Florida Gators 34 – Georgia Bulldogs 31 (OT)

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30: Trey Burton  of the Florida Gators celebrates following a touchdown during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)A win.  A glorious win.  You need every win in college football, but some seem bigger than others.  When you’ve already lost three games and those three came in the last three, a victory is huge.  It seems almost unattainable.  Facing a team on a hot streak when you are the underdog, it’s a tough road.  Needing a victory to not fall out of the SEC Championship Game race, the odds seem stacked against you.  But you won.  You came out on top.  You beat a rival.  In overtime.  In a game when your offense put up yards and scored points.  Parts were beautiful.  Parts weren’t pretty.  34-31 may be all that mattered.

With the overtime victory over Georgia, Florida moved to 5-3 (3-3) on the season.  It’s not a great record and definitely not a desirable one, but the Gators are two wins away from returning to the SEC Championship Game for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years.  There are still 120 minutes of football to be played before that’s determined, but it’s nice to know you’re still in the hunt.  Vanderbilt on the road and South Carolina at home is all that’s between you and Atlanta.  A goal every season that’s still within reach.

Let’s start with the pretty.  Florida piled up 450 yards of offense and reached the end zone four times.  The run game wore out the Georgia defense as it accounted for 231 yards on 50 carries.  There were a few gorgeous plays: Chris Rainey’s 20-yard touchdown run, Deonte Thompson’s catch, Trey Burton’s scamper.  The defense forced turnovers and at times made key stops when absolutely needed.  One of the nation’s most dangerous weapons – A.J. Green – was also held in check for most of the game.

A few things were less than pretty, but you’re given permission to bask in the glory for a few moments before reflecting on those.  The Bulldogs got back in the game thanks to three fourth-quarter touchdowns as the Gator defense started to wear down.  What seemed like a game Florida had control of early turned into one that was decided in overtime.  And the offensive playcalling was once again interesting to say the least.  Let’s start there.

I’m all for creativity.  I think most of us are.  You need to keep defenses guessing and going vanilla 100% of the time isn’t going to cut it, but is having John Brantley on the field for as many Burton snaps as he was really the best way to do it?  Having Brantley out wide on occasion and motioning him into the backfield to take the snap at the last possible second from time to time was a nice wrinkle that kept Georgia guessing, but that much?  Since the game was won, it might not be questioned, but if it had gone the other way, it would be the first thing we’d be looking at.

Burton did get the chance to throw the ball, twice.  That’s a good, not great, addition.  That threat must be there, but having Brantley on the field for as many plays as he was is essentially taking away an option.  I get the plus of having to make less personnel adjustments if both he and Burton are on the field, but a blocker out there could have helped.  The Gators aren’t going away from the two-quarterback system (and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s how they need to run the offense this season), but there are still some adjustments that can be made.

The run game may have benefitted the most from the “new” offense.  Burton went for over 100 yards and Rainey looked good in his return.  Each player that had nine or more carries – those two and Jeff Demps – managed over four yards per carry.  If Florida can continue to move the ball on the ground, they’ll be successful.  And that’s where the passing game can open up.

Brantley wasn’t perfect, but he was efficient enough.  Despite not throwing a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive game, Brantley recorded his highest rating since the win over Kentucky.  He may not be spectacular, but if he can manage the pass game and keep mistakes limited, drives will continue.  There’s still an accuracy worry (open receivers were greatly overthrown on two short outs), but in this one Brantley seemed calmer than he had in a while.  If he can get out of his own head and keep the nerves down, he can be a solid quarterback.

You never want to go into overtime.  As a coach, player, or fan, it’s not a desire.  Maybe if you’re the team that mounted a fourth-quarter comeback, but even then overtime is a momentum changer, or halter.  Georgia had that momentum heading in and one long Will Hill interception runback changed everything.  Although Hill didn’t get in, Florida got a spark and a few plays later won the game on a Chas Henry field goal.  A great punter who was struggling with field goal accuracy got a chance to redeem himself and did.

A feel-good story for Henry, but one that is short-lived.  Just like that another game is over, this time with the Gators on the winning side of the scoreboard.  On to the next one and the continued hope for Atlanta.

(And there’s more good news: we don’t have to see those hideous uniforms again. One and done.)

4th and 1: Florida’s Arrests, a USF Commitment, A.J. Green…

A little college football to get you through your Friday.

1st.  Urban Meyer claims Florida is not a dirty program.  Technically, he’s correct.  The Gators aren’t a dirty program.  Dirty programs violate NCAA rules – you know, like giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a star player.  Florida’s problem is different.  Not the actions of the program itself, but the actions of certain players.  Arrests.

There have now been 30 arrests since Meyer took over as the head coach of the Gators.  That averages out to about six a season being that were still early in his sixth year.  There’s no acceptable amount, but that many is too much.  Some are very much on the minor side and many end up with the charges dropped, but they add up and ultimately they include some of the bigger stories.  Chris Rainey and Ronnie Wilson among those.
Look at it this way: Meyer has coached 185 players during his time with the Gators.  27 different players were among those 30 arrests.  That means nearly 15% of the players Meyer has coached have faced charges.  I’ll wait a minute for you to bang your head repeatedly against the wall.  Done?
It’s hard to say what can be done to solve the issue, but it needs to be a combination of things.  Can Meyer and staff crack down and lengthen suspensions were necessary?  Yes.  Do the players need to be held accountable for their actions?  Definitely.  Does something need to change one way or another?  YES!
2nd.  USF is doing what it can to address the loss of almost all depth at the tight end/fullback position at the end of this season.  The Bulls received a verbal commitment from Griffin (Griffin, GA) tight end Tye Turner this week.  Turner selected USF over Western Carolina and Western Kentucky.  He also had interest from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.
The 6’2”, 245-pound tight end has also played fullback during his high school career.  He hopes to be used more in the passing game as a senior this season.
3rd.  Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green will attempt to have his suspension reduced today.  The NCAA will hear an appeal requesting that Green be reinstated and be able to play this Saturday against Arkansas.  Green was given a four-game suspension after…GASP!…selling a jersey.
After dropping their conference opener to South Carolina, the Bulldogs desperately need a win against the Razorbacks.  Falling to 0-2 in SEC play could prove disastrous.  Having Green on the field gives the Bulldogs a much better chance of that not happening.  And it gives Aaron Murray a reliable receiver he can count on during key situations.
4th.  Russell Wilson likes the number three.  333 passing yards and 33 rushing to go along with three touchdowns in NC State’s win over Cincinnati on Thursday night.  Wilson started the season with a little rust as a result of playing too much of that other sport we all stopped following a few weeks ago.  Rust no more.  Look out ACC, Wilson is oh so very good.  And delightful to watch as well.
And 1.  Did you know Jeff Demps almost ended up at Tennessee?  Now you do.  Demps was seriously considering the Vols before David Cutcliffe left for Duke.  If he had headed to Tennessee we can all assume frustration over playing for a third head coach this season would have set in.  Luckily we only have to imagine Demps in Vol orange, we don’t have to actually experience it.

Questions with the Enemy: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs

We have an extra special “enemy” joining us this week in the form of former Georgia kicker Rex Robinson.  Rex was a three-time All-SEC first-teamer and an All-American in 1980.  He runs Roughing the Kicker and was nice enough to answer our questions.
In eight and a half season at Georgia, Mark Richt is an impressive 86-25 (43-20).  Yes, 4-3 (2-2) so far in 2009 isn’t what fans expected, but why in the world are some calling for his head?  What better option do they think there is?  I don’t think there is a better option, and some fans just don’t think period.  There is no doubt that some changes might be in order with the staff, but I hope Mark Richt stays forever.
Joe Cox is playing fairly well in wins, but looks like a different player in losses.  What are the Bulldogs chances this weekend if he doesn’t have his A game from the start?  Not very good…Joe Cox is a slightly above average player who has had to try and be more than that.  Georgia’s lack of a running game has forced him to try and win games versus manage them.  He did win the Arkansas game.  He had the LSU game won but then A.J. Green was penalized for an excessive celebration (bogus) and the rest is history.  If we can’t run just a little, Georgia is in trouble.
Georgia has arguably the best receiver in the nation in A.J. Green.  Florida has two of the more talented cornerbacks in Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins.  How do they cover Green?  Is safety help the only way to contain him?  Those corners are great, but A.J. Green continues to surprise Dawg fans each and every week and in new ways.  I expect this to be a major key in the game, with Haden winning a few and A.J. a few.  We actually need our other receivers, including TE’s to show up to have a chance.
After Green, the Dawgs have an up-and-down receiving corps (sounds a lot like like Florida!).  Who else do the Gators have to look out for?  Michael Moore (82) has had some solid games.  Tavares King (12) is a sophomore that has contributed lately.  TE’s Aron White (81) and Tampa native Orson Charles (7), a true freshman, will both need to contribute as well.  
Rennie Currian is the undisputed leader of the defense.  How do offenses game plan for a player with virtually no weaknesses in his game?  While Rennie is a great linebacker, he is undersized.  With Florida’s O-line I’m not sure they truly game plan for him specifically.  Tim Tebow is bigger than Rennie and Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey are faster, so he’s got a tough assignment.  And whoever tries to cover Aaron Hernandez is in deep kimchee.
Tim Tebow and Herschel Walker will be forever linked in SEC lore.  For a long time many have said Walker could have been the greatest to ever play the game.  Recently people are saying the same about Tebow.  Comparing guys that play different positions is tough, but bias aside, who is “greater?”  I’ve already written about this on my blog and I’ve already got Gators chomping on me.  Something new I will add…who is greater, Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan?  It’s crazy because they played different positions and in different eras.  Even so, they are both in the top 4 scorers in NBA history and truly great in their own ways.
And finally…
Why Georgia?  Were you always a Bulldog?  What made you choose to play college ball in Athens?  I did not grow up a Georgia fan actually.  The way TV was in the 60’s and 70’s the “local” teams, Georgia and Georgia Tech were not on TV that often.  We watched Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Notre Dame, blah blah blah.  I was fortunate to be recruited by a few schools that had kickers graduating.  Georgia, Georgia Tech and what was then called Memphis State offered scholarships.  Alabama wanted me to walk on and Notre Dame got in the picture late in the game.  But I had already committed to Georgia.  No, Florida did not recruit me, Berj Yepremian was already on campus and he did pretty well.  Here’s a little known factoid…If my dad had taken a job in Titusville when I was about 10 years old, I would have played high school football with Chris Collinsworth and then, who knows?

Morning Reading: A.J. Green – Georgia Receiver, Secondary Slayer

World Series, blah.  Amazing to think we’re already at this point in the year.  As the professional baseball season comes to a close, it means the college football season only has a couple short months left before we enter the dead period.  Not something to look forward to at all and a time where The Bull Gator could become eerily quiet.  But there’s no better alternative to college football even when it’s not in season.
In 2008, two true freshman receivers entered the SEC and immediately began to prove their dominance over all secondaries that attempted to stop them.  Both were imposing figures at an almost identical 6’4”, 205-215 lbs.  Both wore #8.  Both saw playing time come early and often.  Both began to have their way with cornerbacks at will.
Alabama’s Julio Jones finished his freshman campaign with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns.  Georgia’s A.J. Green with 56 catches for 963 yards and eight scores.  Eerily similar stats with the exception of the times each got into the end zone.
As they entered their sophomore seasons, both were expected to make the jump from pretty darn good to downright unmatched greatness.  One sputtered in an offense not necessarily suited to his complete skill package.  The other made the leap.  And it’s that one the playing at that highest level that Florida faces on Saturday.
Green currently leads the SEC in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.  He’s been the lone continuous bright spot in an up-and-down offense.  He is virtually impossible to contain and extremely tough to matchup with.    In four Bulldog wins, Green has five scores.  In three losses, only one.  Keeping him out of the end zone just might be the key to beating Georgia.
The Bulldogs run game has been an issue this year, but having to put the ball in the air to #8 hasn’t.  Green will make plays on Saturday.  That much is almost guaranteed.  It’s what the Gators do to stop the rest of the Georgia offense that will make the difference.  Green will make big catches here and there and the Florida corners – namely Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins – will have their work cut out for them.  But as long as their making tackles and not allowing the big receiver to get behind them, the Gator defense should be in good shape.