If you start with Monday, January 8th and go through Sunday evening, that might be one of the best weeks ever for the Florida Gators from a sports perspective. The Gators not only won a national title in football, they also celebrated in front of 70,000 of their closest friends plus a live state-wide television audience.
The week also saw the Gators win a pair of basketball games, including a 34-point demolition of South Carolina which ranks as one of the most dominant SEC road wins ever. The week saw the Florida gymnastics team put on a great show in besting number-twelve Oregon State and in the process ascending to the number one ranking. And the week ended with standout former Gator performances in the NFL Playoffs.
Let’s take a look at some of the finer Gator performances of the week:
FLORIDA’S DEFENSE: I suspect that 20 years from now the Gators performance in holding the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to 82 total yards will still be the standard for dominant defense. Ohio State had the same number of total yards as Percy Harvin, and a whole lot less than Chris Leak.
CHRIS HETLAND: Florida’s embattled kicker made an important field goal when the game was still in doubt. The 42-yard boot gave Florida a 24-14 lead and Hetland added another a few plays later. For a guy who was 3-13 in the regular season Hetland sure looked a lot like the guy who was 13-16 (his ‘05 stats) in the post-season.
TAUREAN GREEN: “Big Game Green” scored 17 points and dealt with the physical play of Gary Ervin in leading the Gators to a hard-fought win over Arkansas Tuesday night. It moved the Gators within six wins of a perfect home season which would be just the second (10 games minimum) in school history.
URUBAN MEYER: And about 50 of his players livened up the festivities at the O’Connell Center Tuesday when they showed up at halftime with their national title trophy in tow. National championships are special events and need to be celebrated at every opportunity. This was a good way to return to Gainesville, that’s for sure.
RHONDA FAEHN: Now in her fifth year at UF, Faehn has put together a team that just might be good enough to win it all. Florida showed that winning the Super Six challenge to open the year and then Friday night 4,011 Gators were on hand for an impressive win over Oregon State. Freshmen Amanda Castillo and Melanie Sinclair are worth the price of admission and Florida’s bar routines will make you gasp. The Gators are now ranked #1 after their 196.85 score.
LEE HUMPHREY: Florida’s single season record holder for long range shooting had a career day in Columbia, South Carolina. Hump-three knocked down seven of eight from long range and finished with 27 points — both career highs — in the Gators’ 84-50 win over the Gamecocks. It was a particularly satisfying win for the Gators since Carolina gave them so much trouble last year. Humphrey is now 52 long range baskets shy of Brett Nelson’s school record with at least 15 games to go.
JEREMY FOLEY: Since the start of the SEC Basketball Tournament in March, Foley has had it about as good as it can be had. For the Gators to have accomplished something no school had EVER done before is remarkable. To have perhaps the two best young coaches in the game heading up your top programs is, too. Sure, he’ll have to re-do the number on some contracts, but who wouldn’t want that challenge. And yes, the Red Sox failed to make playoffs, but the Yankees lost in the first round so that’s a wash. It’s definitely good to be him right now.
GREAT WEEKEND FOR EX-GATORS
Why should the current players in Orange and Blue have all the fun? Sunday’s NFL playoff games provided great opportunities for former Florida stars to have arguably their finest moments as professionals.
REX GROSSMAN: For the second half of the season there was a constant drum beat from those in Chicago who thought the Bears should give up on Grossman and turn the quarterback position over to Brian Griese. All week leading up to the game with Seattle we kept hearing how the Bears planned to pull Grossman if he faltered. Instead Grossman delivered one of his best performances in the biggest game of his life. Grossman was 21-38 for 282 yards with one touchdown and one interception (on a ball that should have been a completed pass). He led the Bears to the franchise’s first post-season victory in a dozen years.
IAN SCOTT: The Bears defensive tackle has done his best trying to fill in for injured star tackle Tommy Harris. While he did not make many plays Sunday, he did chase Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselback all the way to the sideline forcing the Seahawks to punt in overtime. That set up the Bears’ winning drive.
RECHE CALDWELL: Against his former San Diego Chargers teammates, Reche was perhaps the difference in the outcome. He not only caught seven passes for 80 yards, he caught the touchdown pass that got the Patriots within two points. Prior to the touchdown he recovered a fumble by San Diego defensive back Marlon McCree who foolishly tried to navigate traffic after intercepting a Tom Brady pass. On top of that, he helped convince his brother to stay in school another year, giving Urban Meyer his only good news to date on the NFL front.
JABAR GAFFNEY: Gaffney was even busier than Caldwell with ten catches for 103 yards and a score. His TD in the closing moments of the first half was HUGE in setting the stage for the Patriots’ second half comeback. A 14-10 deficit feels a whole lot better than 14-3.