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65 posts from September 2013

September 30, 2013

Notebook: Easley chooses NFL

GAINESVILLE -- Star defensive tackle Dominique Easley is officially headed to the NFL in 2014, bypassing the chance to take a medical redshirt and play another season at Florida.

Easley, a dominating interior lineman, tore his right anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in a non-contact drill during practice last Tuesday. Before the season-ending injury, Easley was rated the nation’s ninth-best draft eligible prospect according to ESPN Scouts Inc.

IMG_0056

Coach Will Muschamp confirmed Easley’s plans, and said he supports the senior’s decision 100 percent.

“He's a guy that's had two ACLs,” Muschamp said. “That's the best move for him right now and going to prepare himself for April and get ready for that.”

GAME TIMES ANNOUNCED

No. 18 Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC) and Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) will kickoff under the lights Saturday (7:00 p.m., ESPN2), UF’s first night game in The Swamp since its 2011 regular-season finale against Florida State. 

Meanwhile, Florida’s highly-anticipated showdown with No. 10 LSU (4-1, 1-1 SC) in Death Valley (Oct. 12) has been tabbed the SEC’s Game of the Week. The Gators and Tigers will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

INJURY UPDATE

Aside from a pair of dinged up tight ends, the Gators are no longer the walking wounded.

Backups Colin Thompson (foot) and Kent Taylor (ankle) are out against the Razorbacks, but Muschamp said, “other than that, we should be good to go.”

Hybrid tailback Valdez Showers (ankle) and starting cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) are expected to play after both missed Florida’s previous two games.

Roberson participated in pregame warmups against Kentucky and told Muschamp he wasn’t 100 percent but could play. Muschamp opted to rest the junior an additional week for precautionary reasons.

“Marcus is a team guy. He’ll do anything for the team, but I just didn’t feel comfortable putting him in that situation,” Muschamp explained. “He and I talked after he came off the field. I said, ‘Let’s ice you down and get ready for next week.’”     

HARGREAVES EARNS HONOR

Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was named the SEC’s freshman of the week for his performance in Florida’s 24-7 over Kentucky.

Hargreaves picked off his third pass of the season and is now tied for the league lead. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Murphy's walkabout

Tyler Murphy displayed total composure in his first career start against Kentucky.

All he needed was a quick nature walk and some classic tunes to purge his pregame butterflies.

Murphy, a redshirt junior, said offensive coordinator Brent Pease took Florida's quarterbacks "on a little nature walk" during the downtime before UF's 7:00 p.m. kickoff versus the Wildcats. 

Pease texted the quarterbacks Saturday morning: “Nature walk, 1:30 p.m. Don’t be late.”

“We didn’t sing any songs, but it was fun," Murphy said. "Coach Pease growing up, being from the Montana area, where he went to school, he knows a lot about nature. It’s kind of cool just to learn about different trees and bushes and stuff like that. It was fun.”

Tailback Matt Jones heard the stroll was "a pretty boring trip," but Murphy -- at least publicly -- disagreed.

"It was interesting," Murphy said -- although the quarterback couldn't recall any specifics learned on the walk.

“What did I learn? Uh, that’s awful. I mean I learned a bunch of different stuff, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. You know, I learned a few things about oak trees, saw grass, and just stuff like that.”

Oak trees and saw grass. Gameday, baby. 

Murphy said the trip did calm his jitters, as did listening to Jay-Z, Wale, jazz and a little gospel.

“I just put it on shuffle and just let it go,” he said.

Murphy -- through his coolness, confidence and production -- has quickly endeared himself to Florida fans. He finished the Kentucky game 15-of-18 for 156 yards and two scores (one rushing) and one interception.   

Murphy also talked about his first career start, dreams of being Steven A. Smith, pressing in practice last week, his perfect 13-of-13 start and a touchdown-saving tackle.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

HOOPS: Carter eligible

For once, the NCAA got it right. 

Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter officially received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately at Florida. 

"We are happy to have Eli available to play this season," head coach Billy Donovan said in a school release.

Last season, Carter -- a 6-foot-3 junior -- averaged 14.9 points as a sophomore for the Scarlet Knights before gruesomely suffering a season-ending injury (a fractured fibula) against DePaul in mid-February.

Carter transferred to UF this offseason following the ugly scandal involving former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice.

In 2011 as a freshman, Carter actually torched UF for 31 points in a double-overtime upset victory for Rutgers. 

Although the junior guard is technically eligible to play this season, that doesn't mean he will. 

Carter's health is still a major unknown, as he has still not been medically cleared by Florida's doctors.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Oh Shoot!

After a dominating performance (3 TFL, 2 FF) against Tennessee earned Dante Fowler Jr. the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week, Florida's BUCK linebacker again showcased his pass rushing prowess in the win over Kentucky. 

The sophomore recorded two sacks -- both in the fourth quarter -- in No. 18 Florida's 24-7 victory in Lexington and placed Fowler near the top of the SEC's leaderboard in quarterback takedowns.

On Monday, UF's "oversized baby" dished on the team's third down defense, Dominique Easley's Chucky doll and Fowler's reaction during his second sack.

  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 29, 2013

Poll Position: A slow climb

Florida cruised to a 24-6 victory over Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday and was rewarded with a slight bump in one national poll. 

The Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) jumped two spots in the Associated Press top 25 and now sit at No. 18. 

However, Florida remained ranked at No. 19 in the USA Today coaches poll

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

They Said It: Florida-Kentucky

WILL MUSCHAMP

On his team’s performance…

“Very proud of our football team, it’s been a long week for us, psychologically and mentally as much as anything. When you go through Jeff’s (Driskel) situation and then Domonique’s (Easley) situation on Tuesday night, they are very frustrating but you can’t always control your circumstances in life but you can control your vision. I told our players, ‘no excuses and no regrets.’ That’s just who we are, we have an expectation level here at the University of Florida in what we’re going to do and where we’re headed with our program. I’m very pleased with how our guys pulled together and the Gator Nation pulled together and came up here and did what we did.”

On Tyler Murphy’s first start…

“Outstanding, I mean really good. Again, he’s a very cerebral kid and he’s very smart, he gets the game. I think we’ve done a good job, I think (offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) did a really good job of putting him in some good situations. We checked everything at the run game based on the look that they were a three-down and four-down team. Just really proud of his performance, he continues to improve and gain confidence in his play.”

On Matt Jones’ career-day…

“Well I think it just takes some time, I think we all knew that a little bit and you don’t ever want to admit it because Matt is a good football player and a guy we were really counting on coming into the season but when you miss four weeks, maybe a little over a month of exercise and activity, I don’t care how old you are, it’s going to shut your body down a little bit, it takes some time to respond, especially with some of the physicality, holding on to the ball and doing some of that stuff. Real proud of Matt, I pulled Matt in Monday and I said, ‘man, you need to cut it loose and play. You’re very tentative when you run it, you look like last year at the beginning of the year. If you make a mistake, put it on me, I don’t care, everybody else does. So just run the ball hard, run the ball hard, cut it loose and go play.’”

QB TYLER MURPHY

On his comfort level going into the game…

“I had a few nerves just like every game. I was able to hand off the ball to Matt Jones and throw a swing route to get the offense going. I was then able to settle down. I felt really calm as I had the support of my teammates. They made my job real easy.”

On his interception and tackle…

“The defense made a nice play, but I tried to force it. I will get in the film room to evaluate the play. He made a good play, and I made a bad decision. I just need to learn from that. I can’t make mistakes like that against Arkansas. It was a big tackle for me and it prevented them for scoring. We have a great defense and they stopped them after I threw that interception.”

WR TREY BURTON

On dealing with adversity this week…

“Extremely tough. It would have been worse if we would have came out with a loss. So we knew we had to go take care of business and get a win for those guys.”

On Florida’s opening drive (13 plays, 93 yards and a touchdown)…

“Yeah it was a good start for us. (Tyler) Murphy did a good job running the ship. It felt like we had the ball forever. I don’t know how many minutes (it was) but it felt like we had it forever and that it was our job to keep the ball and keep the defense off the field and ready to go.”

(All quotes courtesy UF Sports & Information)

September 28, 2013

Saturday Selections: Florida-Kentucky thread

Sooo, I'm not in Lexington, KY today. I was going to go -- then not -- and ultimately was given the weekend off. 

But we can't have a gameday without picks, thoughts, etc, right? 

First, ICYMI: My advance for tonight's game (7:00 p.m., ESPNU) detailing an anxious Tyler Murphy and his first career start.

A tease...

GAINESVILLE -- Tyler Murphy will make his first-career start Saturday at Kentucky.

Déjà vu anyone?

Exactly 10 years ago, former Gators quarterback Chris Leak — then a wide-eyed freshman — made his first career start in Commonwealth Stadium and delivered a marquee fourth-quarter performance.

Florida (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) rallied from a 21-3 deficit to win 24-21 — its largest road comeback in school history.

Murphy, a redshirt junior, hopes his first start doesn’t come down to a frenetic finish, but he’s excited either way.

“I’ll have butterflies,” he said. “I’ll be anxious, but you know, I’ll get out there and maybe complete my first pass. Once I get hit, I think I’ll be fine. I don’t think it will be as bad as it was this [past] week.”

Now onto the Saturday Selections.
PICKS

Tough week. I went a pedestrian 3-3 -- but with two brutal losses.

As I jokingly tweeted:

Screen shot 2013-09-28 at 11.00.07 AM

A late Tennessee touchdown screwed up Florida’s cover and the under (which I suggested taking).

Insane.

Anyways, on to another weekend. 

Scoreboard: 16-9 ATS, 1-2 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

South Carolina (-7) at Central Florida

West Virginia (+23.5) vs. Oklahoma State

Georgia (-3) vs. LSU

Washington (-7) vs. Arizona

Texas A&M (-3.5) at Arkansas

And finally, Kentucky (-13.5) vs. Florida. I’d prefer to cheat again and lay the under (-46). The Gators are a battered bunch. I believe they’ll win -- and they must if they’re going to somehow salvage a season decimated by injuries -- but it promises to be another ugly, ugly game. Maybe it will be no Driskel, no Easley, no problem. We’ll see. I have my doubts.

Enjoy the game, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 27, 2013

Friday Fodder: Who can (should) shoulder the load?

I’ll make this brief: Quarterback Tyler Murphy -- no matter if people believe he’s better than Jeff Driskel or not -- still needs lots of help.

In 2013, Florida’s tailbacks (mainly junior Mack Brown) have been solid, but hardly spectacular.

Checkout those yards per carry averages. Florida’s (weekly) makeshift offensive line has certainly derailed some of the production, but UF’s tailbacks have had issues with vision early in the season.

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 7.01.13 PM
(Courtsey cfbstats.com)

Just one week ago, Matt Jones promised “to put the team on his back,” and that’s not happening.

No. 20 Florida is moving forward with the “hot hand” approach -- a completely different strategy than the Gators’ preseason expectations.

Florida presumed Jones would simply carry the 1,000-yard torch from Mike Gillislee. Alas, probably not. 

Coordinator Brent Pease continues to heap praise on freshman Kelvin Taylor, but Taylor’s received just a single carry in the past two games.

With Jones’ ball security problems, it’s not totally surprising Florida’s staff has been hesitant to play Taylor extensively considering his well-documented fumbling issues during training camp.

But what do y’all think of UF’s new by-committee approach? 

Is there a legitmate workhorse in the group?

Kentucky struggles stopping the run -- 185.7 y/g, good for 13th in the conference -- so Saturday offers an opportunity for a breakout game.

Discuss away.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 26, 2013

ICYMI: Notebook: Christy on notice

GAINESVILLE -- Kyle Christy was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter just one year ago.

Now he’s in a battle for his job.

Florida’s junior is averaging just 39.5 yards per attempt this season -- good for No. 12 in the Southeastern Conference. Christy also fumbled a snap in the win over Tennessee.

Christy-DL
(Courtesy Gatorzone.com)

Last season, Christy averaged nearly 46 yards per kick as the nation’s No. 5 punter.

“I’m going to open it up with Kyle. Johnny Townsend’s been a guy that’s probably as consistent a punter we’ve had in camp,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ll pull the redshirt off Johnny if we need to. We need to get more production at the position.”

Townsend was a late edition to Florida’s 2013 recruiting class, flipping his commitment from Ohio State on National Signing Day.

Muschamp placed the ball strictly in Christy’s court, saying, “We didn’t forget how to coach Kyle from last year.”

BLUE GRASS WELCOMING

Saturday’s game against Kentucky will be a homecoming of sorts for two Florida coaches.

Wide receivers coach Joker Phillips was a four-year letterman at Kentucky and was later the team’s head coach from 2010-12.

“Anytime you spend a lot of time at a place, you have some great memories. I know as a former player and coach there, no question it’s going to be emotional [for him],” coach Will Muschamp said.

Meanwhile, Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease coached at UK in 2001-02, as its coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I’ve got a lot of friends there,” Pease said. “It’s a great place.”

RECEIVERS RETURN

Wideouts Demarcus Robinson and Latroy Pittman will return to action this weekend against the Wildcats.

Pittman, a sophomore, was suspended for Florida’s first three games.

Robinson, a promising true freshman, was suspended for the Tennessee game for violating team rules.

“I just told him every freshman goes through it,” Pease said. “They’ve got to find that pattern of consistency about fitting in. … He understood. Didn’t complain. He’s moved on, so we’ll see how he approaches practice this week.” 

INJURY UPDATE

Nose tackle Leon Orr (shoulder), right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) and cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy (thigh) and Marcus Roberson (knee) returned to practice Wednesday and are expected to play against Kentucky.

Hybrid tailback Valdez Showers (ankle) remains doubtful. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Nothing Easley

Sorry I’m not sorry for the cheap title.

ICYMI: My piece on No. 20 Florida losing its most indispensible player -- other than its quarterback, which you know, happened four days earlier.

Ku-medium
(Courtesy Deadspin.com)

As noted: the Gators have twice as many season-ending injuries (six) than games played (three) in 2013. Florida's lost four starters for the year -- quarterback Jeff Driskel, right tackle Chaz Green, kick returner/wideout Andre Debose and Easley.

Coach Will Muschamp’s “Man Down, Man Up” may still have some motivational luster left, but Florida is not-so-slowly running out of men.

Dominique Easley’s latest knee injury is UF’s most devastating loss to date.

From a bird’s eye view, Easley was the nation’s top (or among a select few) defensive tackle -- even if his stats do little justice to support that claim.

There’s a reason Dante Fowler Jr. endlessly thanked Easley following his career performance against Tennessee (3 TFL, 2 FF), earning the sophomore SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

Said Fowler: “He busts his stuff up and I’m on the outside, so when they see everything clogged up, the first thing they’re gonna do is bounce outside, and that’s all me. I get to make all the plays. Yesterday I thanked him. Thank you for letting me make all those plays.”

Check out this YouTube video (Courtesy of @DraftBreakdown) of Easley’s performance against the Volunteers.

 

Consistent disruption. Constant double-teams. Infinite energy.

You can’t help but hurt for the Gators’ loco leader. Easley, a senior, can apply for a medical redshirt, but that seems largely like a technical and empty recourse now.

Easley flirted with the NFL after last season, only to return to Gainesville because: “My mother wanted me to get my diploma. And for the simple fact that I don’t believe I left my mark here at Florida the way that I want to leave it.”

Three games into 2013, Easley had left plenty a mark.

The 6-foot-2, 285-pound lifelike Chuckie doll had skyrocketed up NFL Draft boards. Sports Illustrated released its latest mock draft (two days before Easley was hurt) and slotted him at No. 15 overall. ESPN Scouts Inc. tabbed him as the nation’s ninth-best draft-eligible prospect.

But now Easley faces plenty of unknowns, and so do the Gators.

Florida has depth -- inexperienced depth -- at defensive tackle, but there's no one to replicate Easley’s dominance at the point of attack or regular demanding of double-teams. JUCO-transfer Darious ‘Bear’ Cummings may slide into the starters role, and sophomore defensive end Jon Bullard could move inside too. Several freshmen will factor into the mix as well.

It’s a disconcerting situation -- no matter how defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin wants to spin it.

To me: Easley has been an even better interior presence than Sharrif Floyd in 2012 -- who was darn good and later a first-round draft pick.

Floyd was a prolific run-stopper, but he often-disappeared on passing/third-down situations. Easley’s dominance has been on an every-down basis.

The Gators top the country in third down defense (a ridiculous 18 percent conversion rate) and rush defense (55.33 y/g) and both areas are likely to regress in Easley’s absence.

UF’s defense will still be very good (see: Ronald Powell, Marcus Roberson, Vernon Hargreaves III, Antonio Morrison, Loucheiz Purifoy. Shall I continue?) But a (negative) trickle-down effect seems impossible to dodge.

The Gators were already an enigma two weeks ago, and now with the injuries to Driskel and Easley????

Who the hell knows what the future holds. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 25, 2013

One tough cookie

Even as a senior, Jon Halapio continues to impress his coaches and teammates. 

Halapio missed all of training camp and Florida’s first two games with a torn pectoral muscle, but the right guard returned to action in the win over Tennessee, starting and playing with a restrictive brace supporting his left shoulder/arm.

Earlier last week, Halapio admitted his pectoral "is still going to be weak, so it could tear at any time.”

And then the worst happened -- or so everyone thought. 

In Saturday's first half, Halapio went to the ground against the Vols -- writhing in pain. 

Florida's training staff, along with head coach Will Muschamp, sprinted towards UF's tenacious offensive leader. 

“When he got hurt I thought it was his pec. I went on the field you know and I looked up and he was bleeding out of his eye,” Muschamp said. “So he’s one tough customer, I can tell you that.”

Halapio

Halapio said he was attempting to cut-block a UT defensive tackle when “he’s trying to avoid me from cutting him, and his hand got into my face mask.”

The nasty eye-poke required three stitches, but Halapio returned to the field and played the rest of the game with an eye nearly swollen shut.

“At first, I thought it was his shoulder again when he was on the field like that. When he came back with his eye, it pretty much looked like a grape,” starting left guard Max Garcia said.  “I was like, ‘man how’d that happen? When did that happen?’ He was like, ‘I tried to cut the guy and his finger went in my eye.’ I was like, ‘are you going to go back in? You’re crazy, you can’t even see.’ I'm like I can't even play if I lose a contact and you don't even have an eye. I'm like this guy is a warrior.

“I have a lot of respect for him, even before I came here, I knew he was a leader on this team. Just a tremendous amount of respect. He just continues to show that he's a leader. And he doesn't talk about it, he just walks the walk.”

Halapio said he normally plays with a visor but didn’t notice his helmet wasn’t equipped with one until game time.

“That was my first time not wearing a visor. I noticed that I didn’t have a visor on my helmet, but I wasn’t too worried about it, because I was more worried about my brace and my pec and everything.”

Halapio -- an all-conference pick -- never tossed a raw steak on it, but said consistent icing has reduced the swelling and his vision is close to 100 percent.

“I wish we had more [players like him,]” Muschamp said. “He’s a typical throwback. You know, his pec is mended, he’s playing through a lot of pain, probably. He won’t tell me but I know he is.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Easley sidelined for the season

********** UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE **********

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 7.00.47 PM

I'll have a fully updated story on Easley's unfortunate injury in the paper, but for now the floor is yours...

***************************************************************************************************************************

No. 20 Florida continues to be snakebitten by injuries and the latest could be the most devastating of all.

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley "tweaked" his right knee in Tuesday's practice and will miss today's workout. The senior will be reevaluated Thursday. 

Easy

"He just tweaked it a little bit," coach Will Muschamp said. "We think it will be fine, but we need more information."

According to Muschamp, Easley was hurt in a non-contact drill chasing a screen pass. 

Easley, a preseason All-SEC selection, has spearheaded Florida's top ranked defense -- No. 1 in the SEC in scoring, total, pass and run defense.

In 2011, Easley -- then a sophomore -- tore his ACL in his left knee in Florida's 21-7 loss to Florida State.

********** UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE **********

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 11.48.02 AM
 Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 24, 2013

Going streaking

Florida's 26-game winning streak over Kentucky is the longest active streak in the nation over an annual opponent.  

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 4.44.16 PM

Florida walloped the Wildcats 38-0 in Gainesville last season, which explains comments like these from two UF seniors.

OL Kyle Koehne

"You know it's just like every week we're going to prepare for the best and pretend like we're playing the best."

Pretend?

"Uh, we are playing the best. Sorry."

DL Dominique Easley

"How many times we beat them? It's just a game."

********** UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE **********

Perhaps the shoe is actually on the other foot. 

This from kentuckysportsradio.com

"Za’Darius [Smith] is geeking over his first SEC game. The caliber of a program like Florida might intimidate most, but this is Za’Darius, “It’s an OK team, I’m not just going to say (that) they’re all that. Hey, it’s the SEC.” When asked if they looked bigger/faster/stronger on tape than he expected, he said, “No they didn’t, they actually looked smaller than people we already played.”

If that doesn’t pump up the D, a 26 game losing streak might. Avery said the coaches and players have mentioned it, using the streak as a “chip on our shoulder”. Avery has faith in his guys, “I think it’s a very beatable game- I know it is. You have to go in with that attitude and come out with a win.” The night game atmosphere at Commonwealth will be more than enough to get the juices flowing.

After reading those last two paragraphs, check your pulse. Yeah, I’m ready for gameday too."

Discuss away. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Back with a vengeance

Gators strong-side linebacker (or BUCK, defensive end, Joker, etc.) Ronald Powell has wreaked havoc early in 2013 after missing all of last season with multiple ACL injuries. 

While Florida's overall sack numbers remain low, the Gators' -- ranked No. 1 in the SEC in passing, rushing, total and scoring defense -- pressure on the quarterback has steadily improved from a year ago.

Powell's return is a major reason why. 

The redshirt junior tops No. 20 Florida in sacks (2.0), tackles for loss (4.0) and quarterback hurries (5). 

On Tuesday, Powell dished on a number of topics including his pass-rushing partner (Dante Fowler Jr.), Dominique Easley's pre-snap barrel roll, defensive line coach Brad Lawing's teachings and more. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Q&A: Jaylen Watkins

Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins became Florida's starting safety after redshirt freshman Marcus Maye was benched following a subpar performance in the loss to Miami. 

Watkins, traditionally a cornerback with 21 career starts at the position, led the Gators in tackles (7) in their 31-17 win over Tennessee last weekend. The senior also tallied a pass breakup. 

Watkins dished on Florida's victory, his former roommate -- who just happens to be UF's new starting quarterback, Dante Fowler Jr. and more. 

On Florida’s defense striving for perfection…

“We try our best to play a perfect game, so like towards the end of the game we probably had a few mental errors, but other than that I think we played really good, and got what we wanted. We aimed for three turnovers, but we got six. So overall, we played good. But it's just the little things that we've got to clean up.”

On the secondary battling despite so many injuries…

“It just shows how much depth we have and how we can count on each other to step up when somebody else goes down. Vernon's [Hargreaves] has been playing great and when Loucheiz [Purifoy] went out and I go back to corner, we have guys behind me that can play at safety. So it's not an issue for us when someone goes down.”

On the six takeaways… 

“We had to get a lot of turnovers. We needed to win the game for the offense. And that’s something we knew we had to do this week to win this game. And when Jeff [Driskel] went down, we knew we had to pick up some slack on defense and give the ball back to the offense.”

On Tyler Murphy…

“Tyler’s my roommate on campus, so I’ve witnessed him put in work consistently. You know, he went from being a third-string quarterback. He always prepared like his chance was going to come. So that’s why I’m not surprised when everybody – we seen him produce in practice. When Jeff was out in camp, he had a good camp. So when he went in the game, nobody was scared, and nobody was shocked at what he was doing.”

More on Murphy… 

“Tyler is a very optimistic about everything. I never witness about him getting down about playing time. He was always sure his time was going to come to showcase what he had. … He’ll embrace it. This is the opportunity he’s been looking for for four years. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t embrace this moment, playing at Kentucky and trying to get another win. He’s starting his journey now.”

On Dante Fowler’s performance against the Vols…

“Dante was disappointed in his game last week. From that first play, that fumble he caused, he was angry about his play last week. That was a great way to respond, causing two fumbles this week.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 23, 2013

Notebook: Driskel's surgery scheduled

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will have season-ending surgery Wednesday on his broken right fibula.

The junior sustained the gruesome injury in the first quarter of No. 20 Florida’s 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday.

“That’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with,” coach Will Muschamp said.

“It really hurt for him, his family and us as a football team.”

Muschamp said doctors would insert a metal plate in Driskel’s leg. The recovery process is roughly 4four to six months.

Redshirt junior Tyler Murphy filled in admirably (218 total yards, two touchdowns) and will make his first career start on the road at Kentucky (7:00 p.m., ESPNU).

Murhpy said it was difficult to see Driskel go down and said UF’s injured incumbent starter told him: “It’s your time, now.”

INJURY REPORT

Muschamp updated the statuses of the rest of Florida’s hobbled starters. Cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) and right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) both missed Saturday’s victory but are expected to play against the Wildcats.

Tailback Valdez Showers (ankle) is doubtful.

Reserve tight end Colin Thompson will miss “one or two weeks” with a stress fracture in his foot. 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Sophomore linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Week after Saturday's standout performance against Tennessee. 

Fowler had three tackles -- all for a loss -- a sack and two forced fumbles. 

Dante

QUOTABLE 

"I actually didn't know that [redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman] was starting until right before we ran out of the tunnel. I didn't know who he was. I don't remember seeing him on film. ... I didn't know he didn't make it to halftime. I thought he played the whole game. I couldn't really tell the difference [between Peterman & backup Justin Worley]. I really don't care. When the quarterback is in the game I just want to hit him."

--- Fowler Jr. on Tennessee's quarterback quagmire 

QUOTABLE DOS

"Turnover are like points. Six turnovers in a game is a lot. I wouldn't be suprised if we get candy or something."

--- Fowler Jr. on Florida's defensive effort against the Vols 

THIS & THAT

Redshirt freshman Skyler Morhinweg is Florida's backup quarterback. Freshman Max Staver will slide into the No. 3 role. ... Cornerback Brian Poole will be suspended for the first half against Kentucky after being ejected for a targeting penalty in the fourth quarter versus Tennessee. ... CBS invoked its six-day window for Oct. 5 games --- including the Arkansas-Florida matchup. The Gators will host the Razorbacks at either 3:30 p.m. (on CBS) or 7 p.m. (on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU). 

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UFvsUT Retro Diary: Fantastically Flawless (with lots of follies)

What in God's name happened???

There will be no formal rewind this week because why? Saturday’s game first half was too rich for that. Since the two teams actually played something resembling football in the second half, I have little interest in recapping a 30-minute snore fest.

So buckle up, grab a handle (beer won’t suffice), a funnel and a NERF gun because The Swamp is about to get real rowdy, y’all.

***********************************************************************************************************************

Tennessee coach Butch Jones to CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson in pregame: “It’s like how we practice: controlled chaos.”

A great omen.

FIRST QUARTER

14:40 – Tricky Brent Pease. Gators cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy rushes for 15 yards on a toss. Diminutive wideout Solomon Patton sets the edge with a nice block.

It’s a play that worked. For positive yardage. So we’ll probably never see it again.  

13:00 – A whiff. Kyle Christy just dropped a punt. UT -- led by redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Peterman -- is setup with excellent field position.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 7.03.53 PM

No you're not...

12:15 – Peterman switches a run play into a Gators blitz. Brillant. Florida shifts late, allowing Dante Fowler Jr. to explode into the backfield UNBLOCKED. The sophomore destroyed Rajon Neal, forcing and recovering the fumble.

Verne Lundquist going to break: “Well, what a start.”

11:44 – Two carries for Gators tailback Matt Jones and zero yards. Jon Halapio -- torn pectoral and all -- hasn’t blocked a soul on either running play. This seems noteworthy because Florida has run behind him both times.

11:07 – Quarterback Jeff Driskel with an underthrown deep ball to Quinton Dunbar.

Third-and-long. I’ve seen this story before.

But hold on: A completion (well protected by the offensive line) to Patton for a first down. Gators receive a nice spot via Penny Wagers.   

9:48 – The setup: 3rd-and-3 and Florida is just inside Tennessee territory. The Gators run a stacked formation to the right side with Jones and Dunbar alone on the left.

Off the snap, the play is a mess. I’m not sure if Dunbar is supposed to pick Trey Burton’s man -- or visa versa -- but neither occurs. Burton actually ducks to avoid hitting a UT defensive back and......

Cue Gary Danielson: “Uh-ohhhhh.”

Driskel tosses a 62-yard pick-six and the rest is history.

Whatever can be said about Driskel -- a lot has and should -- the dude is one tough SOB to limp off the field with a freakin’ broken leg.

Also: FLORDIA IS NOW ONE PLAY AWAY FROM TREY BURTON AT QB.

7-0 UT

9:23 – The Charlie Murphy era is officially underway.

So it’s here I’d like to point out that a Tennessee defense that was SHREDDED in Eugene last weekend is playing with tons of swagger, energy and poise against a bewildered UF offense. Murphy (with his slippery escapability) engineered a couple first downs, but Florida isn’t getting much push running the ball and two false starts (again, UF’s offense looks shell-shocked) killed the drive.

The Vols -- yes, the 2013 Volunteers -- have gotten three consecutive stops.

So what does Ole Butch Jones do? He puts the ball in the hands of his redshirt freshman quarterback making his first career start in The Swamp. Predictably, disaster ensued.

Seriously, I have no idea what Jones is thinking here.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 7.51.11 PM
The Vols are on their own 11-yard line, but decide: ‘What the hell. Go get ‘em, kid.’

[IN BETWEEN THE CHAOS: Uncle Verne “euphemistically” explains Antonio Morrison’s offseason legal issues. #NeverForget #WoofWoof].

Peterman rushes for one yard on a keeper, nearly throws an interception to UF ballhawk Vernon Hargreaves III and then BOOM.

Fowler Jr. strikes again, forcing a fumble when Peterman stepped up in the pocket. UT tackle Antonio Richardson -- a well-regarded NFL prospect -- straight up got his lunch money stolen.

3:24 – The Gators defense -- ranked No. 3 nationally entering the game -- gift-wraps the offense a freebie and UF promptly GOES BACKWARDS.

Murphy fumbles twice on the same play. He bobbles the snap exchange, drops the ball, gets hit, fumbles again, only to have left guard Max Garcia pounce on the bouncing pigskin.

Danielson: “This has been about as sloppy of a first quarter I’ve seen in a long time.”

[Just wait, Gary. Just wait.]

2:21 – The Gators run a pair of plays totaling six yards and face a 4th-and-goal at the five-yard line.

At this point, I wondered if Coach Will Muschamp would just go for it.

Honestly, did you think the Gators would get this close to the end zone again after the first 15 minutes?

But alas, Austin Hardin hits a chip shot and the Gators are on the board.

7-3 UT

SECOND QUARTER

14:24 – Tennessee manages a pair of first downs, so naturally Butch Jones believes MORE THROWING for his rookie quarterback.

Jones makes Tony Montana look passive.

Peterman, staring down one white shirt surrounded by lots of blue shirts, chucks a pass right through Florida linebacker Michael Taylor’s hands.

Taylor flares in his arms in exasperation only be to elated two seconds later when he realizes… Brian Poole snags the deflection for an interception. 

For those too wasted to keep up: UT has three turnovers on its first three possessions, 20 total yards and a 7-3 lead. Wowzers.

13:50 – CBS shows a sideline photo of a one-eyed, one-armed Jon Halapio. Long hair [really] don’t care, I guess. Florida’s all-conference guard returns to field. Another tough dude.

13:35 – Murphy takes a shotgun snap and whips a short toss right for a bubble screen and WHAT? REALLY? A TOUCHDOWN?

Patton eludes a couple of Willie Martinez dummies Volunteers down the sideline and rumbles for a 52-yard score.

An exasperated Danielson wonders aloud why Tennessee's defenders can’t tackle, run or cover a one-yard pass.

“COME ON. … YOU GOTTA SAVE THIS PLAY. … SHEESH.”

10-7 UF

13:23 – Peterman remains in the game. There’s no joke here. 

Amazingly, UT doesn’t turn the ball over and manages to punt.

12:07 – Gators freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor makes an unexpected cameo, runs for three measly yards and The Swamp ROARS IN ADULATION.

Now I might be drunk, but I’m pretty sure Jeezy’s “Standing Ovation” starts playing.   

11:42 – Murphy gets drilled in the face with the snap. Tennessee recovers “the fumble.”

FACE-FUMBLE1
(Courtesy SB Nation) 

More Danielson: “Jeez. This is as bad as I’ve seen.”

Somebody please get the man whatever Johnny Football is sipping.

11:31Danielson: “Peterman. Still back in the game.”

I’m as surprised as Gary. Tennessee -- with the ball on Florida’s 38-yard line and down just three points -- runs three consecutive downs for 12 yards.

Now in field goal range (UF’s 26-yard line), the Vols’ camp again places the ball in Peterman’s hands.

They lose 21 yards on the next three plays. No more kick.

Oh, and here’s a trick play the Volunteers ran. Pretty sure Jones calls it “The Orange Crush.”

VolsLineStaysPutFlorida
(Courtesy the nosebleeds.com)

That’s some serious rookie hazing.

9:04 – The Gators -- following a Tennessee punt -- take over on their own six-yard line.

5:30 – Murderball engage. Six straight runs -- totaling 26 yards -- but Gators face a 3rd-and-long after a Halapio holding penalty.

5:02 – adfkdhafsdkfhasdkhadfjdasgfjadsjfadfdfadkdfjadfjdlaffadsfdasfd

Danielson: “Safe play, supposedly. Call a play you can’t get a turnover on and you get a turnover.”

On a simple crossing route, Jones fumbles after inexplicably trying to switch hands holding the football.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 6.57.56 PM

4:04 – Peterman. Oy vey.

On a 3rd-and-9 (on UF’s 28-yard line), Tennessee’s quarterback whiffs on a throw and the ball ends up in the lap of Gators nose tackle Darius ‘Bear’ Cummings.

Cummings had an escort service to the end zone, only there was no reservations for six after teammate Dominique Easley accidently tackled him. 

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 7.06.36 PM

2:35 – Murphy runs for 12-yards on an easy zone-read.

It’s here Pease probably realized/said, “Wait. That’s right. These guys played Oregon last week and couldn’t stop the zone-read then either. Maybe we should keep doing THAT.”

1:25 – More tricky Pease. Florida successfully runs a double-counter handoff (12-yards) in a Wild Gator formation.

0:47 – 2nd-and-goal at the three-yard line and Mack Brown rumbles into the end zone for the dagger touchdown. Garcia with an excellent pull block to clear the way for Brown.

17-7 UF 

0:37PA Announcer: “NOW IN AT QUARTERBACK FOR TENNESSEE, JUSTIN WORLEY.”

Mercifully, Peterman is benched.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 5.07.48 PM
But hell it took so long I’m guessing the conversation between Jones and Peterman went something like…

JONES

Mr. Peterman, you want to leave?

N. PETERMAN

I’ve already left, coach. I’m in Abaddon.

JONES

Abaddon?

N. PETERMAN

You most likely know it as The Swamp's visiting locker room lavatory, but it was always be Abaddon to me.

HALFTIME

[Danielson and Verne pass out]

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ICYMI: Murphy makes the most of unexpected opportunity

Murphy be like...

 

But really, here's the piece I wrote on Murphy's journey from backup, backup, backup, backup, backup to No. 20 Florida's unlikely starter.

GAINESVILLE -- Tyler Murphy never pictured himself standing at a podium and addressing the media after a collegiate game.

Will Muschamp never did either.

Just last spring, as Jeff Driskel -- No. 20’s Florida’s incumbent starter now sidelined for the season with a broken leg -- and Jacoby Brissett, a recent North Carolina State transfer, battled for Florida’s starting job, Muschamp was asked about Murphy’s potential prospects in the quarterback competition.

“Right now, none,” Muschamp said.

But circumstances can change dramatically in college football.

Brissett transferred this offseason, thrusting Murphy into Florida’s definitive backup role. Then, after Driskel went down early in the first quarter of Saturday’s win over Tennessee, suddenly, unexpectedly, it was Murphy’s turn. 

“It was in the back of my mind that I might never play,” he said. “People wanted me to change positions. I like playing quarterback. I had people telling me to transfer. It’s something I considered. But my dad encouraged me to stay.”

For at least one day, the Gator fasn were quite thankful.

Between all the laughable follies and snafus in the first half of Florida’s 31-17 victory, Murphy -- a redshirt junior -- emerged as an unlikely hero.

He threw for 134 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 84 yards and a score on the ground. He was confident, poised, slippery and displayed no signs of never taking a meaningful collegiate snap.

"I told our team what a great example he is," Muschamp said. "There's not many guys like that in this society. Everybody wants it now. He's a guy that's worked extremely hard and he cashed in his opportunity today. We look forward to seeing him play the rest of the year."

Murphy will make his first career start next weekend on the road at Kentucky.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but an opportunity is an opportunity,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, he never left Gainesville because he loves Florida -- the school, his friends and now, his team.

His route to UF was as improbable as Saturday’s performance. An unheralded two-star prospect, Murphy essentially recruited the Gators -- not the other way around. The former Temple commit sent film to ex-UF coaches Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio. Florida’s offensive gurus were impressed and Murphy was a late edition to the 2010 signing class.

Despite sitting behind as many as five quarterbacks -- Driskel, Brissett, John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton -- Murphy’s attitude never wavered. Neither did his commitment to studying, practicing and always staying ready.

“He’s selfless and that’s his greatest attribute,” center Jonotthan Harrison said. “That’s what I love about him.”

There’s a chance Murphy’s performance was an anomaly. A red herring to the Gators faithful. Driskel had his career-day (in 2012) against Tennessee’s abominable defense too.

But this much is clear: Saturday -- the fans chanting his name, the locker room crowd surfing -- will always be Murphy’s day. His teammates love him and appear ready go to battle with him.

“We have all the faith, all the trust in Tyler Murphy,” Harrison said. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 22, 2013

Poll Position: One spot drop

The Gators fell one spot in both national polls after this weekend's 31-17 victory over Tennessee. 

Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC) dropped to No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25 rankings. The Gators now sit at No. 19 in the USA Today coaches poll

Riding Solo

GAINESVILLE -- Solomon Patton is no longer a jet-sweep specialist.

Florida’s senior wideout has quickly (and quietly) emerged as Florida’s explosive receiving threat, again showcasing his speed on a 52-yard touchdown scamper on a short screen pass in UF's 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday. 

"We challenged him [this offseason]: 'Do you want to continue to just be a set-sweep guy or do you want to be a major contributor to our football team?'" coach Will Muschamp said. "He saw an opportunity in his senior year in his last go-round at Florida and he decided to take advantage of his opportunity."

Patton finished the afternoon with three catches for 73 yards.  He leads the Gators with 212 yards receiving (21.2 y/c) and two touchdowns.

Here’s what Patton said about Muschamp’s comments…

 

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