A few thoughts to jumpstart your Saturday morning:
HAVE FUN, TAKE A FEW CHANCES
When the Gators were smacked by Mississippi State unexpectedly in 2000, Steve Spurrier realized his team was wound way too tight. Listening to the radio as he drove to work a day after the debacle in Starkville, Spurrier heard a song that reminded him that these are 18-22-year-olds that he’s coaching. He lightened up and the Gators went on a five-game winning streak that got them to Atlanta where they beat Auburn for the SEC championship. A championship for this year’s Florida team would take a miracle of turning the water into wine proportions, but there are still incentives to play for such as keeping the streak of non-losing seasons (33 years) and bowl games (22 years) alive. It would be a great time for Will Muschamp to lighten up a bit and make sure the Gators go out and have fun today against Vanderbilt. Not only does Muschamp need to encourage the Gators to have some fun, but he can set the pace by cutting the offense loose a bit and take a few chances. This is a game the Gators must win, but they don’t need to go into the game feeling the pressure of the entire Gator Nation on their shoulders.
TURN TYLER MURPHY LOOSE
Tyler Murphy can be a game-changer in the running game if the Gators will cut him loose on the read option. It’s understandable that protecting Murphy has been a priority since he hurt his shoulder in the loss to LSU, but when he’s a running threat, Florida’s offense is much, much better. In the fourth quarter last week against Georgia, Murphy ran consecutive option plays on the right side behind Trenton Brown. The result was a 25-yard gain that was followed by a 14-yard touchdown run. The Gators can’t afford to have Murphy running the option too many times because there is no experience behind him at quarterback. However, if offensive coordinator Brent Pease will pick and choose his spots for the read option, Murphy could seriously loosen up the Vandy defense with his feet.
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE
In six Southeastern Conference games, the Gators have 62 plays that have gone for 10 yards or more, 25 on the ground and 37 in the air. The Gators have eight plays that have gone for 20-29 yards, two plays that have gone for 30-39 yards, two plays that have gone 50-59 yards, one play 60-69 yards and one play of 83 yards. All the others have gone for 10-19 yards. The Gators are averaging 3.5 yards per rushing attempt in conference games, 6.6 per pass attempt and 4.6 yards per play. In conference games, the Gators rank 11th in scoring (21.3 per game), 10th in rushing (148.5 yards per game), 12th in passing (159.7) and 13th in total offense (308.2).
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE PART II
Solomon Patton leads the Gators with 14 plays of 10 or more yards, 12 on receptions and two on the ground. Trey Burton has 11 plays of 10 or more with one on the ground, but Burton has only one play of 14 and another of 12 in the last two games. Quinton Dunbar has eight receptions of 20 yards or more, but only two in the last three games (83 against Georgia and 20 against LSU). Tyler Murphy has nine running plays of 10 or more yards and Kelvin Taylor has seven, more than Matt Jones (four) and Mack Brown (two, longest 13 yards) combined.
GOING FOR ANOTHER TITLE
Becky Burleigh’s Florida soccer team beat Ole Miss, 2-1, Friday afternoon to move into Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship game against Texas A&M. This is the 15th time in 19 years the Gators have made it to the championship game under Burleigh. The Gators have won the tournament 10 times previously and they have won the SEC regular season title 13 times. Florida is 17-3-1 this season, ranked #5 nationally and working on a nine-game winning streak. Florida freshman Savannah Jordan is tied for the national lead in scoring with 22 goals.
GATOR WOMEN OPEN WITH EASY WIN OVER BETHUNE-COOKMAN
If the first game is an indicator of things to come, then Amanda Butler has a budding star on her hands in freshman Ronnie Williams, who made her Florida debut with 15 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Gators’ 93-65 win over Bethune-Cookman Friday evening. Williams is the first McDonald’s All-American ever signed by Butler. Williams was one of seven Gators in double figures, only the second time that’s happened in school history. Antoinette Bannister, a sophomore transfer from North Carolina, scored 13 and senior point guard Jaterra Bonds had 10 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals.
KEEP AN EYE ON ORLANDO TONIGHT
UCF is probably tired of that college football perception that it’s the little school that could. The Knights have quietly put themselves in position to become a BCS bowl buster this year. They are 6-1 (only loss by three to South Carolina) and if they can knock off once beaten Houston tonight, they will tighten up that bowl buster race with unbeaten Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference. Figure tonight’s game is the championship for the fledgling American Athletic Conference. UCF already owns a win over once-beaten Louisville, which will play host to Houston next week. Of course, if Fresno runs the four games remaining on its schedule, UCF will be left out of the BCS picture, but if Fresno stumbles along the way, UCF should move ahead in the BCS standings. Tonight’s game with Houston will also be a battle of two of the best quarterbacks you’ve probably never heard of – UCF’s Blake Bortles (15 touchdown passes) and Houston freshman John O’Korn (22 touchdowns, only four picks).
THE FEARLESS FORECAST
Besides liking Florida over Gloria Vanderbilt, I like Alabama over LSU, Misery over My Old Kentucky Home, Aubrin over Dollywood USA, Ole Miss over Bill and Hilary Clinton State U, Poodles over Appalachian State and the Aggies over the Mississippi Cow College.
Last week: 5-1
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When I lived in Miami in the 1970s, I had a Brazilian neighbor who introduced me to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. The only thing I knew about Jobim at that time was “The Girl from Ipanema.” The moment my friend put the album “Wave” on his stereo system (we didn’t have CDs in those days) I was definitely hooked on Jobim. Today’s song is “Wave” from the same album.