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57 posts from November 2009

November 18, 2009

(FINAL) Gators 69, Georgia Southern 49; Kenny Boynton leads UF with 22 points

Link to my game story in today's paper. LINK!

GAINESVILLE -- It started slowly for the Gators on Wednesday but UF dominated Georgia Southern in the second, defeating the Eagles by 69-49. UF led by one (26-25) at halftime.

Oddly enough, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was courtside on Wednesday at the O'Connell Center. Asked by the Miami Herald why he was in Gainesville, Pitino said he was recruiting in Ocala on Wednesday and decided to stick around for the Gators' game. Pitino and Billy Donovan are close friends -- Donovan played for Pitino at Providence and then coached with Pitino at Kentucky -- and Richard Pitino, Rick's son, is now an assistant of Donovan's.

Kenny Boynton Jr. led the Gators (2-0) with 22 points and Chandler Parsons scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds off the bench. 

--Kenny Boynton with a rare 4-point play to give UF a commanding 60-47 over Georgia Southern, which finished the season 8-22 and ninth place in the Southern Conference.

--Gators are 23 of 36 from the free-throw line with 2:53 left in the game. Gators lead Georgia Southern 56-47. Vernon Macklin with a quiet 15 points and seven rebounds. Chandler Parsons needs one more point for a double-double. He has nine points and 11 rebounds.

--Georgia Southern coach Charlton Young is a character. This guy is all over the place.

Chandler Parsons for three! The streak is alive. Parsons snapped the Gators 0 of 12 slump from the 3-point line. UF 55, Georgia Southern 45, 6:10.

--Gators have only attempted one 3-point basket in the second half and it seems to have settled the team. Nice call by Billy Donovan at halftime. Gators are 0 of 10 from the 3-point line. The Gators have made at least one 3-point basket in each of their last 580 games. That record pre-dates the Billy Donovan era. And the record is at stake!

Ten of the Gators' last 14 points have come from the free-throw line. UF 52, Georgia Southern 39; 8:31.

--Gators on 22-6 run after solid guard play from Erving Walker leads to an easy Macklin lay-up. UF 46, Georgia Southern 36; 10:05.

--Erving Walker is 7 of 9 from the free-throw line after knocking down 3 of 4 on consecutive possessions. UF 41, Georgia Southern 32, 11:59 left in second half.

--Gators playing great defense now. Georgia Southern went six minutes without scoring (19:11-13:04).

--Kenny Boynton igniting a 9-0 UF run. Boynton dunked to begin UF's second half scoring then scored on a backdoor cut (nice assist Tyus). Boynton capped the run with a breakaway lay-up. Boynton now 4 of 9 from the field and 0 of 4 from 3-point range. UF 35, Georiga Southern 30, 15:39.

--Alex Tyus hasn't scored and is only 0 of 1 from the field. He's back in the game after sitting most of the first half with foul trouble. And...Vernon Macklin misses a dunk.

--Didn't take long for Georgia Southern to retake the lead. The Eagles began the second half with five quick points.

OK, not the best first half for the Florida Gators in the history of the O'Dome. Florida leads Georgia Southern 26-25 despite going 0 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half. The Gators are now 1 of 22 from 3-point range in the first 60 minutes of the season.

Kenny Boynton Jr. is 1 of 5 from the field and 0 of 3 from 3-point range. Erving Walker is 0 of 6 from the field and 0 of 2 from 3-point range. Ray Shipman hasn't hit the rim yet (0 of 1, airball). Boynton is the Gators' leading scorer at the break thanks to 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.

--No look pass (turnover) by Erik Murphy. Immediately out of the game.

--Gators take first lead of night with dunk by Vernon Macklin with 3:21 left in first half. Erik Murphy provided a spark on the possession before Macklin's basket. UF 22, Georgia Southern 21; 2:30 left in first half. Gators are 0 of 9 from 3-point range.

--Florida freshman Erik Murphy now in the game. Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Dan Werner with two fouls each. UF down 17-16, 5:41 left in first half. Gators shooting 5 of 22 from the field and 0 of 7 from 3-point range.

Florida has scored just three field goals in the game's first 12 minutes and 30 seconds. UF is now 3 of 17 from the field with 7:28  to play in the half.

--Gators 0 of 5 from 3-point range. UF now 1 of 18 from 3-point range on the season.

--Alex Tyus out with two fouls. Ray Shipman just airballed a 3-point attempt. UF down 12-10, 10:01 left in first half. And now another UF turnover. Florida has five turnovers in the games first 10 minutes.

--The Florida Gators are trailing Georgia Southern 10-9 with 12:42 left in the first half on Wednesday at the O'Connell Center. Florida is 0 of 3 from 3-point range.


Louisville coach Rick Pitino at Gators basketball game

GAINESVILLE -- Seated a few seats away from me on press row tonight inside the O'Connell Center is Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Guess he's here to support his son, Richard, who is an assistant on Billy Donovan's staff.

Louisville defeated Arkansas in St. Louis on Tuesday night.


Mother of Florida Gators lineman Xavier Nixon was at Fort Hood during shooting

GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators freshman offensive lineman Xavier Nixon said on Wednesday that his mother was at Fort Hood, Texas, two weeks ago when 12 people were killed by a gunman.

Fotini Nixon, a sergeant in the Army, was attending Master Sergeant school at the Army post during the shooting. Just thought I would pass along that interesting news. More on Nixon later. At the basketball game.


Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will likely be a finalist for the Heisman; Will he win it? Still to be determined

GAINESVILLE -- In Tim Tebow's sophomore season, he won the Heisman Trophy based upon his stats and despite playing on a team that lost three regular-season games.

In 2008, Tebow again had good numbers but watched Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, a guy with better stats, win the award. Bradford played for a one-loss team during the regular season. Florida lost to Ole Miss.

In 2009, Tebow's numbers are down compared to 2007 and 2008 but this time he's on an undefeated team. Will that be enough to earn him his second Heisman Trophy. Will it be enough for him to at least receive an invitation to New York for the ceremony? Tebow will likely be invited but whether or not he wins his second Heisman is still to be determined.

Four things determine the winner of the Heisman Trophy: hype, stats, season and sportswriters. Does Tebow have the hype? Check. Does Tebow have the stats? No, not if you're comparing them to his sophomore and junior seasons. Does Tebow have the sportswriters? The verdict is still out on that one. Are sportswriters suffering from Tebow overload? Yes, some writers are probably are sick of hearing about Tebow. Is there a Tebow backlash? Yes, there are certain regions of this country where voters will be looking for reasons not to vote for Tebow.

Whether you agree with this or not, Tebow's stats this season are going to be compared to his stats in 2008 and 2007. Tebow's touchdown total in 2007 was one for the ages. He accounted for 55 scores and was the first person in the history of major college football to throw and run for at least 20 touchdowns. In 2008, his touchdowns were down slightly but still impressive. In 2009, Tebow's scoring totals have been steady but the Gators' haven't been blowing teams out.

Tebow's passing numbers in 2007: 350-234-6-32; 3,286 yards
Tebow's passing numbers in 2008: 298-192-4-30; 2,746 yards

With three games remaining in the 2009 regular season, Tebow has completed 124 of 198 attempts for 1,730 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Tebow's rushing numbers in 2007: 210-895 (4.3 ypc.), 23 touchdowns
Tebow's rushing numbers in 2008: 176-673 (3.8 ypc.), 12 touchdowns

With three games remaining in the 2009 regular season, Tebow has rushed for 604 yards on 171 attempts (3.5 ypc) and 10 touchdowns. Now, if you factor Tebow's sacks out of his rushing stats, those numbers improve significantly. Tebow has been sacked 23 times for minus-125 yards. Take away the sacks, and Tebow has rushed for 729 yards on 148 carries (4.3 ypc).

On Tuesday, Florida coach Urban Meyer defended his quarterback and told reporters that Tebow should still be considered for the Heisman Trophy despite Tebow's drop in statistics, which -- and this is just my opinion -- are directly related to Florida's lack of receivers.

"The Heisman goes for the best player," Meyer said. "I'd be hard to argue that he's not one of the best players in college football. Because he didn't throw for as many yards as another guy? I've never really looked at it (that way). I always look at the win-loss. How do you evaluate a player, especially a leader. Do you win games? That's No.1. It's always been No.1."

Six teams remain undefeated entering the 12th week of the season. Of those six teams, three quarterbacks are being mentioned in the Heisman discussion: Tebow, Texas' Colt McCoy and Boise State's Kellen Moore. If the Heisman was based strictly on stats, records and quarterbacks, then Moore would be the clear favorite. He has thrown for 2,558 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions. Comparatively, McCoy has throw for 2,628 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Of course, the Heisman isn't just about stats and records. Don't forget the hype factor. Does a sophomore quarterback from Idaho really have any chance of winning the Heisman? Probably not.

That brings us back to Meyer's quote about looking beyond Tebow's stats compared to other quarterbacks. A quarterback, it seems, is no longer the favorite to win the Heisman. Who would have predicted that at the beginning of the season?

Alabama running back Mark Ingram is having a fine season. He has rushed for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns in addition to catching 25 passes for 225 yards and three scores. Those are solid numbers and will likely earn Ingram a trip to New York. Since this is a Gators blog, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that Tebow has the same number of rushing touchdowns as Ingram. Will voters consider that statistic when filling out their Heisman ballots? We'll see.

At this point, the Heisman race is too close to call, but if I had to guess who the finalists would be at the end of the season, I'd pick Tebow, Ingram, McCoy and Moore. Barring injuries to either Tebow or Ingram, I'm still of the opinion that voters in the Southeast will wait until after the SEC championship to make a decision. When was the last time a late-season injury factored into the Heisman? In 2007, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a knee injury during the 11th week of the season. Dixon's injury made Tebow the favorite.

The Heisman Trophy isn't a career-achievement award but the voting is so subjective that nominations might be handed out based on Tebow's entire body work. At season's end, he will be the SEC's all-time leader in touchdowns. That's quite an accomplishment. Of course, if you're going to vote for Tebow based on his career, then you can just as easily make a case for McCoy, Texas' quarterback who finished second in the Heisman voting in 2008. The logic in voting for McCoy? Tebow already has a Heisman, so let's give McCoy one.


November 17, 2009

Florida Gators cornerback commitment might have signaled the end of Joe Haden's collegiate career

GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause usually doesn't write much about recruiting during the college football season but the Florida Gators' latest commitment has piqued our interest.

Josh Shaw (6-1, 195 pounds), a high school cornerback from Palmdale, Cali., pledged his allegiance to UF coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday. This is interesting for several reasons. One: The Gators went to California to find a defensive back. When is the last time Florida lured a defensive back out of California? I don't know. It's pretty rare, considering the enormous amount of elite high school defensive backs in Florida. Two: The addition of Shaw could be an indication that UF junior cornerback Joe Haden only has four more games remaining in his collegiate career.

In three short years, Haden has gone from one of Maryland's best high school quarterbacks this decade to one of the best collegiate cornerbacks in the country. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay wrote last Friday that Haden is currently college football's top-rated cornerback, according to NFL scouts. "If Haden elects to leave school early he will give the corner group an elite prospect worth drafting in the top 10 overall..." wrote McShay.

Like most starting juniors at UF, Haden will request an NFL draft evaluation in the months following UF's season. It's safe to assume that Haden will strongly consider leaving school early if he is projected as a first-round pick. How confident is the Gators' coaching staff that Haden will leave early? Well, they're confident enough in Haden's early departure that they told Shaw, the Californian, that Haden will likely leave.

Of course, we all know that coaches will tell recruits anything prior to National Signing Day. We can argue recruiting tactics another time. There is certainly a chance Haden could return to UF for his senior season. His younger brother, Jordan, is a 2010 UF commitment and Jordan Haden told me earlier this season that his older brother would like to play at UF with his sibling. That being said, the Shaw family and the Haden family have apparently been in communication this season, which means Shaw didn't announce his decision on Tuesday without doing his research.

Haden's departure after this season would open a starting spot in the Gators' secondary. We'll assume that sophomore cornerback Janoris Jenkins will retain his starting role next season. That means Shaw would battle with freshman Adrian Bushell, junior Moses Jenkins, redshirt freshman Jeremy Brown (assuming he's healthy) and a few other 2010 incoming freshmen for Haden's vacated position.

How does Shaw's decision on Tuesday affect the Gators' 2010 recruiting class? Shaw is the ranked third nationally among 2010 cornerbacks, according to Rivals.com. Landing such a high-profile recruit could mean the Gators are no longer in the running for Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, rated the No.1 cornerback in the nation. Florida currently has commitments from three cornerbacks: Shaw, Demar Dorsey of Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson (18th nationally) and Jaylen Watkins of Cape Coral (seventh nationally). Joyner's teammate at St. Thomas, cornerback Cody Riggs, is ranked eighth nationally by Rivals and is also being recruited by the Gators.


November 16, 2009

How to make Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow slightly angry...

GAINESVILLE -- I thought it was a benign question. Tim Tebow apparently thought otherwise.

On Monday, UF's quarterback seemed to take offense to a question I asked him about the dropped touchdown passes by receiver Riley Cooper. Tebow and Cooper are roommates, so I asked Tebow on Monday, "When you got back to the apartment, what's the conversation like between you and Riley after he dropped those couple passes? Did y'all talk about that?"

Tebow, breaking the silence with something between a groan and a laugh, said, "You know, I think Riley is a great receiver, he came up big for us in the game, had a bunch of big plays. A few of those passes, I should have put more on them and we just got to go out there and work and constantly get better and we'll continue to do that and I'll make more accurate throws to him and he's been a great receiver for us all year and we're extremely close and I appreciate how hard he has worked for us this year."

Cooper caught a slant pass from Tebow and raced for a 68-yard touchdown play during UF's first offensive possession. Cooper finished the game with three receptions for 112 yards but dropped two would-be touchdown passes from Tebow. Some people in the press box seemed to think that the first pass was overthrown. I disagree. Cooper misjudged it, or, as the saying goes, he "alligator armed it." 

Tebow and a few of the Gators receivers put in some extra work on Sunday night inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. When asked, Tebow said receiver David Nelson and tight end Aaron Hernandez participated in a mini-workout with Tebow on Sunday. Tebow said the workout was not to improve timing or work on anything technical, but rather "honestly, we were just trying to get lose, just throwing around, running a little bit, nothing super intense."

Florida's offensive coordinator Steve Addazio appeared to open things up a bit on Saturday against South Carolina. Tebow attempted 25 passes, which is the most passes Tebow has attempted since the Arkansas game (26). Tebow also had two throws of 30 yards or more on Saturday. Before Saturday, Tebow had only completed three passes of 30 yards or more in SEC play.

Off the top of my head, I can count six would-be touchdown passes that have been dropped this season by UF receivers, but there might be more. I'm certain that Deonte has dropped at least one. Brandon James has dropped two. Riley Cooper has dropped three passes that should have been touchdowns. Yeah, it's probably a touchy subject for Tebow.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. "Tebow SMASH!"


Florida Gators a 43-point favorite against FIU but Urban Meyer giving Golden Panthers respect

GAINESVILLE -- The No.1 Florida Gators (10-0) are an amazing 43-point favorite against FIU for this Saturday's game. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, who began breaking down film of FIU (3-7) on Sunday, said on Monday that the Golden Panthers are a quality opponent with talented personnel.

"There is no question FIU will be a bowl team sooner than you think," Meyer said. "There are quality athletes; they are very well coached. I just got done watching last night and today both sides of the ball and we're going to attack this thing to go to 11-0.

"This is not a smaller Division I team. This is a very good team that will be in a bowl game within two years. That's our opinion, because they have very good personnel and they throw it around. The won last week and they have a lot of ability."


Florida Gators running back, defensive tackle doubtful for FIU

GAINESVILLE -- Florida running back Emmanuel Moody and defensive tackle Terron Sanders are doubtful for Saturday's game against Florida International.

Moody sprained his ankle against South Carolina and Sanders injured his rib. Moody, who has had a history of ankle injuries, will wear a protective boot this week and will not practice. Sanders likely also will not practice this week, according to Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Moody scored his first touchdown of the season on Saturday against the Gamecocks. His 17-yard run gave Florida a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. Moody finished the game with 35 yards on three carries.


A precursory comparison of Florida's and Alabama's defenses

GAINESVILLE -- Back in Gainesville. Took me awhile to get out of Columbia, S.C., on Sunday. Sorry to all for not having a live blog of the first basketball game. The Gators defeated Stetson 74-46. More on basketball later. First, a look back at the football game.

Here's a link to today's story in the Miami Herald about the Gators' dominant fourth-quarter defense on Saturday and this season. LINK! One key stat that didn't make it into the paper: The Gators are outscoring opponents 138-36 in the second half of games while the Alabama Crimson Tide is outscoring opponents 157-54 after halftime. That's a scoring-margin difference of one point(103-102), favoring the Gators. Wow! Here's a link to Sunday's game story of Florida 24, South Carolina 14.

Yes, there are two more games left in the regular season, but we're already beginning to focus on the Gators' upcoming game against Alabama. The Pachyderms looked pretty good on Saturday against Mississippi State, defeating the Bulldogs 31-3. Alabama certainly dominated Mississippi State more thoroughly than the Gators, but that is usually the case when Alabama plays a common opponent of the Gators from the SEC West. 

Historically, Florida has struggled to victories against SEC West opponents. Alabama rushed for 252 yards against Mississippi State. The Gators had 140 rushing yards in Starkville, Miss. Alabama defeated Arkansas 35-7, allowing just 160 passing yards to Hogs quarterback Ryan Mallet and 61 rushing yards to Arkansas running back Michael Smith. Florida defeated Arkansas 23-20. Mallet threw for 224 yards against the Gators and running back Dennis Johnson had 107 rushing yards.

Alabama's only scare of the season came against an SEC East opponent. Alabama needed two blocked field goals to defeat Tennessee 12-10. Of course, Alabama plays Tennessee every year, so these teams are very familiar with one another.

OK, that's quite enough meaningless comparisions between Florida's and Alabama's common opponents. Check back a little later for Gator Clause's report card of Florida's 8-0 run through the SEC.


November 14, 2009

(LIVE BLOG) Justin Trattou, track star

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Who knew Florida defensive end Justin Trattou had blazing speed? Trattou intercepted a tipped pass by South Carolina receiver Moe Brown and retured it 52 yards to the South Carolina 26. Four plays later, the Gators had some breathing room against the Gamecocks when Tim Tebow rushed for a one-yard score. Florida leads South Carolina 24-14.

The rushing touchdown was Tebow's 53rd of his career, which tied LSU running back Kevin Faulk's record for career touchdowns in the SEC.

UF 17, South Carolina 14
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia led the Gamecocks on an eight-play, 65-yard drive with 2:10 left in the first half to cut Florida's lead 17-14. Florida's vaunted secondary made a few mistakes on the drive, including a poor tackle by cornerback Janoris Jenkins that led to a 30-yard gain by South Carolina's Jason Barnes.

Garcia eluded Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes and found USC tight end Weslye Saunders in the back of the end zone with an excellent pass for the Gamecocks' second touchdown of the half. Saunders got behind UF cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright on the play.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is 9 of 16 for 161 yards and one touchdown. He has rushed for 41 yards on seven carries. Emmanuel Moody is the Gators' leading running back with 25 yards on two carries, including a 17-yard touchdown run.

UF receiver Riley Cooper has three receptions for 112 yards and a score.

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is 11 of 18 for 140 yards and a touchdown. USC running back Brian Maddox leads the Gamecocks in rushing with 57 yards on 11 carries, including a one-yard score.

Emmanuel Moody, welcome to the end zone! UF 17, South Carolina 7
Emmanuel Moody scored his first touchdown of the season with 10:28 left in the first half on Saturday. Moody carried the ball 17 yards for the score to give Florida a 17-7 lead. It was a beautiful option pitch by Tebow and Moody smoothly cut inside one defender a then trucked South Carolina strong safety Antonio Allen to reach the end zone.

32-yard Sturgis field goal
A productive drive by the Florida Gators ended with a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis with 1:18 left in the first quarter to give Florida a 10-7 lead at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The drive began on the Gators' 24-yard line and spanned 11 plays. The highlight was a 30-yard throw from Tebow to Riley Cooper on 3rd and 12 from the Florida 22.

Impressive drive by South Carolina to game at 7-7
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is looking good today. Garcia of Tampa completed passes of 13 and 24 yards on third downs during the Gamecocks second drive of the game. South Carolina drove 84 yards on 14 plays against Florida's highly ranked defense. USC scored with 5:51 left in the first quarter when Brian Maddox capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

Riley Cooper explodes with 68-yard touchdown for Florida Gators
You want big plays by the Gators? Enter South Carolina. First UF drive. Riley Cooper 68-yard touchdown run-and-catch on a slant pass. Florida 7, South Carolina 0, 12:04 left in the first quarter.

--Freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon started today. The starting offensive line, from left to right: Nixon, Carl Johnson, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert.

Williams-Brice Stadium rocking for Gators-Gamecocks
South Carolina students are dancing to techno! This place is crazy! It's full of crazy Gamecocks!

Football game about to begin, here at Williams-Brice Stadium. The home team is wearing jersies with camouflaged sleeves in honor of the U.S. military. On the back of every jersey, instead of surnames, are words like "commitment," "Service," "Honor," "Duty,"

We think we've found it! Quantifying the reason Gators fans are frustrated with UF's offense

...plus a correction: Went back and triple-checked my stats on 2008 and 2009. Turns out, my first count for 2009 for gains of 20 of more yards was off by three. Florida has 29 gains of 20 or more yards this season through seven SEC games, compared to 32 in seven SEC games in 2008. Sorry for error and glad to set the record straight.

COLUMBIA, S.C -- So, on Wednesday Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio told reporters that the number of big plays this season has been pretty much the same as the number of big plays last season.

According to Addazio, Florida's coaching staff defines "big plays" as gains of 20 yards or more. Well, being a bunch of no-good skeptics, the editorial board at Gator Clause didn't believe Addazio and set out yesterday to prove him wrong. Game by game and line by line, Gator Clause recorded every gain of 20 yards or more through the first seven conference games of 2008 and 2009. Not surprisingly, we've got some pretty interesting news to report.

In 2008, the Gators' high-flying offense produced 32 gains of 20 or more yards through the first seven conference games of the season. This season, the Gators' conservatively cautious offense has almost produced the same amount of gains (29) of 20 yards or more through seven conference games. That's correct, the statistics are nearly identical! Pretty crazy, huh. You can read all about it today's Miami Herald. Click the link for my story advancing today's game. LINK! 

Now, for the bad news. Gator Clause thinks it has figured out the exact reason why Gators fans are so frustrated with Florida's grind-it-out offense: Tim Tebow isn't getting to launch the ball downfield in his senior season. Tebow has only thrown three passes of 30 yards or more during conference games this season. Two of those passes went to tight end Aaron Hernandez -- a 44-yard touchdown against Kentucky and a 64-yard gain against Vanderbilt -- and one was the 77-yard touchdown by Deonte Thompson against Arkansas.

Through seven conference games in 2008, Tebow had already completed passes of 30 or more yards eight times. Not surprisingly, all but two of those long gains went to either Percy Harvin or Louis Murphy. David Nelson had a 41-yard reception against Vanderbilt last season and Jeff Demps took a swing pass 61 yards against Kentucky.

Now, you're asking yourself, is five passes the only thing that's different between last season's offense and this season's offense? The answer is no, of course. The biggest difference between the 2008 and 2009 offenses seem to be intermediate gains (10-19 yards, defined by me). This season, Florida has 37 rushing plays and 33 passing plays between 10-19 yards in seven conference games. In 2008, Florida had 43 rushing plays and 47! passing plays between 10-10 yards through seven conference games. Combine the intermediate gains in 2008 with an offense that was bolstered considerably by an opportunistic defense and special teams, and it's easy to see why scoring is down this season.

As for this season, the offense -- to use the Gators' coaching jargon -- has less "explosives" than in 2009. Add to that this offense's struggles in the red zone and it's easy to understand why fans are so upset. Pile on to red-zone struggles the fact that Tebow isn't getting to throw downfield in his senior season, the season he returned to school to improve his NFL draft stock, it's easy to understand why some fans are just down-right mad. Still, fans should realize that Florida's offense is producing well this season considering its limitations.


November 12, 2009

Tennessee football players Nu'Keese Richardson, Janzen Jackson and Mike Edwards use pellet gun in robbery attempt

University of Tennessee football players Nu'Keese Richardson of Pahokee, Mike Edwards and Janzen Jackson were arrested early Thursday morning for attempted armed robbery, according to Knoxville, Tenn., police.

Richardson was a longtime commitment of the Florida Gators before signing with Tennessee and new head coach Lane Kiffin on National Signing Day. Kiffin later bragged about stealing away Richardson from the Gators during a Tennessee booster club meeting. The coach also falsely accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of violating NCAA recruiting rules during Richardson's recruitment.

According to police, the football players were arrested on Thursday after attempting to rob three individuals at gunpoint in the parking lot of a convenience store near the campus of the University of Tennessee. The football players and a 22-year-old female, identified by police as Marie Montmarquet, were later arrested and each charged with three counts of attempted armed robbery. Montmarquet also faces charges for possession of marijuana.

According to police, Richardson and Edwards attempted to rob three individuals around 1:43 a.m. in the parking lot of a Pilot gas station. The three victims were inside a parked car when Richardson and Edwards, wearing black hooded sweatshirts, opened the car doors and demanded money. One of the football players was carrying a handgun, according to police.

According to police reports, the victims told Richardson and Edwards that they had no money and showed them their empty wallets. According to police, Jackson then approached the car and told Richardson and Edwards that it was time to go. The football players fled the scene in a Toyota Prius, according to police, and were later stopped by police on Neyland Drive.

Montmarquet was driving the car, according to police. After searching the car, police found an air-powered pellet pistol under one of the car seats. The black hooded sweatshirts were in plain sight, according to police. Police returned the football players to the scene of the crime and Richardson and Edwards were identified by the victims.

The football players and Montmarquet are currently being held in the Knox County Detention facility.

On Wednesday during the weekly Southeastern Conference media conference call, Kiffin pointed out to reporters that his football team had a clean arrest record.


November 11, 2009

Is it too early to start talking Florida vs. Alabama? Heck no!

GAINESVILLE -- My friend and former colleague Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News predicted today that Alabama would defeat Florida 24-23 in the Southeastern Conference championship game. LINK! Wow! Talk about no respect.

We're not talking about a lack of respect for Florida, of course. We're calling Kevin out on Gator Clause for his obvious lack of respect for two of the best defenses in college football. Kevin, 47 total points!?! I'd take that over-under betting line and buy a new car with my winnings!

Scarbo is one of the best writers in the Southeast, so we respect his prediction, however, Gator Clause must respectfully disagree. As the SEC title game draws nigh, there's going to be plenty of talk about which team has the better offense: Florida and Tim Tebow or Alabama and Mark Ingram. What do we think? Pointless discussion. Gator Clause isn't laying down an official prediction just yet, but the editorial board is willing to make this educated guess: Neither offense will be good enough to consistently do much of anything against superior opposing defenses.

Offensive stats won't matter in this game, because there will be none. Coaching won't matter in this game, because both teams obviously have quality guys on the sidelines. This game will be determined by field position, punting, field goals, kick-return yards and one big play. An interception return by Ahmad Black, a missed tackle on Julio Jones (a la LSU), a blocked punt by Chris Rainey, a forced fumble by Rolando McClain: who knows, but something is going to happen -- one big play -- that will determine who represents the SEC in the national championship game (assuming both teams are still undefeated on Dec.5).

Is it too early to start hyping what could possibly be one of the most anticipated games in SEC history? Heck no!


Florida Gators Charlie Strong being mentioned as a possible coaching candidate at Memphis

GAINESVILLE -- It's that time of year again. Once again, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is being mentioned as a possible candidate for a recently vacated head coaching position.

Strong's name has been mentioned in connection with the opening at Memphis, where Tommy West was shown the door this week after the Tigers' embarrassing loss to Tennessee. Gator Clause saw this coming about a month ago and assumed correctly that as soon as West was gone that Strong's name would immediately pop up in national columns, blogs and message boards.

Strong has never been a head coach but his defenses at Florida helped the Gators win national championships in 2006 and 2008. UF's current defense is ranked No.1 in the SEC and No.2 nationally. Strong was asked about his desire to become a head coach on Wednesday and Strong offered reporters a canned response, which is now becoming an annual event.

"I just have to work and continue to do this job right now," Strong said. "My whole focus is making sure our defense goes out and plays well."

Strong is from Arkansas, which is only a river away from Memphis, so it's possible he could be in the running to replace West. Another possible candidate for the Memphis gig could be former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, who is now coaching at North Alabama.

Florida coach Urban Meyer addressed the topic on Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference media conference call. According to Meyer, he speaks with his coaching staff every summer about waiting until after the season to pursue coaching positions elsewhere.

"Charlie is more than a coach; we're very good friends and our families are very close; we've been that way since the mid-90s when we were both together at Notre Dame," Meyer said. "Every year we go away on a retreat as a coaching staff and I always talk about when you're at Florida that's part of the deal, however, you're loyalty is to this football team, these players and this program.

"Once the season is over, then let's handle this professionally: the interviews and other stuff and the phone calls, because people call them. We have quality coaches. I lost five in two years. I love Charlie and he's obviously a tremendous coach. I did talk to him this summer and had a brief conversation and ... he said the focus is through December, or whenever the season is over."

Even South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had something to say about Strong's name being floated as a possible head coach. The Gators play at South Carolina on Saturday.

"We're hoping Charlie gets one of those head coaching jobs that's open right now," Spurrier told The State newspaper. "I see his name mentioned all the time and he's certainly deserving."

Memphis is a good fit for Strong. He has never been a head coach and starting out at Memphis, where he wouldn't be expected to win immediately, seems like an ideal situation.


November 10, 2009

No 'ho-hum' talk here: Time to pay tribute to the Florida Gators' 19-game winning streak

GAINESVILLE -- OK, here's the link to today's story, analyzing the Gators' 19-game wining streak. LINK! Bear Bryant, General Neyland, Shug Jordan, Johnny Vaught -- those guys would be proud. Not of the article, but of the Gators' current winning streak.

A few stats to supplement the story: Entering Saturday's game against South Carolina (6-4, 3-4 SEC), Florida is ranked No.1 in the SEC in total defense (232.4 ypg), scoring defense (10.1 ppg), passing defense (134.4 ypg), pass defense efficiency (85.9 quarterback rating), average starting field position (36-yard line), opponents' average starting field position (26-yard line), punt-return yards allowed (0.5 ypg) and kickoff return yards (26.5 ypg).

Is Florida the most complete team in the nation? Yes, all apologies to Texas and Alabama, but the Gators are the most complete team in the nation. Here are some more impressive factoids and statistics about the Gators' special teams units. By the way, I'm of the opinion that Florida doesn't have to pass the ball more than 10 times against Alabama to win the SEC championship game. Can I get an over/under on the number of completions Tebow will have against Alabama? Anyone?

--UF has won the SEC special teams player of the week four times this year, the most in school history.

--Caleb Sturgis is one of only three kickers in school history to have two 50-plus yarders in the same season.

--Sturgis is a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

--UF has faced kick off units that rank among the best in the nation each week. SEC opponents have combined to return eight kicks for touchdowns on the year, but UF has held SEC opponents to just 21.2 yards per return.

--Vanderbilt's Warren Norman was hled to under 20 yards a return after entering the game with three touchdowns.

--Georgia's Brandon Boykin was held to less the 20 yards a return after he entered the game with two 100-yard returns.

--Georgia's average starting field position in the second half against UF was the 14-yard line.

--Arkansas' Dennis Johnson who ranks among the nation's top kick-off return specialists was held to less than 25 yards a return.

--Punter Chas Henry is a Ray Guy Award semi-finalist.

--UF did not allow a punt return yard until the ninth game of the season.

--The Gators were the last team in the nation to allow a punt-return yard.

--Henry has allowed just 13 punt-return yards this year, second best in the nation.

--UF has allowed the least amount of punt return yards in the nation since 2005.


November 09, 2009

Gators 104, Webber International 53; Some stuff to consider before Sunday's season opener

GAINESVILLE -- OK, here's a possible problem. Florida Gators Vernon Macklin might not be an All-American, guys. He might not be the answer to all of UF's inside problems over the past two seasons.

Macklin finished his first exhibition game with seven points and four rebounds in 23 minutes. Chalk it up to rust, right? Well, maybe not. Macklin had six points and three rebounds on Monday night against Webber International and in the second half had trouble getting open underneath the basket. Florida defeated Webber 104-53. Florida begins the regular season on Sunday with a home game against Stetson.

Chandler Parsons led the Gators with nine rebounds on Monday. Center Kenny Kadji had eight rebounds and so did Alex Tyus. Don't be surprised to see Alex Tyus back at center at some point this season if things go badly for Macklin. If Macklin continues to struggle, look for coach Billy Donovan to gradually increase the role of freshman center Erik Murphy. Murphy played well at times on Monday. 

On a positive note, UF guard Kenny Boynton Jr. of Pompano Beach is an excellent shooter. He made 5 of 8 from three-point range on Monday and finished with 25 points. Last week, Boynton made five 3-pointers in his UF exhibition debut against Saint Leo.

Another positive to take away from Monday night: Florida sophomore Ray Shipman played with a level of confidence he did not show last week. Shipman was UF's most active player and finished with 16 points (7-11 shooting), five rebounds and three steals.

Point guard Erving Walker had 12 points and nine assists. Parsons finished with 12 points. Kadji had 11.

Rod Tishman almost smacked me in the face on press row with a bad pass. Don't kill me, Rod. UF 90, Webber 43; 4:46.

Rod Tishman in the game ... looking fly. UF 88, Webber 36; 7:17.

Gators on an 18-4 second-half run after consecutive 3-pointers by Erving Walker and Dan Werner. UF 86, Webber 34; 7:52. Boynton with 23 points.Shipman with 16. Parsons with 12. Walker with 10.

Ray Shipman with another steal and another dunk. Shipman has been excellent in full-court press tonight. UF 80, Webber 32; 10:19.

Timeout with 11:58 to play. UF 73, Webber 32. Too early to really analysis anything about this team other than Kenny Boynton can shoot and is just as quick down the court as Erving Walker. Inside game seems like it could be a problem, especially against teams like Kentucky with Patterson and Cousins.

Perimeter defense has been solid. Florida has only allowed two 3-pointers in two games, granted it's Saint Leo and Webber International, but usually these small-school teams have one of two good shooters.

Kenny Boynton Jr. begins the second half with another 3-pointer. Kid is pretty good; 5 of 8 from 3-point range. UF 68, Webber 30; 15:50.

UF with rare 51-10 run to end the first half. UF 54, Webber 23

Rowdy Reptiles now feel compelled to heckle Webber International co-eds with chants of "We're in high school" after said co-eds danced and cheered during a timeout.

Rod Tishman in the game ... looking fly. UF 46; Webber 21; 3:54.

Another Ray Shipman strip. Another Ray Shipman dunk. UF 46, Webber 21; 4:20. Shipman with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting.

Ray Shipman slams home a missed 3-pointer by Erving Walker. Shipman screams. Still screaming. Stop screaming, Ray, it's Webber International. Boynton with another 3-pointer. He is now 4 of 5 from distance. UF 44, Webber 21; 5:00. Boynton with 12 points.

KBJ with another 3-pointer. It's already apparent. Only Boynton should shot. Boynton is 3 of 4 from 3-point range. UF 31, Webber 19; 7:15.

High energy by Ray Shipman. Super Sub Ray! Shipman, Boynton and Tyus lead UF scorers with six points apiece. UF 28, Webber 19; 7:52.

After jumping out to a 15-8 lead, Webber hasn't scored in over five minutes. UF 24, Webber 15 after back-to-back lay ups by Alex Tyus; 9:43.

Big play by Ray Shipman, who subbed in the game with 14:11 to play and hasn't left the court. Shipman stole the ball in full-court press, dunked it, drew the foul and converted the free throw to give UF a 20-15 lead with 11:38 to play.

First timeout of the game. Kenny Kadji subbed in and picked up two quick fouls. Florida's inside presence? What inside presence.

Webber guard throws ball off of Parsons' face. Ouch! No respect. No respect. 12:50

Chandler Parsons subs in for Florida and ties the game. UF 15, Webber 15; 13:58.

Kenny Boynton keeping Florida close here in the opening minutes. Boynton with two 3-pointers in under a minute. Webber 15, Gators 11; 15:05. Another dunk by Webber.

Webber International Warriors leading the Gators' 11-3; 17:11. Gators looking sloppy in side. Back-to-back dunks by Webber.

Here's starting line ups for tonight's game between the Florida Gators and Webber International. Things to watch for tonight: Will freshman Kenny Boynton Jr. of Pompano Beach match his shooting performance in the Gators' first exhibition game? Boynton made 5 3-pointers last week. Will UF center Vernon Macklin improve inside?

F Dan Werner (6-8) 8.9 ppg/4.9 rpg
F Alex Tyus (6-8) 12.5 ppg/6.2 rpg
C Vernon Macklin (6-10)
G Kenny Boynton (6-2)
G Erving Walker (5-8)

F Mark Marlar (6-3) 6.0 ppg
F Tyler Harper (6-5) 10.0 ppg
G Halston Schaffer (6-4) 21 ppg/8.0 rpg
G Luke Malar (5-10) 8.0 ppg
G Tyler Hoevenaar (5-11)


EMAILS I GET: 'Surviving Rampage Shootings'

OK, sorry to go off subject here but I had to share this with my loyal readers on Gator Clause.

So, everyone remembers how I covered the Gateway Center shooting in Orlando on Friday, right? Well, apparently a few guys in Hollywood, Fla., read my story and decided to send me an email advertising their "training classes" on how to "survive rampage shootings." I'm not kidding about this. This is real. Here's a link to the "rampage" literature that was emailed to me on Monday afternoon by a former SWAT team member of the Hialeah Police Department.

Wow, just wow. For only $35 you can prepare yourself. Comments? Suggestions? Thoughts on humanity and everything?

And with that, I'm off to the O'Connell Center fearing for my life. Don't forget. Live blog at 7 p.m.


Programming note: We'll be blogging live from the Florida Gators' exhibition basketball game tonight

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators' men's basketball team hosts Webber International in a preseason exhibition basketball game tonight. Gator Clause will be courtside and blogging live with all of our usual wit, bombast and annoying unctuousness. Join us at 7 p.m. live from the O'Connell Center.


Florida Gators' season just got easier; Florida State QB Christian Ponder done for the season

Unfortunate news out of Tallahassee on Monday morning. According to FSU, quarterback Christian Ponder is done for the season after injuring his shoulder against Clemson. We hate this for Ponder and hope he recovers fully and makes a ton of money in the NFL.

What does this mean for the Florida Gators? Well, the season just got easier. Win against South Carolina on Saturday and Florida can set the cruise control for Atlanta and the Gators' Dec.5 date with Alabama in the SEC championship game. Ponder separated his shoulder making a tackle against Clemson and the injury requires surgery.


Stuff we learned today: Dorian Munroe torn ACL, Joe Haden is the man, Tim Tebow is feeling fine

GAINESVILLE -- OK, first off, the editorial board at Gator Clause wanted to begin this week not by writing about Florida but first writing about a guy from Florida. What a terrible job the Southeastern Conference did this week in selecting its defensive player of the week. Clearly, at no point on Saturday, did the SEC watch LSU's Patrick Peterson, the cornerback from Pompano Beach Blanche Ely.

Speaking of the SEC players of the week, UF kicker Chas Henry was the league's special teams player of the week for his four-punt performance against Vanderbilt. Henry's punt team has allowed just 13 total return yards this season. (That's 13 too many for UF coach Urban Meyer, the special teams coordinator, who told me on Monday that coaching UF's punt team is his favorite part of the job.)

Meyer gushed and gushed about his special teams on Monday during his weekly press conference -- (Good to see you, Urban. We missed you on Sunday.) -- but we won't touch on that here. Not because we don't think it's interesting or important but because we'll probably write about it in the paper this week. One nugget of information you might find interesting, Urban said he only selects "accountable" players for his punt team. Also, Jon Bostic, Will, Adrian Bushell and Cade Holliday are the only Gators on the team who have played on three special teams units at some point during a game season. That's right, Joe Haden is the man.

News to report: Safety Dorian Munroe, torn ACL, done. Munroe's career on the football field has been frustrating but, in the end, Munroe's career on the football field will not define him as an individual. Not one bit. This is one of the coolest cats you'll ever meet and he's currently enrolled in graduate school for sports management. Munroe hopes to be a sports agent.

Something a few people might take for granted when evaluating Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: On Monday, Meyer told me that Tebow was the best short-yardage player he has ever coached. More detailed analysis on this later in the week.

Florida's recurring problem of allowing too many sacks was a talking point on Monday. Tebow said that he's holding on to the ball too long in the pocket at times. Tebow was sacked four times against Vanderbilt. For the year, Tebow has been sacked 21 times. For some reason, I don't think Tebow is totally to blame for that statistic. For what it's worth, Tebow said he is healthier at this point in the season than he has been in the past three seasons.


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