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20 posts from September 2014

September 30, 2014

The Decider

GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp has long maintained he has never called an offensive play as Florida’s head coach.

However, influencing (or making) other offensive decisions remain the head coach’s call, according to coordinator Kurt Roper.

Roper said he and Muschamp have “always been on the same page” early in their first year together. But Florida's offensive coordinator also acknowledged Muschamp ultimately holds the decision-making power on personnel changes and in-game strategy.

As criticism swirls around quarterback Jeff Driskel’s job security, Roper said the staff has “100 percent confidence in Jeff” and that freshman Treon Harris simply isn’t ready to compete for the No. 1 spot.

But, it’s not even his call.

“Will is the one that will have that conversation,” said Roper on benching Driskel. “It's plain and simple his decision. But again, we have 100 percent confidence in Jeff right now and he's the guy we feel like we're going to win football games with."

Specifically asked about the play-calling late in the first half at Alabama (UF trailed 21-14 with 1:44 remaining and simply ran out the clock), Roper again stated he and Muschamp “work great together."

“And I was in 100 percent agreement with [Muschamp’s call to run-out the clock]. In a 100,000 seat stadium and it wasn’t like we were being productive on offense at that point that you got a chance to go in one score down to tie the game. And so, you know, I’m one of those guys that’s maybe a little bit more old school that way offensively, cut my teeth a little bit in the era where, ‘Hey, that’s just smart football.’ You know what I mean? Now if you’re being productive and you’ve got 30 points at halftime and those things, maybe you’re more aggressive. But based on what was happening offensively, that was just a smart decision that I agree with 100 percent and always will."

Will Muschamp. The decider. 

THIS & THAT

Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC) opened as a one-point favorite over Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) before the line quickly shifted in UT’s favor. UF is now a one-point underdog. ... Florida 2-2 following an idle date under Muschamp, including a 31-17 victory over Tennessee last season. … CBS announced it will utilize its six-day option for its double-header (noon and 3:30 p.m.) slate on Oct. 11. The network will chose two games on a blockbuster weekend that includes No. 15 LSU at Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 29, 2014

The Whole Nine Scars: Florida's (nearly) decade of dominance over division-rival Tennessee

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has won nine straight against Tennessee, last losing in controversial fashion in 2004 -- formally known as the Dallas Baker unsportsmanlike conduct game -- at Neyland Stadium.

Ron Zook piloted the Gators then, while the Volunteers are now on their fourth different head coach.

It’s been that long.

In recent years, Florida has taken advantage of the Vols’ demise, winning seven straight by at least double-digits.

But under second-year coach Butch Jones, UT is considered a promising program on the rebound and is actually a one-point favorite at home on Saturday (noon, SEC Network).

Can the Vols get a statement win -- even against a floundering Gators team -- this weekend?

We’ll see.

First, here’s a look at Florida’s series dominance over the last decade. 

2013: 31-17 – Jeff Driskel broke his leg on a pick-six, but backup quarterback Tyler Murphy rallied UF with two scores in a game featuring plenty of gaffes and follies.

2012: 37-20 – The Gators rushed for 336 yards and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to shock the Vols -- ranked for the first time in the series since ’07.

2011: 33-23 – Shifty all-purpose tailback Chris Rainy tallied 233 total yards, including an 83-yard touchdown reception. Rainey also blocked a punt, as the Gators held on late after jumping out to a 30-6 lead.

2010: 31-17 – Florida dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Tennessee to just 29 yards rushing on 23 attempts (1.3 yards per carry), while tallying three touchdowns and 150 yards on the ground.

2009: 23-13 – Lane Kiffin did his best to muck up an ugly contest, but the Gators slowly wore down the Vols, running for 208 yards and two scores in a lackluster game. 

2008: 30-6 – The eventual national champions jumped out to a 27-0 lead and held Arian Foster & Co. to its lowest point total during the nine-game losing streak.

2007: 59-20 – Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow scored four touchdowns, as Florida rattled off the final 31 points in a game separated by just a single score midway through the third quarter.

2006: 21-20 – Tebow -- then a freshman -- plunged for two yards on a 4th-and-1 to secure a win after Florida rallied from a 10-point deficit. Tebow ran for four first downs on seven attempts.

2005: 16-7 – The Gators took advantage of three special teams miscues, holding the Vols scoreless after halftime in Urban Meyer’s SEC debut. 

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September 27, 2014

Boom goes the dynamite? Not so fast

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp isn’t going anywhere.

Yet.

Despite a venomous and vociferous mob calling for Muschamp’s firing, the embattled head coach will survive the rest of the year and be evaluated at season’s end, according to UF athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Foley told Mike Bianchi at The Orlando Sentinel that Muschamp -- in his fourth season with the Gators -- will have the rest of the regular season to prove his mettle and turnaround a dwindling program.

"You never judge or evaluate a program based on one game or one season," Foley told the Sentinel.

"That's just not how we do things here. We're going to evaluate where we're headed – where the players are, how is recruiting going, what type of staff we have — are we a better (program)? That's going to be plain for all of us to see, but it's also going to be played out over the course of 11 games and we'll see where we are when we get to the end of the season."

Foley fired Ron Zook -- just 23-14 at Florida – mid-season in 2004, but Muschamp won’t endure a similar fate.

The Gators are fresh off a record-setting, three touchdown loss to No. 3 Alabama, leaving Muschamp with a career 24-17 mark as the head coach at UF.

While Muschamp’s entire body of work will be evaluated at end of the year, he won’t see a fifth autumn in Gainesville unless the Gators start winning some conference games.

Florida is just 1-6 in its last seven SEC contests, with marquee showdowns with Tennessee (Oct. 4), No. 17 LSU (Oct. 11), Missouri (Oct. 18), No. 12 Georgia (Nov. 1) and No. 13 South Carolina (Nov. 15) all remaining on its slate.

“The meat of our schedule is coming up,” Muschamp said. “We need to stay the course right now. Everything is still out there in front of us.” 

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September 21, 2014

Gator Grades: Welp...

Florida Alabama FootballJeff Driskel - Bryan Anderson/AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- So needing triple-overtime to beat Kentucky in The Swamp was a bad omen after all. 

No. 3 Alabama steam-rolled Florida, self-destructing just enough to keep the game from being a total laugher on the scoreboard. 

The Gators were outgained by 445 yards. That is not a typo. Florida was straight worked on Saturday afternoon. 

UF yielded the most yards in school-history (645), the most points in the Will Muschamp Era (42), the second-most passing yards in school history (449) and a 200-yard wideout. 

Are grades really necessary? 

OFFENSE - F

Florida couldn’t run. Florida couldn’t pass, but oddly Florida actually blocked ok. 

In all though, the offense looked a lot like last year’s toothless attack. The Gators gained just 200 yards, as quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful. Possibly an understatement. 

Florida’s veteran quarterback was 9-of-28 for 93 yards with three turnovers (2 picks) and two scores (1 rushing). Florida was terrible on third down (just 2-of-13) and ran just six plays in the third quarter. 

There was no Treon Harris or Brandon Powell sightings. Not exactly sure why not. 

DEFENSE - F

Many Florida historians thought UF’s shellacking in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska gained 629 yards in a 62-24 win) was an unbreakable record. 

Guess not. 

Lane Kiffin out-coached Muschamp’s prized possession, dialing up explosive play after explosive play. Senior quarterback Blake Sims was excellent, slicing up Florida’s woeful secondary (also: Amari Cooper really helps). Alabama’s rushing attack went off after halftime as UF’s defense got gassed. 

The Gators missed at least two dozen tackles, practically negating four forced turnovers.  

SPECIAL TEAMS - B+

Punter Kyle Christy was Florida’s best player on the field Saturday, averaging 52.7 yards on seven punts. 

He pinned the Tide inside the 20-yard line three times. He was excellent. 

Florida’s coverage units were solid, but Andre Debose was unable to do anything on returns. 

OVERALL - F

Alabama miscues (four turnovers, 11 penalties and poor special teams play) allowed Florida to hang around long after the Gators shouldve been buried ... and it still didn’t matter. UF was fortunate to not lose by six touchdowns. With plenty of issues to sort out, Florida's first idle date falls at the perfect time. 

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September 20, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida at Alabama

Unnamed

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Live from beautiful Bryant-Denny Stadium, where unranked Florida hopes to send No. 3 Alabama to just its fourth home loss since 2008. 

The stadium is rocking -- video montages of Tide beating Gators in 2009 SEC Championship Game, Bear Bryant and Lynyrd Skynyrd will have that affect, but can UF's up-tempo offense give Alabama enough fits to silence crowd?

Florida is a two-touchdown underdog (+14.5). Gators cover but Tide wins. Too much Yeldon-Henry-Drake. 

********** PREGAME STORYLINES/FEATURES **********

Will Muschamp is waiting for his watershed moment as a head coach, aims to defeat his longtime mentor

Gators QB Jeff Driskel hopes for better result against Tide

Vernon Hargreaves III braces for matchup with Amari Cooper

Muschamp encouraged by 3OT win 

Alabama QB Blake Sims on Florida's radar

Gators not hiding anything for Tide

Who y'all got this afternoon?

Will Florida's tide turn or will Alabama roll?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

September 18, 2014

Q&A: Chaz Green

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since he was a redshirt freshman, Chaz Green -- a three-year starter at right tackle -- played on the left side in Florida’s triple-overtime win over Kentucky.

Replacing injured starter D.J. Humphries, Green flipped positions and manned Driskel’s blindside, squaring off against UK's talented bookends Alvin Dupree and Za'Darius Smith.

But Green's challenge gets even harder this Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS). 

Alabama’s perilous defensive line awaits (the Tide rotate as many as 10 linemen up front), and Green discussed the upcoming matchup, the Gators' underdog role, Roderick Johnson’s debut as a starter and much more.

On Alabama’s defensive front…

“Yeah, they’re deep across the board. They have good talent and they’re also coached well, they bring a lot of different fronts. It’s something we definitely have to pay attention to this week with film and at practice. … No. 47 [Senior Xzavier Dickson] stands out. I was watching some film last night. I’ll be going against him. He’s very, very talented. I’ll have to have good technique against him.”

On playing the role of underdog… 

“I don’t [see it that way]. As a team, I think we take them one game at a time. We don’t pay attention to the rankings and all that. We’ve just got to take it one week at a time and show who we are. … I personally like [being the underdog] that way instead of being a frontrunner. Like I said, we’re out here to show what we can do.”  

On playing left tackle for the first time in years… 

“I thought I did pretty well. The first half I had some issues cutting off the back-side. We knew that was going to be an issue last week with the scheme that they ran with those ends. As the game went on, I think we showed that we can get that taken care of.”

On Roderick Johnson’s first start at right tackle...

“I thought he played well. As a young guy, I’ve been in that position before, so I thought he played very well. He’s got a big challenge this week, too.”

On learning about UF's potential after a trip to 'Bama…

“Given the bunch that Alabama has I would say that it’s a good measuring stick if that’s what you mean.”

On if beating the No. 3 Tide could put Florida back on the map… 

“I don’t know what the map means. Like I said, we don’t pay attention to none of that. I know it may sound arrogant or something, but we’re just focused on getting better each and every week, going out there putting on the best show we can and just playing with each other. Personally, I don’t get involved in all the outside stuff. I’m not a big guy on Twitter. It’s just something that we just try to go out there and just improve week in and week out.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 16, 2014

Jones the "best back" in the SEC?

GAINESVILLE -- Gators center Max Garcia turned heads Tuesday, calling teammate Matt Jones “the best back” in the Southeastern Conference. 

The senior offensive lineman meant no disrespect to Heisman frontrunner Todd Gurley, South Carolina’s Mike Davis or the two-headed attack Florida will face this weekend -- Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry -- but Garcia backed Jones after the tailback’s monster performance against Kentucky. 

“Not a lot of people are talking about him in the SEC, but we feel like he’s the best back,” Garcia said. “Just to see him work hard like that and be our workhorse on offense, just to see him break tackles -- I think he broke like 16 tackles or something -- that just motivates the offensive line to block just a little bit more, take another bite.”

Jones, a junior, rushed for 156 yards on 29 carries in UF’s 36-30 triple-overtime thriller against UK. He scored the winning touchdown, a 1-yard plunge, after four straight carries in the final period. It was the tailback’s second-career game over the century mark, tallying 176 yards against the Wildcats in 2013. 

“In that last overtime, we just sat there and said, ‘Let’s give it to him and see what happens,'" coordinator Kurt Roper said.

“If it wouldn’t have worked, if we would’ve stalled out at the 10 [yard line] or whatever, we would’ve stalled out. But he was getting the football at that point.”

***** CLICK LINK FOR VIDEO, TIRED OF AUTO-PLAY *****

Jones is most definitely not the top tailback in the SEC. 

In fact, he’s hard-pressed to find himself in the top 10 -- Gurley, Yeldon, Davis, Henry, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams of Arkansas, Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne all rank ahead of Jones -- but the junior could emerge as a true bellcow this fall.  

What do y’all think? 

How would you rank the running backs in the SEC? 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 15, 2014

Nothing to see here

 

GAINESVILLE -- The best -- but most controversial -- play of quarterback Jeff Driskel’s career almost didn’t happen.

Facing 4th-and-7, down a score in overtime, Florida’s frenzied game-tying touchdown -- a beautiful fade to wideout Demarcus Robinson -- immediately infuriated Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, as the Gators appeared to catch a lucky break.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 7.38.50 PM

The 40-second play clock expired -- at best -- as the ball was snapped, but officials didn’t throw a delay of game penalty so Driskel's clutch play sent the game to a second overtime.

Correct call -- according to the Southeastern Conference league office.

Kentucky appealed the ruling, but the league (essentially) supported the officials’ judgment. 

"At the request of the University of Kentucky, consistent with SEC protocol, the conference office reviewed the fourth down play in the first overtime of the Kentucky-Florida game and has determined the officials applied the proper mechanics and guidelines that are in place to determine when a flag should be thrown for delay of game. The back judge is responsible for delay of game calls. The procedure for the back judge is for his eyes to stay on the clock when it nears zero. When the clock hits zero, he immediately looks from the clock to the ball. If the ball is moving, there is no delay of game. If the ball is stationary, a delay of game penalty is called.''

The Gators were without a timeout, using their lone stoppage earlier in the drive, and coach Will Muschamp said he had one thing on his mind amid all the confusion.

“Hurry up."

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September 14, 2014

Gator Grades: Utter relief

GAINESVILLE -- About that cynicism?

Well … Florida won, but it needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky in a thriller that spanned two days. … Kentucky.

JoJo Kemp’s upset proclamation nearly proved prophetic.

It took a record night from Demarcus Robinson, the best pass of Jeff Driskel’s career and a gutsy effort from guys like Matt Jones (159 yards, game-winning score), Brian Poole (1 INT, game-saving pass breakup) and Antonio Morrison (team-leading 10 tackles), but a win is still a win.

Florida is 2-0 headed to doomsday Tuscaloosa. 

OFFENSE – B-

The Gators gained plenty of yards (532) but quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful in the first half (just 7-of-20) and electric wideout Demarcus Robinson was Florida’s passing game. The sophomore delivered a sensational performance, finishing with over 1/3 of Florida’s total offense (216 yards receiving) -- the majority coming after the catch. Driskel rebounded with a solid second half, saving Florida’s season (and potentially Will Muschamp’s job) with a great pitch and catch on 4th-and-7 in overtime. The offensive line couldn’t pass protect a lick, but the interior run blocking was strong throughout. Also where was Brandon Powell? Treon Harris?

DEFENSE - C

The Wildcats averaged 5.77 yards per play Saturday night. They averaged 4.80 yards per play against Ohio. The Gators stuffed UK’s run game, forcing six first-half punts, but Florida’s secondary was spotty all evening. The Gators were burned by busted coverages (see: Garrett Johnson running wide open for a 30-yard touchdown) and bad communication. UF picked off three passes (two via deflections) but Patrick Towles’ unheralded wideouts won plenty of one-on-one matchups. Poole’s play in overtime was huge, as was Keanu Neal’s interception late in regulation. 

SPECIAL TEAMS – B+

Frankie Velez was 2-of-3, missing a crucial kick early in the fourth quarter. Austin Hardin shanked his 52-yarder as time expired, but was solid on kickoffs. Kyle Christy boomed all six punts (48.7 y/p), allowing Florida to dominate field position. Andre Debose electrified the crowd with a pair of nice returns.

OVERALL – C+

We'll see soon enough if Saturday's performance was real or a mirage. The cynicism can wait a week. The Gators are 1-0 in the SEC. They didn’t fold. They found a way to win, even if it took a fortuitous bounce or a no-call. Florida loses that game in 2013. It remains to be seen how the Gators respond moving forward.   

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 13, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Kentucky

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GAINESVILLE -- Can the Wildcats win in Gainesville for the first time since 1979?

Probably not. 

Although Mark Stoops' team is an improved bunch, the Gators have won the last six meetings by an average of 36.5 points -- and I wouldn't expect that to change tonight. 

Florida needs another solid contest before a trip to Tuscaloosa and I think it covers the 17.5 spread.

Too many playmakers + rowdy crowd = bad combo for UK.

ICYMI:

Will Muschamp had some fun this week, calling into the Gator Hotline as "Bill from Gainesville," joking with athletic director Jeremy Foley.  

 

*************** UF-UK STORYLINES *************** 

Gators lose Jake McGee, turn to Clay Burton at tight end

Roper wants Florida to speed up tempo

UK tailback JoJo Kemp predicts upset 

Treon Harris shines in debut

Gators focus on ball security

Florida refuses to be overconfident

It's a gorgeous day in town, y'all. 

Enjoy the game. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 11, 2014

Honey Thunder: reformed, ready to shine (again)

 

GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson finally proved what all the fuss has been about.

The dynamic wideout exploded against Eastern Michigan last Saturday, reeling in six receptions for 123 yards, skying for a 70-yard touchdown.

“Hopefully, plenty more to come,” he said, grinning.

Robinson -- who tallied his first career score -- flashed his playmaking skills, elite athleticism and joystick jukes, validating coach Will Muschamp's favorite moniker: "It's not add water, instant player." 

Is that how you envisioned last season?

"Yes," Robinson said. "[It was frustrating] missing the playing time on the field. Not being on the field when I know I could’ve been on the field.”

Instead, it took the sophomore -- or Honey Thunder, as he calls himself -- a little longer to produce than most anticipated.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout from Peach County High (Ga.) -- the same school as former Florida standout Jacquez Green and Robinson’s uncle, Marcus, an 11-year NFL vet -- struggled mightily transitioning away from home last year. 

Robinson missed three games due to suspensions in 2013, and was forced to sit out Florida’s 2014 weather-suspended opener against Idaho due to a “university sanction.” But the sophomore feels his off-the-field troubles are in the past and he’s matured from his tribulations.

“It’s very difficult being away from your family which you’ve been with for 19 years or 18 years,” Robinson said.

“Being with your mom, being with somebody taking care of you and looking over you, then being on your own and making decisions on your own that you’ve never had to make before. It was kind of difficult.”

He continued: “[It’s all about] being more humble, more mature about things. Being more smart about my decisions and the choices that I make.”

Robinson caught just five passes all last season, but another strong training camp put him in the spotlight as Florida’s most talented receiver.

He delivered last weekend.

Robinson praised the efforts of teammates helping him hurdle his issues, specifically highlighting star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III as a supportive friend.

Offseason mentoring from his uncle was key to his development and maturation too, saying he received a phone call following his breakout performance from Marcus.

“He told me I had a great game,” Robinson said. “He said he watched every play. He’s just a good guy all around, let’s me know what I did good and bad.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 09, 2014

Q&A: Clay Burton

GAINESVILLE -- With Jake McGee’s season-ending injury, Clay Burton is no longer Florida’s starting tight end in name only.

Burton is now the de facto starter. For good. 

The former defensive end turned tight end reeled in seven passes for 42 yards in UF's opener against Eastern Michigan -- more than doubling his career totals (3 receptions for 24 yards) in one game.

It was a breakout performance for the beleaguered senior, plagued by drops since his transition to offense.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end spoke about his offseason development, his productive performance and the urgency of stepping up in McGee’s absence.   

On his evolution as a player…

“It’s just a lot of hard work that’s kind of finally coming to the surface. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete and play and earn the job. I’m just ready to have a great senior season and help the team win.” 

On specific work towards improvement…

“We have a JUGS machine, I did that. And just doing a little extra with Jeff [Driskel] and stuff like that, just trying to get out there every time. Whenever Jeff would go out and throw extra, I would try to get with him and stuff like that. Just extra stuff. … You could say there was more urgency because it was my last year.”

On UF's revamped offense optimizing tight ends…

“It felt great. Just really doing anything I could to help the team win. Felt great. The fact I was catching a lot of balls, something I haven’t done in the past, I really enjoyed it.”

On transforming his body… 

“This offseason I've lost like 15 pounds, so that's kind of like goes into what I did in the offseason to try to help myself get lighter and be able to run a little better and stuff like that, better conditioning."

On replacing McGee...

"Whatever his production was going to be as a starter I've just got to keep on doing what I've been doing. I kind of felt like it was always on me, you know, but just keep playing well."

*************** BONUS QUOTES ***************

Coach Will Muschamp on Burton’s transformation… 

“He’s changed his body a little bit. He’s slimmed down. He’s quicker than he’s been, he’s faster than he’s been. He worked extremely hard on the JUGS machine all summer. He hasn’t had many drops at all through fall game and working into game week. All those things, he’s a player who has done everything we’ve asked him to do to put himself in a position to be successful, and he certainly was Saturday.”

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper on Burton’s breakout performance…

“I can't say that I was surprised. We've been out there quite a bit in practice. I think he’s a guy that has been steady for us the whole time. I think he understands. He's got a lot of experience to grow back on. He just gets the game now because he's older. He plays with a great base and he understands how to be in good positions, so that just carried over to the passing game. Same thing. He gets big picture, so he knows where he fits into schemes and gets in the right spots and makes those plays.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 08, 2014

Humphries sidelined, Gators forced to shuffle OL

1bVu7w.St.56D.J. Humphries (70)

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offensive line depth -- its principal concern entering 2014 -- will be tested one week into the season.

Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (high ankle sprain/bone chip) will be sidelined at least two weeks, forcing the Gators (1-0) to reshuffle a unit thin on experience.

Senior starting right tackle Chaz Green will shift to left tackle, while redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson slides into the lineup at right tackle. True freshman David Sharpe is now the backup at both tackle spots.

“Rod is certainly capable of playing very well, and I think he will,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

“David [Sharpe] is a young guy who is a very good big athlete. He’s 6-6 330 pounds. He moves his feet extremely well. Trenton [Brown] has got enough reps at the right tackle position for us to feel very confident in all four players playing well.”

Both freshmen tackles performed admirably in extensive playing time against Eastern Michigan, but the challenge increases immediately with Kentucky (2-0) and No. 2 Alabama the next two weeks.

Humphries’ injury will not require surgery, and Muschamp said,  “I hope to get him back after the open week (Sep. 27).”

QUOTABLE

"It's a 2014 Florida team vs. a 2014 Kentucky team. That's all it is to me."

-- Muschamp, on the insignificane of Florida's 27-game winning streak against the Wildcats.  

THIS & THAT
After missing UF’s opener, starting sophomore nickel back Marcus Maye (strained hamstring) is probable for Saturday’s game against the Wildcats. Freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson (Immokalee) reinjured his shoulder and his status is uncertain moving forward. … Florida’s heavyweight bout against Alabama on Sep. 20 will be televised by CBS at 3:30 p.m. ET, the league announced Monday. The Gators travel to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2010, a 31-6 loss in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Numbers never lie?

 

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators lead the nation in six significant statistical categories: scoring offense (65.0 ppg), total defense (125.0 ypg), scoring defense (0.0 ppg), passing defense (45.0 ypg), turnover margin (+5) and red zone defense (.000). 

Excuse me? Oh, they played Eastern Michigan? 

Nevermind. Carry on. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 07, 2014

Gator Grades: Alright, Alright, Alright

GAINESVILLE -- Whew. 

A week after rain and lightening soiled Florida's original opener, the Gators poured points on poor Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon in The Swamp. 

It was a pay-day game (EMU received $850,000 for the beatdown), but UF badly needed a frustration release. 

The Gators couldn't have asked for a better opponent, as the Eagles were awful and played scared the whole game.

The "statement win" deserves an asterisk, but the Gators don't care. 

OFFENSE - A

Holy moly. Kurt Roper's revamped unit gashed EMU's pitiful defense, gaining 655 yards on a swift 86 snaps. The quartet of tailbacks scored five touchdowns, while 11 different receivers caught passes. Demarcus Robinson is the truth (the hype was legit this time, wow!). The Gators didn't hold anything back (no vanilla talk this year), but perhaps the most encouraging sign for the offense is that is still has legitmate issues to sort out ... yet scored seven touchdowns. Jeff Driskel wasn't a world-beater (continues to struggle with his progressions, accuracy comes and goes) and the offense stalled several times in the redzone. 

DEFENSE - A

The Gators pitched a shutout. You can't do any better than that. [I wrote that last week, still stands.] Florida forced five turnovers, its front-four dominated the line of scrimmage and it yielded just two plays inside its own territory. The Gators tallied nine tackles for loss, as the Eagles appeared terrified to run or pass. UF's youthful secondary was never challenged. One negative, several stupid penalties could come home to roost in the future. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Frankie Velez was perfect kicking field goals (3-3, although his kicks look like ducks every time), and Kyle Christy was sharp in his return as Florida's starting punter. The kickoff coverage unit had some issues, but maybe they were just tired running down the field so many times. 

Andre Debose's electrifying 55-yard punt return was a top 10 play on ESPN. The sixth-year senior finally looks healthy and could be a lethal returner all season. The directional kicks didn't work (Austin Hardin booted the ball out of bounds twice), but that's just nitpicking. 

OVERALL - A

EMU stinks. Really stinks. But the Gators needed to release some rage following a miserable 4-8 season. We'll see soon enough if Saturday's performance was real or a mirage. The cynicism can wait a week.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 06, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Eastern Michigan

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- FOOTBALL?!?!?!?!? FOOTBALL?!?!?!?

(Maybe?)

The Gators and Eagles are set to kickoff at 4 p.m. (SEC Network), as grey clouds and darkening skies hover over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. There's currently a flood warning in town until 12 a.m., but the heavy rain has managed to stay away. For now. 

The forecast isn't nearly as promising, but lightening delays appear unlikely. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.51.43 PM

Florida is a 38-point favorite, and while that's a lot of points, I think the Gators cover. EMU allowed nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns to Morgan State. The weather is a concern (for spread purposes), but the Eagles are a dreadful team -- especially against a hungry group desperate to end a seven-game skid dating back to last season.    

********* SEASON PREVIEWS *********

Gators' chance to rebound rest with quarterback Jeff Driskel

Grading the Gators: position-by-position look

Florida schedule predictions 

SEC capsules 

 ********* UF VS. EMU ********

Matt Jones is ready to make up for lost time

"Pray for them"

Gators won't make up Idaho game

Three suspended players reinstated

Muschamp fires back at critics 

Florida eager for season opener do-over

Hopefully there's actual football to watch ... and cover.

 

Enjoy the afternoon, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 05, 2014

Tear down this wall?

 

GAINESVILLE -- Eastern Michigan hasn't been to a bowl game since 1987. The Eagles have won just four games over the last two years. 

Apparently, the not-so-smashing sledgehammer entrance is will continue

The Gators and Eagles (1-0) kickoff at 4 p.m. (SEC Network) on Saturday. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 03, 2014

Muschamp fires back at critics

871632acde9d4f8a96c264661649c931-1 The Associated Press 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp staunchly defended his decision to reinstate three suspended players -- defensive tackles Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick and wideout Demarcus Robinson -- for Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan (4 p.m., SEC Network).

The Gators’ weather-cancelled opener against Idaho lasted just a single play, but Muschamp determined the punitive measure was enough and testily criticized those who questioned the reinstatements.

“It's not just about suspending players for games, OK?,” Muschamp said, emphatically, on the SEC coaches’ teleconference.  

“There are a lot of things that go into discipline. It's about altering and changing behavior, which we've done here. I think our discipline speaks for itself and how we've handled our football team. So it's not just about missing games, if it was just about suspensions, you never have an issue, right? So I mean at the end of the day it's more than (just suspensions) and there are a lot of things that go into those situations, a lot more than people know.”

But Muschamp refused to add any additional details to the reinstatements, simply saying, “It's very frustrating for me as a coach or any coach to have someone being critical and you don't even have all the information. So at the end of the day I make the decisions in this program I handle the discipline in this program and it's been handled very well.''

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 02, 2014

That's gold, Jerry! Gold!

M3TZ5797Gatorzone.com

GAINESVILLE -- "I learned this from [Tennessee] Coach [Phillip] Fulmer. He said, 'You really want those offensive linemen knowing their role and knowing where they fit. When they walk into a restroom and there’s five urinals, the center goes to the middle one. The right guard goes to the second one.' That’s the mindset. I think we’ve been able to create that through spring of, hey, those guys are working at those positions. Hopefully communication is really good there.”

-- Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, on the unity and development of Florida's starting offensive line. 

September 01, 2014

Three Gators reinstated

GAINESVILLE -- The resolution to Saturday’s weather-suspended opener remains up in the air, but Florida coach Will Muschamp determined a single, 10-second play was punishment enough for three suspended players. 

Sophomore wideout Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick (violation of team rules) have been reinstated, and will play Saturday against Eastern Michigan (4:30 p.m., SEC Network). 

“They will be back this week,” Muschamp said. “Not just as far as the suspension of the game, but they’ve handled a lot of other things for me.”

According to Muschamp, Robinson’s university sanction “has been resolved.”

Florida’s coach was asked specifically if the players would be suspended should Idaho return to Gainesville later in the year, with Muschamp saying, “I can’t even answer that question. No 1., we don’t know the situation of the game right now.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton



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