Sunday, June 29, 2014

2014 Gator Softball: A SPECIAL Year In Review

The 2014 Gator softball season was hands down the most successful one in program history as it produced the program's first ever National Championship. The pure ecstasy I felt when the last out was made is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. In this season wrap-up I won't talk too much about the National Championship as I have heavily emphasized it in other softball articles I have written. Instead, I will elaborate on the overall performance and accomplishments of the team and the individual success of the players.

Here's what the Gator softball team accomplished over the course of the 2014 season:
  • Started the season 22-0 and finished with an overall record of 55-12 (15-9 in SEC play)
  • Won 8 out of 11 series played throughout the course of the season (this includes the Super Regionals and the WCWS Finals)
  • Split the season series with FSU at 1-1
  • Defeated eight teams in the Softball Top 25 rankings
  • Finished the season ranked #1 in the NCAA Women's Softball RPI rankings and Softball rankings
  • Went undefeated at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City
  • Turned a record seven double plays in the WCWS
  • Won the first ever National Championship in program history
The Gators' quest to glory began after Georgia eliminated them in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. With the chance of an SEC Championship repeat out the window, the focus now shifted to the National Championship. 

In Regional play, the Gators marched through FAMU, Stetson, and UCF to advance to Super Regionals. In the Super Regionals, the Gators had to face a worthy opponent in the Washington Huskies. The series went three games and after two weather delays, Kirsti Merritt sent the Gators to their fifth WCWS with a walk off home run in the fifth inning.

In the WCWS, the Gators smoked Baylor 11-0, shutdown Oregon 4-0, and beat Baylor again 6-3 to advance to their third ever WCWS Finals. Waiting for them was Alabama, who had taken two out of three from the Gators in a series earlier in the year. Things were different this time around as it was the Gators who took two of three from Alabama to win the National Championship. The Gators dominated in the 2014 postseason as they went 10-1 and outscored their opponents 81- 10. Gator pitching was unhittable as 8 of these 10 wins were shutouts.

Now, let's look at the players who contributed to the dynamic Gator offense, defense, and pitching that culminated into a National Championship:


Hits: Kelsey Stewart (102) (Sophomore)

RBI's: Lauren Haeger (67) (Junior)

Home Runs: Lauren Haeger (20) (Junior)

Batting Average: Kelsey Stewart (.438) (Sophomore)

Slugging %: Lauren Haeger (.648) (Junior)

On Base %: Bailey Castro (.514) (Junior)

Stolen Bases: Kelsey Stewart (36) (Sophomore)

Runs Scored: Kelsey Stewart (68) (Sophomore)

Strikeouts: Taylor Schwarz (31) (Sophomore)

Walks: Bailey Castro (44) (Junior)


Assists: Kelsey Stewart (114) (Sophomore)

Putouts: Taylor Schwarz (403) (Junior)

Errors: Stephanie Tofft (10) (Senior)


Wins: Hannah Rogers (30) (Senior)

Losses: Hannah Rogers (8) (Senior)

Strikeouts: Hannah Rogers (167) (Senior)

ERA: Hannah Rogers (1.60) (Senior)

Saves: Hannah Rogers and Delanie Gourley (2) (Senior/Freshman)

Appearances: Hannah Rogers (43) (Senior)

The Gator softball team only loses two seniors in pitcher Hannah Rogers and infielder Stephanie Tofft to graduation. It's worth nothing that Tofft will continue to play softball at the pro level with the Akron Racers. With most of the team returning, the chances of a repeat are very realistic. 

Although Hannah Rogers will no longer be around to anchor down the pitching staff, the Gators still have two very good pitchers in rising senior Lauren Haeger and rising sophomore Delanie Gourley. Haeger and Gourley both pitched in the clinching game of the WCWS and should be prepared to lead from the mound in the 2015 season.

Even though most of the team is returning, championship hangover may be a concern. UCLA and Arizona are the only two teams to repeat and have done it on more than one occasion as UCLA has done it twice (with a three-peat thrown in the mix) and Arizona has done it three times.

Will Florida be the next team to add its name to this prestigious list? After finally getting over the hump and winning it all, the sky is the limit for Gator Head Coach Tim Walton and his girls.

Congrats again on the National Championship!

*Stats accredited to and

Monday, June 23, 2014

Top 5 NCAA Players to Never Win a Heisman

The Heisman trophy is the most prestigious award that a college player can receive. It says that during that season, that young man was the all around best football player out of 120+ Division I schools. Winning a Heisman is no easy task. It requires a ton of hard work, good teammates to back you up, and playing for a team who usually ends up playing for the National Championship (which is not always the case if we look at players like Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, and Johnny Manziel).

There are some players who have had very successful collegiate careers but never managed to take the Heisman trophy home. Winning championships, bowl games, and other awards might be nice, but every player's dream is to have his named announced as a Heisman trophy winner. Below I have listed my top 5 NCAA players to never win a Heisman.

#5 Darren McFadden, Running Back, University of Arkansas

Darren McFadden is one of the best football players to ever come out of Arkansas. During his three years as a Razorback, McFadden rushed for a total of 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns and owns nearly all of his university's rushing records. He led Arkansas to the 2006 SEC Championship Game and to two bowl games (they lost all three of these games). Throughout the course of his career, McFadden would earn:

  • Two Consensus All American honors in 2006 and 2007
  • Two Doak Walker Awards in 2006 and 2007
  • Jim Brown Trophy in 2006
  • Walter Camp Award in 2007
  • Two Offensive SEC Player of the Year Awards in 2006 and 2007
  • McFadden was also named the cover athlete for NCAA 2009

As great as a running back as he was (especially in the SEC), McFadden's success didn't translate into Heisman votes. He finished second in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons behind Troy Smith and Tim Tebow, respectively. After his junior year, McFadden entered the 2008 NFL Draft and was picked fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders. Although he has not been as dominant in the NFL compared to college, McFadden still remains with the team entering the 2014 season.

#4 Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford University

Andrew Luck was pegged as the next best quarterback to come out of Stanford since a guy named John Elway. He did not disappoint as he amassed a total of 9,430 passing yards, 82 passing touchdowns, 713 completions, 957 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns in his three years as a Cardinal. He left Stanford holding 14 of the school's records while also holding three Pac-12 records. Apart from the records, a few other of Luck's accolades would include:

  • MVP of the 2011 Orange Bowl
  • Maxwell Award in 2011
  • Walter Camp Award in 2011
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2011
  • Two Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Awards in 2010-2011 (conference was formerly known as Pac-10 before change prior to 2011 season)
During Luck's tenure as quarterback, Stanford became a national powerhouse. Luck led them to an Orange Bowl victory, a Fiesta Bowl appearance, and left them in a good position to compete for a Pac-12 Championship (they have won two in the post-Luck era). Similar to McFadden, Andrew Luck found himself as a runner-up in the Heisman race in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons behind Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, respectively.

Although he didn't win a Heisman, Luck's numbers still spoke for themselves. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts took him with the first overall pick. In a way, he did defeat Robert Griffin III as the Baylor quarterback went right behind him to the Washington Redskins. Entering just his third season in the league, Luck is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the game and has a very bright future ahead according to many.

#3 Colt McCoy, Quarterback, University of Texas

Tasked with filling the shoes of Vince Young (who will appear later in this article), Colt McCoy established himself as a legitimate Heisman frontrunner during his four years at Texas. McCoy left Texas with 13,253 passing yards, 1,157 completions, 112 passing touchdowns, 1,589 rushing yards, and 20 rushing touchdowns. McCoy holds 48 Texas records, three Fiesta Bowl records, and 1 Alamo Bowl record.  He went 45-8 as the Longhorns QB and led them to a Fiesta Bowl victory and a National Championship appearance. Some other awards include:

  • MVP of the Valero Alamo Bowl, Pacific Holiday Bowl, and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
  • Big 12 Champion in 2009
  • Three Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Awards in 2006, 2008, and 2009
  • Two Walter Camp Awards in 2008 and 2009
  • Archie Griffin Award in 2008
  • All-American honors in 2008 and 2009
  • NCAA Quarterback of the Year in 2009
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2009
  • Davey O'Brien Award in 2009
  • Manning Award in 2009
  • Chic Harley Award in 2009
  • Maxwell Award in 2009
  • Sporting News College Athlete of the Year in 2009
  • His #12 Longhorns jersey was retired by the university
Among all his accolades, McCoy was never able to attain the Heisman. McCoy's best chances at winning it came in 2008, when he finished second to Sam Bradford. During his senior year in 2009, he finished third behind Toby Gerhart and winner Mark Ingram.

McCoy would get a shot to prove the voters wrong when his #2 Texas Longhorns met the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Unfortunately, McCoy never got his chance at redemption as he was injured early in the first quarter and had to come out of the game. His college football career was over. Ingram meanwhile, led his team to a 37-20 victory with two rushing touchdowns and was named Offensive MVP of the game.

McCoy entered the 2010 NFL Draft following his senior year and would go in the third round as the 85th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns. After a few unsuccessful seasons in Cleveland, McCoy was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. After filing for free agency, the Washington Redskins signed McCoy prior to the 2014 NFL season and he will be competing for the third string spot on the team.

#2 AJ McCarron, Quarterback, University of Alabama

AJ McCarron was just a freshman on Alabama when his Crimson Tide defeated McCoy's Longhorns in the 2010 BCS National Championship. By the time he graduated, McCarron would have three National Championships under his belt. He was the starting quarterback for two of those squads and had a career record of 36-4 at Alabama. He is the winningest quarterback in Alabama history and all but one of his losses came against SEC opponents (the one non-conference loss was Oklahoma in the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl). McCarron finished his college career with 9,019 passing yards, 686 completions, 77 passing touchdowns, 235 rushing yards, and three rushing touchdowns. Besides winning three National Championships, McCarron's other accomplishments include:
  • Maxwell Award in 2013
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2013
  • 2012 BCS National Championship Offensive MVP
  • SEC Champion in 2009 and 2012
  • First QB ever to win back-to-back BCS National Championships
  • All time passing yards leader in Alabama football history
  • Holds Alabama record for passing yards in a season
AJ McCarron is a winner in every sense of the word. The only thing he didn't leave college with was a Heisman Trophy. In his senior year during the 2013 season, McCarron finished second behind Jameis Winston in the Heisman voting. McCarron didn't even play for the National Championship that year as a heartbreaking loss to rival Auburn knocked the Crimson Tide out of contention.

What I honestly think hurt McCarron's Heisman chances throughout his collegiate career was the team he had around him. With all these star players complementing him, McCarron really didn't need to do too much. It is possible that his accomplishments and championships can be attributed to the explosive offense and lockdown defense that make up the University of Alabama. 

McCarron entered the 2014 NFL Draft after his season year and was selected in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals. After riding the bench behind Dalton for a few years, I think he will have a solid career.

#1 Vince Young, Quarterback, University of Texas

Vince Young was Colt McCoy's predecessor and was dynamic during his three years as a Longhorn. He led Texas to a Rose Bowl victory and a BCS National Championship. His game winning touchdown run to win the National Championship against USC is still regarded as one of the greatest plays in college football history. 

While at Texas, Young totaled 444 completions, 6,040 passing yards, and 44 passing touchdowns. On the ground, he was just as dangerous as he ran for 3,127 yards and 37 touchdowns. Young went 30-2 as the Texas starter, which became one of his many records that Colt McCoy would go on to surpass. Although most of his records have been broken, Young still has:
  • MVP of 2005 Rose Bowl and 2006 Rose Bowl (the latter was the National Championship)
  • Manning Award in 2006
  • Maxwell Award in 2005
  • Davey O'Brien Award in 2005
  • Archie Griffin Award in 2005
  • Consensus All-American in 2005
  • His #10 Longhorns jersey was retired by the university
Young was only seriously considered as a Heisman candidate his junior year during the 2005 season. That season, he finished second in the voting behind Reggie Bush. Young would get the last laugh however, as he beat Bush's Trojans in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship. In 2010, it was discovered that Bush received improper benefits while attending USC and his Heisman Trophy was vacated for the 2005 season. Instead of it going to the runner-up in Vince Young, the trophy remains vacant. Had the Heisman Trust awarded it to Young, then he wouldn't even be on this list.

Young entered the 2006 NFL Draft after his junior year and went third overall to the Tennessee Titans. He did well early on, but developed some psychological issues as well as some financial troubles. After being released by the Titans in 2011, it became clear that Young was a bust. He tried to resurrect his career with a variety of teams, but none of these attempts panned out. Young retired from the NFL on June 14, 2014. With no Heisman and no longterm NFL success, Vince Young is very fortunate that he still has the 2006 Rose Bowl to preserve his legacy.

Honorable Mentions: Peyton Manning, John Elway

I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 List! I will be coming out with another one next week! Until then, stay tuned for my upcoming article on the World Cup!

*All stats derived from

Monday, June 16, 2014

Top 5 Miracles in D1 College Football

College football is a sport unlike any other in the world. To win the National Championship, your team basically needs to go undefeated. If they do lose, it better be early in the season or they will find themselves playing in the Poinsettia Bowl when December rolls around.

Getting to the National Championship Game is a very difficult task and sometimes it takes a little luck on the journey to get there. Conversely, luck may favor the underdog and play a role in ending a team's National Championship aspirations. Below I have listed my top 5 miracles in D1 NCAA football. Enjoy!

#5 Hail Flutie

On Thanksgiving night in 1984, the #10 Boston College Eagles were trailing the #12 Miami Hurricanes (who were the defending National Champions) 45-41 in Miami. With six seconds left in the game, Eagles quarterback, Doug Flutie, dropped back for the last play of the game. After eluding a Miami defender, Flutie chucked up a prayer from his own 36-yard line. There was no time left on the clock.

The ball had more than enough air under it and went right over the Miami defenders into the hands of receiver Gerald Phelan. Phelan jumped in ecstasy as the refs ruled it a touchdown and a Boston College win. Flutie would go on to win the Heisman the next week and the Eagles would end their season with a 45-28 victory over Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Miami, who had blown a 31-0 lead to Maryland a one week prior to this game, would end their season with a 39-37 loss to #14 UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl.

#4 The Flea Kicker

The #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers had National Championship dreams as they traveled to Columbia to take on the rival Missouri Tigers in Big-12 play. Their dreams were turning into nightmares as Nebraska was down 38-31 with the ball and seven seconds left. They were on the Missouri 12-yard line and Cornhusker QB, Scott Frost, dropped back for the last play of the game.

He threw a rocket over the middle to Shevin Wiggins. The pass was broken up and as the ball fell to the turf, Wiggins kicked it up. Out of nowhere, Nebraska receiver Matt Davison came diving in and caught the ball for a touchdown! Mizzou fans rushed the field thinking they had just beaten the #1 team in the country. Amidst all this chaos, the refs conferred and ruled that it was indeed a touchdown. The fans were sent back to their seats and Nebraska would win the game 45-38 in overtime.

This win preserved Nebraska's undefeated season on route to their third National Championship in four years. Missouri, who came so close to spoiling their rival's season, would end their season with a 35-24 loss in the Holiday Bowl to Colorado State 35-24

#3 The Play

In their annual matchup, the Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears met in 1982 with bragging rights and the Stanford Axe trophy on the line. This was also the last collegiate game of a Stanford quarterback who happened to be named John Elway.

After Elway lead the team down the field in his final collegiate drive, Stanford kicked a field goal to take a 20-19 lead. The Cardinal celebrated a little too excessively after the kick and were penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. There was four seconds left, what could Cal possibly do with four seconds?

Stanford squib kicked it and Cal's only chance to win the game would be if they ran the kick back for a touchdown. Defensive back Kevin Moen fielded the kick and quickly lateraled it to teammate Richard Rogers. He lateraled it to Dwight Garner, who was quickly surrounded by Stanford players. Garner was able to lateral it back to Rogers who took off past midfield and lateraled it to Mariet Ford.

As all of this was unfolding, the Stanford band ran out onto the field because they thought the game had ended when Garner was tackled. Ford saw the band but kept running until he was hit by two Stanford players at the 27-yard line. Ford threw up a lateral that was caught by the instigator Moen. Moen caught it and was off to the races as he avoided both the Stanford players and the band. He ran into the end zone and crushed a trombone player.

The refs didn't know what to do! Laterals, the band on the field, it was complete chaos in Berkely! After a few minutes of conferring, the refs ruled it a touchdown! Cal had won in the most unbelievable fashion imaginable! Both teams seasons ended that day and it's still the biggest Cal win over Stanford in program history.

To this day, controversy still surrounds "The Play." Many think that Garner was down before the thrid lateral and that Ford's final lateral to Moen was a few yards forward. Elway was also not too happy about his college career ending the way it did. I don't think he should be too mad, considering he went #1 in the NFL draft, won the 1987 MVP, and ended his career with two Super Bowl victories.

#2 The 2007 Fiesta Bowl

The 2007 Fiesta Bowl is regarded as one of the greatest college football games of all time! It featured what looked like a complete mismatch between the #10 Oklahoma Sooners and the #8 Boise State Broncos. Don't let the rankings fool you, Oklahoma was favored to win this game by a touchdown (which I thought was being gracious to Boise State).

Boise State was actually in control most of the game until a late pick six made it 35-28 Oklahoma with 1:02 left in the game. The Broncos got the ball right back and soon found themselves facing 4th and 18 with 18 seconds left in the ballgame. It looked like David would not slay Goliath tonight.

Quarterback Jared Zabranksy dropped back and hit wide receiver Drisan James, who was a few yards short of the first down line. With five Oklahoma players closing in, it looked like the Fiesta Bowl was Oklahoma's. But this play was far from over. Teammate Jerard Rabb came sprinting across the field and James lateraled the ball to him. Rabb caught it in-stride and ran down the sideline for the touchdown with seven seconds remaining!

After Oklahoma's star running back, Adrian Peterson, scored on the first play of overtime, Boise State's back was up against the wall once again. The Broncos were down to their last play once again when a 4th and 2 arose on the Sooners' 5-yard line. The Broncos went with another trick play out of the Wildcat formation. Backup wide receiver Vinny Perretta took the snap and connected with tight end Derek Schouman to pull within an extra point of double overtime!

At this point, Broncos head coach Chris Petersen was done toying with Goliath. It was time to go for the kill. He sent his offense back out there for the two-point conversion. He had the perfect play in mind. Zabransky took the snap and faked a pass to his right. He then put the ball behind his back and running back Ian Johnson took it and ran untouched into the end zone. The Broncos won the game 43-42 and proved that the little schools could compete with the national powerhouses on the big stage.

Boise State would win another Fiesta Bowl just three years later with a 17-10 victory over #4 TCU. Oklahoma would struggle in its next couple of BCS bowl games as it lost the 2008 Fiesta Bowl to #9 West Virginia 48-28 and the 2009 BCS National Championship to #2 Florida 24-14. The Sooners got back on track this past season with a 45-31 victory over #3 Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

#1 The Miracle at Jordan-Hare/Kick Six

The 2013 Auburn football team had two plays so miraculous, that I had to group them together on this list. I'll start with the Miracle at Jordan-Hare. Auburn, ranked #7th in the country, was trailing #25 Georgia 38-37 with 36 seconds left in the game. Facing 4th and 18, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw up a pass that looked like an easy interception.

The only problem was that two Georgia defenders broke on the ball, and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons accidentally tipped the ball up to Auburn's Ricardo Louis. Louis juggled the ball before securing it and running into the end zone for what would be the game winning touchdown. This loss would end Georgia's chances of winning the SEC East.

I remember talking to my father on the phone during this play and screaming when I saw this unravel right before me on my TV screen up at UF. Little did I know what awaited just two weeks later.

Cue the second part of the #1 miraculous play on my list. With the score tied at 28, #1 Alabama and #4 Auburn (amazing the difference two weeks makes in rankings) looked like they were heading to overtime after Alabama's T.J. Yeldon stepped out of bounds as time expired. Alabama head coach Nick Saban, however, claimed that he had one second left. The replays agreed with Saban and one of the most despised coaches in America got his one second put back on the clock.

His star kicker, Cade Foster, had missed three field goals on the day, so Saban went with freshman kicker Adam Griffith for a 57-yard field goal attempt. Griffith's attempt was short and Auburn cornerback Chris Davis fielded the missed kick. I was surprised when I saw Davis appear on the screen because I didn't even know that Auburn had sent someone back to field the kick.

Davis took the ball upfield and eluded some Alabama players. I thought he stepped out of bounds at one point and I thought the play was over. I heard no whistles, though, and saw Davis kept running. Next thing I knew, he had nothing but open grass in front of him! I couldn't believe what was happening until Davis ran into the end zone. Auburn had just walked off with a 109 yard touchdown return to beat Alabama 34-28! Not only that, they ended Alabama's bid for a third straight National Championship!

I was screaming so much during this play that my father got upset with me because he was on the phone. After seeing the two time defending National Champions go down like this to their arch rival, I felt it was very much worth it. Auburn would go on to win the SEC Championship 59-42 over #5 Missouri and would lose the last ever BCS National Championship to #1 Florida State 34-31.

Alabama, who might have had a shot at the National Championship if Auburn has lost to Mizzou, would have to settle with a Sugar Bowl berth against the #11 Oklahoma Sooners. The Crimson Tide would lose to the Sooners 45-31, handing them back to back losses for the first time since 2008. It's amazing the difference that one second makes.

I hope you enjoyed this Top 5! I will have another one coming out next week!