Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 Gator Football: A Year In Review

The Florida Gators opened up the 2013 season at #10 in the polls and many were giving them a shot to make another National Championship run after coming so close last season. Three months later, the Gators found themselves at 4-8 and on the bad end of a seven game losing streak. 2013 will be regarded as one of the worst Gator football seasons to date. Head Coach Will Muschamp is on a seat that is hotter than ever, but athletic director Jeremy Foley is giving him one more season to fix things. So how exactly did we get here? Well for starters, the Gators were averaging more injured players a week than any other team in the nation. By the end of the year, the Gators were fielding a team that consisted of freshmen and walk ons. This injury bug is the only reason that Muschamp is still around and many Gator fans are hoping it is why the 2013 season went as bad as it did.

Now, it is time to take a look back at every Gator football game this season:

Toledo: The Gators welcomed in the 2013 season with a home opener against the Toledo Rockets. In a rather unconvincing manner, the Gators only won the game 24-6. I was not convinced by junior quarterback Jeff Driskel's play, and did not think he should be the one under center for the Gators. I learned from this game that the offense had some kinks to work out, but the defense was in top form. The Gators would drop to #12 in the polls after this game.

at Miami: The Gators went back down to Miami for the first time since the 2003 miracle comeback by the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes pulled the upset and defeated the Gators by a score of 21-16. Jeff Driskel and the offense played horrendously. The loss was upsetting but winning the SEC was still a very tangible goal at this point. The Gators would drop to #18 in the polls after this game, and everybody in the country began to believe that Miami was a better team than it actually was.

Tennessee: After a bye week, the Gators extended their winning streak against Tennessee to nine games with a 31-17 victory. Jeff Driskel suffered a broken tibia in the game and his backup, redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, took over for him and shined in the limelight. Driskel would be sidelined for the year and many Gator fans were excited to see how the team would fare with Murphy at the helm. Even though they won, the Gators dropped to #20 in the polls after this game.

at Kentucky: The Gators went on the road against Kentucky and defeated the Wildcats 24-7, extending the Florida winning streak against them to 27 games. Tyler Murphy played well and the defense shut down Kentucky all night. The Gators moved up to #18 in the polls following this game.

Arkansas: On my birthday, the Gators took care of business against Arkansas as they defeated the Razorbacks 30-10 to improve their winning streak to three games. It was the first night game at The Swamp in 10 games and the crowd was rocking in this very electric environment. The Gators moved up to #17 in the polls after this game. It was also their last win of the 2013 season.

at LSU: The Gators could not muster any type of offense against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge and they lost 17-6. The SEC was still in reach though, but the Gators had to get the offense going soon. The Gators dropped to #22 in the polls after this game.

at Missouri: The Gators were doomed from the get go as safety Cody Riggs was tossed after the first play because of a targeting penalty. Missouri was in control the entire game and won 36-17. The Gators dropped out of the polls after this loss and would remain there for the rest of the season.

Georgia: After their second bye week of the year, the Gators looked liked they were going to get whipped by the Bulldogs when they went down 23-3 at the half. However, they came storming back and cut the lead to within three before the Gator offensive woes kicked back in. After what looked like a defensive stop late in the fourth quarter that would give the ball back to the Gator offense for one last drive, a dumb defensive penalty gave Georgia a first down and sealed a 23-20 victory for the Bulldogs. Talk began to spring up about Muschamp's job status as the coach fell to 0-3 against Georgia. With this loss, the Gators kissed their SEC hopes goodbye.

Vanderbilt: In a Homecoming game that saw many empty seats in The Swamp, the Vanderbilt Commodores finally ended their losing streak against the Gators when they won 34-17. This was Vandy's first win in Gainesville since the end of World War II and I am still having a hard time letting that fact sink in. After this embarrassing loss, many calls began to arise for the firing of Muschamp and Jeremy Foley responded with his infamous "I support Muschamp 1000%" statement.

at South Carolina: Tyler Murphy did not play this game due to a shoulder injury, and now the Gators were down to redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg. The Gators ran a very unconventional offense that revolved around Mornhinweg not having to throw the ball. This game plan worked for three quarters against the #10 Gamecocks, especially since the Gators were leading for most of the game. When the #10 Gamecocks took a 19-14 lead late in the game however, the Gators had no choice but to throw the ball and Mornhinweg threw an interception to seal the Gators' fate and a sixth straight loss. After this game, a sign appeared on Bull Gator that said, "Fire Muschamp, Fire Pease."

Georgia Southern: This was supposed to be a tuneup game before the big matchup with Florida State the following week. This game was was supposed to make everyone feel a little better about themselves. The University of Florida had to pay the Eagles half a million dollars to come down and get smacked around for four quarters. But the Eagles did not get the memo and gashed a depleted Gator defense for 400 rushing yards. They beat the Gators 26-20 WITHOUT COMPLETING A SINGLE PASS! This was by far the worst loss in Gator history and I was happy that I was not in The Swamp to see it live. After this game, tons of Muschamp hate began to circulate on social media as the Gators were officially eliminated from bowl contention this year. The last time the Gators had not played in a bowl game was 1990. The Florida Gators had hit rock bottom.

Florida State: It was one of the most overmatched UF/FSU games in recent memory as the #2 Seminoles, led by future Heisman winner Jameis Winston, came into Gainesville as 27 point favorites. The Gators surprised everyone by sticking with the Seminoles for a quarter and a half, then the flood gates opened. Winston returned to Heisman form and torched the Gators as he led the Seminoles to an easy 37-7 victory. I was just happy to see the Gators score, and I was impressed and proud of how hard this undermanned team fought in a game it had no chance of winning.

And now the stat leaders:


Passing Yards: Tyler Murphy (1,216) (Junior)

Passing Touchdowns: Tyler Murphy (6) (Junior)

Rushing Yards: Mack Brown (543) (Junior)

Rushing Touchdowns: Mack Brown/Kelvin Taylor (4) (Junior/Freshman)

Receiving Yards: Solomon Patton (556) (Senior)

Receiving Touchdowns: Solomon Patton (6) (Senior)


Tackles: Michael Taylor (62) (Junior)

Tackles For Loss: Dante Fowler Jr. (10.5) (Sophomore)

Sacks: Ronald Powell (4) (Junior)

Interceptions: Vernon Hargreaves III (3) (Freshman)

Fumbles Forced: Dante Fowler Jr. (3) (Sophomore)

Fumbles Recovered: Michael Taylor (3) (Junior)

Special Teams

Field Goals Made: Francisco Velez (6) (Junior)

Longest Field Goal: Francisco Velez (44 yards) (Junior)

PAT's: Austin Hardin (15) (Freshman)

Kickoff Return Touchdowns:  Solomon Patton (1) (Senior)

Overall, it was a season that many Gator fans want to forget as soon as possible. Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease was let go following the end of the season. Watching his slow, run-oriented offense was just one of many low points this year. Going into next year, hopefully the Gators can stay healthier as players were hurting themselves left and right.

I have been in both camps in regards to Muschamp's status as head coach and I would have to say at this point that I am on the fence about him. He did lead the Gators to a Sugar Bowl last season and this year was ridiculous with the amount of injuries that his players suffered.

I think the future looks bright for the Gators in 2014, but we will have to wait and see. There was some questionable coaching decisions throughout the course of this year, and I will be interested to see if these first quarter two point conversions and quarterback punts will continue next year.

*Stats accredited to

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Gator Volleyball: A Year In Review

I remember walking into the O'Connell Center (which I now simply call the O-Dome) on August 31, 2013, to watch my first Gator volleyball match. On that day, I watched as the Gator volleyball team completely dismantled the Duke Blue Devils in three sets. I was astounded at how good the team was and from that day on I completely fell in love with the team. I was at every home game and witnessed firsthand as the Gators went 15-1 in the O-Dome during the regular season. The two most electric regular season home games had to be the ones against Florida State and #7 Missouri, who was the only undefeated team in the country at the time. The Gators swept the Seminoles and were swept by the Tigers, who went on to win the SEC this year. Down the stretch, the Gators began to look like they were slowing up. After the Missouri loss, the Gators swept both Alabama and LSU at home. However, both of these teams played the Gators close in every set. The Gators concluded the regular season with a 3-2 victory over Kentucky after leading 2-0.

When it came time for the tournament, the team took care of the Jacksonville Dolphins in three sets. All gears were set in motion for a rematch with FSU. The winner would go to the Sweet 16, the loser's season was done. The Gators had the home court advantage, but it was not enough as the Seminoles defeated them in five sets. It was a heartbreaking loss for me to stomach. I could not believe the season had ended so early. To make matters worse, I found out that undefeated Missouri had also lost in the second round of the tournament to the Purdue Boilermakers. Had the Gators beaten FSU, a Final Four spot would have all but been guaranteed to them because Missouri was the only other team in the bracket standing in their way. Based on how the Gators had been playing up to that point, especially going five sets against FSU, it is hard to say if they would have had enough gas left in the tank to get past the third round and beyond in the tournament.

With the 2013 season finally in the books, the Gators finished with a record of 28-4 (16-2 in SEC play). Below are the players who led the team in various statistical categories:

Kills: Chloe Mann (369) (Senior)

Digs: Taylor Unroe (415) (Junior)

Assists: Taylor Brauneis (1,156) (Senior)

Blocks: Simone Antwi (96) (Sophomore)

Service Aces: Taylor Unroe (72) (Junior)

Total Points: Chloe Mann (423) (Senior)

Gator volleyball was fierce, exciting, and a complete joy to watch and cover throughout the entire course of the season. The Gators lose two seniors in middle blocker Chloe Mann and setter Taylor Brauneis. Their presence on the court will indeed be missed, but the 2014 Gators should have no trouble finding success as new highly touted recruits enter the program. Apart from that, the early second round exit dealt to them by FSU will stick around in the minds of the returning players for awhile. It should give them more than enough hunger and motivation entering 2014.

*Stats accredited to

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Heartbreaker In The O-Dome

Just like that it is all gone. In tonight's second round action in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, the #5 seeded Gators fell in five sets to the Florida State Seminoles. Their 2013 season is now over and the Seminoles will face the winner of the match between California and Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. For anyone wondering, my prediction for the Gators reaching the Elite Eight has obviously fallen through big time.

For the last time of the 2013 season, here are my standouts for the game. I would like to recognize junior defensive specialist Maddie Monzerez. She came off of the bench and played extremely well with 13 digs and three assists. She played her heart out, and was one of three Gators with double digit assists. The other two were junior libero Taylor Unroe and sophomore Ziva Recek who both registered 15 digs a piece. In their final game as Florida Gators, Chloe Mann and Taylor Brauneis played well as always. Mann racked up 14 kills while Brauneis recorded 45 assists and four digs. As a team, the Gators had 18 blocks, seven of which involved Mann. Apart from Mann, Simone Antwi (14), Ziva Recek (10), and Alex Holston (10) all registered double digit figures in kills as well.

It was tough seeing the Florida State Seminoles celebrate on the home court of the Gators after this shocking upset. It made me feel angry and dejected because I knew the potential that this Gator team had. However, I did say in the preview that this game would be decided by whoever made the least amount of mistakes. That team was definitely not the Gators. They allowed three straight aces in the fourth set and had six net violations total in the match. In sets one and four, the Gators could not find a way to regain the lead once FSU went up early. I knew FSU would come out firing after getting swept earlier this year. I have said this before and I will say it again. When it comes to rivalry games, records can be thrown out the door.  FSU won the battle on this night, and it just so happened to come on one of the biggest of stages. Besides this early tournament exit, it has still been a great season for the 2013 Gator Volleyball team. It will be a tough offseason for the Gators following a loss of this magnitude at home to their archival, but they will bounce back. The greatest lessons are learned from defeat and if anybody can use this loss to motivate the girls for next year, it is head coach Mary Wise.

*Stats accredited to

Friday, December 6, 2013

NCAA Tournament First Round: #5 UF vs Jacksonville

The #5 seeded Florida Gators began their postseason run at home against the Jacksonville Dolphins in first round play. The first set was close, but the Gators swiftly took control of the match and won in three sets (25-19, 25-15, 25-16).

Chloe Mann, one of two seniors embarking on her final tournament run as a Gator, came out on fire and registered 15 kills and one block. The next best offensively was sophomore Ziva Recek who had 11 kills, an ace, and assisted with three blocks of her own. Defensively, sophomore Simone Antwi assisted with three blocks and junior libero led the way with nine digs. Worth noting is that sophomore outside hitter Gabby Mallette did not play this match. I do not know if she is hurt or if Coach Mary Wise was not playing her for strategic purposes. Nevertheless, her replacement came in the form of the redshirt sophomore Noami Santos-Lamb. Santos-Lamb had not played much throughout the regular season, but she brought it today as she registered seven kills and a dig.

With one win down, the epic rematch with Florida State has been set. The Gators won the first meeting with a three set sweep against their arch rivals on September 17 in the O-Dome. This game will not be an easy one for the Gators because I can guarantee that the Florida State Seminoles did not forget the first match. Even though the scoreboard said 3-0, FSU played the Gators tight all the way in the first match. It is going to be yet another close match that will be determined by who makes the least amount of mistakes. I would expect a large crowd to come out to this game since it will be the last time the Gators will play in the O-Dome this season. Two rivals playing each other in a win or go home scenario, what more could anybody want?

I would like to end this article by taking a moment to recognize Nelson Mandela. The former South African President died today at age 95. He was a great man who suffered through a ton of hardship for his people and he played a massive role in breaking down the racial/discriminative barriers in South Africa. He will be forever missed and remembered. R.I.P. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).

*Stats accredited to

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview

Six. Six wins are what separate the Florida Gators volleyball team from the first ever National Championship in school history. On December 5, volleyball will return to the O-Dome as the #5 seeded Gators host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Gainesville. They will be taking on the Jacksonville Dolphins, who are 30-3 on the year. In the postseason however, records can be tossed out the door. It's all about who wants it more.

Now, let's get to my prediction on how the 27-3 Gators will fare in the tournament. They should steamroll through Jacksonville which will set up an epic rematch between them and Florida State on Friday if the Seminoles take care of Georgia Southern like expected. Much of the student body will probably turn out for that game, and I think the Gators will edge the Seminoles once again with a sweep. From there, the Gators will probably face the winner of a #12 Wisconsin/North Carolina matchup. Whoever they get, I still believe the Gators will get past the third round and reach the Elite Eight. There it gets tricky. There is a high chance that the Gators will have to face an old SEC rival in the form of #4 Missouri. From what I have seen this year, this game will be a dogfight. Unfortunately, I think Mizzou will have its way with Florida for the third time this year. I don't want that to happen, but its hard to defend against a team with NINE six footers. Missouri is a good team, they were given a #4 seed for a reason. My prediction for the Final Four is as follows: #4 Missouri vs #1 Texas and #2 Penn State vs #6 USC. Missouri will upset the defending National Champions in Texas, and Penn State will take care of USC. In the National Championship, I have #4 Missouri against the heralded #2 Penn State Nittany Lions. Finally, between these two, the 2013 National Champion will be...


The Mizzou Tigers will win in four sets over Penn State. They will go a remarkable 40-0 and claim the first National Championship in school history. Penn State has always been ridiculously good when it comes to volleyball, but any team that can beat the UF Gators twice (or potentially thrice) times in a season deserves to win the title. Keep in mind that this is my prediction and that things can shape out very differently because not all games are won on paper. Regardless of what happens or how far the Gators get, they have had yet another superb season and will be a contender as usual when the 2014 season dawns next August.