Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Tie?!?!

Today was a great day for the Gator Nation as the gymnastics squad repeated as National Champions. Today was also a great day for the Oklahoma Sooners as their gymnastics squad also won the National Championship, their first in program history. Wait a minute... How in the world are their two National Champions???

We can thank the judges for this conundrum. From what I can remember, the Gators needed something around a 9.7 to claim the National Championship outright. After the last Gator gymnast did her floor routine (I would have names if I could get access to the stats), she was awarded a 9.5, which put Florida and Oklahoma in a deadlock at the end of the Super Six.

I was ready for some super awesome tie breaker to decide an outright champion. Apparently, that is not how NCAA women's gymnastics works at all. Both Florida and Oklahoma were awarded the National Championship. I didn't know whether to be excited or upset. The Gators were National Champs... but so was Oklahoma. This ruling left a sour taste in my mouth after the meet. How can an institution like the NCAA just grant a tie in one of the biggest stages of one of its D1 sports? What angers me more is that the Gators defeated the Sooners in the regular season 197.875 to 197.225! That should be taken into account here when deciding a National Championship. Besides that, is it really hard to have one do or die event to decide a winner?

What they should have done was picked a random event between the Vault, Uneven Parallel Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise and had one girl from each team compete in one of these events. At that point, it turns into something like college football overtime where the girls are trying to match each other until somebody succumbs to the pressure. Something like this to decide a National Championship would have had the crowd on the edge of its seat! In my opinion, there would be nothing cooler than seeing a girl land a clutch jump to win the National Championship! Anybody remember Kerri Strug in the 1996 Olympics?

Having seen this very lackluster ending to a National Championship, it makes me wonder what would have happened if other leagues adhered to this "tie" philosophy? I am about to list a few moments in sports that would have turned out differently if both teams were declared winners.

  • The 1997 World Series between the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians went 11 innings and was won by the Florida Marlins on a walk off hit by Edgar Renteria. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, both Florida and Cleveland are World Series Champions at the conclusion of the ninth inning.
  • The 2003 Fiesta Bowl between the Miami Hurricanes and Ohio State Buckeyes went into overtime after Miami tied it with a field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, both Miami and Ohio State are National Champions for the 2002 college football season.
  • Last year's NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs went into overtime after Ray Allen made a late three to tie the game. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, the game is a tie and San Antonio wins the series 3-2-1. I guess in this case, a Game 7 would have to be played to determine if the Heat could be co-champions with the Spurs, but there would be no outright winners.
  • There have been three NFC Conference Championship games in the NFL that have gone to overtime (2007, 2009, 2011).  Under NCAA gymnastics rules, two NFC teams would have gone to the Super Bowl on three different occasions! That's just absurd!
  • Almost every NHL playoff game this year has gone to overtime, it would be a tie palooza if the NCAA gymnastics committee was in charge.
  • In the 2009 and 2010 National Championship games for NCAA lacrosse (Syracuse vs Cornell in 2009 and Duke vs Notre Dame in 2010, respectively), both games went to overtime. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, all of these teams would have been co-champions.
  • In the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals (Italy vs France in 2006 and Spain vs Netherlands in 2010, respectively), both matches required extra time and one came down to penalty kicks. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, About 1/4 of Europe is celebrating a FIFA World Cup title.
All of the sporting events mentioned above were settled in some sort of overtime and led to some pretty memorable finishes in sports history. I am happy that the Florida Gators won back-to-back National Championships, but it is upsetting that they have to share such a notable distinction with another university.

When I was young, I played rec baseball where everybody got a trophy at the end of the season. When I played varsity baseball, I learned that you have to win if you want a trophy. If you're tied after regulation, you keep playing until a winner is decided. I only played in one tie, and that was because it was too dark to finish the game. This is Division 1 Women's Gymnastics! To have the sport's pinnacle event in the Super Six end in a tie is doing a disservice to gymnastics fans and the gymnasts who train all year to get there.

Hopefully, the NCAA will look at this incident and institute a new rule that will prevent "co-National Champions" from ever happening again. If they can add a Final Four to college football and add more teams to March Madness, then I'm sure this should be a pretty easy thing to fix. Then again, it's the NCAA, and they make even the easiest tasks seem very difficult.

My Final Thoughts: Go Gators Gymnastics! Congrats on the back-to-back National Championships and I can't wait to watch them go for the three-peat next year!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

UF Football: 2014 Orange/Blue Spring Game

On a HOT Saturday in Gainesville, I went down to The Swamp to watch the Orange/Blue spring football game. Although scores do not matter so much regarding this game, I'll point out that the Orange and Blue teams tied at 23. Fending off the scorching April heat, I was able to last through most of the game and make some key observations about the Gator football team.

In the quarterback competition, I'd say redshirt junior Jeff Driskel has secured his spot as the starter for the 2014 season. If I was to make a QB depth chart, it would be Jeff Driskel, Skyler Mornhinweg, and then Will Grier. Let me tell you why. Driskel got all the snaps for Team Blue and after going 0-3 on his first series, he went on to complete 19 passes on 33 attempts. He finished the game with 171 yards, one touchdown pass, and NO interceptions! It seems Driskel's leg has healed just fine as he also rushed ten times for 34 yards. Driskel's health and athleticism will be vital this upcoming season for the new up tempo offense that Kurt Roper is installing. Besides Driskel, I was very impressed with redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg. Getting only 63 pass attempts in three games last year, Mornhinweg threw 18 passes and completed 14 of them for 149 yards. He had the most touchdown passes (two) among the three Gator QB's and looked much more confident than he did in any game last year. I know I have stated in previous articles that true freshman Will Grier looked like a lock for the #2 spot on the depth chart, but Mornhinweg's play impressed me greatly. Speaking of Grier, he did alright in his first live game action as a Gator. He had 15 passing attempts, the least amount of all three QB's, and completed eight of his passes for 72 yards and no touchdowns. However, he did also throw the only interception of the game. From an optimistic viewpoint, I wouldn't view Grier's performance today in much of a negative light considering he graduated high school early to practice with the team. He's a kid playing among men out there! Like Skyler Mornhinweg last year, with some experience and repetition, Will Grier will soon find himself ready to lead the Gator football team when his number is called.

Besides the quarterbacks, the receivers and running backs were also competing for their respective starting jobs on the Gator football team. Sophomores Chris Thompson and Bair Diamond led the way for Team Orange as they combined for 60 receiving yards and caught one touchdown a piece. Team Blue's receiving leaders were redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar and sophomores Ahmad Fullwood and Demarcus Robinson. Dunbar and Fullwood each caught four passes combing for 74 yards. Robinson had 45 yards on three receptions and caught Team Blue's only touchdown pass. In the running game, I was surprised to see sophomore Kelvin Taylor only get four carries. Sure, he rushed for a touchdown and 29 yards, but I thought the probable #1 on the running back depth chart would get more than just four carries in the spring game. Taylor was on Team Orange, who relied mostly on redshirt senior Mack Brown. Brown carried the ball eight times for 56 yards and one touchdown and did have an impressive 19 yard run that put the Gators on the goal line (this would be the same drive that he would score his touchdown). Team Blue used a running back who I had never heard of before by the name of Adam Lane. Lane, a redshirt freshman, rocking Emmitt Smith's #22, rushed for 37 yards and no touchdowns on eight carries. His play impressed me, and I think the Gators can develop a solid running attack between Taylor, Brown, and Lane.

Both defenses did a great job in this game by giving up only 23 points each. Before I break down the defensive statistics, let me just say that they are a little confusing to analyze as many players played on both teams. To keep it simple, I'll only be looking at how players performed solely on Team Orange or Team Blue instead of how they did on both teams. If I had to pick, I'd give a slight edge to Team Blue as the better defensive squad as they tallied two sacks, the lone interception of the game, five tackles for loss, and 29 tackles. Redshirt freshman Marcell Harris led Team Blue with six of these tackles, Nick Washington was the benefactor of a Will Grier interception in the first quarter, and sophomore Alex McCalister and freshman Taven Bryan accounted for the two sacks. Even though they were beat in nearly every defensive category, Team Orange did oust Team Blue in tackles with 32 and total yards given up with just 294. Team Orange's tackling leader was sophomore Jarrad Davis. I actually remember talking to Davis during summer of my freshman year and can say he is a very cool person. It is great to see him excelling on the football field! Despite leading in tackles, Team Orange only had one sack, which came from redshirt freshman Jay-nard Bostwick. Both Gator defenses flew around the field today and only gave up 606 yards of total offense. This leaves me very optimistic that this Gator defense will do just fine in a conference as tough as the SEC.

From a special teams standpoint, redshirt sophomore kicker Austin Hardin has shown improvement. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts (the longest being 43 yards) and went 2-3 for on his extra point attempts (the snap was mishandled before his second EXP attempt). Redshirt senior Kyle Christy punted the ball four times today for a total of 166 yards with his longest punt being 51 yards. None of those punts were returned for touchdowns and none of the two kickoff returns resulted in Gator touchdowns either.

My final thoughts leaving Gator spring football are very positive ones. Driskel looked good in Roper's up tempo offense and seemed to see the field much better than he did last year. The Gator's 2014 running game can be deadly if everyone stays healthy. The same can be said for a receiving core whose only veterans seem to be Quinton Dunbar and Ahmad Fullwood. Defensively, I believe the Gators have a top-tier SEC defense that will stymie many opponents in 2014. Special teams looked great as well as all the field goal attempts were made and no punts were blocked or mishandled for the most part (Christy mishandled his first punt of the game). If the Gators can avoid the injury bug, 2014 can produce special things for the football team. I'm not saying they're gonna win a National Championship or even the SEC, but they're definitely not going 4-8 again.

*All stats accredited to

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

UF Softball: #8 Florida vs #7 FSU

Through the wonderful invention known as WatchESPN, I was able to catch another out of town Gator sporting event. Today's sport was softball and the Gators' opponent was a familiar one in Florida State. Extra innings were not needed for this one (FSU won the first game in Gainesville by one run in eight innings) as the #8 Gators defeated the #7 Seminoles 4-2.

It was a pitcher's duel for most of the game as both teams combined for just eight hits. FSU's junior pitcher Lacey Waldrop struck out eight Gators in a losing effort. On the other side, Florida senior Hannah Rodgers matched her pitch for pitch as she struck out four and didn't give up a run until the sixth inning. The Seminoles threatened with runners on base on many different occasions, but couldn't find a way to bring them home. FSU left nine runners on base compared to just two by Florida. That being said, Gator batters did not get on base as often as FSU's did.

The Gators only had three hits, but two of them came at the timeliest of moments. The first clutch hit came from sophomore Taylor Schwarz. Her bases loaded single with two outs in the fourth broke a scoreless tie and plated two runs. When FSU responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to one, the Gators knew they had to muster some type of insurance runs. They needed to look no further than junior Bailey Castro. Coming in to pinch hit against a new pitcher (redshirt freshman Jessica Burroughs) with a runner on second base and two outs, Castro smashed a 3-1 pitch high over the left field fence for a two run home run that all but sealed FSU's fate. The Seminoles staged a little rally and threatened in the bottom of the seventh due to some Florida errors, but it was not enough to faze Hannah Rodgers as she closed the game out to earn her 17th win of the year.

Now riding a four game winning streak, the Gators (34-8) will return to Gainesville to play the Florida A&M Rattlers (14-21) on Friday, April 11, at 6 p.m. Discouraged after losing to their archival at home, the Seminoles (38-4) will now shift their focus to keeping their place atop the ACC standings as they head to South Bend to take on Notre Dame (22-7) on Sunday, April 13, in a double header at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

*Stats accredited to

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Gator Basketball: My Closing Thoughts On A Historic 2013-2014 Season

Before this season began, I wrote a short blog previewing how the Gator basketball team would perform this year. While writing it, I never would have predicted that the Gators would win a school record 30 games in a row and be the first team in college basketball history to go 18-0 in SEC play. The Gators made it to the Final Four, which I knew would be a given as soon as the winning streak began to hit the twenties, and came within two wins of the third National Championship in program history. But waiting for them was UConn, the last team to beat the Gators before The Streak began. A buzzer beater was not needed this time from touted point guard Shabazz Napier as his Huskies handed the Gators a 10 point loss. Just like that, it was all over. The best team in the country had just lost to a team that didn't even win its own conference.

Despite a heartbreaking ending to the greatest basketball season in Florida history, the Gators should not hang their heads. They beat freshman star Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks in the O-Dome, swept the season series against Kentucky (which hadn't happened since the 2006 season), won both the SEC regular season and tournament titles, defeated rival Florida State (which is great regardless of what sport is being played), and set new school marks for consecutive games won (30) and wins in a season (36).

On a personal level, Florida basketball became the stage for Scottie Wilbekin and his journey to becoming the SEC player of the year. Even though Wilbekin didn't do so hot in the Final Four vs UConn (4 points and just a single assist), Gator fans everywhere should thank him for his efforts that helped get the team there in the first place. Wilbekin joins Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and Casey Prather as a group of four seniors who will sorely be missed next year.

I truly believe this was the Gators' best opportunity to win a National Championship because they had the leadership and chemistry that most winning teams are composed of. Next year, the Gators will have three seniors: Jacob Kurtz, Billy Donovan Jr., and Eli Carter. Kurtz is a walk-on, Donovan Jr. is on the team because wants to be a coach like his father, and Carter redshirted because he was hurt (which will make him a redshirt junior). That being said, the Gators will have TWO seniors next year!

Florida is going to have to rely on rising sophomores Kasey Hill and Chris Walker and rising juniors Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith if they wish to duplicate the success of this season. Winning the SEC will be hard next year if any of Kentucky's freshmen decide to stay for their sophomore campaigns (if you have ever heard of Kentucky alumni like John Wall, Anthony Davis, or Nerlens Noel then you can assume that some of these freshmen will follow the Kentucky one and done tradition and head to the draft). If they decide to stay though, Florida will be in trouble. This isn't a 2014 season preview article, so I won't elaborate or worry about these things until next November.

It seems unfair that the Gators will be watching from home as a team like Kentucky, who Florida beat three times, will be playing for a National Championship. But that's the nature of March Madness. The goal is to win six games in a row and your team will be the champions of college basketball. Your team doesn't even necessarily have to be good. It's all about peaking at the right time. The Gators peaked in January while UConn and Kentucky picked late March to peak.

For anyone wondering, no I will not be watching the game tomorrow. I won't even pick a team because I could honestly care less about who wins it all tomorrow. For my final thoughts on Gator basketball I have a few things to say. It was an amazing season that solidified the University of Florida's ability to excel at many sports. For my freshman year at UF, I can come to terms with my team winning the SEC and making it to the Final Four. With head coach Billy Donovan's contract locked up through the 2018 season, I believe that one day the Florida Gators will be on top of the college basketball world once again.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

            It feels like almost yesterday that the University of Florida Gators ended one of the worst football seasons in school history with a 37-7 loss to rival Florida State.  Now, four months later, spring football is upon the Gators once again.  Gator fans have much to be excited about this spring as new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper gets to implement an offense that should be more exciting than that of the Brent Pease era.  But even with a new offensive style, some questions still linger about Gator football.  Will Coach Muschamp be out of a job if this season takes another bad turn?  Can the Gator football team stay healthy?  Does Jeff Driskel have what it takes to etch his name in Gator QB lore like the greats of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow?  Can the Gators regain the dominance of the SEC that they once had in the mid-2000’s?  To answer these questions, let’s dive on into Gator spring practice
            A big question coming into spring is whether or not Jeff Driskel will be able to hold down his starting QB job.  As bad as last season was, it showed just how much the Gator offense lacked without Driskel.  The redshirt junior is adjusting nicely to Roper’s offensive scheme and is looking to make a personal statement following a season in which he only played three games.  But with an open QB competition, Driskel will be competing for his spot this spring.  Enter Will Grier, the most touted recruit in Florida’s 2014 recruiting class.  Many believe that Grier has a legitimate chance to overtake Driskel and it is safe to assume Grier’s name will be chanted if Driskel begins to underperform.
Gator fans were rather spoiled by the Tebow years, which have given them unrealistic expectations for succeeding QB’s.  Ever since Tim Tebow’s departure, Florida has not had a polarizing figure at QB.  The proof is in the stats.  The Gators have lost 21 games between four different quarterbacks in the last four years.  Tebow only lost six games his entire collegiate career as a starter!  Looking ahead to the 2014 squad, there should be much optimism about the QB position going forward.  The presence of Will Grier should motivate Jeff Driskel to take his game to the next level and become the QB and leader that he is capable of.