Thoughts of the day: October 16, 2013


For the second straight week, the Gators will face a team that presents serious matchup issues on the outside. Missouri runs a three wide-receiver package most of the time and all three are big, strong guys with deceptive speed. Last week Georgia had no answer for 6-4 L’Damian Washington, who caught seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Washington, whose stat line is 29-455 and seven touchdowns, is not even the most talented receiver on the team. That’s 6-6, 225-pound Dorial Green-Beckham, who has 27 catches for 399 yards and four touchdowns. The third wideout is 6-5 Marcus Lucas, who has 30 catches for 301 yards and a touchdown. Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves III will all have their work cut out against this bunch.


The Tigers lost their physical runner last week when quarterback James Franklin went down.  Their running game is in the hands of three small but very quick guys who have shown the ability to break the long run. Russell Hansbrough (391 yards) has a 51-yard scoring run to his credit and Henry Josey, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards two years ago, has 358 with a scoring run of 68 yards. The third back is Marcus Murphy, who has 350 yards ad averages a team-high 8.8 per carry.  The Tigers run out of a shotgun spread, which is designed to get the backs to the next level in a hurry. Missouri ranks 16th nationally in rushing (239.3 per game) but how much of a hit will that portion of the game take without Franklin to run for the tough yards up the middle?


One reason 14th-ranked Missouri (6-0) is the surprise team of the Southeastern Conference is the fact the Tigers start 11 seniors, eight of which are fifth-year guys. As ESPN’s Ivan Maisel points out, “That’s how Auburn won the BCS in 2010.” Well, Auburn did have a teensy bit of help from an athletic freak named Cam Newton, but Maisel makes a legitimate point about experience. Florida, on the other hand, has only eight seniors on its entire two-deep roster of which three (Jonnothan Harrison, Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne) are fifth-year guys. If all the juniors come back next season, the Gators will have 21 seniors of which 11 will be fifth-year guys.


With Franklin sidelined for the next month with a separated throwing shoulder, Gary Pinkel is calling on redshirt freshman Maty Mauk to run the show. He’s not the runner Franklin is and in three appearances this season he’s only throws the ball six times for 41 yards. In high school he flung the ball for more than 18,000 yards and more than 200 touchdowns but Saturday he will see the most sophisticated defensive scheme he’s ever seen. For Florida to win this game, the Gators have to take away the run and force Mauk to win a game. That’s a tall order for any talented freshman. We don’t know enough about Mauk to know if he’s talented enough to start and win in the SEC.


The honeymoon for Brett Bielma is over at Arkansas. The Hogs are on a four-game losing streak after starting the season 3-0 and there is a very good chance they lose their last five. Against South Carolina last week (52-7 loss) the Gamecocks ran 89 plays to only 37 for Arkansas. It’s not lost on Hogs fans or the fans around the country that Bielma’s wife tweeted “Karma” after Arizona State beat Wisconsin (Bielma’s former school) four weeks ago. Arkansas lost its next game to Rutgers, blowing a 17-point lead and hasn’t won since. Each Arkansas loss results in hundreds and perhaps even thousands of tweets directed at Bielma that all have “Karma” inscribed.


When Billy Donovan arrived on the Florida campus back in 1995, he was immediately befriended by football coach Steve Spurrier, who was in the middle of a four-year run as the SEC champ while taking the Gators to the 1995 national championship game and the 1996 national title. Because Florida football was riding at such a high level, Donovan assumed that Florida was a traditional SEC powerhouse, but he was surprised to find out that Florida’s ascendance to the top was largely orchestrated by Spurrier. “I was shocked when I came here,” Donovan said. “You kind of had this perception that Florida football was always great. Then when you start to look and see what happened and what was going on before he arrived what he did was truly remarkable the way he totally turned around the program in so many ways.”


In an effort to take sumo wrestling tactics out of the college game, the rules committee has changed the dynamics with some rather important changes. This year it will be a foul if (a) a defender keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent; (b) a defender puts two hands on an opponent; (c) a defender continually jabs an opponent by extending an arm or placing a forearm on the opponent; and (d) a defender can’t use an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler. Those are nice changes, but the one I like best is the one that no longer allows a defender to move into the path of an offensive player once the offensive player leaves his feet. That change to the block/charge rule is significant and should put an end to flopping. Now if we can only get Tony Greene, Jamie Luckie and Mike Stuart to retire. They should have swallowed their whistles years ago.


It’s bad enough when fans cheer when an opposing player is hurt and has to leave a game. It’s even worse when the home team fans cheer when one of their own goes down. That Sunday when quarterback Matt Schaub left the Houston Texans’ game with an ankle injury. The Texans were getting their butts kicked by the St. Louis Rams but it’s not like Schaub had thrown a bunch of interceptions. He was 15-21 for 186 yards with zero touchdowns or interceptions. Houston fans should be ashamed.


If I had to pick one song as the best I’ve ever heard it would be a tossup between “Here, There and Everywhere” by The Beatles and “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys. Since I can’t decide which one is the best, today’s music is the two best songs I’ve ever heard. “Here, There and Everywhere” was the best song on the best Beatles album ever, “Revolver.” Somewhere in one of my crates I still have the original vinyl album. I got to hear “Good Vibrations” live for the first time at Florida Field when The Beach Boys headlined in 1968 along with The Buffalo Springfield, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.