Florida Gators: Florida Gators football

Miami-Florida series in limbo

August, 23, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s game at Miami on Sept. 7 will be the 55th meeting between the in-state rivals.

It could be a long time before we see No. 56.

Barring a meeting in a bowl game or the impending four-team college football playoff, this season’s matchup is the last between the Gators and Hurricanes for the foreseeable future. Officials at both schools have said there have been no talks about resuming the series and it will be several years before the Gators would be able to consider another meeting with the Hurricanes because of the uncertainty surrounding the SEC’s future scheduling.

"There’s nothing in the books for the future," said Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs. "I won’t say it won’t ever happen. You never know."

This season’s matchup with Miami is the second game of a home-and-home series that began in 2008 in Gainesville. It’s a departure from Florida’s normal scheduling formula, which is devised to ensure that the school plays seven home games annually for financial reasons. UF prefers to play smaller FBS or FCS schools in the early non-conference games and play a Division I-AA school in the week between the final SEC game and the annual Florida State game. It’s done that way to ensure that the Gators will get the revenue from seven home games every year, which roughly comes out to $18-21 million annually ($2.5-$3 million per game).

That formula might need to be adjusted in the future, though, depending on whether the SEC decides to add a ninth conference game. The league is expected to make that decision in time for the 2016 schedule, but Howard said the Gators have already lined up non-conference opponents through that season.

With rival Florida State on the schedule each year, Howard said it would be tough for UF to justify adding Miami on a semi-regular basis. However, he did add that the school understands that fans want to see better games. Plus, there’s television to consider as well, he said.

"Our model may not necessarily work the way it has specifically in the past, although it has worked pretty good for us," Howard said. "Certainly playing in the SEC is a challenge,” Howard said. “Playing FSU every year, that creates even more of a challenge. But moving forward with the new schedule and the expansion of the league, we know that the league and television is going to want to look for matchups from the first week to the last week.

"Also we want to try to get the best matchup we can going forward because our fans are asking for that. It’s a balance. We want to be able to give them what they would like and still maintain a competitive balance."

It’s a shame the series, which Miami leads 28-26, is ending. The schools played every year from 1938-1987 (except for 1943, when UF didn’t field a team) and there have been some memorable moments from those games, including:

• In 1971, Florida’s defensive players dropped on the field to allow Miami to score a touchdown late in the game so Gators quarterback John Reaves could get back on the field and set the NCAA career passing record. That became known as the Florida Flop.

• Florida fans pelted Miami players with oranges late in the Hurricanes’ 31-7 victory in 1980. Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger got so mad he called a timeout to kick a 25-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

• In 2003, former UF quarterback Brock Berlin rallied Miami from a 33-10 deficit to a 38-33 victory by leading the Hurricanes to four touchdowns in a 17-minute span in the third and fourth quarters.

Miami has won seven of the last night meetings, with the only UF victories in that span coming in 1985 and 2008. That last meeting ended with some hard feelings on the part of Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was upset that UF coach Urban Meyer elected to kick a field goal with 25 seconds to play and the Gators leading 23-3.

The Hurricanes got some payback three years later, however. In 2011, the UF student government approved a resolution asking Miami to return the Seminole War Canoe Trophy, which is a canoe carved from a 200-year-old cypress tree and given to the winner of the game between the schools since 1955, since the Gators had won the most recent game. The resolution was sent to the head of Miami’s student body. It was passed along until it reached Brandon Mitchell, then the president of Miami’s Category 5 spirit club, who said the Gators don’t deserve the trophy -- which quit being passed between the schools in the 1970s -- because the schools no longer play annually.

His response, according to the Miami Herald: "The War Canoe was intended for the yearly rivalry and ... Miami won the final game of that yearly rivalry."

Sept. 7 may be the last chance for either school to stake a claim to the trophy.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If Florida fans thought the Gators’ 2013 schedule was tough, wait till next year.

The SEC released the 2014 schedule this morning and while Florida has a pretty light non-conference slate next season (Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Kentucky), the Gators do have to play at Alabama and Florida State and have home games against LSU and South Carolina.

UF also plays at Tennessee and will play its annual game against Georgia in Jacksonville. The Eastern Division opponents remain in the proper rotation for home and away, but the league adjusted the cross-divisional rotating opponents. So instead of playing at Arkansas, which is what the 6-1-1 scheduling format would dictate because the Razorbacks play in Gainesville this season, the Gators will instead play at Alabama on Sept. 20.

The Gators have lost six of the their last eight meetings with the Crimson Tide, which has won three of the last four national titles and begins the 2013 season atop the Associated Press and USA Today and coaches’ poll. UF’s lone victories in that span came in the 2006 regular season and the 2008 SEC Championship Game.

Alabama has outscored Florida 101-26 in the last three meetings.

The Gators played the Crimson Tide in the regular season in 2010 and 2011 and under the SEC’s previous rotating cross-divisional opponent scheduling format the teams were not expected to meet again in the regular season until 2018-19. But the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri last season forced the league to come up with what SEC commissioner Mike Slive called a bridge schedule for the 2013-15 seasons.

Slive said in July that a committee would complete a review of the league’s scheduling format in time to complete the 2016 schedule.

An overview of the league’s 2014 schedule can be found here.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has been among the nation’s most penalized teams in coach Will Muschamp’s first two seasons.

Naturally, reducing penalties has been a point of emphasis during preseason practices. Muschamp knows it’s impossible to eliminate all penalties, but he does want the Gators to cut out things like jumping offside, false starts and personal fouls.

"I’m more concerned with the selfish and stupid penalties we’ve had the last two seasons," Muschamp said. "It’s something we did not improve on."

But even if the Gators don’t make a shred of improvement, it’s not automatically a bad thing. Penalties may be bad for Muschamp’s blood pressure, but they won’t necessarily keep Florida from competing for a national title.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesWill Muschamp doesn't harp on all of his Gators' penalties, just the ones he feels are avoidable.
Committing a lot of penalties didn’t hurt seven of the past 10 national champions. Those teams averaged more than five penalties per game and finished anywhere from 27th (USC in 2004) to 118th (UF in 2006) nationally in penalties per game. Every team that won a national title from 2003-12 finished 27th or worse -- except Alabama, which finished in the top six twice (2011-12) and tied for 17th (2009).

Florida’s ranking in 2006 -- 118th out of 119 teams -- isn’t an anomaly when it comes to some of the Gators’ greatest teams. The two most penalized teams in school history were the 1996 team (125) and the 2006 team (116) -- and both won SEC and national titles. UF’s 2008 SEC/national title team committed 102 penalties, which is tied for the eighth most in school history.

In fact, six of the top eight most penalized teams in Florida history won either SEC titles or SEC and national titles.

Not committing a lot of penalties isn’t as important as being capable of overcoming a lot of penalties. Go back to seven national champions that finished 27th or worse nationally in penalties per game. One trait they all shared: A prolific offense. All but one of those teams averaged more than 400 yards of total offense and scored at least 33 points per game.

The lone exception is UF’s 2006 team, but the Gators came close (396.1 yards per game and 29.7 points per game).

Even the three Alabama teams that were built on defense were among the nation’s better offensive teams. The Crimson Tide averaged at least 403 yards and 32 points per game.

A false start on first down wasn’t a drive killer. A holding penalty on second down didn’t necessarily mean the punter needed to start heading toward the sideline. Those teams had playmakers on offense and were able to get yards in chunks. Guys like Cam Newton, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Matt Leinart.

Florida didn’t have those kinds of playmakers the last two seasons. The Gators finished 103rd and 105th in total offense and 76th and 71st in scoring -- which makes it hard to overcome finishing 115th and 114th nationally in penalties per game.

So while Muschamp and the staff are making penalties a point of emphasis this August, finding some playmakers and making the offense more potent may actually be the best tactic. Muschamp will still get hot if the Gators commit a lot of penalties, but having an offense that consistently moves the ball, makes big plays, and scores a lot of points will help ease his high blood pressure.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida fans won't have to wait until Aug. 31 to get a look at the Gators.

Florida announced Friday that the Gators will hold four open practices for fans and media -- three more than last August.

The first will be Thursday, Aug. 15, at Dizney Lacrosse Stadium (time TBA). Saturday, Aug. 16, the practice from 9-11 a.m. at Florida Field will be open as a precursor to the team's fan day at the O'Connell Center.

The practices at the Sanders Practice Fields on Aug. 19 and 20 also will be open (time TBA).

Top 5 moments: Adjustments in Texas

December, 10, 2012
Editor’s note: GatorNation is counting down the top five moments of Florida’s 2012 season this week. They could be plays, drives, quarters or decisions, but regardless of what they are, they are the significant moments that shaped the season.

We begin with No. 5: Adjustments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For 30 minutes, it looked like nothing had changed.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/David J. PhillipFlorida's defenders stayed in their lanes in the second half at Texas A&M and bottled up eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
Florida wasn’t getting much done on offense, a mobile quarterback was shredding the defense, and the Gators were trailing. Everything that happened in the first half of the Texas A&M game on Sept. 8 looked a lot like what happened in 2011 -- and that wasn’t good at all.

Then Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff got together at halftime, figured a few things out, and made some adjustments. Thirty minutes after that, the Gators had won the game. More importantly, Muschamp had won over his players -- and the fans, too.

“We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Muschamp said after the 20-17 victory. “That was the difference. There’s no magic potion.”

It was really an uncomplicated fix. Aggies QB Johnny Manziel had 182 of Texas A&M’s 269 yards of total offense in the first half because UF’s rushers were getting out of their lanes and losing contain. Muschamp told them to stay in their gaps and play their assignments.

Simple, but extremely effective.

The Aggies managed just 65 yards of offense in the second half. Manziel ran for 19 yards and threw for 32. Texas A&M, after not punting in the first half, punted six times and went 0 for 6 on third down.

The defensive performance overshadowed what the Gators did in the fourth quarter on offense. UF outgained Texas A&M 104-37 and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 13:05 to play. The Gators then forced consecutive three-and-outs and gave up two first downs on the Aggies’ next possession before taking possession at their own 14 with 3:13 to play.

UF ran the ball eight consecutive times to run out the clock.

That gave the Gators their first victory in six tries when trailing at halftime in Muschamp’s tenure. It also removed any doubt that Muschamp can coach, which is something about which fans were wondering after a 7-6 record in 2011. Some players might have been wondering, too.

It was even more significant because it came on the road in Texas A&M’s first Southeastern Conference game. In addition to setting the tone for the rest of the season, it was the first indication that the Gators might be much better than people outside the program anticipated.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s loss to Georgia on Saturday resulted in the Gators falling five spots in the BCS standings, but they’re not out of the national championship race yet. Mathematically, anyway.

Florida is now No. 7 -- behind Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon, LSU and Georgia -- but still has a game against No. 9 Florida State remaining. Plus, the Gators are still alive in the SEC’s Eastern Division race. They can win the title by beating Missouri on Saturday and having Georgia lose to either Ole Miss or Auburn in the next two weeks.

UF (7-1, 6-1 SEC) can’t lose again or the Gators won’t have any chance to reach the No. 2 spot to earn a berth in the BCS Championship Game. There’s still a month of the season and several critical games remaining.
  • Kansas State must still play Texas.
  • Notre Dame must still play Southern California.
  • LSU must still play Alabama and Mississippi State.
  • Oregon still has the meat of its schedule remaining: Southern California, Stanford and Oregon State.

One remote scenario would involve LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Kansas State each losing a game while the Gators win out. Then Georgia loses a close game to Alabama in the SEC title game and the Gators claim the No. 2 spot despite losing to Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.

However, if the Gators do win they’ll likely get an at-large berth into a BCS bowl.

"We just have to look at the next game," LB Jon Bostic said. "We’ve got another SEC opponent and just keep going. We’ve been playing well all season. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time."

Florida’s 17-9 loss to Georgia resulted in a tumble from No. 3 to No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25, USA Today coaches’ poll, and Harris Interactive College Football Poll. The latter two are parts of the BCS formula. UF dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the computer polls, which is the final part of the formula.

Watch: Sorting out unbeatens after No. 1 Alabama

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After back-to-back brutal Octobers, the Florida Gators will get a break in 2013.

When the SEC office released the league schedule Thursday afternoon, it didn’t include an October gauntlet filled with ranked teams. In fact, only one of the Gators’ three opponents presently have winning records heading into this weekend’s games.

UF opens the month with a home game against Arkansas on Oct. 5. The Razorbacks started this season in the top 10 but are just 3-4 with two of their victories coming against Auburn and Kentucky. The Gators play at LSU on Oct. 12 in what should be a battle of two highly ranked teams.

The Gators then play at Missouri against a Tigers team that is struggling in its transition to the SEC. UF will then have a bye before playing Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 2.

While not an easy stretch, it’s certainly a little softer than this October (LSU, South Carolina and Georgia) and last October (LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia).

Here’s a look at UF’s 2013 SEC schedule:

Comment: The Gators have won eight in a row against the Vols, who likely won’t have QB Tyler Bray or WRs Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Sept. 28: at Kentucky
Comment: UF has beaten Kentucky 26 consecutive times and won 38-0 in Gainesville this season.

Comment: The Razorbacks will begin the post-Tyler Wilson era with a new coach. Could it be former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong?

Oct. 12: at LSU
Comment: The Tigers remain the Gators’ permanent Western Division opponent -- for now, anyway.

Oct. 19: at Missouri
Comment: This will be the Gators’ first trip to Columbia, Mo.

Nov. 2: vs.Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: This series has gotten a lot more intense lately. Next week the Bulldogs will try to win back-to-back games in the series for the first time since they won three in a row (1987-89).

Nov. 9: Vanderbilt
Comment: Florida hasn’t lost to the Commodores since 1988.

Nov. 16: at South Carolina
Comment: The Gators are just 4-3 against their former coach heading into this Saturday’s matchup.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- ESPN's "College GameDay" is headed to Gainesville for Saturday's key Southeastern Conference Eastern Division matchup between Florida and South Carolina.

This will be UF's 35th appearance on "College GameDay" and the first time the show has been in Gainesville since previewing the Florida-Florida State game on Nov. 28, 2009. "GameDay" has already featured two UF games this season: the Gators' back-to-back road victories over Texas A&M on Sept. 8 and Tennessee on Sept. 15.

The Gators are 23-11 in games in which "College GameDay" has been on site (7-4 at home, 16-7 on the road).

Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) is atop the Eastern Division and is coming off a 31-17 victory over Vanderbilt. South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) is a game behind the Gators. The Gamecocks lost 23-21 this weekend at LSU.

A kickoff time for Saturday's game has not yet been announced.

Scouting report: Bowling Green 

August, 27, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida plays host to Bowling Green on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN) to open the 2012 season. Here’s a look at the Falcons:


2011 record: 5-7 (3-5 Mid-American).

Coach: Dave Clawson, fourth season (14-23); 13th season overall (72-72).

Series record: first meeting.

Top returners: QB Matt Schilz (3,024 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs); RB Anthon Samuel (844 yards, 5 TDs); MLB Dwayne Woods (111 tackles); DT Chris Jones (47 tackles, 8.5 sacks).

Scouting the offense: Schilz is a dangerous quarterback who can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. Samuel was named the MAC’s Freshman of the Year. Had he not missed two of the Falcons’ final four games he would have surpassed 1,000 yards. Bowling Green is experienced at tight end but inexperienced at receiver.

Scouting the defense: Jones, who led the MAC in sacks last year, is one of 10 returning starters. Rover Booboo Gates had 73 tackles and two interceptions and also set a school record with 981 kickoff return yards in 2011. That earned him a spot on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List. The award is given annually to the nation’s top two-way player.

Three keys to victory

  1. Throughout the spring and preseason camp we’ve heard about how much the offensive line has improved. They’ve allegedly gotten stronger and tougher. Well, the players’ first chance to prove that comes against the Falcons. Jones (6-foot-1, 295 pounds) will be a decent early test for the interior of UF’s offensive line. He’s not an SEC-caliber player, but if UF can’t neutralize him we’ll know nothing has changed.
  2. Florida coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have to figure out the best way to rotate quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett so the flow of the offense isn’t disturbed. Actually, it would nice for the Gators if they developed some rhythm on that side of the ball because it was missing last season. Whether it’s by quarter, drive or play, the rotation has to be done smoothly.
  3. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has stressed turnovers throughout the offseason. The Gators got only 14 last season and that number has to be much higher in 2012. The players have another year in Quinn’s system so that should result in a much higher comfort level, and that usually means guys play better. UF needs to force at least two turnovers against the Falcons to get some confidence.
ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s receivers/tight ends.

The starters: WR Andre Debose (RJr.), WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (RSr.), WR Quinton Dunbar (RSo.), TE Jordan Reed (RJr.)

The backups: WR Latroy Pittman (Fr.), WR Solomon Patton (Jr.), WR Stephen Alli (RJr.), WR Raphael Andrades (Fr.), TE Clay Burton (RFr.), TE Kent Taylor (Fr.), TE Colin Thompson (Fr.), TE Tevin Westbrook (RFr.)

Comment: Hammond is UF’s most experienced receiver (41 catches). Debose has proven big-play ability (27.0 yards per catch and 4 TDs of at least 60 yards in 2011). But neither has been very consistent. Dunbar had a solid spring. The star of the spring, though, was Pittman, an early enrollee who was easily the most impressive receiver. He’ll get the start on opening day if he continues to progress. A.C. Leonard was Florida's most talented tight end but transferred after an arrest and suspension. Reed is still working through the transition from quarterback. Taylor is intriguing because he’s not an inline tight end and could be used as a wide receiver if needed.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida might not have end/linebacker Ronald Powell for another month or so as he continues his rehab from a torn left ACL, but defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is still encouraged that the Gators' pass rush will improve.

It's mainly a result of just having more bodies, which allows for more rotation and fresher players. And fresher players make better pass rushers, especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The addition of freshmen Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., plus the return of linebacker Neiron Ball from injury, bolsters a group that didn't get consistent pressure on the quarterback until the final two games of the season.

"Even with Ronald not being available to us yet, with the addition of Ball, with the addition of [Lerentee] McCray moving down [to end from linebacker], with the addition of Bullard, with the addition of Fowler, and the existing guys, it seems like the lines [for pass-rush drills in practice] are longer," Quinn said Thursday night. "That’s a good thing."

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ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s running back/fullback.

The starters: RB Mike Gillislee (Sr.) and FB Trey Burton (Jr.)

The backups: RB Mack Brown (Rso.), RB Chris Johnson (So.), RB Omarius Hines (RSr.), RB Matt Jones (Fr.), FB Hunter Joyer (So.)

Comment: UF needs a back that is capable of carrying it 20 times and running between the tackles, and Gillislee won the starting job in the spring by proving he can stay healthy and be a reliable pass-blocker. He has produced in the limited opportunities he’s had (920 yards in three season). If he falters, Brown and Jones likely will get the next chance. Burton is versatile enough to line up at several positions, including wildcat QB. Joyer is a bruising blocker and short-yardage runner.

(Read full post)

ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each week, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze the players, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s quarterbacks.

The starters: Jeff Driskel (So.) OR Jacoby Brissett (So.)

The backups: Tyler Murphy (So.), Skyler Mornhinweg (Fr.)

Comment: Driskel and Brissett will continue their competition into fall practice -- and likely into the early part of the season as well. Neither has been able to separate from the other, which means neither one has been overly impressive. Both seem to have a grasp of new coordinator Brent Pease’s offense and things ran smoothly in the spring from an operational standpoint. Driskel is a better runner while Brissett has better pocket presence. Don’t be surprised if the Gators end up playing both throughout the bulk of the season, although coach Will Muschamp would rather play only one.

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ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s offensive line.

The starters: LT Xavier Nixon (Sr.), LG James Wilson (RSr.), C Jonotthan Harrison (RJr.), RG Jon Halapio (RJr.), RT Matt Patchan (RJr.)

The backups: D.J. Humphries (Fr.), Trip Thurman (RFr.), Jessamen Dunker (Fr.), Kyle Koehne (RJr.), Ian Silberman (RSo.), Sam Robey (RSr.), Tommy Jordan (RFr.), Chaz Green (RSo.)

Comment: This unit was the reason UF coach Will Muschamp called his team soft and the group responded in the spring. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and several defensive linemen said they noticed the OL was mentally and physically tougher. The biggest questions are whether Wilson and Patchan can stay healthy and if Nixon is going to play like he did as a freshman or struggle as he has the past two seasons. Green will play a lot at tackle in a rotation anyway.

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ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s special teams.

The starters: K Caleb Sturgis (RSr.), P Kyle Christy (So.), KR/PR Andre Debose (RJr.)

The backups: K Austin Hardin (Fr.), K Brad Phillips (Jr.), P Todd Fennell (RFr.), KR Mike Gillislee (Sr.), KR Solomon Patton (Jr.), PR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (RSr.), PR Marcus Roberson (So.)

Comment: Sturgis is one of the nation’s top kickers and should become the school’s all-time leader in field goals and field goal attempts. Christy won the job midway through last season after smoothing out some mechanical issues. Debose is arguably the nation’s best kickoff returner -- he already has taken three back for TDs -- but the situation is more fluid at punt returner. Several players will get work there.

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McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.