Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016-17 Gator Basketball: January Recap

The No. 24 Florida Gators (16-5, 6-2 SEC) capped off yet another successful month as they went 6-2 in January. They boasted a five-game winning steak throughout the month dating back to December with victories over Ole Miss (12-9, 3-5 SEC), Tennessee (12-9, 4-4 SEC), at Alabama (13-7, 6-2 SEC), and Georgia (13-8, 4-4 SEC).

This streak would end when the Gators suffered their first SEC loss to South Carolina on the 18th. In this defeat, Florida failed to make any of their 17 three-point attempts. It was the first time since 1992 that Florida failed to connect from downtown. The South Carolina loss slightly derailed the Gators as bottom-dweller Vanderbilt (10-11, 3-5 SEC) handed them their first home loss of the season in the very next contest.

However, Florida remained in the Top 25 rankings despite the back-to-back losses and smacked both LSU (9-11, 1-7 SEC) and Oklahoma (8-13) by over 30 points on the road to close out the month. In the LSU game, Florida flipped the script and set a school record as they sunk 19 three-pointers in a 106-71 rout of the Tigers. In Norman, they blew the doors off the Sooners with an 84-52 victory. These were definitely two great offensive performances for the Gators to end the month on.

Now, let's take a look at the stat leaders through the first month of the new calendar year:


Points: KeVaughn Allen (285) (Sophomore)

Assists: Kasey Hill (103) (Senior)

Rebounds: John Egbunu (49) (Redshirt Junior)

Shooting Percentage (100 attempts min.): Devin Robinson (51%) (Junior)

Three-Pointers: KeVaughn Allen (45)

Three-Point Percentage (50 attempts min.): Justin Leon (42%)

Free Throws: Canyon Barry (70) (Graduate Transfer)

Free Throw Percentage (50 attempts min.): Canyon Barry  (88%)


Rebounds: Devin Robinson (79)

Blocks: John Egbunu/Kevarrius Hayes (30) (Sophomore)

Steals: Kasey Hill (41)


Personal Fouls: John Egbunu (51)

Minutes: Kasey Hill (610)

Turnovers: Kasey Hill (61)

Final Takeaway
Sitting just one game out of first place behind No. 8 Kentucky (17-4, 7-1 SEC) and No. 18 South Carolina (17-4, 7-1 SEC) in the SEC standings, No. 24 Florida will make or break their season in February. Just like this past month, the Gators have an even split of home and away games with four a piece.

At Exactech Arena, Florida will face Missouri (5-15, 0-8 SEC), Kentucky, Texas A&M (11-9, 3-5 SEC), and South Carolina. Missouri is in last place, Kentucky is an archrival (and also a game that none of my friends were able to get registered for somehow), Texas A&M has been up and down, and South Carolina will be a rematch. I see Florida going 3-1 in the home portion of the schedule.

For the road, the Gators will pack their bags and head to Georgia, Auburn (14-7, 3-5 SEC), Mississippi State (13-7, 4-4 SEC), and Kentucky. The Gators needed overtime to defeat Georgia, Auburn has been playing relatively well, Mississippi State is a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference, and Kentucky will 100% defeat the Gators at Rupp Arena for the third straight season. Florida ideally should go 3-1 on the road portion with perhaps another close game with the Dawgs in Athens.

Florida did a good job staying ranked as they fluctuated from 24th to 23rd to 19th to 25th before ultimately residing where they began at 24th. Florida should again remain in the Top 25 at the conclusion of February if they post a record of six and Kentucky for the month.

The Orange and Blue are currently seeded at No. 5 in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology. Hopefully a good month can either bring them up to a three-seed or at least allow them to remain steady at five.



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

UF Basketball: No. 19 Florida Drops First SEC Contest to No. 24 South Carolina

The No. 19 Florida Gators (14-4, 5-1 SEC) suffered their first SEC loss to the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks (15-3, 5-0 SEC) by a score of 57-53.

Coming into the hostile environment of Colonial Life Arena, the Gators had quite the challenge ahead of them with a Gamecock team that was 10-1 at home.

They scored 28 points in the first half and carried a seven-point lead into halftime. When it was time to resume play, the Gamecock defense shut down the Gator offense. Eight minutes went by before Florida registered a field goal, and by then they were trailing 35-32. The Gators kept it close down the stretch, but would never regain the lead.

Shooting Woes
Florida outshot South Carolina 35% to 29%, but it was the three-point game that killed the Gators. It wasn't that the Gamecocks were lighting it up from beyond the arc though. In fact, Florida essentially shot themselves in the foot as they failed to make NOT EVEN ONE THREE-POINTER!

Florida went an astonishing 0-17 from three-point land, which I can honestly say I have never seen in all my years watching them. In fact, this very feat has not happened to Florida since 1992. If the Gators even made just 1/4 of these shots, they probably would have won the game. That's the game of basketball though. It was simply just an off night.

South Carolina's Leading Men
South Carolina's 35-point second half was propelled in most part by senior guard Sindarius Thornwell. He scored 20 points on 5-11 shooting from the field. He got his money's worth from the free throw line, as he converted 9 of 13 attempts. The last of these nine makes would be the ultimate dagger that put South Carolina up 57-53 with nine seconds to go in the game.

Aiding Thornwell in the comeback were sophomore forward Chris Silva and sophomore guard PJ Dozier. Silva took care of all the dirty work in the paint, as he collected seven rebounds (six defensive and one offensive), while also managing 10 points. He was a perfect 5-5 from the charity strike as well. Dozier went just 2-9 on field goal attempts, but still contributed 10 points with six makes on nine trips to the free throw line. 

Florida's Leading Men
Even in a losing effort, there were some good individual performances for the Gators. Some players worth mentioning are Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, and Devin Robinson.

As the senior point guard for Florida, Kasey Hill put on a good showing in this game. He went 5-8 from the field while registering 11 points. His point total was second-best on the team, and had he not fouled out with under two minutes to go, he may have been the team's leading scorer.

Instead that honor goes to graduate transfer shooting guard Canyon Barry. Coming off the bench, Barry logged 13 points while going 4-13 from the field. He made all five of his underhanded free throw attempts but was 0-6 on his three-pointers.

Last, but not least, is Devin Robinson. The junior small forward scored just eight points, but was a monster on the boards as he corralled a game-high 10 rebounds (five offensive and five defensive). He went 4-11 on field goal attempts, but was also the only starter without multiple personal fouls.

As a side note, I will briefly allude to bench players Chris Chiozza and Keith Stone. Starting with the junior backup point guard, Chiozza did a good job being unselfish as he dished out a team-high four assists in the loss tonight. As for Stone, the redshirt freshman forward got into foul trouble early. However, he made the most of his minutes as he brought down six boards (five defensive and one offensive).

Final Thoughts
While previewing this month in my December recap article, the South Carolina was one of the opponents that I thought the Gators might have a problem with. Coach Frank Martin has built a quality basketball club, and defeating them in their building is a very tall task for any SEC team who isn't Kentucky.

Florida will bounce back though, as I doubt they will ever have another game where they fail to register a three-point make. With their seven-game winning steak over and SEC record finally blemished, the Gators will turn their attention to a home contest with the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4 SEC) this Saturday. Tipoff is at noon and the game can be seen on CBS.

As for South Carolina, they will ride the momentum from this win into a big matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats (16-2, 6-0 SEC) on Saturday. This contest at Rupp Arena will determine who gets sole possession of first place in this early SEC race. Needless to say that my money is on Kentucky in this one. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. and this touted matchup can be seen on ESPN.

*All stats accredited to ESPN.com



Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 Gator Football: A Year In Review

The 2016 Florida Gator football season gave graduating students like myself a great going away present as the Orange and Blue posted a 9-4 (6-2 SEC) record and finished No. 14 in the polls. What makes this season one for the books is for the second time in just three years, Florida lost out on a home game.

During my sophomore year in 2014, the home opener against Idaho was cancelled due to heavy rain. This year, it was Hurricane Matthew that postponed a contest against LSU. With this being a conference game of course, it could not just simply be cancelled. So the result was the senior day game against Presbyterian was nixed and instead Florida went to Death Valley for a makeup game. I'll get into that later though.

This Gator team was essentially what I have been used to as an undergrad these last three years. The offense became ineffective, the defense dominated, and key players went down with injuries left and right. The one positive change for Florida was that special teams was definitely the most consistent and effective unit this season.

Florida's offense yet again was a puzzle that could not be solved. They averaged 23.9 points per game while scoring 311 points on the year, ranking them 107th in total offense out of 128 D-I college football teams.

On the ground, they rushed for 1,667 total yards as a team and averaged 128.2 rushing yards per game. This would be good for 113th overall in the nation. The Gators employed a committee running back system split up between Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, Mark Thompson, and Jordan Cronkrite.

In the air, the Gators totaled 2,805 yards and averaged 215.8 passing yards per game. This was a better offensive category for Florida, as the Gators finished with a ranking of 79th. As had been the case the last three seasons, Florida could not enjoy the benefit of playing just one quarterback the whole year.

Luke Del Rio looked to be a decent game manager through two games, but a knee injury against North Texas in the third game of the season messed with his psyche and he was never the same. Austin Appleby, the graduate transfer from Purdue, would do his best at the helm as Florida went 4-3 with him as the starter.

The Gator defense, on the other hand, was GOOD. They concluded the season ranked 5th in total defense as they gave up just 4.7 yards per play and 293 yards per game. Scoring against Florida was no easy task either, as opponents totaled 218 points and averaged just 16.8 points per game against the 6th best scoring defense in the country.

The Gators forced 24 turnovers (16 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries) to finish 32nd in turnovers gained. Among those turnovers, they were 14th in passes intercepted and took four of those picks back for touchdowns. The four pick-sixes were the most a Gator defense had recorded since the 2010 season.

In the red zone, just ask LSU how good Florida was. The Gators finished the season ranked 4th in red zone defense as opponents were 28 of 39 on attempts in this area of the field. Three of these stops came against LSU.

Florida was also 40th in bringing down the quarterback, recording 31 total sacks. Redshirt freshman Jabari Zuniga led the team with five quarterback takedowns. Zuniga's feat etched him in Gator football lore as he became the first freshman to record five sacks in a season since Huey Richardson in 1987.

Special Teams
The kicking demons of last seasons were exorcised with the arrival of Eddy Pineiro on campus. The redshirt sophomore gave fans something to cheer for every Saturday with his swagger and poise on the field.

Having never played organized football before, Piniero had a great first season for the Orange and Blue. He nailed 21 of 25 field goal attempts (84%) with his longest being a 54 yarder against Kentucky. He was perfect on extra point attempts as he went 32 for 32. On kickoffs, 48 of his 66 kicks went through the end zone for touchbacks.

In the punting realm, the Gators had one of the nation's best punters in redshirt junior Johnny Townsend. Even though he was snubbed out of even being a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, Townsend logged in magnificent performances game in and game out.

Florida finished 11th in net punting, as Johnny averaged 47.9 yards per punt and totaled 3,065 punting yards. He pinned teams inside their own 20-yard line 27 times with fair catches being called another 18 times. His longest punt was 62 yards and was one of 29 punts he had sail over 50 yards. He had just one punt blocked, which came against No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship.

The 2016 Schedule
Going undefeated in all five (should have been seven) of their home games this season, the Florida Gators had much more tougher games on the road throughout the 2016 season. They posted a 2-3 record away from The Swamp, with all three losses coming by double digits. In neutral site games (Georgia and Alabama), they went 1-1 with both games being decided by double digits.

In the 2016 home opener, the University of Florida honored Steve Spurrier with the renaming of Florida Field to Steve Spurrier Field. It was a night game and rained for a good bit of the first half. Florida showed it still had some offensive issues to overcome while the defense dominated. The Gators needed a 14-point fourth quarter just to make it look like they were in control and won 24-7.

By far the hottest game in The Swamp with a 3:30 kickoff, this game was a romp. With all of us clad in orange, the Gators mauled Kentucky 45-7. This extended Florida's winning streak over the Wildcats to 30 straight games.  It was an accomplishment I was happy to have witnessed in person.

North Texas
The second night game of the season was another fun one for me as I donned my trademark Steve Spurrier visor for the first time. The Gators shutout the Mean Green 32-0, but again the offense struggled. On top of that, Luke Del Rio suffered a knee injury at the end of the third quarter. He would never recover mentally.

at No. 14 Tennessee
By far the toughest weekend for me due to personal reasons, the Gators added to my woes as they blew a 21-3 lead to the Vols in the second half. The crowd at Neyland Stadium that afternoon got to Florida, as Tennessee scored 35 unanswered points and ultimately won 38-28.

This was Austin Appleby's first start, but the first loss to Tennessee in 11 years can't be pinned on him. For some reason, Florida's offensive play calling became super conservative in the third quarter and Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs picked apart the Gator defense.

Tennessee did prove that "a duck could pull a truck", as this game was their version of the National Championship. What made this tough loss even harder for Florida fans to stomach was that the Gators' chances of becoming life champions had been dashed.

at Vanderbilt
It was bad enough that this game was slated for a noon kickoff, but it was also evident that Florida had not moved past the Tennessee loss. The Gators needed an interception from safety Nick Washington to seal what was still a close game in the fourth quarter. They only won 13-6, with Jordan Scarlett accounting for Florida's only touchdown. The offense looked bad as this was one of Austin Appleby's worst games of the season.

It was in this game that I sported my classic Florida Gator button down shirt with my Spurrier visor, an outfit which became a favorite among all my friends. Looking at the game now, it was an afternoon kickoff that featured some rain. This was the second time in three seasons that Missouri was the homecoming opponent, and the Gators did all they could to avenge their 42-13 blowout loss two seasons ago.

Both Quincy Wilson and Jalen "Teez" Tabor took back an interception for a touchdown while Antonio Callaway shocked us all by returning an onside kick for a touchdown. Florida convincingly won the game 40-14, despite Luke Del Rio throwing three interceptions in his return.

A game I was actually able to attend this time because of a free ticket from a friend, Florida-Georgia this season was a blast! I could write a whole article alone about the great moments we had while tailgating and staying at my buddy's house in Jacksonville. As expected, I donned the visor and long sleeve to the game.

As for the game itself, Florida yet again defeated Georgia as they won 24-14 for their third straight victory over the Bulldogs. It was honestly a tough game to watch offensively and probably would not have been that thrilling had I been watching in on TV.

at Arkansas
This game was a bloodbath. Florida came into Fayetteville ranked No. 11 and got absolutely rocked. They lost 31-10, with their only score coming from a Duke Dawson pick-six. The Gators rushed for 12 total yards and Luke Del Rio suffered and played through a shoulder injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. I do commend Del Rio's bravery though. My hat goes off to him for his perseverance.

South Carolina
The final home game of my undergrad career was fittingly a noon kickoff. I donned my visor and long sleeve one last time and went out to support the Gators on Senior Day. With Appleby back in command, the Gators stuck it to ex-coach Will Muschamp and won 20-7. For once, I could be happy after a Muschamp loss in The Swamp.

at No. 16 LSU
So much trash talking and controversy surrounded this noon makeup game as it took place in Baton Rouge and not Gainesville. Despite LSU athletic director Joe Alleva's incompetence and lack of understanding, Florida agreed to the unfair terms LSU offered just to get the game played. It was simple: a win clinched the SEC East and a loss left it in the hands of the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game.

Florida had one touchdown the whole game, which was a 98-yard strike from Appleby to true freshman Tyrie Cleveland in the third quarter. The ending of this game would forever go down in Gator football history, as Florida used a goal line stand to stuff the Tigers with no time left on the clock. It was a thrilling way to clinch the SEC East, and I was glad that I was able to see Florida beat LSU on the gridiron during my undergrad career.

at No. 14 Florida State
Once again, the Seminoles manhandled the Gators in this primetime affair. Appleby was sacked six times and the offense was atrocious. Florida's only touchdown came on a fumbled punt that Marcell Harris scooped up and took into the end zone.

Harris's fumble recovery cut the lead to 24-13, but only delayed the inevitable 31-13 loss. Florida was embarrassed for the second straight season (and the third time in the last four years), and I graduated never seeing a football win against Florida State.

No. 1 Alabama (SEC Championship)
It was worse than last year as Alabama steamrolled Florida. The Gators scored on the opening possession to lead 7-0, but that was quickly erased. Alabama scored on both a pick-six and a blocked punt as Appleby through three picks... IN THE FIRST HALF.

I applaud the Gators' effort, especially that of linebacker Jarrad Davis (who's status was questionable leading up to the game). However, Alabama was just too good. The Tide won 54-16, making Florida 0-3 against them during my undergrad career.

Iowa (Outback Bowl)
In a game I was very nervous about, Florida proved me wrong. The defense showed out under interim (and now permanent) defensive coordinator Randy Shannon while Austin Appleby played moderately decent.

The Gators avoided the same bowl fate of the 2015 squad as they had a couple offensive touchdowns to complement a dominating defensive performance. They routed Iowa by a score of 30-3 and earned America free blooming onions from Outback Steakhouse.

And now the stat leaders of the 2016 campaign:


Passing Yards: Austin Appleby (1,447) (Graduate)

Passing Touchdowns: Austin Appleby (10)

Completions: Austin Appleby (127)

Interceptions: Luke Del Rio (8) (Redshirt Sophomore)

Rushing Yards: Jordan Scarlett (899) (Sophomore)

Rushing Touchdowns: Jordan Scarlett (6)

Receiving Yards: Antonio Callaway (721) (Sophomore)

Receiving Touchdowns: Antonio Callaway/DeAndre Goolsby (3) (Junior)


Tackles: Marcell Harris (73) (Redshirt Junior)

Tackles For Loss: Caleb Brantley (9.5) (Redshirt Junior)

Sacks: Jabari Zuniga (5) (Redshirt Freshman)

Interceptions: Jalen "Teez" Tabor (4) (Junior)

Fumbles Forced: Taven Bryan (2) (Redshirt Sophomore)

Fumbles Recovered: Taven Bryan (2)

Quarterback Hurries: Jabari Zuniga (11)

Pass Breakups: Duke Dawson (7) (Junior)

Special Teams

Field Goals Made: Eddy Pineiro (21) (Redshirt Sophomore)

Longest Field Goal: Eddy Pineiro (54)

PAT's: Eddy Pineiro (32)

Touchbacks: Eddy Pineiro (48)

Kickoff Return Yards: Chris Thompson (283) (Senior)

Punt Return Yards: Antonio Callaway (218)

Punts: Johnny Townsend (64) (Redshirt Junior)

Punt Yards: Johnny Townsend (3,065)

Punts Inside the 20: Johnny Townsend (27)

Graduating Seniors
Here are all the true and redshirt seniors who will be leaving the Gator football program:

NFL Draftees
Here are all the Gators who have declared for the draft as well as seniors who may get drafted:

  • Jalen "Teez" Tabor - Cornerback (Junior)
  • Marcus Maye - Safety (Redshirt Senior)
  • Caleb Brantley - Defensive Lineman (Redshirt Junior)
  • Quincy Wilson - Cornerback (Junior)
  • Jarrad Davis - Linebacker (Senior)
  • David Sharpe - Offensive Lineman (Junior)
  • Alex Anzalone - Linebacker (Redshirt Junior)
  • Bryan Cox Jr. - Defensive Lineman (Redshirt Senior)

Finally, here a couple players who will be leaving the Florida Gator football program in the offseason. I wish the best to them wherever they go!

Final Takeaway
The 2016 season saw slight improvement for the Gator football program as they try each and every day to undue the damages of the Muschamp era. Coach McElwain's first bowl win at Florida is good progress along with a second consecutive SEC East division title.

Some ways to build off this success now would be to:

  1. Get a legitimate quarterback and develop him (whether it's Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, or newcomer Jake Allen)
  2. WIN the SEC Championship
  4. Earn a bid to a New Year's Six Bowl
  5. Banking off the first point, field a competent offense that can consistently put up more than 30 points a game.

If Florida and Coach Mac can accomplish even half of these five goals that I have listed, than 2017 will be a fun season for Gator fans everywhere.

Author's Note
It was fun covering the Gator football team during my four years of undergrad at the University of Florida. After receiving my LSAT score, there is a good chance I will not be attending UF for law school. If that is the case, then this is more than likely my final Gator football article.

It has been an incredible ride writing about this team, and I am blessed to have been able to make the time to write these game recaps. I will be a Gator forever and will support this team through thick and thin. Thank you Florida football, you have tested my patience but also given me moments I will cherish for a lifetime.

All in all, Florida finished with a 30-21 record during my four years of undergrad. What I am about to conclude with is based off of total instinct and not statistics. In 2017, I would not be surprised if Florida went undefeated or made the College Football Playoff somehow now that I have graduated from the university. Knowing my luck, I feel like this will happen (but we will see).

Regardless if I'm right or not,  I'll be patiently waiting for September 2nd.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

UF Football: Gators Win Outback Bowl!

For just the second time in school history (with Iowa again being the victim), the Florida Gators are Outback Bowl Champions! In their early afternoon matchup with the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-5), the No. 17 Gators (9-4) ended the season on an extremely positive note with a dominating 30-3 victory.

In his final game as the Florida starting quarterback, Austin Appleby turned in a performance that Gator fans were content with. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. To be fair, both of Appleby's picks were tipped and not really his fault.

Though I was not too high on Appleby throughout most of the season, I will admit that him quarterbacking Florida to a bowl win earns him my approval. Among all the quarterbacks I have personally watched at Florida (Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, and Luke Del Rio), I can confidently say he was better than or equal to at least half of them.

In the ground game, Jordan Scarlett remained the lead back as he carried the ball 14 times for 94 yards. However, it would be JUCO transfer Mark Thompson who would make the explosive play out of the backfield.

With the game tied 3-3 and a little under two minutes to go in the first half, Thompson caught a screen pass on his own 15-yard line and took it 85 yards to the house for the game's first touchdown. It was his first reception for positive yards since the Arkansas game on November 5th, and was his first touchdown of any kind since the North Texas game on September 17th.

This would be one of two Appleby touchdown passes, as he found tight end DeAndre Goolsby at the end of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 17-3. Goolsby finished with just two total catches for 27 yards, while Thompson's touchdown was his lone reception of the contest.

Among the actual receivers in the wideout corps, only Antonio Callaway went off. He nabbed a team-leading seven balls for 55 yards with a long reception of 34 yards.

The offense gained a total of 331 yards and 11 first downs. They averaged 5.8 yards per play, 3.4 yards per rush, and 8.9 yards per pass attempt. In the red zone, they were 100% on two attempts. The offensive line gave up three sacks, but relatively gave Appleby a clean pocket to throw out of.

The Gator defense -headed by interim defensive coordinator Randy Shannon- finished how they started the year and feasted against the Hawkeyes. For the fourth time this season, they held a team to under 100 passing yards as Iowa only threw for 55.

As a whole, the Gators allowed 226 offensive yards. After holding Iowa to just a field goal on the second drive of the game, Florida locked in and wreaked havoc on their Big 10 foe and quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Interceptions were the name of the game as true freshman Chauncey Gardner had two of them in the fourth quarter! His first pick came in the first minute of the quarter, and he ran 58 yards back to push Florida's lead to 24-3. It was his second career interception and first collegiate touchdown.

A couple drives later, Chauncey picked off another pass and nearly had another pick-six as he took it 30 yards to the Iowa seven-yard line. It would set up a Florida field goal that would extend the lead to 27-3.

For his two-pick performance, Chauncey was named the MVP of the Outback Bowl. This may very well have been his coming out party, and if that's the case then the future looks bright for Florida's secondary.

The other Gator to record an interception was senior linebacker Daniel McMillian. His pick came on Iowa's ensuing drive following Chauncey's second interception and he was able to take it 23 yards to the Iowa 36-yard line. This return would set up the final field goal of the day to make it 30-3 Florida.

McMillian was the second-leading tackler on the team as he had seven tackles. He trailed only defensive back Marcell Harris, who had nine wrap ups and one tackle for loss. Harris's biggest tackle came on fourth and goal at the start of the second quarter.

With the Gators down 3-0, the redshirt junior stuffed running back LeShun Daniels at the one-yard line to keep the Hawkeyes out of the end zone.

The only Gator to record a sack on the day was defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, who notched three tackles in the contest. Some other defensive dignitaries worth noting are linebacker Vosean Joseph with six tackles (1 TFL) and a pass breakup, an absolute hero at linebacker in Cristian Garcia with five tackles, and defensive lineman Joey Ivie with five tackles (1 TFL) as well.

Special Teams
I talked about the Gators setting up field goals all day but let's talk about the man who made them. Kicker Eddy Pineiro absolutely balled in this game. His 44-yarder was the Gators' opening score in the first quarter and he went on to nail both a 25-yarder and a game long 48-yarder in the fourth quarter. He was a perfect 3/3 on extra point attempts.

In the kickoff aspect, Pineiro once again proved his leg strength as he boomed an 80-yard kickoff from his own 20-yard line. He was only kicking this deep due to an unsportsmanlike penalty that resulted from Chauncey Gardener's pick-six. This would be one of two kickoffs returned on the day as five of Eddy's seven kicks were touchbacks.

In the punting realm, my boy Johnny Townsend continued to kill it. Johnny punted four times and averaged 45.5 yards per kick. He pinned Iowa inside their own 20-yard line twice and his longest punt went 51 yards.

It's an absolute shame he was not even named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, as he is hands down one of the best punters in the country. Nevertheless, Johnny logged in another great performance!

Final Takeaway
As a Gator graduate, I can depart from UF with an even bigger smile on my face! Florida's bowl win proved me wrong (which I'm not at all ashamed to admit) and prevented the 2016 season from ending the exact same way that 2015 did.

This Gator team came out here wanting to prove something, and boy did they. Although the offense was more or less its usual self, the defense throttled Iowa and made a case for Randy Shannon to be the next Florida defensive coordinator. For the most part I am onboard with this idea, but ultimately that's a decision that will be left to Coach McElwain, the staff, and Shannon himself.

It is such a great feeling to see my Gators win a bowl game, and I hope that this can progress into a New Year's Six Bowl somewhere down the road. For Austin Appleby and 12 seniors, this is a great sendoff. Some will be off to the NFL Draft while others will be using their degrees to find jobs in the real world.

Regardless of where they go, I want to thank the 2016 senior class for their hard work and effort. Whether they played in every game or never saw the field, they should be thanked immensely for how much work they put into helping this program return to national relevance in the near future.

For Coach Mac, this is where the real test begins. After essentially posting two 10-win seasons in his first two years at Florida (Presbyterian this season would have been a win let's be real), Mac will definitely have some pressure put on him to win now that HIS quarterback will be leading the charge.

I think he will thrive under this pressure though, and Florida will be in the College Football Playoff hunt every year that Mac coaches here. It's been great watching him these last two years and my Gators the last four.

I have no idea if this is my last Gator football game recap or not with law school looming ahead. If it is, then it has been an absolute blast recapping Gator football these last four years. Through the good and the bad, writing about this team has given me such an understanding and appreciation of this team that I would not have had as an ordinary fan.

I pride myself in knowing the history of my teams, and as a former Miami Hurricanes fan I think I did a pretty good job learning Gator football history and embracing it as my own. I love this school with all my heart, and will never forget the many incredible moments at The Swamp. I'll root for this team until God calls me home, and I'll support them in all kinds of weather.

Whether we go 15-0 with a national championship or 0-12 with every single player injured, I will always say that it is indeed great to be a Florida Gator! Go Gators! 2017 Outback Bowl Champions!

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com



Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016-17 Gator Basketball: December Recap

In the month of December, the No. 25 ranked Florida Gator men's basketball team (10-3, 1-0 SEC) posted a 4-2 record. Their victories came against UNF (4-12), Charlotte (7-5), Arkansas Little-Rock (10-4), and conference foe Arkansas (11-2) while their losses were against No. 5 Duke (12-2) and arch rival No. 20 Florida State (14-1). I expected the Duke loss, but did not anticipate a third consecutive defeat to the Seminoles.

Florida was finally able to play a home game as they christened the newly renovated Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center against Arkansas Little-Rock on December 21st. They won the game handedly 94-71.

The Gators only left the state of Florida for two matchups: Duke and Arkansas. On December 6th, they faced off against the Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden and lost 84-74. To conclude the month, they traveled to Fayetteville for their SEC opener against Arkansas. In that December 29th contest, the Gators defeated the Razorbacks 81-72 to hand them their first home loss.

Showing some progress as non-conference play came to a close, here are the stat leaders for Florida through December:


Points: KeVaughn Allen (184) (Sophomore)

Assists: Kasey Hill (63) (Senior)

Rebounds: John Egbunu (38) (Redshirt Junior)

Shooting Percentage (100 minutes min.)Devin Robinson (56%) (Junior)

Three-Pointers (10 attempts min.): KeVaughn Allen (27)

Three-Point Percentage (10 attempts min.): Justin Leon (45%)

Free Throws: Canyon Barry (42) (Graduate Transfer)

Free Throw Percentage (10 attempts min.): KeVaughn Allen (89%)


Rebounds: Devin Robinson (54)

Blocks: John Egbunu (25)

Steals: Chris Chiozza (20) (Junior)


Personal Fouls: Chris Chiozza (32)

Minutes: Kasey Hill (369)

Turnovers: Kasey Hill (38)

Final Takeaway
Entering 2017 on a three-game winning streak, the Gators will seek to maintain their winning ways as they enter the SEC portion of the schedule. They will play seven conference games before traveling to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on the Oklahoma Sooners at the end of the month.

The Oklahoma game is one of four road matchups in January that also include Alabama (7-5) on the 10th, South Carolina (10-3) on the 18th, and LSU (8-4) on the 25th.

For the home schedule, the Gators host Ole Miss (9-4) on the 3rd, Tennessee (8-5) on the 7th, Georgia (9-4) on the 14th, and Vanderbilt (7-6) on the 21st.

I think the Gators will at most lose two conference games this month while also dropping a close one to the Sooners. They will remain ranked all of January and will climb as high as 15th in the polls. 

Only time will tell how accurate my predictions are, but what is guaranteed is that the new O-Dome will be rocking as the Rowdies return for the spring semester. I unfortunately will not be at too many games as I am now an alumnus of the University of Florida, but every now and then I may try to snag some cheap tickets and make it to a game or two!