in 234 passing plays. Part of the problem: Georgia's supposed All-American defensive tackle combo of Atkins and Owens have combined for half a sack.

The Bulldogs are ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing defense, which should help the Bulldogs against UF's Thundercat Offense. Before Georgia fans get excited, consider this: A good measuring stick might be Georgia's game against Tennessee. Vols running back Montario Hardesty rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries against the Bulldogs.

WHEN GEORGIA HAS THE BALL
When Georgia has the ball, it's usually in the hands of receiver A.J. Green. Green, perhaps the best receiver in Georgia history, has 41 receptions through seven games for 682 yards and six touchdowns. Considering Georgia is ranked last in the SEC in rushing (108.0 ypg), Green is basically the team's entire offense. Georgia's second-leading receiver, Michael Moore of Coconut Creek North Broward Prep, has 19 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia quarterback Joe Cox ranks sixth in the SEC in passing efficiency (132.9 rating) and has thrown 13 touchdowns. Those are acceptable numbers but the problem is Georgia does not have a running game to balance the pass.

WHEN FLORIDA IS ON DEFENSE
In conference play, the Gators are ranked first in scoring defense (10.1 ppg), first in total defense (229.6 ypg), first in passing defense (135.0 ypg), second in rushing defense (94.6 ypg), first in pass-defense efficiency (86.6 rating) and third in interceptions (10). Yeah, the Gators are THAT good.

The biggest match up of the day will be Florida's cornerbacks against Georgia receiver A.J. Green. Green usually lines up on the left side of the field, which means he'll be going head to head against UF sophomore corner Janoris Jenkins most of the time. Jenkins and fellow cornerback Joe Haden have watched film of Green Janoris run passing routes for two hours every day since Sunday.

[PICTURED, Can Janoris shut down A.J. Green?]

Georgia quarterback Joe Cox has been intercepted nine times in seven games. He has thrown at least one interception in each game this season. Florida safety Major Wright of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas leads the Gators with three interceptions. Jenkins and Haden have two interceptions each and strong safety Ahmad Black has one. As Black likes to say, it could be a "pick party" on Saturday for the Gators' secondary.

Florida's defensive front should have no problem shutting down Georgia's rushing attack on Saturday. UF linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed the Mississippi State game with a groin injury, will likely play and defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh (ankle) and Jaye Howard (knee) are expected to rejoin the defensive line rotation.

FINAL VERDICT
Florida has had turnover problems but Georgia has had turnover nightmares. The Bulldogs have 17 turnovers in seven games and are minus-11 in turnover margin. If Florida shuts down the Bulldogs running game, as expected, and limits UGA receiver A.J. Green to under 100 yards receiving, the Gators will likely win easily. Tebow accounted for five touchdowns (three rushing) against Georgia last season and you better believe he is highly motivated this time around. He needs one rushing touchdown to break former Georgia running back Herschel Walker's SEC record (49) and Tebow will be playing in Jacksonville, his hometown, for the final time against the Gators' primary SEC rival.

PREDICTION
Florida 42, Georgia 10

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! (This is, after all, the ULTIMATE PREVIEW)
8 The number of touchdowns Tebow has accounted for in the last two years against Georgia.

7 The number of touchdowns Georgia's offense has accounted for in the last two years against Florida.

3 The number of times Florida and Georgia have played on Halloween. Georgia leads the all-time Halloween series 1-2. The Bulldogs defeated Florida 33-6 on UF's homecoming on Oct. 31, 1931. In 1992, Florida evened the series with a 26-24 victory. UF quarterback Shane Matthews passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns and UF's defense held Georgia Heisman Trophy candidate Garrison Hearst to just 41 rushing yards on 14 carries. On Oct. 31, 1998, No.11 Georgia upset No.5 Florida to regain control of this scary Halloween rivalry.

3 The number of sacks UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap recorded last week against Mississippi State. It was a career high for Dunlap. Dunlap's peformance against pass happy Georgia could be a key to the game.

18 The number of punts for Florida this season, which is the nation's lowest total. Seriously, is UF's offense really struggling.

27 The number of former Gators on current NFL rosters, according to Florida's sports information department.

38 The number of former Georgia Bulldogs on current NFL rosters, according to Georgia's sports information department. (Seemingly Georgia's only source of recent pride in this rivalry.)

-jo-

October 28, 2009

Suggestions for Florida Gators Tim Tebow's Halloween eye black: Gator Clause calls upon the Book of Revelations

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a little taste of my feature story in tomorrow's paper, which basically takes a few shots at Florida's excitable fan base. He'll never do it, but Tim Tebow should scribble a Bible verse from the Book of Revelations into his eye black on Saturday. Reason 1: A fittingly sarcastic backhand for his doubters and those among Florida's fans who think the end is extremely nigh. 2. It's Halloween, of course.

SUGGESTIONS FOR TEBOW'S SATURDAY EYE BLACK
FourHorsemen REV 18:1
"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory."

[PICTURED, Tebow will judge the wicked and unfaithful on Halloween!]

REV 18:3
"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every four spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." (Ibis, we're assuming.)

REV 19:11
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war."

REV 19:12
"His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself."

REV 19:15
"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Feel free to offer your own suggestions for Tebow's Halloween eye black. Quite fun.

-jo-

EMAILS I GET: How do you improve the Gators' offense?

This email comes to us from Daniel Fassman, a Gators fan who is genuinely concerned about UF's perceived offensive struggles. Daniel, using the power of his iPhone, writes:

I would like your opinion on the offense...Why not put Demps and Rainey in the backfield in a Wildcat? Also, more screens on the outside to use their speed. As for the red zone, or this year the "black zone," the answer is Moody. Running Tebow is becoming too predictable in short-yardage situations. (Moody) can get those tough yards you need. And I definitely agree putting Tebow under center will help. It's a new look I don't think we've shown and the one time we did, we scored a touchdown.

GAINESVILLE -- Daniel, thanks for the great email. I think your concerns reflect the concerns of a large portions of Gator Nation. In the words of UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, the only problem with the Gators' offense has been turnovers in the red zone. I agree with Steve. Too much is being made of the Gators' supposed offensive struggles. This team is ranked first in the SEC in total offense.

Why not put Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey in the backfield in a Wildcat? Well, for starters Demps is questionable for Saturday's game due to a neck strain, so I don't think I'll be writing about Demps in the Wildcat against Georgia. As for Rainey, do you really think UF's offense would be better if Rainey ran the Wildcat? Florida's Thundercat Offense with Tebow under center has been nearly unstoppable. It's the Wildcat on steroids. Tebow can run and, obviously, he gives you the option to pass. I don't see Rainey providing that type of versatility. The only thing that has stopped the Gators' offense is the Gators themselves. Limit the turnovers in the red zone and the idea that UF's offense is struggling seems ludicrous.

As for using Demps and Rainey more on screens, this topic has come up during press conferences and it's not a bad idea. Demps has four receptions in seven games and Rainey has one reception. Rainey's lone reception came on a screen pass and he carried it for a 14-yard gain against Arkansas before fumbling. More screen passes to Rainey, Moody or Brandon James are likely against Georgia.

Has Tebow become too predictable in the red zone? Yes, but that doesn't mean he isn't effective. Tebow remains the Gators' best short-yardage option and, in my opinion, that shouldn't change. Tebow was stuffed twice on the goal line against Mississippi State. This doesn't bother me. More often than not, Tebow is going to get those yards. The Gators are ranked No.1 in the SEC in third-down conversations for a reason: Tebow. A good offense converts third downs about 40 percent of the time. Tebow and the Gators are converting on third down 45.98 percent of the time, which ranks 22nd in the NCAA or 11th among BCS teams.

Should UF run more out of the I-formation? This is an interesting idea. Faced with a goal-line situation, I don't see the problem with putting Tebow under center and then running a QB sneak into the end zone. In short-yardage situations, the I-formation could be used as a nice change of pace (as in Rainey's touchdown run against Mississippi State), but, again, the Gators are not struggling in converting short-yardage situations. The best option, in my opinion, remains Tebow. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't room in the playbook to give Moody some carries in the red zone. I think Moody should get the ball in the red zone a few times against Georgia and he probably will.

In a nutshell, cut down on the turnovers and don't lose faith in Tebow in the red zone.

-jo-

October 27, 2009

Florida Gators freshman offensive lineman could start against Georgia

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday that there is a possibility freshman offensive tackle Xavier Nixon could receive significant playing time on Saturday against Georgia.

Offensive lineman James Wilson has apparently been singled out as the weakest link and Florida's coaches would also like to move Carl Johnson back inside, where he is more comfortable. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been sacked 16 times this season. Another offensive line possibility, according to Steve Addazio, is moving Maurkice Pouncey to guard and starting Sam Robey at center, which would leave Carl Johnson on the outside.

On the defensive line, coach Dan McCarney said that both Lawrence Marsh (ankle) and Jaye Howard (knee) practiced on Tuesday and could play against Georgia. Brandon Antwine (shoulder) and Justin Trattou (shoulder) are doubtful. Running back Jeff Demps (neck) sat out practice on Tuesday.

-jo-

Fixing red-zone problems tops Urban Meyer's agenda this week

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer and his offensive coaching staff watched every red-zone play of the season on Sunday night and they came to this conclusion: "We're finding out it's not play call."

On Monday, Meyer indicated that he has changed plays or allowed for change during the course of a game, which, in his opinion, has affected the Gators production in the red zone. In conference play, Florida is 7 of 26 in converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. The trend climaxed on Saturday in Starkville, Miss., when UF scored one touchdown in the red zone on six chances.

"We have to hold to the plan," Meyer said. "Sometimes we're making a call that's not on the call sheet and that's my fault. We're going to stick to the call sheet."

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, normally reliable in short-yardage situations, was stuffed at the goal line on consecutive plays in the first half. Tebow later tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown. After the game, Meyer said he was asking Tebow to do too much. Meyer said that he and his offensive coaches have designed a few new plays for the red zone and will be begin practicing them on Tuesday. Florida usually waits until Wednesday to practice its red-zone offense.

"We're going to do a better job on the call sheet, not just do it on Wednesday but do it earlier than that," Meyer said. "Last night we already have some (plays) on paper that we're going to start working."

More offense out of the I-formation could be an option. According to Meyer, using running back Emmanuel Moody in goal-line situations could also be considered. Moody, who leads the team in yards per carry, has not been used in the red zone this season. Meyer said on Monday that there was no reason why Moody had not been used in the red zone other than Florida's reliance on Tebow, which has become predictable.

"We're playing a lot of teams that are pinching the fronts," Tim Tebow said. "They game-planned us well with that especially (Dan) Mullen. He did a good job in game planning our fronts and the [quarterback] runs with some of the inside goal line stuff."

-jo-

October 26, 2009

Will Florida Gators Tim Tebow still win the Heisman Trophy? Gator Clause prediction: Yes. Will Tebow deserve the Heisman? Gator Clause answer: Yes.

GAINESVILLE -- By Tim Tebow standards -- pretty much the highest standards known to man and the American Dream -- the Florida Gators quarterback hasn't played his best football in the past two games.

Tebow lost two fumbles against Arkansas and tossed two interceptions against Mississippi State. Both interceptions were returned for touchdowns. On Monday, Tebow was questioned by reporters about his "frustration level" and the Gators' struggles in the red zone. Now, it seems kind of silly to me that reporters are viewing Florida's undefeated season as anything but a smashing success. But that's a topic for another blog post. The topic of this blog post: Will Tim Tebow win the Heisman Trophy? Gator Clause's prediction: Yes. Does Tebow deserve to win the Heisman? Gator Clause answer: Yes.

Lost in all the hoopla of the Gators' red-zone struggles and Tebow's "frustration" is the fact that Tebow has done some pretty amazing things in the last two games. Against Arkansas, he led the first game-winning drive of his career with less than five minutes remaining in a game. Against Mississippi State, Tebow rushed for a beautiful 26-yard touchdown run on what appeared to be a broken play.

And, by the way, Tebow's touchdown run against Mississippi State tied him with former Georgia running back Herschel Walker for the Southeastern Conference's all-time rushing touchdowns record (49). The record might fall on Saturday in Jacksonville against, who else, the Georgia Bulldogs. Now, if those two weeks are the worst two weeks in the career of Tim Tebow, then I guess it's only fair for Gator Clause to draw upon our inner Chris Rainey and say, "And I'm like, damn, it's good to be Tim Tebow!"

Now, it seems rather obvious to Gator Clause that a QUARTERBACK who breaks the career rushing touchdowns record of HERSCHEL WALKER (pretty much the best running back in the history of the SEC and maybe college football) should be considered a lock to win the Heisman Trophy. My friend and colleague Israel Gutierrez wrote a column last week that basically argued that Tebow does not deserve the Heisman Trophy. My argument, Tebow deserves the Heisman more this year than in 2007 and 2008.

First, let's remind ourselves what the Heisman Trophy represents. It's the yearly award for the best player in college football. OK, who is the best player in college football this season? Tim Tebow. How do we know this? Well, for starters, Tebow is the best player on the best team in the country. Seriously, who's better? Florida is the defending national champions and has won 17 games in a row, a national best. What about the sandlot test? If you're picking first in a sandlot football game, who are you picking? Yep, Tebow.

What else? Well, Florida's Thundercat Offense is designed around Tim Tebow. The Gators are ranked No.6 nationally in rushing offense this week and No.1 in the SEC. Take a guess who the leading rusher is of the SEC's best rushing offense? That's right, Tim Tebow, a QUARTERBACK. Tebow is averaging 66.6 yards per game and has scored a team-high six rushing touchdowns. Alabama running back Mark Ingram, considered the best running back in the SEC this season, has rushed for eight touchdowns, or only two more than Tebow, who is a QUARTERBACK.

Oh, by the way, Tebow, despite throwing two interceptions against Mississippi State on Saturday, is still the SEC's top-rated passer (151.3 passing efficiency). As Gator Clause likes to put it, Tebow is better than your team's best player. Or, as Tebow likes to put it, he's doing what he's asked, "OK."

In 2007 and 2008 Tebow had receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy to help make plays and accumulate stats. Harvin and Murphy are both starting in the NFL this season. That means Tebow is leading an offense that is ranked No.1 in the SEC with far less. A tight end is the Gators' leading receiver! Florida is ranked No.1 in the SEC in total offense (457.0 ypg) and scoring offense (35.3 ppg) and a tight end is the Gators' leading receiver! How is this possible!?! You guessed it, Tim Tebow.

Because of Tebow, Florida is ranked No.1 in the SEC in third-down conversions (46 percent), No.1 in the SEC in first downs (167) and No.1 in the BCS, AP poll, coaches' poll and Harris Interactive poll. Florida is one complete game away from Tebow blowing this Heisman race wide open. Enter Georgia, which is ranked 10th in the SEC in total defense, 11th in passing defense and fifth in rushing defense.

If Florida defeats Georgia on Saturday and South Carolina loses to Tennessee, then Florida will clinch the SEC East in the NINTH WEEK of the season. And the winner of the 2009 Heisman Trophy goes to ... University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Now, it won't be that easy -- Florida needs to defeat Alabama in the SEC championship game to ensure that Tebow wins the Heisman -- but consider what teams remain on the Gators' schedule after the Georgia game: Vanderbilt (nothing else to say), South Carolina (Tebow's motivation: Steve Spurrier didn't vote for Tim Tebow as the SEC's preseason all-conference quarterback.), Florida International (nothing else to say, other than Miami won't play FIU for who knows why) and Florida State (probably the worst defense in the ACC).

Reporters like to compare Tebow's stats to 2008 and 2007. That's fair but if that's your logic in arguing Tebow doesn't deserve the Heisman then it also seems fair to use that same logic in arguing that Tebow does deserve the Heisman. With six games remaining in his collegiate career, Tebow is already responsible for the most touchdowns in the history of the SEC and is already tied for the SEC career rushing touchdowns record. He has won two national championships and is the favorite to win a third.

Somebody, please tell me who is more deserving of the Heisman Trophy?

-jo-

Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps in neck brace

GAINESVILLE -- Here's proof that Florida coach Urban Meyer knows a thing or two about women's fashion accessories. He does, after all, have two daughters.

When asked on Monday about injured running back Jeff Demps, Meyer said, "I think he's going to be good. He has a sprained neck. He's walking around here with a choke collar on ... uh, neck collar ... little guy ... looks pretty good. But he should be fine. I think he's going to practice. There will be no contact for a couple days but I saw the play. A big ol' 300-pound lineman got a hold of him."

Demps sprained his neck against Mississippi State and his status for the Georgia game is questionable. 

-jo-

And the award for the most ridiculous press-conference question of the year goes to ...

... a representative of one of the Gators' fan websites, gatorcountry.com, of course. Because who else better represents psychotic, fanatical fandom than these people.

Florida is 7-0. The Gators are the defending national champions, currently ranked No.1 in the BCS and AP poll and Urban Meyer was recently named The Sporting News' college football coach of the decade. But on Monday during Meyer's weekly press conference, one gatorcountry.com employee went all Norman Mailer on us and asked Meyer this beauty: "Are you still living the American Dream?"

Would somebody please slit my wrists right now. I have now officially lost all faith in rational thought. Perhaps we should ask Americans this same question. Americans, is Urban Meyer still living the American Dream? 

-jo-

On second thought, Florida Gators linebacker Dustin Doe is a "bonehead"

GAINESVILLE -- Good Monday morning, Gatorland. Had a long travel day on Sunday getting out of Mississippi. Isn't it bizarre when you're in some random city for a connection flight and you run into someone you know from a completely different part of the country. That happened to me on Sunday. I as in this world of strangers, blank faces and TSA workers and then all of sudden there's an old friend. Good times.

Well, I just wanted everyone to know that Florida point guard Erving Walker of NYC told me last week that the Yankees would win in six. He was right. Yankees in six.

Is Florida getting special treatment by SEC officials? Two questionable calls in two weeks that led to fourth quarter touchdowns in close games? Just coincidence of is it something else? Here's a link to my story in today's paper. LINK!

ON SECOND THOUGHT...
What did we learn after Week Eight of the college football season? Exactly nothing. We already knew the Gators' Thundercat Offense was having trouble in the red zone. We already knew the Gators' defense was a force greater than the sun. And we already knew Dustin Doe was, in the words of teammate Terron Sanders, a bonehead.

Seriously, Dustin, was all that high-stepping really necessary? Against Mississippi State? Really?

--I talked to Caleb Sturgis on Sunday night and he agreed with me that it's probably a good idea that he no longer spot the ball at the 27-yard line for field-goal attempts. Sturgis' last two misses (first quarter against Arkansas and first quarter against Mississippi State) were both from 37 yards.

--We learned that Mississippi State running back Christian Ducre can always tell his grandkids that one time back in October 2009 he got the best of the great Ahmad Black.

TOLD YOU SO
Alabama has its flaws, too. Don't want to pile on the embattled SEC officials here but did Terrence Cody rip off his helmet before the clock hit zero in Tuscaloosa, Ala? Some are saying he did. That, of course, is against the rules.

REPLACING STEVE ADDAZIO
People, do y'all really think Florida coach Urban Meyer should replace his offensive coordinator of a 7-0 team on the week before the Gators biggest rival of the season?

Everyone needs to lay off Steve Addazio. The Thundercat Offense is ranked No.6 nationally in rushing this week (258.29) and continues to churn out at least four field goal attempts per game.

More later after Urban's Monday press conference. Will be slightly surprised if Tebow shows up today. He skipped out on the media on Saturday night.

-jo- 
 


October 25, 2009

Crazy game at Mississippi State ends with a 29-19 UF victory

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Pretty exciting game here in the beautiful state of Mississippi. Florida defeated Mississippi State 29-19 on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. Here's a link to my game story in Sunday's Miami Herald. LINK!

A record crowd of 57,178 watched Florida quarterback Tim Tebow tie former Georgia running back Herschel Walker's Southeastern Conference record of 49 career touchdown. Tebow rushed for 88 yards on 22 carries. He didn't throw a touchdown pass on Saturday, however, and completed 12 of 22 passing attempts with two touchdowns. After the game, Tebow refused to speak with reporters for the first time in his career.

Florida didn't look very good doing it but won its 17th straight game, which is the nation's longest current winning streak. Florida is 7-0 for the first time since 1996. Florida won at Mississippi State for the first time since 1985, breaking an 0-4 skid.

UF keeps on winning but how long will it last with the Gators struggling so mightily in the red zone? Florida was 1 of 6 converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. It's much more than a trend at this point. Now, it seems like a serious problem. In SEC play, Florida is 7 of 26 in converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.

I asked Urban Meyer after the game who was calling the Gators' red-zone plays and he said, "When it doesn't work, I call them."

Meyer said red-zone scoring is a major problem and will be addressed immediately. He said he planned to begin correcting it "on the plane ride home."

-jo-

October 24, 2009

Mississippi State pick-six highlights a difficult first half for UF's red zone offense

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Oh, boy. It might be a long night.

Mississippi State back-up free safety Johnthan Banks returned a Tim Tebow interception 102 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half on Saturday at Scott Field to cut UF's lead to 13-10. The interception came three plays after UF's Chris Rainey blocked his second punt of the season.

The punt gave UF excellent field position-- the State 7 with one minute left in the half -- but UF failed to convert. UF was 0-4 on converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns during the first half. That statistic is much more than a trend for the Gators' offense, it's a problem. In four and half Southeastern Conference games, UF is 6 of 24 in converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. You read that correctly, 6 of 24!

-jo-

Tim Tebow ties Herschel Walker

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow scored on a 26-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter of the Gators road game against Mississippi State on Saturday night. The touchdown gave Florida a 10-3 lead and tied Tebow with former Georgia running back Herschel Walker with all-time career rushing touchdown record in the Southeastern Conference.

Tebow has rushed for 49 touchdowns in his four-year career but none were quite like the one Saturday during the first quarter. Tebow faked a pitch then spun and ran up the middle of the field on a quarterback draw. Tebow cut to his right and outraced Mississippi State's secondary to the pylon. Tebow dove for the corner of the end zone to give Florida its first lead of the night.

FIRST QUARTER
The Gators' red zone troubles haven't went away. At least not yet, any way. The Gators missed a field goal in the first quarter (37 yards by Caleb Sturgis) and failed to score a touchdown after second and goal from the State 1.

--UF linebacker A.J. Jones picked off a Mississippi State pass during the first quarter after a Carlos Dunlap deflection. UF took over on the State 46 but the drive failed when Sturgis missed his field goal.

Mississippi State cowbells are so loud!

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Got to give Mississippi State fans props on these cowbells. Oh my gosh are they so loud. My ears will bleed tonight. I think everyone in the stadium has a cowbell.

There isn't much to Starkville, Miss., but the university is gorgeous. Of course, pretty much every campus I've been to in Mississippi has been nice: State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.

As for Davis Wade Stadium, the jumbotron is enormous. Apparently it's the largest in the Southeastern Conference. The game's official line-up cards: They tell us that "Maruc" Gilbert and "Ahmed" Black are starting for the Florida Gators today. (Pretty sure Marcus Gilbert and Ahmad Black are here as well.)

--Will Hill is listed as tonight's starter at free safety. Major Wright is the back up.

--This place is sold out and rocking pretty good. About 55,000 fans just joined in together to sing "Who Let the Dogs Out." That's a first for me.

-jo-


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