Tuesday, November 29, 2016

UF Football: #14 FSU Defeats #15 Florida for Fourth Straight Year

For the fourth and final time as an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, I am writing about a Florida loss to Florida State. This past weekend in Tallahassee, the then No. 15 ranked Gators (8-3) could not mount any offensive attack whatsoever as the formerly No. 14 ranked Seminoles (9-3) blasted them 31-13. This victory now makes Florida State's senior class 8-0 against in-state rivals Florida and Miami.

I don't even know why I'm addressing this section of the article. Last week was the WORST I have seen Florida's offense all season! For the second time this year, the Gators failed to score an offensive touchdown.

Quarterback Austin Appleby ran for his life against Florida State. The graduate transfer was sacked six times for a total loss of 45 yards while also fumbling once. Two of these sacks came from defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who looked like a first rounder against Florida's battered offensive line.

When he was able to throw the ball, Appleby completed 19 of 35 passes for 149 yards. This was by far his worst game of the season.

On the ground, sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett could not get anything going. He carried the ball 14 times for 53 yards. Florida State's defense would not budge as the Gators only ran for 58 yards in the game.

In the receiving corps, sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway had his second-highest catch total of the season as he nabbed six balls for 58 yards. He also ran the ball once for a 24-yard gain on the the third play of the game. If anything, Callaway's performance should be the most positive takeaway from Florida's dismal offensive performance last Saturday.

The offense mustered just 207 yards while averaging 2.0 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per pass attempted. The Gators went 0-12 on third down conversions in the game, replacing the 1980 Louisville Cardinals as the latest team to not convert any third down against Florida State in a game.

Florida reached the red zone once all game. On their first possession, they drove all the way to the Florida State two-yard line before going for it and failing to convert on fourth down and goal. I thought not kicking would hurt Florida in the long run, but an 18-point loss put all of those thoughts to bed.

For the second straight year, Dalvin Cook ran all over a depleted Gator defense. The junior out of Miami rushed for 153 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown in what many presumed to be his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The defense allotted 387 yards and was unable to touch quarterback Deondre Francois. The redshirt freshman showed much poise against the Gators as he both threw and ran for a touchdown. It's hard to think he was feeling any pressure with a running back as good as Cook, a healthy offensive line, and almost 80,000 fans behind him.

The Gators leading tackler was Marcell Harris, who was a big bright spot for the defense. The redshirt junior received the start at safety for the second consecutive week and notched a game-high 11 tackles (nine of which were solo).

He was there to recover a fumble that Chris Thompson forced on a punt near the beginning of the fourth quarter. Not only did he recover it though, he took it in for his first collegiate score. This would be Florida's lone touchdown of the night.

Harris would not be done with fumbles though. With a little over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he blasted Francois on a quarterback keeper to force a fumble with the Gators down 24-13.

A few notches behind Harris, true freshman Chauncey Gardner recorded six tackles as he made his college debut as starting safety. He also obtained his first collegiate interception after picking off Francois in the early stages of the third quarter. He returned it 15 yards before being tackled at the Florida State 27-yard line.

Four other Gator defenders worth mentioning are Kylan Johnson, David Reese, Caleb Brantley, and Joey Ivie. Holding down the linebacking core, Johnson broke up a pass and also had a tackle for loss while Reese had five tackles. On the defensive line, Brantley had five wrap ups (two TFL) while Ivie blocked Florida State's first field goal attempt in the first quarter.

In the secondary, both of Florida's lockdown cornerbacks balled. Jalen "Teez" Tabor and Quincy Wilson broke up three passes a piece and Tabor was there to recover the Francois fumble in the fourth quarter.

Special Teams
In the special teams unit, the road environment somewhat got to kicker Eddy Pineiro. He was perfect on his field goal attempts, as he nailed both a 38-yarder in the second quarter and a 41-yarder in the third quarter. He also converted his lone extra point attempt following the scoop and score touchdown in the fourth quarter.

On kickoffs, however, he looked human for the first time all season. Of his four kicks, half of them went out of bounds with only one being a touchback. Considering how consistent Pineiro has been all season though, it can be safe to say this game was probably just an outlier.

In the punting sphere, Johnny Townsend (who I still can't believe isn't a Ray Guy finalist) continued to do his job well. The redshirt junior sent off six punts and averaged 47.2 yards per punt. He pinned Florida State inside their own 20-yard line twice and had two punts go over 50 yards. His longest punt of the night was a 55-yarder in the second quarter.

In the return game, Antonio Callaway returned one punt for two yards. For kickoff duties, senior Chris Thompson took back two kicks for a total of 29 yards.

Final Takeaway
I'd be lying if I said it doesn't hurt. To see the Gators play one competitive game against the 'Noles in my four years here is quite disheartening to say the least. It feels as if the tail end of 2015 is repeating itself all over again.

Florida State dominates Florida, then the Gators have to turnaround and play an insanely good Alabama team in the SEC Championship the following week. If history repeats itself (which it most likely will), the Gators will get smoked in Atlanta and most likely return to the Citrus Bowl to play a team like Louisville (9-3).

I don't like to even say this, but I give the Gators absolutely zero chance to win on Saturday. I love this team and my school, but the facts are there in front of everyone to see. Please just take a look at the Gator injury report below.

Alex Anzalone (Arm) - Linebacker
Bryan Cox Jr. (Ankle) - Defensive Lineman
Cam Dillard (Knee) - Center
Marcus Maye (Arm) - Safety
Jordan Sherit (Knee) - Defensive Lineman
Nick Washington (Ankle) - Safety

Jarrad Davis (Ankle) - Linebacker
Luke Del Rio (Shoulder) - Quarterback

Duke Dawson (TBA) - Cornerback
Martez Ivey (Leg) - Left Guard

Even with a healthy team, No. 1 Alabama (12-0) would be difficult to beat. This is by far one of the best teams Nick Saban has ever assembled and almost looks like a shoo-in to win back-to-back National Championships. In terms of a score, I see Alabama winning 49-6.

The SEC Championship between the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 15 Florida Gators will kickoff at 4 p.m. this Saturday on CBS. It can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. I am praying for a competitive game, but I honestly do not believe we are going to get one.

As for No. 12 Florida State, they finish the season at 9-3 and third overall in the ACC Atlantic division. They will await for their postseason fate to be announced on Sunday, December 4th. With wins over Florida and Miami along with a chance to win at least 10 games for the fifth straight season, it has yet again been another successful year for the Florida State Seminoles football program.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
**Gator injury report accredited to 247 Sports



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

UF Football: #23 Florida Upsets #16 LSU to Win Second Straight SEC EastTitle

It was another solid senior day in The Swamp as the then No. 23 ranked Florida Gators (8-2, 6-2 SEC) annihilated the Presbyterian Blue Hose (2-9) for their eighth victory of the season. Wait... there's something off here. If I can recall, the Florida Gators lost out on this home game due to the stubbornness of LSU. That actually sounds about right.

Let me take you back about a month ago. On October 8th, LSU was scheduled to play Florida in Gainesville at noon. However, plans took a drastic change as the looming presence of Hurricane Matthew forced the SEC to cancel the contest.

There was outrage from everywhere and it all seemed to be directed at the Gators. Tennessee fans complained that Florida had an easier route to win the SEC in lieu of their loss to the Vols. LSU fans complained that Florida was scared of them and just as easily could have flown to Baton Rouge to play the game on that day.

For Florida head coach Jim McElwain, it had to feel like a nightmare. People were valuing a football game over actual human lives being affected by Hurricane Matthew. With more than half of his roster from areas within the hurricane's path, Mac was shocked at the contempt and hate that was casted onto his program.

So Florida gave into the demands of LSU athletic director Joe Alleva. They agreed to pay Presbyterian a $500,000 buyout fee while LSU paid $1.5 million to buyout their scheduled game against South Alabama (5-5).

Within a week, the game had been rescheduled for November 19th in Baton Rouge. Florida had not won there since 2009 (Tim Tebow's senior year) and had lost three straight to the Tigers. By the week of this game, Florida had been struggling offensively while LSU was rolling to a 5-1 record with interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

LSU opened up as a 13.5 point favorite over Florida. Riddled with injuries to the offensive line, quarterback, the linebacking corps, and the secondary, there seemed to be no way Florida could go to Death Valley of all places and win. Tennessee fans were ordering their SEC Championship tickets. Florida had no shot at winning this game. The East had been lost.

Despite this adversity and drama, Florida prevailed. With the help of a historic goal line stand, the Florida Gators walked into Death Valley and beat the then No. 16 ranked LSU Tigers (6-4, 4-3 SEC) by a score of 16-10. They showed the country that they weren't afraid to play anybody and in the process clinched their second consecutive SEC East division title.

With a 1-1 record on the road, graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby did enough to manage the game and keep Florida in it going into the fourth quarter. He went 7 for 17 on pass attempts while accumulating 144 passing yards. A chunk of those yards came on a 98-yard strike to Tyrie Cleveland to give the Gators a 10-7 lead in the third quarter.

On the ground, sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett registered a performance that earned him player of the game honors. Rushing 22 times, the St. Thomas Aquinas product gained 108 yards on the ground. He was vital in the fourth quarter as his powerful running kept Florida's drives alive and ultimately led to Eddy Pineiro's go-ahead field goal with 4:37 left in the game.

Complementing Scarlett, true freshman Lamical Perine had some huge carries down the stretch. Although he touched the ball just seven times, a chunk of Perine's 38 yards came on a Marshawn Lynch-esque run that helped put the Gators in position to take the lead late in the game.

In the receiving corps, true freshman Tyrie Cleveland had the only Gator touchdown of the game when Appleby found him streaking down the sideline midway through the third quarter. Cleveland finished the day with three catches for 124 yards and of course the touchdown grab. His performance was enough to earn him SEC Freshman of the Week honors following this game.

As a unit, the Gator offense gained just 270 yards with a chunk of those coming on the ground. The dilapidated offensive line gave up just two sacks and did a great job protecting Appleby and providing holes for Scarlett and Perine to run through. The Gator offense committed one penalty the whole game, and that's when Austin Appleby got hit with delay of game on Florida's first offensive possession.

Defense won this game for the Gators. It's that simple. Before I get into any specific defensive players and stats, I have to talk about "The Stand". The Stand is something that will go down in the history of Gator football. It's a moment that will be seen on the jumbotron before home games and forever immortalized in the concourses of The Swamp.

So here's how it went down. After LSU converted a fourth down and 10, the Tigers had the ball on the 18-yard line with less than two minutes to play. With 50 seconds to go, the Tigers made it first and goal at the Gator seven-yard line when quarterback Danny Etling (a Purdue transfer like Appleby) hit receiver D.J. Chark for 30 yards.

Knowing LSU, they were gonna take the clock all the way down and make sure that Florida got no chance whatsoever to do something on offense. It was all up to Florida's defense. The first goal line play was a two-yard rush from backup running back Derrius Guice. Florida then proceeded to call a timeout with 30 seconds to go. They had two remaining.

On second and goal from the five-yard line, Guice again ran the ball and reached the one-yard line. LSU then called timeout with 24 seconds to go. On third down and goal, the Tigers chose to go to fullback J.D. Moore to try and win the game.

Florida was ready, however, and defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson wrapped up Moore to force fourth down and goal with the game on the line. The clock began running, and Coach Mac made no effort to stop it. Finally with three seconds to go, Coach Orgeron called timeout. This was the game. One yard would decided the Florida Gators' season.

On fourth down and goal, Etling pitched the ball to Derrius Guice. He tried to leap into the end zone but was met by Marcell Harris, CeCe Jefferson, and Taven Bryan. Guice was short of the goal line and fumbled the ball (which didn't matter because only Guice could advance the ball and he was already down). The game was over! The Gators were SEC East champions!

Red Zone Defiance

This was the third time in the game that Florida had denied LSU a touchdown in the red zone. The first time came near the beginning of the second quarter on first and goal from the Florida seven-yard line.

Up 7-3, LSU was looking to extend their lead when Caleb Brantley punched the ball loose from Derrius Guice. Gator linebacker Kylan Johnson quickly fell on the ball to secure Florida's first turnover of the game.

The second time again involved Caleb Brantley as he pulverized Leonard Fournette to set up fourth down and goal in the early stages of the third quarter.

As LSU lined up for their field goal, I told my friends that Florida better watch for the fake because LSU does it to them EVERY YEAR! Sure enough, I was right! Whether or not it was a fake field goal or a mishandled snap, LSU kick holder Josh Growden stepped back a couple yards and heaved up a prayer. He might as well have said "200 alive" when he threw it.

The pass was deflected and ricocheted for a couple seconds, but ultimately fell harmlessly to the turf for a turnover. Those three missed points would come back to haunt LSU when it was all said and done.

What's also worth mentioning is the play before the Fournette wrap-up. On second and goal, Danny Etling tried to scramble for the end zone on a play action rollout. As he approached the end zone, he was viciously met by linebacker Vosean Joseph and shoved out of bounds. It can be argued that this play set the tone for Brantley's subsequent third down stop.

Even though Joseph lit him up, Etling remained clean for most of the game as Florida sacked him just once. The perpetrator of that sack was CeCe Jefferson, who brought Etling down for a nine-yard loss on second and goal from the three-yard line. The timing of this sack was perfect as it came in the beginning of the fourth quarter. LSU would eventually kick a field goal to cap the drive and make it 10-10.

Florida's Defensive Playmakers

Florida's leading tackler was yet again linebacker David Reese. Anchoring down what many saw as a depleted linebacking core, the true freshman led both his team and the game with 12 tackles (0.5 TFL). Reese's efforts would earn him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors

Behind Reese, defensive back Marcell Harris paced the Gators with 11 tackles. Another true freshman linebacker rounds out the top three as Kylan Johnson had eight wrap ups.

Three Gators had six tackles with two of those players being defensive backs. They were safety Nick Washington, defensive lineman Jordan Sherit, and cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor (who also had a pass breakup).

The defense's performance was quite impressive considering they allowed 423 offensive yards to LSU and were out-possessed 34:02 to 25:58. It did help that Leonard Fournette was used in a limited capacity, but it was no small task to stop Derrius Guice either. Guice scored the game's opening touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 83 yards on 19 carries.

Fournette was given 12 carries despite pregame repots that we would be unavailable for the game. The stingy Florida defense corralled him though, as he gained only 43 yards. LSU fans may wonder for years to come if the outcome would have been different had Fournette been available for the last play of the game.

Special Teams
This was the type of game that kicker Eddy Pineiro was recruited for. The redshirt sophomore was huge today as he nailed all three of his kicks from 36, 26, and 34 out, respectively. As mentioned earlier in the article, Pineiro made two clutch kicks in the fourth quarter.

His first make gave Florida a 13-10 lead and the second pushed that lead to 16-10. His direct impact on this game would earn him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Pineiro would be responsible for 10 points as a whole in this contest.

Pineiro converted his lone extra point of the game and four of his five kickoffs went for touchbacks. His one kickoff that was not a touchback was a huge turning point for the Gators. With 4:37 left in the game, LSU defensive back Donte Jackson fielded Pineiro's kick inside the 15-yard line and started sprinting upfield.

As he returned the ball, he ran into teammate Clifton Escort III and proceeded to fumble the ball. Vonte Joseph was able to recover the ball and setup Pineiro's second field goal of the quarter.

In the punting game, Johnny Townsend (who was wrongfully snubbed from the Ray Guy Award finalists list) played a critical role in the battle for field position. The redshirt junior punted five times and averaged 52.2 yards per punt. Three of his punts went over 50 yards, with his longest being 59 yards. He pinned LSU inside their own 20-yard line just once.

In the return game, Florida logged no punt returns. On kickoffs, both Jalen Tabor and and Chris Thompson had one return a piece. Tabor took his kick back for 33 yards while Thompson's return was 18 yards.

Final Takeaway
There really isn't much more to say after all this. Despite getting screwed by the SEC, these Gators found a way! With the win over LSU, they put Coach Mac in the history books as he became the first ever head coach to reach the SEC Championship game in his first two seasons.

This was one for the books. Finally, the three-game losing skid against LSU has ended! This victory propelled Florida to 15th in the College Football Playoff rankings while dropping LSU completely out! In addition, Florida now gets LSU at home for the next two seasons before the series reverts back to its normal home-and-home status.

With the SEC East won, the haters/critics dispatched, and LSU defeated, it's now time to focus on the No. 14 Florida State Seminoles (8-3). Similar to LSU, the Gators have not defeated their in-state rival in three years. As weird as it may sound, they are fortunate to be playing the 'Noles on the road.

In the last two meetings at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Gators have played the Seminoles tough. In 2014 they lost 24-19 and in 2012 they won 37-26. In last year's meeting in Gainesville, it was ugly. Florida State won 27-2 and dominated the Gators in every aspect possible in a football game.

Hopefully Coach Mac uses last year's loss and this slight losing streak as a whole to motivate the Gators come Saturday. If the trend of Florida's schedule continues to holds true, they should win this game.

Florida has won three straight and then lost a game twice this season. Now on the cusp of another three-game winning streak, it makes sense for Florida to beat Florida State and presumably fall to Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) in the SEC Championship.

Let's not worry about Alabama right now, though. In the Sunshine Showdown, I have the Gators emerging victorious to earn their ninth victory of the season. Of course with half the team out due to injury, it will be a close one. However, it will also be a classic game in this historic rivalry. There may be no national title implications, but state pride is always on the forefront when the Gators and 'Noles hookup.

Similar to last year, this game has a primetime slot. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ABC this upcoming Saturday. It can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. Let's go Gators!

As for LSU, they hit the road on Thanksgiving Day to take on the Texas A&M Aggies (8-3, 4-3 SEC). Both have recently dropped out of the polls, but I have to give this game to LSU as the Aggies have not beaten them since 1995. Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and it can be seen on ESPN.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UF Football: Florida Spoils Muschamp's Return

As he was accustomed to during his tenure as Florida's head coach, Will Muschamp took a loss in the Swamp last Saturday as the Florida Gators (7-2, 5-2 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) by a score of 20-7 on Senior Day.

Making his first start at home, graduate transfer Austin Appleby was much more efficient this time around. He completed 17 of his 21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. On the ground, he took off six times for 34 yards.

The Appleby that Florida got in this game resembled the first-half Tennessee version that threw for three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards. With Luke Del Rio ruled out for the upcoming game against LSU, Appleby will need to play like this if Florida has any chance of winning their second consecutive SEC East title.

In the running game, Florida thankfully gained more than 12 total yards. Jordan Scarlett came back with a vengeance as the sophomore rushed for 134 yards on 20 carries. Scarlett had more attempts alone in this game than the entire team did against Arkansas last week (12 total carries).

Scarlett averaged 6.7 yards per carry and his longest run was 32 yards. He has reasserted himself as the lead back, and hopefully will continue to serve as the workhorse going forward in Florida's last two regular season games.

In the receiving corps, sophomore Antonio Callaway once again found away to replicate his performances from the last two games. He nabbed four passes for the third straight game and totaled 48 receiving yards. Among his last three games, this is the most receiving yards Callaway has had.

Joining Callaway as Florida's leading yard-getter was senior Ahmad Fulwood. Fittingly enough on Senior Day, Fulwood had two catches for 48 yards and was able to haul in his third career touchdown reception with a snag in the second quarter.

The only other Gator to get in the end zone was redshirt sophomore tight end C'yontai Lewis. He caught four passes for 38 yards and kicked off the scoring with a touchdown reception in the first quarter. Rounding out the receivers, Brandon Powell had three receptions for 32 yards.

The Gator offense accumulated 372 total yards while obtaining 18 first downs. Appleby was kept clean for relatively most of the game as Carolina only sacked him once.

Defensively, Florida allotted 256 yards and did not give up a score until midway through the fourth quarter. They picked off the Gamecocks once and sacked quarterback Jake Bentley five times.

The sack culprits were all defensive linemen and are as follow: Joey Ivie (two), Taven Bryan (one), Jordan Sherit (0.5), Keivonnis Davis (0.5), Bryan Cox Jr. (0.5), and Khairi Clark (0.5).

Ivie is the lone senior of the group and forced a fumble at the end of second quarter of the contest as well. He was not alone though, as Taven Bryan forced and also recovered his own fumble in the second quarter.

Among the tackling leaders, true freshman David Reese was a pleasant surprise. Making his first career start at linebacker in Jarrad Davis's absence, Reese notched 11 tackles (1 TFL) to lead both teams on the day. Behind him was cornerback Quincy Wilson with nine wrap ups (1 TFL), safety Marcell Harris and linebacker Kylan Johnson with seven (1 TFL for both), and cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor with six.

In the secondary, Marcell Harris came down with his second interception of both the season and his career in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Besides the interception, the secondary logged in two pass breakups courtesy of safeties Nick Washington and Marcus Maye. The latter broke his arm in the game, and has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Special Teams
In the kicking game, Eddy Pineiro was fantastic. Attempting both his field goals in the third quarter, Pineiro drilled a career-high 54 yarder as well as a 36 yarder to finish 2/2 on the day. He made both of his extra point attempts and four of his five kickoffs went out of the end zone for touchbacks.

Moving on to the GOAT in Johnny Townsend, it was just another day at the office. Punting only four times in the game, Townsend averaged 49.5 yards per punt while pinning South Carolina inside their own 20-yard line just once. His longest punt was 59 yards and it was the only one to travel over 50 yards.

In the return game, Antonio Callaway did run a punt back for a touchdown. However, it was called back due to a holding penalty. The negated return aside, Callaway still had a decent day returning punts as he netted 100 yards on four returns. On kickoff returns, Brandon Powell returned the lone South Carolina kickoff of the game for 16 yards.

Final Takeaway
The now 23rd ranked Gators finish at 5-1 in the SEC East with this victory and are now one win (or a Tennessee loss) away from an SEC East title. It is by no means going to be easy though as the Gators' next opponent is the No. 16 LSU Tigers (6-3, 4-2 SEC).

After the fiasco that ensued with Hurricane Matthew in October, the Gators are playing this game in Baton Rouge. I could go on forever about how unfair all of this is, but it is what it is. If Florida wins, there will be no need to complain. They will be on their way to Atlanta and likely to a death sentence against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, 7-0 SEC).

Focusing on this weekend's matchup though, here's the Gator injury report for this weekend.
Luke Del Rio, Jarrad Davis, David Sharpe, Mark Herndon, and C.J. Worton are all out against LSU. Cam Dillard remains out for the season, and now Marcus Maye joins him as well.

Kickoff for the LSU game is at 1 p.m. It can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. After how LSU has looked these past few games and judging how Florida's offense is still pretty much inept, I am picking the Tigers to win this one.

If this were in The Swamp I'd reconsider, but Florida has not won in Death Valley since 2009. Also, LSU boasts a three-game winning streak over the Orange and Blue.

As for South Carolina, they continue their quest for bowl eligibility. They will most likely achieve it as they travel back to Columbia to face the West Carolina Catamounts (2-8) on Senior Day.

It will be a feel-good win for Muschamp and company, as the No. 3 Clemson Tigers (9-1) will ravage them on the road in the following week. Kickoff for this game is at 4 p.m. and it can be seen on the SEC Network.



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

UF Football: Arkansas Smokes #11 Florida

It was an ugly showing in Fayetteville as the Arkansas Razorbacks (6-2, 2-3 SEC) ripped the No. 11 Florida Gators (6-2, 4-2 SEC) by a score of 31-10.

The Gator offense has reverted to their old anemic state. On the first play form scrimmage, Luke Del Rio was intercepted for a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore did his best to play through an injured shoulder, but to no avail.

Del Rio finished the game 19 of 37 for 229 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. His longest pass was 25 yards, which is a clear enough sign that something was off.

In the running game, there is absolutely nothing positive to say. The Gators ran for 12 yards. Let me repeat that. The Gators ran FOR 12 YARDS! Take out Del Rio's three rushes and Florida ran the ball 11 TIMES. I don't even know why I'm mentioning it, but the leading rusher was Mark Thompson. He ran thrice for 19 yards.

In the receiving corps, Antonio Callaway nearly mirrored his performance against Georgia as he nabbed four balls for 44 yards. The only difference is that he had no rushing touchdown. Behind him, Brandon Powell and Ahmad Fulwood both registered two catches for 41 and 38 yards, respectively.

Florida mustered just 241 total yards of offense and obtained just 13 first downs. 11 of these conversions came via the pass with one on a penalty and the other through rushing. The Gator offensive line allowed three sacks and suffered a huge blow as center Cam Dillard went down in the first half and did not return.

Dillard wasn't the only offensive loss for Florida. Freshman wideout Tyrie Cleveland departed in the fourth quarter and senior return man Chris Thompson got absolutely blasted on a kickoff return.

The Gator defense could not tackle in this game and allotted their second highest yard total all season as Arkansas gained 466 yards. Sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III gashed Florida as he ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Under center, junior quarterback Austin Allen picked apart the Gator secondary. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception. One of these touchdowns went to senior receiver Drew Morgan, who had a game-high seven catches for 95 yards.

Allen's lone interception came off a nice play from Duke Dawson, who took it all the way back to the house for the only Gator touchdown of the game. It was Dawson's first career pick six, and he became the third Gator to accomplish the feat this year (Jalen "Teez" Tabor and Quincy Wilson ran back picks against Missouri).

Speaking of the secondary, safeties Marcus Maye and Nick Washington were the leading tacklers in the game. Maye had 11 wrap ups while Washington had eight. Tied at second with Washington was Alex Anzalone, who suffered a season-ending arm injury in the third quarter of the contest.

Unfortunately, Anzalone was not the only Gator linebacker to sustain an injury. For the second time in three games, Jarrad Davis yet again tweaked his ankle and had to exit before the game's long overdue conclusion.

With two key cogs of the defense gone, their replacements in David Reese and Kylan Johnson held their own. Reese had six tackles and Johnson had four tackles and half a sack. Defensive lineman Caleb Brantley was in on that sack with the redshirt freshman, marking the only time the Gators brought down Austin Allen.

The only other Gator defensive standout worth mentioning is Marcell Harris. Complementing the leading tacklers out of the secondary, the junior safety accounted for six wrap ups. His performance would be good for third most in the game and still tops the most tackles (five) from any Arkansas player.

Special Teams
Eddy Pineiro was the team's only offense against Arkansas. He nailed his lone kick from 49 yards out with 6:41 left in the game to make it 24-10. Of his two kickoffs, one went for a touchback.

In the punting realm, good ole Johnny Townsend saw the field a bunch of times in this game. As always, he balled. The redshirt junior sent off seven punts and pinned four of them inside the Arkansas 20-yard line. He averaged 44.4 yards per punt with his longest going 59 yards.

In the return game, Antonio Callaway netted 25 total yards on two punt returns while Chris Thompson had 57 total yards on three kickoff returns.

Final Takeaway
For the fifth straight season, the Florida Gators will be starting a backup quarterback in The Swamp as Luke Del Rio has been ruled out for the South Carolina game. Exactly who will it be though?

Will graduate transfer Austin Appleby get a second shot? Or will Coach Jim McElwain cut his losses and start either freshmen Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks? It is not for me to decide, but I will support Mac's decision either way. For insight on the quarterback situation, here's my article from ESPN Gainesville briefly overviewing Florida's options.

In regards to other Gator injury updates, Anzaone (wrist), Davis (ankle), Dillard (knee), and running back Mark Herndon (hamstring) are all out for Senior Day as well. Cleveland (leg) and Thompson (concussion) are very questionable and defensive lineman Cece Jefferson will be a game-time decision.

Despite the fact that it is Senior Day, South Carolina is important for two reasons. First, the Gators need to win this game to remain a game up in the SEC East standings. Second, it is the return of the infamous Will Muschamp. Yes, the man who helped drive this program into the ground finally comes back to The Swamp for the first time since November 22nd.

I can guarantee that it is going to be hostile when he leads South Carolina out onto the field. Gator Nation (myself included) is going to boo him endlessly and remind him just how much we did not appreciate his tenure at Florida. Muschamp may say he holds no grudge against Florida, but it's hard to believe he won't be fired up with a chance to knock his old team out of the SEC East race.

The reunion with Muschamp and his Gamecocks (5-4, 3-4 SEC) commences at noon. It is the first Gator noon game since homecoming against Vandy last season. The game can be seen on CBS and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

I am predicting a 13-10 Gator victory. It's going to be a rough game to watch, but ultimately one of these two ineffective offenses will find a way to get into the end zone.

As for Arkansas, they will ride the momentum from this victory into another home contest as the rival No. 19 LSU Tigers (5-3, 3-2 SEC) come to town. This will be a good game as Arkansas just lit up Florida and LSU held their own with top-ranked Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) until the very end. I got the Razorbacks winning a close one.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the "Battle For The Golden Boot" can be seen on ESPN. Arkansas has won the last two meetings over the Tigers.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
*Injury Updates from SECCountry.com



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

UF Football: #14 Florida Wins Third Straight Against Georgia

For the third straight season, the Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) have emerged victorious over the Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3 SEC)! In a fairly non-electric contest between these two SEC East foes last Saturday, the No. 14 ranked Gators defeated the Bulldogs 24-10.

In his second game back from injury, Luke Del Rio was efficient. The redshirt sophomore completed 15 of 25 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Del Rio's lone mistake came on the first drive of the game, but the Gator defense was able to hold and force a field goal.

On the ground, the Gators were down two running backs. Mark Thompson was caught with marijuana and was not allowed to participate in the game. As if that wasn't shocking news in itself, reports also flooded in that Jordan Cronkrite was no longer a member of the team (however it has also been reported that he is back with the team now).

So with this in mind, Coach Jim McElwain made good use of sophomore Jordan Scarlet and freshman Lamical Perine. Starting with Scarlett, the Fort Lauderdale product put in work as he carried the ball 26 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. His longest run was 12 yards and his touchdown came in the second quarter to give Florida a 14-10 lead.

Complementing Scarlett, freshman Lamical Perine registered 15 carries for 33 yards. He also had the second highest amount of receptions for Florida in this game as he tallied three catches for 15 yards.

Moving on to the receiving corps, Antonio Callaway finally returned to relevance in this game. The sophomore led all Gator receivers with four grabs for 42 yards. He also registered a touchdown, but in an atypical way.

With Florida up 14-10 with almost three minutes to go in the third quarter, Callaway took a handoff on a jet sweep and ran around the right end for his first career rushing touchdown! With this score, Callaway became the first Gator player in school history to score a touchdown five different ways (rushing, receiving, passing, punt return, kick return).

Joining Callaway in the touchdown club, tight end C'yontai Lewis caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore's score came in the first quarter and gave Florida an early 7-3 lead.

The Gators out-gained the Dawgs 231 to 164 in total yards. Florida totaled 20 first downs compared to Georgia's eight. Seven of the Bulldogs' first downs came through the air with one other resulting from a penalty. The Florida offensive line was a tad shaky in this game, as Del Rio was sacked three times. Albeit a couple of those sacks were on Del Rio not releasing the ball in time.

The Gator defense did not force a single turnover, but they continued to flex their muscles as they terrorized Jacob Eason. Collectively, the Gator defense hurried the true freshman a total of 16 TIMES! He finished the game 15 of 33 for 143 yards and a touchdown pass in the second quarter. It would be Georgia's final lead of the game as it put them up 10-7.

It seemed that every time Eason made a throw, he was being pummeled to the ground. Jabari Zuniga, who may very well have been in Eason's nightmares following the game, hurried him a game-high four times. The true freshman defensive lineman finished the contest with three tackles (2.5 for loss)

Despite continuously hitting Eason, the Gators only sacked him twice. Junior cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor (one), redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone (0.5), and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Khairi Clark (0.5) were the perpetrators.

The leading tacklers for Florida in the game were senior Jarrad Davis with seven wrap-ups (two for loss), redshirt junior Marcell Harris with five (one for loss), and Alex Anzalone with five as well (0.5 for loss). Seven different Gators recorded a tackle for loss.

In the secondary, cornerback Duke Dawson broke up two passes. The clutchest of these two came in the fourth quarter when the junior batted down a pass on fourth down and two with the Gators up 21-10. The only other Gator defensive back to break up a pass was safety Marcus Maye. Coincidentally, the redshirt senior forced an incompletion one play before Dawson's fourth down stop.

Special Teams
In the kicking game, Eddy Pineiro went 1/2 on his field goal attempts. He missed a 33 yarder in the third quarter, but then nailed a kick from 38 yards out with 4:24 to go in the fourth quarter. This pushed lead to 24-10, and essentially put the nail in the coffin for Georgia. All but one of Pineiro's five kickoffs were touchbacks and he was a perfect 3/3 on his extra point attempts.

Looking at punting duties, Johnny Townsend continued to do his thing. Seeing the field six times, Townsend had two of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had three travel over 50 yards with his longest being 55 yards. He averaged 47.8 yards per punt.

Return-wise, Antonio Callaway and senior Chris Thompson didn't do much. Callaway fielded three punts for a grand total of 10 yards while Thompson returned two kickoffs for 55 yards.

Final Takeaway
For the sixth time in the rivalry, the Florida Gators have boasted a winning streak of three games against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Gators were able to stick it to freshman Jacob Eason after he chose to attend UGA over UF. Granted, Eason will be very good in years to come and will no doubt get his chance to avenge this year's loss to Florida.

For now though, it's all celebration in Gainesville. The Gators are in first place in the SEC East and are two wins (or a win and another Tennessee loss) away from their second straight division title! The offense definitely needs improvement, but this defense continues to help the Gators win games.

The road gets tougher from here as the now No. 10 ranked Gators head to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 1-3 SEC). Florida has not played the Hogs since 2013 in The Swamp and currently they are on a nine-game winning streak against the Razorbacks.

Their last and only loss to Arkansas came in the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1982. As tentative as I feel about it, I am picking Florida to win this difficult road game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on CBS and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for Georgia, they will also hit the road as they travel to Lexington to take on the second-place Kentucky Wildcats (5-3, 4-2 SEC). The Bulldogs have not lost to Kentucky since 2009, but I think that changes this year. I have the Wildcats winning a close one at home. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and it can be seen on the SEC Network.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com