Monday, September 30, 2013

Football: #20 UF vs Kentucky

The #20 Florida Gators came into Lexington having not lost to the Kentucky Wildcats since 1986. That streak remained intact as the Gators soundly defeated the Wildcats by a score of 24-7. Tyler Murphy had an amazing first half as he completed 13 passes in a row, surpassing the previous record of 11 held by Tim Tebow.  Murphy finished 15-18 with 156 passing yards and one touchdown.  However, the Gators did not go deep too often as their longest pass was only 29 yards.  Murphy did throw one interception, but had the presence of mind to make the tackle and prevent the return for a touchdown. Matt Jones had a great game on the ground as he rushed for 176 and one touchdown. He could have had two touchdowns, but teammate Quinton Dunbar thought it would be better to tackle Jones before the Kentucky defenders did on a huge run. It was one of the most bizarre plays I have seen in this young college football season. One last note I find interesting is that the Gators did not punt the entire game. Apart from the one turnover, which was just a bad read, the Gator offense was really clicking this game.

Defensively, it was all the same once again. The Gators defense dominated. They had five sacks and freshman Vernon Hargreaves III had another interception.  Hargreaves' interception came in the end zone and was a real drive killer for Kentucky.  The Wildcats did score, but it was on an LSU-like fake field goal on fourth down. When it was straight up offense vs defense, Kentucky could get nothing going.

It was not the flashy blowout that many were hoping for but a win is a win.  The Gators will be looking to go 3-0 in the SEC as they go up against Arkansas next Saturday at 7 pm in the Swamp. This game is more important to me than usual because it falls on my birthday. A win would be a perfect present. Meanwhile, the Wildcats will head to Columbia to take on #13 South Carolina in another night cap game. Considering that South Carolina barely beat UCF, Kentucky should be hopeful going into this matchup.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Third Saturday in September

"Murphy!  Murphy!  Murphy!"  These were the chants that resonated through the Swamp as redshirt junior Tyler Murphy led the #20 Gators to a 31-17 win over the Tennessee Volunteers.  This is the Gators' ninth consecutive win in the series. When starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a broken leg in the first quarter, it was up to Tyler Murphy to get the Gators out of a 7-0 hole.  He rose to the challenge before him as he completed eight passes for 134 and one touchdown while also rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown.

The Gator defense played well once again as they forced six turnovers (two fumbles and four interceptions). Conversely, the Gators turned the ball over three times and fumbled a total of six times. Mistakes like these can afford to be made against a team like Tennessee, but against teams like South Carolina, Georgia, and LSU, this cannot happen.

With Murphy at the helm, the Gators' offense was clicking as they were able to air the ball out downfield and convert in the red zone.  Murphy's athleticism adds another weapon to a Gator offense that has needed some flair.  With his ability to extend plays with his legs, Murphy can be a real threat down the stretch.  But I will keep things in perspective.  This is only the first game he has played in for a good amount of time and the game was at home.  Murphy's performance against Kentucky on the road next week will give me a good hint of the junior's poise and how he deals with a hostile crowd.

On a final note, my thoughts and prayers go out to Jeff Driskel and his family.  Though I am not his biggest fan, he is still a Florida Gator and I support him.  His injury is certainly an unfortunate one, but it can be something for the team to rally around as they progress without him this season.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Women's Soccer: #8 Florida vs Alabama

On Friday, September 20, 2013, I attended the Florida Gators' first SEC soccer match of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide. There was a good showing by the crowd as the #8 team in the country knocked off the Crimson Tide by a score of 3-0.  Freshman Savannah Jordan led the way with two goals in the first half and nearly had a hat trick.  The other goal was scored by Liz Slatterly, another Gator freshman.  Goalkeeper Taylor Burke had three saves as she recorded her second consecutive shutout at home.  Getting off on the right foot in conference play, the Gators will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on the Ole Miss Rebels next Friday.  Alabama will look to get back to its winning ways against SEC foe Vanderbilt next Friday at home in Tuscaloosa.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#4 UF Downs Rival FSU

The O'Connell Center was rocking tonight as the Florida Gators swept the archival Florida State Seminoles in three sets in tonight's volleyball matchup.  This was by far one of the biggest home games for the Gators this year and the crowd rallied behind the Gators as they battled it out with FSU. Each set was a dogfight. Florida went down early in the first set, but the Gators were able to keep their poise and win the set 25-20.  In the second set, FSU had a set point, but UF managed to survive and win the set 26-24.  Up 2-0, UF dominated most of the third set, but FSU would not go down quietly. The Seminoles came within one point before Florida shut the door and took the final set as well as the match. Some standouts for the Gators were sophomore Ziva Recek and senior Khloe Mann. They both had 12 kills and accounted for 27 of the 56 Gator points.  The promotions for the game were free t-shirts and towels that said "Block Party" on them. This was certainly true as the Gators had nine blocks on the night. Following this big win, the Gators will hit the road to take on Marquette on Friday at 8 pm in the Marquette Invitational in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Florida State will look to rebound as they stay on the road and take on the Auburn Tigers on Sunday at 1 pm.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Crazy Weekend of Sports at UF

My Saturday was a busy one as I attended an early cross country meet and two Florida Gator volleyball matches.  I was at cross country for a short while and heard that the men's team won the meet while the girl's team finished in third place.

From cross country, I attended the UF volleyball game at 12 pm vs the Iona Gaels.  The Gaels managed to hang with the #5 ranked Gators through most of the match and the Gators had to rally down 18-22 to win the decisive third set and sweep the Gaels.  There was no standout performance from any particular player in this game to me. 

I left for a bit and came back at 7 pm for the Gators' final game in the Active Ankle Challenge against the Western Michigan Broncos.  I had seen the Broncos play earlier against Georgetown and felt that UF would beat them easily.  However, I was very surprised to see this unranked team hanging with one of the best volleyball squads in the nation.  UF only won the first two sets 25-21, 25-22, respectively.  Western Michigan took the third set 30-28.  This was the first time in person I had seen the Florida Gators drop a set to anybody.  Fortunately for the Gators, Ziva Recek, the Slovakian sophomore, came to play that night.  She accounted for 23.5 points and had 21 kills.  The play of Recek helped propel the Gators to a 3-1 victory over the Broncos.  UF will take on instate rival Florida State this Tuesday.  FSU is ranked #17 in the country and should draw a big crowd for the game.  Regardless of who wins, it will be a great match between two premier schools in volleyball.  I can see this match going five sets. 

On a side note, after the volleyball game I headed on down to the theater to catch the most anticipated fight of the year: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs Floyd Mayweather.  Mayweather dominated Canelo for 12 rounds and reminded everyone why he might be the greatest boxer ever and certainly the best of this generation.  It will be interesting to see where Floyd Mayweather goes from here because I honestly believe he is just too good.  As for Canelo, he is only 23 years old and this is a fight he will certainly learn from.  He has a ton of potential and can be a real marquee boxer in a sport that is searching for a savior.  This was Canelo's first loss of his career, but Floyd's victory surprised some people simply because it was not a unanimous decision.  One of the three judges ruled it a draw and its instances like that make people, myself included, wonder about the integrity of boxing.  

Overall, it was a great day of sports for me and needless to say I was exhausted by the time Sunday dawned on Gainesville.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

UF Volleyball/Women's Soccer

I spent my Friday the 13th attending the UF Volleyball game against the Georgetown Hoyas in UF's Active Ankle Challenge and the UF Soccer game against Minnesota Golden Gophers.  This game was especially important to Gator senior, Taylor Brauneis, who was facing off against her young sister Caitlin.  Taylor was able to edge her younger sister as the Gators beat the Hoyas in three sets by scores of 25-14, 25-14, 25-10.  From what I saw, it was another dominant victory for the #5 team in the nation.  Khloe Mann had another strong performance as the senior led the way with 11 kills and 16 of the team's 59.5 points.  UF will look to continue its streak against Iona tomorrow at 12 pm and Western Michigan at 7:30 pm in the O'Connell Center while the Hoyas will look to bounce back on Saturday as well against Western Michigan at 10 am and Iona at 5 pm.

After volleyball, I took the short walk down to James G. Pressly Stadium and managed to catch the second half of the soccer game vs Minnesota.  It was 0-0 when I arrived, but it did not stay that way for long as freshman Savannah Jordan scored two goals in a span of two minutes!  This was all the Gators needed as they handed the Golden Gophers their first lost of the season by a score of 2-0.  Keeper Nora Neset Green, also a freshman, had 2 saves to preserve the shutout.  The Gators had 15 shots on goal compared to Minnesota's 4.  It is easy to say that the freshmen played a big role in the win tonight.  The Gators will look to continue their winning ways on the road Sunday against the University of South Florida Bulls at 6 p.m. while the Golden Gophers will look to right the ship against Jacksonville on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Shocker in Miami

Wow... That's all I could say after I watched the Gators lose 21-16 to the University of Miami.  I've seen a lot of brutal losses in my years watching sports, but this one hit home. Before I became a Florida Gator, I spent five years rooting for the Miami Hurricanes.  In that timespan, they gave me one nine win season, beat maybe three good teams, and won ZERO bowl games.  So of course, fate would have it that the second I switch and start cheering for the Gators, the U would win one of its biggest games in years.

I give the Miami Hurricanes credit though.  They came out ready to play and probably played their best game of the entire season.  What helped them the most were the five turnovers committed by the Gators.  Even with all the turnovers, the Gators still had a chance to win the game at the very end!  After the final seconds ticked off and the Gators lost, I stormed out of the room furious at UF quarterback Jeff Driskel.  I blamed him for the loss.  After a couple hours of reflection, I began to dissect what had happened and I reanalyzed the game.  Driskel did throw the ball well, but he has to be more careful with the ball!  He's a big guy and can run.  He needs to utilize his legs more because at this point he cannot rely 100% on his arm.  That being said, his offensive line did not help him out at all with all the false start penalties.  It was fitting that the game ended on a false start penalty.  I don't know if it was the UM crowd or the humidity, but something was not right with the Gators' O-Line on Saturday.  I had blamed Driskel for all the fumbles that UF had when in reality he only fumbled the ball once and it happened to be near the goal line.  Matt Jones's fumble set up Miami's first touchdown and it was Trey Burton who had fumbled in the red zone after a catch for what looked like a first down.  The offense could not move the ball at all.  They only threw downfield once and Solomon Patton had to make a sensational catch to come down with the ball.  UF could not establish a running game against Miami at all.  Matt Jones and Mack Brown combined for 76 yards and no rushing touchdowns.  UF's only rushing touchdown came from Jeff Driskel on a read option, a play that the Gators should have utilized just a bit more.  

I believe that Miami Head Coach Al Golden out coached Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp.  Muschamp had some play calls that left me puzzled.  At the beginning of the game when Florida scored and went for two, what was the reason for that?  Does it make a difference if they are up by one?  That's something I would expect in NCAA Football 14 or from the Oregon Ducks.  It didn't kill them in the end, but it's still a questionable call.  Another play I look at and just ask why is the 3rd down and 3 play in the fourth quarter.  After calling timeout and TALKING the play over, the Gators still failed to convert for the first down.  Even worse, the ball was intercepted because Jeff Driskel and Trey Burton were not on the same page.  Now I understand that lack of execution happens, but something must have been misunderstood.  This one is on Muschamp for not making the play explicitly clear to his players.  Muschamp is a great coach don't get me wrong, he just got out coached this game.

This loss is devastating to the Gators, but there is one bright spot.  The defense came ready to play.  Time and time again, the UF defense held its own and gave the offense multiple opportunities.  I was very impressed with how hard the defense played throughout the entire game.  Vernon Hargreaves III got his second collegiate interception and nearly took it the house if he had not accidentally stepped out of bounds during the return.  The defensive line led by defensive tackle Dominique Easley came ready to go as they shutdown the explosive Duke Johnson of the Miami Hurricanes.  If they can keep playing consistently week in and week out and the offense gets just a little better, then UF will be just fine.  I am not throwing everything out the window because of one bad game against an instate rival.  It was a non conference game and UF can still win out and have a shot at the SEC title and maybe even the National Championship with some help.  UF has a bye this upcoming week and will be ready to do battle in the swamp with rival Tennessee in its first SEC game of the year.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

UF Volleyball vs Duke

As soon as the Florida football game ended, I hurried over to catch the UF volleyball match against the Duke Blue Devils in Florida's annual Campus USA Credit Union Invitational.  I was immediately oozing with team spirit as the lights dimmed and the Gator volleyball girls were introduced.
The Gators, ranked #9 in the nation in volleyball, came out of the gates swinging and dominated Duke in the first set by a score of 25-16.  The second set posed more of a challenge for the Gators as Duke began to shake off the jitters.  However, the Gators managed to outlast the Blue Devils and take the second set 25-17.  During the third set, I got a bit adventurous and went walking around the O'Connell Center.  Along the way, I took a picture with the famed female mascot, Alberta, and met basketball stars Patric Young and Will Yeguete. 
When I returned to my seat, I watched the Gators close out Duke with a 25-18 win to clinch the CUCUI Title.  I enjoyed the game and was exposed to the greatness that is Gator Volleyball.  The player who stood out to me the most was senior Chloe Mann.  She was a dominant presence out there on the court and I will definitely be keeping my eye on her as the season unfolds.  The Gators have the coaching and the personnel necessary to make a run for the volleyball team's 8th Final Four appearance.  The Gators hit the road for their next game and will be playing UT-San Antonio at 5:30 pm in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday, September 5. 
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