Football Recap: Florida Gators 20 – Texas A&M Aggies 17

We here at The Bull Gator propose the Florida Gators, their coaches, and their many fans adopt what has become our motto of sorts around here the last few seasons: just win. As we said last week, style points be damned; the current state of the program is one of which winning is of the utmost importance. It may not be pretty. It may not even rank as ugly at times. It may be downright rotten, but a win is a win is a win. It’s not the best way to think, but it has become what we lean toward. Florida Gators Football – Just Win! I think t-shirts are in order.

The first quarter wasn’t bad. Not really at all. Maybe that’s a positive, glass-half-full outlook that’s a little too optimistic than realistic, but I’ll go with it. The defense played tentative and looked like it had trouble figuring out exactly what the Texas A&M Aggies were going to do on offense, but it wasn’t time to sound the alarm. The offense put together a good drive during which Jeff Driskel looked improved and Mike Gillislee was Mike Gillislee. Yes, I’m basing that quote off of one game, but now we can put another game into it. Gillislee scored both of the Gators touchdowns in the 20-17 win and was again the offensive star.

Let’s just skip right over the second quarter. This was the tweet at the time: “FDALJFKDAFUINCEPAEPEUAHFENEUPHCIPEJAI…beer.” I stand by that comment. Just a whole big bucket of yuck.

The defense looked better during the second half. Better to the point that they didn’t allow a single point and allowed the offense the chance to get back into the game. The Aggies got their yards, but the Gators’ defense didn’t let them get their points. There are the same concerns – tackling, tentative play, allowing the run game to thrive in the middle of the field (especially on quarterback draws) – but right now for a number of reasons including beer (mentioned above) let’s go ahead and take zero points allowed over the final 30 minutes.

The offense wasn’t perfect in the second half. 10 points pretty much indicates that. But it did enough. Enough that helped get the win and push the Gators to 2-0 (1-0 SEC). That 1-0 SEC is enormously important. I’m not remotely thinking ahead to Atlanta – that would be crazy – but I will take comfort in 1-0 in conference play for now. I have an entire week before I have to start worrying about my poor heart again.

And finally there are the thanks that need to be given. I thank fake field goals, Jordan Reed, Caleb Sturgis’s foot, Jeff Driskel’s pass to Omarius Hines and, of course, Mike Gillislee. I thank the Florida Gators for pulling out a win that didn’t look like it was going to be a win. It didn’t resemble anything close to it at points. I won’t thank Will Muschamp though; that’s going to take a lot more. But I thank the rest and I move forward with my weekend with a deep sigh of relief. Go Gators! Just Win!

Football Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Bowling Green Falcons – September 1, 2012

Football is back. More important, Florida Gators football is back. We were patient – as much so as we could be. We waited and waited and waited until we couldn’t wait anymore. The Gators are finally back in action today, home at The Swamp hosting the Bowling Green Falcons. Pre-outcome, it’s a very good day. A great one. Post-outcome, we hope for the same. College football and our beloved orange and blue are back.

The Facts

Opponent: Bowling Green Falcons
When: Saturday, September 1, 2012 – 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: ESPN2, ESPN3.com, Gator Sports Network, GatorVision
Records: Season opener.
Rankings: Florida: 23/23, Bowling Green: NR
Current Streak: Season opener.
Point Spread: Florida -29
Over/Under: 48
Calculated Score: Florida 38-9/39-10
Points Scored: Oh yeah, season opener.
Points Allowed: IT’S THE SEASON OPENER!

The Preview

It’s year two for head coach Will Muschamp. This is the one that could make or break his career as the leader of the Florida Gators. Muschamp needs his team to take a step forward from 2011. Most coaches get three seasons these years and that’s the guess with Muschamp, but another rough go of it in 2012 and athletic director Jeremy Foley could begin a new search. The record doesn’t have to be perfect, but the play on the field has to be close. The Gators have stumbled through the last two seasons and that’s more than enough for the school, the coaches, the players and the fans. This is a defining season for more than just Muschamp, but for the entire program.

The quarterbacks are the biggest topic of discussion. Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will each get a quarter during the first half. The rest of the game will be figured out from there. This game may or may not give us the answer of who will carry the Gators through the rest of the season. It’s a true QB battle and one carrying into the regular season. We aren’t the only ones watching with anticipation. Everyone wants to know how good the Gators will be in 2012 and if both or either of the quarterbacks can bring a spark back to the offense.

Of course, that also means the running game has to improve and the wide receivers need to step up (well, more than step up). There’s talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end, but it’s largely unproven. With plenty of questions, we hope Saturday brings answers. What will Brent Pease’s system bring? Can Mike Gillislee really rush for 1,500 yards and cross the goal line 24 times? Can the Gators find a go-to receiver? Can the converted defensive linemen contribute at tight end? Can the offensive line hold up and stay healthy? So many questions and the answers will soon start pouring in.

Defense could be what gets us all the most excited about this season. Plenty of the “experts” believe the Gators have one of the nation’s best defenses. We like to hear that, but we’d love to see it. The defense was the strength last season and kept the Gators in some games, but when you post a final record of 7-6, it’s hard to be too excited about the play of any unit. Regardless, the defensive talent (and potential) keeps us going. This could be a special season for the Gators on that side of the ball. There are, however, to big musts: LIMIT MISTAKES and CREATE TURNOVERS. The Gators need to do both to truly move to the elite level.

And then there’s special teams. Many think this unit is the best in the country. The Gators have one of the nation’s top kickers in Caleb Sturgis and most dynamic kick returners in Andre Debose. If the punt team can get a feel to it of the Eric Wilbur and Chas Henry days, things could be special. And then there are the blocks. Under Urban Meyer (GASP! I said his name!), the Gators brought the pressure time after time, to great results for the most part. A block can change the entire outcome of a game. We know this. We’ve experienced it.

We’re getting close. The game is mere hours away. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the Florida Gators.

Drafting The Florida Gators To Go Head-To-Head Against…The Florida Gators

The football offseason brings about boredom and plenty of it. It has forced us at The Bull Gator to come up with ways to occupy our time whether they are fun or trivial exercises in futility. Some examples include past attempts at coming up with the best Florida Gators of all-time at each jersey number and a draft consisting of only players available from the schools we have attended. This is another one of those exercises.

One Eyed Willy and I conducted a draft where we each attempted to fill a starting roster made up of all Gators. The rules were simple: 1) you need to fill each position with a player that could realistically line up at that position, and 2) your only real wildcards are going with a fullback or a third wide receiver and playing either a 4-3 defense or a 3-4.

Once we were done, we gave the teams to Evandagator and he let us know which team he thought would win if they went head-to-head. We didn’t tell him which team belonged to which one of us, so he could give his unbiased opinion (we aren’t completely sure which one of us he likes more just yet). We also posted the teams on Alligator Alley (one of the message boards on Inside The Gators) to see what they thought as well.

First up, the teams:

*The numbers in parenthesis indicate the overall pick the player was selected. Some players don’t have numbers next to their names because once we realized we only had positional openings left where we wouldn’t be competing for players, we each filled our rosters in one lump selection.

(more…)

Caleb Sturgis Named Walter Camp All-American

Perhaps the Florida Gators most outstanding player throughout the 2011 season, kicker Caleb Sturgis was named to the Walter Camp All-American second team on Thursday. Sturgis gives the Gators back-to-back specialists on the All-American team. Punter Chas Henry was a first-teamer one season ago (he’s now doing his best to prove his worth as an accomplished passer in the NFL).

Sturgis made 49 of his 54 total kick attempts this year, going 21-of-25 on field goals and 28-of-28 on extra points. During the season, the junior was successful on three attempts from 50 yards or greater. He is now Florida’s all-time leader with five from 50 or beyond in his career.

Although also a finalist for the Lou Groza Award presented to the nation’s best kicker, Sturgis didn’t take home the honor. That went to…well, it doesn’t really matter does it…it went to someone else from some other team, proving these things are rigged. I blame David Stern.

Special Teams: Auburn Tigers 17 – Florida Gators 6

First thoughts here. Offense here. Defense here.


Four is the number we’ll all remember for quite some time. That’s four as in four drops on punt returns. We’ll ask over and over how that’s even possible. How could it happen? One was a penalty so obvious that Florida head coach Will Muschamp looked as if he was going to beat a referee to death with his headset right then and there. To say Muschamp went ballistic would be an understatement. The refs, however, didn’t believe Chris Rainey was interfered with and you know the rest: Auburn scored seconds later to take a 7-0 lead.

That one dropped punt would have been enough, but there were more to follow including another that would result in a turnover. I don’t know whether to be amazed or upset. It’s amazingly upsetting that something that rare could happen that many times in one game. A suggestion for the Gators going forward: don’t put anyone back. Let the ball roll or bounce wherever it will, just get the heck away from it.

43, 67, 53. Those three would have been enough for anyone to appoint Kyle Christy the Florida punter for the next three and half years. An 18-yard YIKES! in the third quarter and some might have yelled for him to be right back on the bench. Apparently dropping punts wasn’t just reserved for the returners. But Christy righted himself and had punts after the mishap of 42, 44 and 56. His average for the game of 46.1 yards has us all wondering what exactly he was doing in practice to not have earned the job from day one. Well, it’s his now.

In closing, Caleb Sturgis is still a great field goal kicker, but field goals alone won’t do it. Although he’s getting a chance to show the world how good he can be, I’m sure he’d rather be kicking extra points.

Finally, closing thoughts to come.

Special Teams: Alabama Crimson Tide 38 – Florida Gators 10

First thoughts here. Offense here. Defense here.


In a game like this, field position was of the utmost importance. Here’s a quick rundown of where each team started drives that didn’t begin due to a turnover:

Florida: 40, 41, 29, 29, 14, 33, 7, 16, 14, 33, 30, 12

Alabama: 34, Florida 29, 26, 39, 35, 22, 47, 32, 8, 29, 42

There are three major problems here:

1. Can you guess which drives the Gators scored their points on? The first two. The only two they started past their own 33-yard-line. Without being able to get the ball with a short field, Florida wasn’t able to put more points on the board.

2. Florida had five drives start within in their own 16-yard-line. Four resulted in three-and-outs and the other ended in a punt.

3. The one time the Gators were able to pin the Crimson Tide deep in their own territory – Alabama started at the eight-yard-line – they drove the length on the field for a touchdown.

They say it’s a battle of field position. They are right. Unable to establish long drives, the Gators were hurt by having to make them even longer. In the shadow of their end zone, Florida’s offense couldn’t get going. The box score would indicate a good kickoff return average for the Gators. It would also indicate a better one for the Tide. It would also show you a better punt return average for Florida, but 6.0 yards per return is hardly anything to light the world on fire.

In the kicking game, the Gators were solid, but far from great. Caleb Sturgis missed his first kick of the year, but it was a 52-yard attempt. As long as Florida isn’t missing chip shots, the kicking game remains in good shape. David Lerner actually upped his punting average, but I can’t be alone in wishing he was a straight punter and not of the rugby-style variety. It worked out alright in this one, but every time the ball hit the ground after only 25-30 yards in the air, it had disaster written all over it. Lerner won’t always be so lucky with the way the ball bounces.

Special teams didn’t cause the Gators to lose, but field position played a part. The kick returners appear to be getting yards, but the punt return game can be improved. Florida will struggle to move the ball consistently against teams of Alabama’s caliber – and there are some of those left on the schedule – so the Gators need every yard they can get.

Up tomorrow: after digesting everything the game threw at us, the recap is closed out with some final thoughts.

Special Teams: Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 10

Part three of a four-part series. For the offense, click here. For the defense, here.


Caleb Sturgis, All-American. Okay, so that hasn’t happened just yet, but with a third of the regular season gone, it’s as good a pick as anyone. After making another eight kicks (two field goals and six extra points), Sturgis remained perfect on the season. Even the goal posts are on his side. Sturgis has made all 11 of his field goal attempts and all 18 of his extra point attempts for a total of 51 points. Those are good numbers for a half of a season, let alone a third.

David Lerner’s punting average continues to be lower than you’d like. He did land one of his five punts inside of the 20, but only averaged 36.0 with a long of 43 yards. Lerner has only attempted 11 total punts over his entire career, but he’s going to have to get more distance. Punting was a weapon for Florida in the past. It may need to become one again in closer games.

Kentucky punted the ball six times, but the Gators were only able to get one return out of it, so it’s not something we can really explore too much. Chris Rainey was able to scamper for 13 yards on the one return. Good, but too small off a sample size to really consider a vital part of the win.

Solomon Patton was on kick return duty against the Wildcats and we’ll go ahead and give him one plus and one minus. His nine-yard return on the opening kickoff was something that left you scratching your head. Trying to take the ball to the middle of the field allowed the Kentucky coverage team to converge on him and end the chance of a long return. In his second attempt, the 27 yards he gained was much more along the lines of what Florida is looking for.

The Gators’ coverage teams did well enough to get a positive grade in the victory. Mychel Bailey did have a 32-yard kickoff return, but only averaged 21.1 on seven returns. Randall Burden totaled just five yards on two punt returns.

There were no blocked kicks and no long returns, but the special teams didn’t make any critical mistakes either. With Sturgis providing guaranteed points, the Gators can be content with the unit for another week.

Coming tomorrow: final thoughts.

Preview: Florida Gators @ Kentucky Wildcats – Saturday, September 24, 2011 – 7:00pm

Later than usual because I was playing the role off plumber this morning as we had a slight sink mishap is the TBG household. All is well, but some choice words were uttered as water that should be going down decided to come back up. After the situation was resolved and everything was put back together, I sat down to begin a preview that should have been up a day or two ago. Better scheduling to come, although I’ve been promising that since sometime around the day TBG started. Oh well, at least I’m consistent. On to the preview…


The Facts

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats
When: Saturday, September 24, 2011 – 7:00pm
Where: Lexington, KY
Broadcasting: ESPN, ESPN3.com, Gator Radio Network, GatorZone, Sirius 217, XM 200
Records: Florida: 3-0 (1-0), Kentucky: 2-1 (0-0)
Point Spread for Those that Enjoy Betting on Florida Football: Florida -20
Over/Under for Those Mentioned Above: 44
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 32-12
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 37.7, Kentucky: 19.3
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 8.7; Kentucky: 13.3
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 95, OEW: 95

10 Things About Kentucky From Wikipedia

Learn a little something about the school of the opponent. And some football. But mostly the school. And not much football. The school. Got it? For more football, keep scrolling.

1. Kentucky is home to 16 colleges, a graduate school, 93 undergraduate programs, 99 master programs, 66 doctoral programs, and four professional programs. I don’t know what other schools have, but that seems like a lot.
2. The University of Kentucky began as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky and was a part of Kentucky University. Oddly enough, Kentucky University isn’t part of the University of Kentucky today. Instead, it became part of Transylvania University.
3. Lyman T. Johnson became the first African American to attend UK when he was admitted as a graduate student in 1949.
4. Before the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997, UK operated 14 community colleges.
5. Kentucky is home to 15 libraries. That – like the various programs – seems like a lot to me, but could be perfectly normal. I can count the times I stepped foot into university libraries on one hand. Then again, I went to school before wireless Internet existed.
6. The Wildcats nickname came about in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1976 that Kentucky would have a costumed mascot.
7. The men’s basketball team was the first ever to reach 1,000 wins. It was also the first to reach 2,000.
8. Among the 28 fraternities present at Kentucky is the Triangle Fraternity. I had never heard of it despite the fact that it has been around since 1907.
9. 91.3 FM WUKY was the first university owned FM radio station in the country.
10. Notable alumnus: Ashley Judd.

When The Gators Have The Ball

What you’re hoping for here is excitement, firepower, and downright dominance. The Florida offense has been good, but hardly great. It’s hard to really complain as we’ve seen improvement in some areas, but others haven’t shown us too much yet. With the October gauntlet looming, it’s time for the Gators to put their foot on the gas pedal and not take it off. It would boost the confidence of the players, coaches, and fans if Florida were to come out and dominate this side of the ball from the first minutes of the game.

Oh John Brantley, you model of efficiency. So maybe that’s a little much, but he’s becoming a game manager of sorts and that’s exactly what many of us predicted. Brantley doesn’t need to light the world on fire. He doesn’t need to be Tim Tebow or Danny Wuerffel. Brantley just needs to be careful. He needs to manage the game and limit mistakes. He did enough in the first three games to help the Gators to wins. You don’t have to like what he’s doing or not doing, but for now it works. As the season continues, Charlie Weis will have to open him up a little more. And he’ll have to work the wide receivers into the offensive game plan. Three receptions for the receivers and tight ends against Tennessee is a problem. It didn’t impact the outcome too much against the Vols, but eventually that lack of production could hurt the Gators. Facing Kentucky is the perfect time for Weis to fix it. Work the receivers into the passing game early and often and give someone…anyone…a chance to shine.

Ah the run game. There’s something we shouldn’t have to worry about. As if Chris Rainey weren’t a weapon already, he is quickly becoming one of the nation’s most dangerous. With Jeff Demps as option 1B, there’s not much to worry about here other than the offensive line giving them room to do what they do. It would be nice to see Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown worked in like they were against UAB, but I’m sure we’ll all be just fine with Rainey and Demps having their way with the Wildcats defense. Clock control is an important aspect of a Weis offense and these two could provide that all night.

When The Wildcats Have The Ball

108, 91, 100. Those numbers are Kentucky’s national rankings in passing yards, rushing yards, and points scored per game. As you can tell by the two triple-digit entries and the other one in the 90s, they aren’t having the best offensive season so far. Therefore, we have a near ideal matchup for the Gators’ defense.

Pressure for the defensive line was present against Tennessee; now it needs to remain so. Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Jaye Howard and Ronald Powell are tasked with planting Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton into the Lexington turf repeatedly. By getting pressure on their own, the line will leave Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins to control the middle of the defense and not support the blitz if they don’t have to. That pressure can no longer be a question mark heading into upcoming games against Alabama, LSU, etc., etc., etc.

Despite a passing game that ranks 108th in terms of yards per game, Newton has improved each week. He put the ball into the air 41 times last week against Louisville and completed 27. The Wildcats came out on the losing end of the scoreboard, but may be on to something by committing more to the pass. Newton will have to test the Florida secondary and the Gators’ need to be tested. With the exception of two many pass interference calls for an entire season, the secondary – like many other units – is showing us more each week. They appear to be more confident in their abilities, but the penalties need to be cut in…not half…cut out. I won’t even give you the number again, because you already know it, but Florida gave up far too many yards against Tennessee. The score was closer than the game should have been and defensive penalties were a big part of that. Discipline must improve.

Special Teams

Caleb Sturgis is off to a great start to the season, but I wish we saw less of him.

Outcome

Another matchup, another game in which Florida is the favorite. This was expected so we aren’t near the shock point just yet. The Gators need to come out of the gate and put points on the board early. The red zone offense needs to up its efficiency and not settle for field goals. There’s plenty to be excited about, but points are being left on the field. Florida should have little trouble with Kentucky, but we need to see a full 60 minutes. Remember what starts next Saturday.

The Special Teams: Florida Gators 33 – Tennessee Volunteers 23

The offense and defense have been covered; now on to the special teams.
Be thankful for Florida’s special teams. If it isn’t blocking punts to get you going, it’s a kicker that can’t miss. With the offense struggling in the red zone, Caleb Sturgis has decided to use the 2011 season as his own personal audition for the NFL. On Saturday, Sturgis connected on all four of his field goal attempts, including ones from 46 and 48 yards. He also made all three extra points he attempted and had three of his kickoffs go for touchbacks. Sturgis has become quite the weapon now that he’s completely healthy.
David Lerner continues to see increased action as the season progresses. His average wasn’t great against Tennessee at 39.5, but he did have two of his four punts downed inside the 20. Lerner isn’t Eric Wilbur or Chas Henry just yet, but that doesn’t happen overnight.
The return game was nothing to highlight. It was efficient, but not exciting. What did light a spark was another blocked punt. Seeing your star running back on the punt block unit can put a scare into you, but it works and works well. Chris Rainey blocked a punt to add to his spectacular day. Can you say Heisman? You can? Good, but don’t. Let’s stay away from that and just be glad we get to watch no. 1 each week.
Finishing up with some final thoughts on Monday.

The Rest: Florida Gators 39 – UAB Blazers 0

Offense, done.Defense, completed. We now move on to the special teams and some final thoughtson Florida’s 39-0 win over UAB.
Special Teams
Jeff Dempsreturned kickoffs in the season opener against FAU. While I won’t say anything bad about a longtime TBG favorite,30 yards on two returns with a long of 18 just isn’t going to cut it. AgainstUAB, in came last year’s kick return surprise Andre Debose. Because of the shutout, Debose only got one chance toshine in the return game, and shine he did. No. 4 took the opening kickoff 50yards, setting up the Gators first score of the game. More Debose please. Thankyou.
Although UAB punted six times, none were returned. After twogames, this is yet another aspect of the game where we don’t know what we havejust yet. There are plenty of options, but none are sure things. There isalways the possibility of a block though, and that’s something to smile about.
Caleb Sturgis continuedhis perfect season with three made field goals on three attempts and a 4-4night on extra points. The more important thing for Sturgis at this point isjust staying healthy. With five field goals already in two games, he’ll beneeded in a number of critical situations this season.
It took Florida a while, but the Gators finally punted. David Lerner’s average looks downrightawful, but you have to ignore it. Lerner finished with a 29.0 average and along of 32, but both punts ended inside the 20. Lerner did his job and that’sall you can ask for.
Final Thoughts
The Gators may not continue to score 40 points per game andthey definitely won’t keep up their 1.5 points allowed per game average, butthere’s plenty to be pleased with. The run game looks like it will be Florida’sstrength and the pass game appears to be coming along little by little. If theoffensive line can up its consistency, the entire offense will become a fearedunit.
On the defensive side of the ball, keeping teams out of theend zone is the goal and the Gators have done just that so far. They’ll facebetter offenses as the season continues, but for now, so far, so good. The lineshould come together better once it’s whole again and the secondary needs a fewmore players to step up. Once the unit is rolling, it – like the offense – couldbe exactly what the Gators need.
It’s an exciting time to be a Gators’ fan. Will Muschamp has brought a fire to theprogram that just wasn’t seen in 2010. Just go back and listen to what he saidat the half when Florida was up 25-0. He won’t take average and he won’t eventake good. Muschamp strives for perfect and that is just fine with me. This maynot be a national championship contender, but it’s a team on the way back upwith a bright future ahead.