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Tuesday June 3, 2014 Wins and Losses: The Florida-Florida State Rivalry Reviewed

Updated: 3:43pm, June 3

Gators-Noles

The Florida-Florida State rivalry -- regardless of sport -- always stirs emotion.

I’ve never asked him why. I assume to settle a bet. That’s the logical reason that first popped into my head, so I’m sticking with it.

Gators fan Chad Gullett recently asked on Facebook what Florida’s overall record against Florida State is. Not just football. Not just basketball. He wanted to know the Gators’ head-to-head record against the Seminoles in every sport.

Not all sports qualify. The Gators have a women’s lacrosse team, FSU doesn’t. And while they compete in the same tournaments and meets, the schools don’t go head-to-head in golf, track and cross country.

However, the UF-FSU rivalry plays out in other sports annually, and thanks to Florida’s sports information staff, Chad got his answer.

You can have it too. Might come in handy the next time you are trying to settle a squabble between a Gator and Seminole: 

SPORT

RECORD vs. FSU

Football

34-22-2

Men’s basketball

43-22

Women’s basketball

41-29

Baseball

104-125-1

Softball

19-14

Men’s tennis

55-20

Women’s tennis

54-1

Soccer

11-10

Volleyball

36-18

Gymnastics

2-0*

Men’s swimming

53-23-1

Women’s swimming

40-3

Combined record

492-287-4 (.631)

*FSU had a gymnastics team in the early 1970s

Kevin O'Sullivan

Gators head coach Kevin O'Sullivan has led UF to a school-record seven straight NCAA Tournaments.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Following three consecutive trips to the College World Series, 2013 was a bummer for the Gators.

They advanced to the NCAA Tournament but had barely unpacked their bags at the Bloomington (Ind.) Regional before it was time to come home.

Florida was knocked from the tournament with back-to-back losses to Austin Peay and Valparaiso, two quality programs but not exactly considered royalty in college baseball.

That’s why this year’s turnaround has been even more pronounced.

Most expected the Gators to be improved after their 29-30 finish a year ago, but who had them as a No. 2 national seed? Go ahead, raise your hand.

Didn’t think so.

You can easily make a strong case for 2014 being the best coaching job of Kevin O’Sullivan’s seven seasons at Florida.

O’Sullivan has always been at his best when managing pitching staffs, and this season he mastered that part of the game. O’Sullivan used 12 different starting pitchers, constantly searched for – and found – the right combinations in the bullpen, and in the end led Florida to a 40-21 record entering tonight’s NCAA Tournament opener against College of Charleston (7 p.m., McKethan Stadium).

Florida’s turnaround didn’t go unnoticed. O’Sullivan was named SEC Coach of the Year earlier this week.

“I feel really good about this team,’’ O’Sullivan said Thursday. “This has been an extremely gratifying season for me personally. To bounce back from last year and have so many guys contribute, so many guys lend a hand in accomplishing the goal of winning the SEC. I feel as good about this team as any others we’ve had here.”

While last season was disappointing, advancing to the tournament was important to this year’s success in O’Sullivan’s view.

The Gators kept their streak of NCAA Tournament berths alive and gained valuable experience.

“We’re trying to build a program here,” O’Sullivan said. “We want to be one of those elite teams, and we want to be in the postseason every year. This is our seventh straight year in the postseason, which is a new standard at Florida. I want this program to be recognized as one of the better programs in the country. In order to do that, you have to have consistency.”

Wednesday May 28, 2014 Gainesville Regional Preview: A closer look at the visitors

Updated: 6:04pm, May 28

Gators baseball

The Gators face College of Charleston in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference regular-champion Gators open NCAA Tournament play on Friday night at 7 against College of Charleston.

Florida is the No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional and No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and multiple players are scheduled to speak to the media on Thursday morning to preview this weekend’s tournament.

The Gators qualified for the tournament for the seventh consecutive season under O’Sullivan, a school record. This marks the fifth time the Gators have hosted a regional in the last seven years.

Check back with GatorZone.com on Friday for more coverage of Florida.

For now, here is a look at this weekend’s schedule and the rest of the field:

GAINESVILLE REGIONAL

McKethan Stadium

Friday, May 30
Game 1, 1 p.m. on ESPN3: No. 2 Long Beach State (32-24) vs. No. 3 North Carolina (34-25)
Game 2, 7 p.m. on ESPN3: No. 1 Florida (40-21) vs. No. 4 College Of Charleston (41-17)

Saturday, May 31
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Sunday, June 1
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser
Game 6: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner

Monday, June 2
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary)

 

NO. 2 LONG BEACH STATE

Long Beach State logo

Record: 32-24
Conference: Big West
NCAA Tournaments: 20
Last appearance: 2008
All-time postseason: 47-39
Nickname: Dirtbags
Notable: 14 players in major leagues in 2013, most of any school
Coach: Troy Buckley (fourth season)

Notes: Finished season with five-game win streak and nine wins in last 10 games … Opened season at home against Vanderbilt and got swept by Commodores … Dirtbags have a 2.91 team ERA and set a school record by pitching 10 shutouts … Senior RHP Josh Frye (8-0, 1.51 ERA) anchors staff … Freshman SS Garrett Hampson leads team with a .316 average, senior OF Michael Hill’s eight triples are tied for NCAA lead and senior OF Richard Prigatano has team-high 45 RBIs … Long Beach State has only six home runs in 61 games, fewest of any team in Gainesville Regional … In 2005 the Dirtbags’ lineup featured future big leaguers Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop and Evan Longoria at third base … Dirtbags assistant coach Jesse Zepeda is a former teammate of Gators softball coach Tim Walton at Oklahoma.

Quote of note: “I think we’re in great position. This team has been fighting for its life for the last six weeks so they’re in a good spot to just enjoy what’s in front of them.” – Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley on landing as a No. 2 seed in Gainesville Regional

A closer look: Preview story from JJ Fiddler of The Long Beach Press-Telegram

 

NO. 3 NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Tar Heels logo

Record: 34-25
Conference: Atlantic Coast
NCAA Tournaments: 29
Last appearance: 2013
All-time postseason:
94-62
Nickname:
Tar Heels
Notable: Six trips to the College World Series in the past eight seasons
Coach: Mike Fox (16th season)

Notes: This is UNC’s 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament … First time since 2010 Tar Heels open regional play on road … North Carolina’s 49 NCAA Tournament wins since 2006 lead nation; UNC has won 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament openers … Tar Heels struggled offensively with a .273 team average, UNC’s worst since 1989 … 1B Alex Raburn gives Fox a versatile player who has started all four infield positions this season … DH Tom Zengel leads team with 33 RBIs … Sophomore RHP Reilly Hovis took over for injured closer Chris McCue and was outstanding, going 8-1 with six saves and a 2.10 ERA … SS Michael Russell (.345, 4 HRs, 32 RBIs) is the toughest out in the lineup and was named to the All-ACC second team.

Quote of note: “You know, we’ve been knocked down some, but I’ve never sensed that we did not have confidence.” – Tar Heels coach Mike Fox on team’s up-and-down season

A closer look: Preview story from Andrew Carter of The Raleigh News & Observer

 

NO. 4 COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON

College of Charleston logo

Record: 41-17
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
NCAA Tournaments: 6
Last appearance: 2012
All-time postseason:
9-10
Nickname: Cougars
Notable: An RPI of 53, nearly 100 points better than average RPI (152) of rest of No. 4 seeds
Coach: Monte Lee (sixth season)

Notes: Won CAA Tournament in its first season in league; moved to CAA from Southern Conference … Cougars have hit 34 home runs, most of any team in Gainesville Regional … RHP Taylor Clarke (10-3, 2.65 ERA, 86 Ks) scheduled to face Gators on Friday; Clarke returned to form after missing all of 2013 season following Tommy John surgery … Freshman 6-foot-8 RHP Bailey Ober (9-2, 1.37 ERA) was named CAA Freshman of Year … 3B Carl Wise finished second in the CAA with 52 RBIs … LF Brandon Murray (.270, 6 HRs, 22 RBIs) is back after missing six weeks with a broken arm … Cougars a much better home team (28-7) than road team (11-10) … Only five active players remain from Cougars team that played in Gainesville Regional in 2012 (did not face the Gators)

Quote of note: “I feel like he can compete with anybody in the country. To be honest, it wasn’t something we had to think too hard about.’’ – Cougars coach Monte Lee on decision to start Clarke in Friday’s opener

A closer look: Preview story from Andrew Miller of The Charleston Post and Courier

Wednesday May 28, 2014 SEC Meetings, Billy D, 5 Questions on WCWS, Baseball RPIs, More Tidbits

Updated: 1:52pm, May 28

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference spring meetings are taking place this week in Destin.

While much of the chatter has focused on the five major conferences developing more autonomy, there’s always football news (or recycled news) once the 14 coaches from the conference arrive.

Here are some fresh links from Destin and other items of interest to Gator fans:

--The SEC considers ending ban on graduate student transfers writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com.

--Gators coach Will Muschamp prefers a schedule without FCS teams but that could be difficult as Florida AD Jeremy Foley tells the AP (via ESPN.com).

SEC logo

--Alabama coach Nick Saban expects Muschamp to rebound at Florida writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

--Strong Will carries Gators into next season (and more notes) from David Jones of Florida Today.

--Gators coach Billy Donovan wants to avoid label of “a liar” if circumstances change toward his future writes Edgar Thompson of Orlando Sentinel.

--The college football season is three months away, so SI.com blogger Martin Rickman offers an unofficial guide to the remainder of the offseason.

--The SEC men’s basketball tournament is set for Nashville for most of the next decade, but in 2022, Tampa will be the host writes Antonya English of TampaBay.com.

UF baseballs

--Gainesville Regional historically hard for Gators according to RPI writes Richard Johnson of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Five burning questions for the WCWS from Graham Hays of ESPNW.com. Gators open play Thursday in OKC.

--The SEC women’s basketball tournament is coming to Jacksonville in 2016. For more check out this story on GatorZone.com.

--Former Gators center Mike Pouncey, now an All-Pro in Miami, needs to grow up and lead writes ESPN.com’s James Walker.

--Meanwhile, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike’s brother, is trying to come back from a serious knee injury writes Scott Brown of ESPN.com.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Bob Hewko had not been on the sideline for a Florida-Florida State game for 31 years until November when Gators coach Will Muschamp invited the former UF quarterback to attend the annual rivalry.

The 54-year-old Hewko was happy to stay on the sideline that day, his playing days well in the rearview mirror. However, Hewko is always searching for ways to stay involved in the game.

Bob Hewko

He scored earlier this month when he joined longtime friend and business partner Vince Neil, lead singer for Motley Crue, at a press conference in Jacksonville to introduce Neil as a minority owner of the Arena Football League franchise.

Hewko (fourth from left, next to Neil in photo) is executive VP of RockStar Investment Group, a private equity and venture capital firm that is headed by Neil.

“I love the game. I love all kinds of football,” said Hewko, who played at Florida from 1978-82. “This kind of got our foot back in the door with the Arena Football League.”

Hewko is best remembered at Florida for leading the Gators to a come-from-behind 13-10 victory at FSU in 1982.

On a rain-soaked field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Hewko wasn’t expected to play. Wayne Peace was the starting quarterback but after the Gators fell behind 10-0 and sputtering on offense, Gators coach Charley Pell replaced Peace with Hewko in the second half.

Hewko scored on a 10-yard run to tie the game completed 6 of 10 passes for 66 yards. With the game tied and 3:47 left, Hewko was the holder on Jim Gainey’s game-winning 22-yard field goal.

“There will be a night that Bob Hewko will sit around and tell his grandkids about this game, and I just hope I live long enough to hear him tell that story,’’ said Pell, who died in 2001, afterward.

Bob Hewko

Hewko’s UF college career was filled with highs and lows. He was the first out-of-state quarterback ever recruited to Florida by Steve Spurrier, who was an assistant under Doug Dickey in 1978 when Hewko signed with the Gators.

When Dickey was replaced by Pell -- Spurrier also left -- Hewko’s love for football truly blossomed under offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan.

“Ever since I played for Shanahan, I love to study the sport,’’ said Hewko, who grew up in Pennsylvania and committed to Pittsburgh prior to Spurrier's recruiting visit.

He also underwent three knee surgeries that hampered his Gators career.

This isn’t Hewko’s first association with the AFL. He was a part owner of the Miami Hooters franchise in the 1990s.

He is also involved with the Lingerie Football League, replacing former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury as the league’s TV color analyst in 2012.

Hewko and Neil have been friends for years and Hewko served as Neil’s personal manager on the Motley Crue/Aerosmith tour in 2006.

“And I’m still alive,’’ he chuckled.

It was then he realized how much Neil enjoys the game.

“When I did that tour with him, we had every satellite you could have on the tour bus,’’ Hewko said. “He loves football. When KISS got the team in LA last year, he wanted to get involved with the AFL.”

The Sharks are currently 3-7 following Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Storm. The Sharks joined the AFL in 2010 and won the Arena Bowl in their second season.

Hewko said Neil plans to be a visible owner to help the Sharks build their fan base. For now, Neil is preparing for the July launch of Motley Crue’s farewell tour, dubbed “The Final Tour.”

They are scheduled to play in Jacksonville in October. Hewko has already extended an invitation to Muschamp, whom he first met at a Fort Lauderdale Gator Club gathering a couple of years ago.

Hewko said Florida’s current situation reminds him of his UF career. Pell was a defensive-minded coach whose offense didn’t blossom until Shanahan arrived.

He is optimistic that with the defense in good hands with Muschamp and coordinator D.J. Durkin, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper can help push the offense in the right direction.

“Coach Muschamp was a kid when I played,” Hewko said. “He remembers that whole era. It’s pretty cool that he remembers us and brings us back and let’s us on the sideline. I’m really rooting for him to have a good year."

Sunday May 25, 2014 Gators' surprising season could include a No. 1 overall seed

Updated: 9:52am, May 25

Florida Gators

The Gators have a chance to open NCAA Tournament as No. 1 overall seed.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They won't find out for sure until Monday afternoon during the NCAA baseball selection show.

But win or lose today against LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game, the Gators will be in the running for the No. 1 overall national seed.

Who saw that coming?

Here is how PerfectGame.org characterized Florida's profile as the tournament's overall top seed: The Gators have stormed back with a vengeance since losing the opening game of the SEC tournament. UF has the nation’s top RPI, is 40-20 overall and has a 15-9 record vs. RPI Top 25 teams, 25-14 vs. RPI Top 50 and 32-18 vs. RPI Top 100. Those are outstanding metrics, and the Gators are the leader to be the top national seed.

The Gators advanced to face LSU today with a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Kentucky on Saturday.

The game was a microcosm of UF's surprising season. Freshman starter Brett Morales wasn't his sharpest, so Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan went to the bullpen early.

Lefty Kirby Snead stabilized the game and then Eric Hanhold pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Third baseman Josh Tobias, who opened the season as the starter, lost the job and is back in the lineup, delivered a go-ahead single in the top of the eighth.

Hanhold did the rest as the Gators won their 40th game, 11 more than a year ago (29-30).

"Did it the same way we've been doing it all year long,'' O'Sullivan said. "We kind of grinded this one out. Everybody contributed. We're excited to play one more day."

Regardless of how today plays out, the Gators will open the NCAA Tournament at McKethan Stadium, which was far from a given when the season's first pitch was thrown.

Gators softball

The Gators softball team will look to rise up once again this weekend in a Super Regional vs. Washington.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The UF baseball team is playing in the SEC Tournament. The softball team is preparing to host a Super Regional.

Florida football coach Will Muschamp wrapped up his spring speaking tour Thursday, and basketball coach Billy Donovan addressed several topics Thursday in his first press conference since the Final Four.

Here are some fresh links from around the Internet for your perusal:

--Gators head coach Will Muschamp looks to team leaders for an incident-free offseason writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.

--Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan has received interest from NBA teams this offseason writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--The UF baseball team stayed alive at the SEC Tournament on Thursday in a strong outing from lefty Bobby Poyner.

--Whatever happens in Hoover at SEC Tournament, Gators a lock for a national seed writes Kendall Rogers of PerfectGame.org.

--The SEC updated its membership in the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday (former Gators WR Wes Chandler was on list but didn't make it -- that should change in near future).

--Damontre Harris practiced a lot with the Gators the last two years but never played a game -- and now he won't writes Jonathan Czupryn of The Independent Florida Alligator.

--Former Gators/current Jacksonville safety Josh Evans has come a long way writes Phillip Heilman of The St. Augustine Record.

--Blogger Richard Hill of PatsPundit.com weighs in on the addition of former Gators offensive lineman Jon Halapio.

--The Gators softball team has a special player in Kelsey Stewart writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.

--A look at the Gators' opponent -- the Washington Huskies -- in this weekend's NCAA Super Regional via Terry Wood of The Seattle Times.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his “Sunday Buzz Column” for The Miami Herald, sports writer Barry Jackson created some buzz with an item he used when emptying his notebook.

Jackson wrote: ### Athletic director Blake James said UM intends to play FIU in football sometime after 2015 and that UF athletic director Jeremy Foley was receptive when James recently asked him about renewing the UF series. The Gators will agree only to a neutral site. “I would have to think about Orlando,” James said. “That’s not real neutral but it’s an easy distance to our campus.”

Gators-Canes

The Gators and Hurricanes played last season – a 21-16 Miami win at Sun Life Stadium – to conclude a home-and-home series that dated to 2008 when the Gators defeated the Hurricanes 26-3 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

While the schools have faced each other 55 times since 1938 – and every year from 1944-87 – they went 15 years between regular-season meetings until a home-and-home series in 2002-03.

Gators coach Will Muschamp was asked Tuesday evening about potentially facing the Hurricanes again in the future.

"I think that would be really good for us and really good for the state of Florida,'' Muschamp said. "That's something Jeremy and I have talked about. We have been in such a holding pattern scheduling-wise for several years because of the unknowns of what our league was going to do.

"I'm open to it because I think it's a good game. It's a good lead-off game and that's what it was for a long time. That's what I grew up with in the '70s and early '80s."

While there appears renewed interest in continuing the rivalry, nothing is imminently brewing between the Gators and Hurricanes.

“We just received some clarity regarding future schedules from the league office and there have been no discussions with Miami at this time,’’ Florida spokesman Steve McClain said. "An in-state, neutral site matchup is certainly something we could consider in the future.”

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – You already knew the Gators visit Alabama on the third Saturday in September – Sept. 20 for those keeping score.

Alabama is Florida’s non-division rotating opponent on the 2014 schedule.

On Monday the SEC announced its non-division rotation schedule through the 2025 season.

Remember, the Gators will continue to face SEC West foe LSU each season as part of the league’s 6-1-1 schedule format: six SEC East opponents, one permanent cross-division rival (LSU) and one rotating cross-division opponent.

With that said, here is how the Gators’ future schedules look:

SEASON

OPPONENT

LOCATION

2014

Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

2015

Ole Miss

Gainesville, Fla.

2016

Arkansas

Fayetteville, Ark.

2017

Texas A&M

Gainesville, Fla.

2018

Mississippi State

Starkville, Miss.

2019

Auburn

Gainesville, Fla.

2020

Ole Miss

Oxford, Miss.

2021

Alabama

Gainesville, Fla.

2022

Texas A&M

College Station, Texas

2023

Arkansas

Gainesville, Fla.

2024

Auburn

Auburn, Ala.

2025

Mississippi State

Gainesville, Fla.

Here are some other fresh links from around the Internet with news of interest to Florida fans:

--A look at the SEC’s complete rotating cross-divisional games from AL.com.

--Orlando as next neutral-site destination? Could Gators-Canes renew their rivalry there? ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson with more on topic.

--Gators head coach Will Muschamp reflects on his relationship with his late father in a column by Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt previews what the NCAA Tournament might look like next week.

--UF baseball in midst of special season writes Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun.

--Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald writes about the UF-UCLA match and more on Monday at the NCAA women’s tennis semifinals.

--Former Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley is profiled by Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald as New England’s first-round draft pick.

--ESPNW.com asks five burning questions for the upcoming softball super regionals, including one about the Gators.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The weather has started to heat up, so you know what that means: time for those college football preseason magazines to start showing up on newsstands at the local grocery.

Athlon Sports is one of the most established in the business and has the Gators ranked No. 23 in its preseason poll.

Athlon football magazine

Here is more from Athlon Sports and other media outlets on the Gators:

--Athlon has Florida in its preseason Top 25 despite the Gators’ 4-8 record in 2013.

--Surprise, surprise. OK, not really. The SEC tops conferences with 49 NFL draft picks.

--Former Gators cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy lands with the Colts after going undrafted writes Stephen Holder of IndyStar.com.

--Another former Gators CB undrafted, Marcus Roberson, landed with the Rams writes KMOV.com.

--Gators center Patric Young is one of 60 players officially invited to NBA combine in Chicago this week.

--Former Gators catcher Brian Jeroloman, who I wrote about shortly after a scary collision at the plate last season, is back on the field writes James Wagner of The Washington Post.

--Former Gators lefty Brian Johnson was featured over the weekend in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. He pitches in Boston’s organization for the Portland Sea Dogs.

--ICYMI, looks like former Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy had a good spring at Boston College writes Zac Ellis of SI.com.

--Former Gators OL Matt Patchan signed a free-agent deal with the Bucs. Here is a draft preview on Patchan from TampaBay.com.

Sunday May 11, 2014 Good and bad surprises for Gators during NFL Draft

Updated: 9:05am, May 11

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The NFL Draft was full of surprises for the Gators.

Good ones and bad ones.

Dominique Easley

Good: Dominique Easley (photo), despite playing only three games last season, going to the Patriots in the first round. Few expected Easley to go that high.

Bad: Junior cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy went undrafted. While their stock dropped with sub-par performances at the NFL Combine, most projections had Roberson and Purifoy going no later than the middle rounds.

As of Sunday morning, Roberson and Purifoy remained unsigned. While neither was drafted, both will likely get an opportunity to make a team, perhaps as a priority free agent invited to rookie minicamp next week. Stay tuned.

In all, four UF players were selected: Easley (first round, No. 29 overall, Patriots), Jaylen Watkins (fourth round, No. 101 overall, Eagles), Ronald Powell (fifth round, No. 169 overall, Saints) and offensive lineman Jon Halapio (sixth round, No. 179 overall, Patriots).

Here is reaction from New Orleans coach Sean Payton on Powell, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly weighs in on selection of Watkins, and New England coach Bill Belichick likes Halapio's potential.

The Gators had 12 players available in the draft and soon after the draft concluded, reports surfaced on Twitter that several of Florida's undrafted free agents and signed with teams for tryouts at upcoming rookie minicamps.

Here is a list based on media reports and/or player tweets: Solomon Patton (Bucs), Trey Burton (Eagles), Darrin Kitchens (Bills), Damien Jacobs (Bills), Kyle Koehne (Falcons) and Jonotthan Harrison (Colts).

Gators baseball

First baseman Pete Alonso and his UF teammates had little success against Carson Fulmer on Friday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators arrived at McKethan Stadium on Friday night with an opportunity to clinch outright the SEC East title and win their 13th consecutive conference game.

And then one by one they stepped into the batter's box against Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer.

The way Fulmer was pitching the '27 Yankees might have had trouble hitting the sophomore right-hander from Lakeland.

"We knew coming in it was going to be a low-scoring game,'' Gators third baseman John Sternagel said.

Armed with a fastball in the mid-90s and an assortment of off-speed pitches, Fulmer allowed only one Florida player to reach second base -- Harrison Bader on an infield single and throwing error by Fulmer in the ninth.

That was the only bad delivery Fulmer made all night.

Fulmer allowed four hits, walked two and struck out eight in his fourth start since Commodores coach Tim Corbin moved Fulmer from closer into the weekend rotation.

Nice move, coach.

Fulmer has won all four starts and allowed zero runs in 28 innings.

And for one night at least, he delayed the Gators' celebration of an outright division crown. Florida leads the Commodores by four games with four games left.

Vanderbilt scored the only runs of the game in the third inning with the help of a throwing error by shortstop Richie Martin and two walks.

"That fifth inning was frustrating, but I don't know if it would have made much of a difference the way he was throwing against us,'' Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "He didn't let up. Hats off to him. What are you going to do? We just ran into a really good pitcher. It happens."

The same scenario happened to Vanderbilt on Thursday night when Gators starter Logan Shore pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings and closer Bobby Poyner polished off a 1-0 win that clinched a share of the SEC East title.

As the Commodores walked off Perry Field late Friday, Fulmer greeted several Vanderbilt fans in the stands behind home plate.

He gave a few leaping high-fives -- the stands are above field level -- as he departed.

It was his night.

The Gators hope Saturday is their day. The rubber game of the three-game series starts at noon.

Florida starter Karsten Whitson will try to turn the table back in Florida's favor.

And give the Gators something to celebrate.

"Tomorrow is going to be the match,'' Sternagel said. "Knowing that it's squared up and we haven't been square in a while, we definitely, definitely want to take that one to our house."

Jake McGee

Jake McGee, who will finish his career at UF, caught 43 passes for 395 yards at Virginia last year.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for Jake McGee.

McGee announced plans to play his final season of eligibility elsewhere after finishing his undergraduate degree last month at Virginia. He finalized that plan Friday and starts classes Monday at Florida.

McGee, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end who led the Cavaliers with 43 receptions for 395 yards last season, said UF was a good fit academically and athletically to start the next chapter of his life.

Jake McGee

“It’s been an interesting process. It’s definitely weird to leave a school you graduated from and have been with for four years and I have a lot of good memories there, but I’m excited to play my last year at Florida and hopefully we’ll win some ballgames,’’ McGee said. “Everything will be new to me, but I’m confident in my ability to get to know guys and create relationships. I don’t think it will take too long for the guys to accept me as one of their own.”

The addition of McGee provides first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper with a versatile threat in the passing game and a seasoned veteran in the locker room.

While at Duke, Roper recruited McGee out of the Collegiate School in Richmond, the alma mater of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. McGee opted to sign with the Cavaliers but remained familiar with Roper’s up-tempo offense in head-to-head meetings between Virginia and Duke in the ACC.

That familiarity played a big role in McGee’s decision.

“Their offense, being on the other side, was sort of fun to watch,’’ McGee said. “They did a lot of cool things and really did a lot with the tight end position that excites me as a player. There’s a lot of versatility with the position to create mismatches and be allowed to do all sorts of different things.”

During a recent visit to Florida, McGee met Gators head coach Will Muschamp, quarterback Jeff Driskel and other players to get a feel for the program.

He and Muschamp connected quickly.

“I got a lot of support from Coach Muschamp and his interest in me,’’ McGee said. “We built a connection. It was a short amount of time, but I felt a strong level of trust with Coach Muschamp to build a relationship.

"It was also a great opportunity to pursue a graduate degree from the University of Florida. It has always been important to me to find a school that fits me academically and athletically and I've been fortunate to find that twice with UVA and Florida."

McGee caught 71 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns the past two seasons at Virginia. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Virginia’s win over Miami in 2012 and proved very efficient in crunch time.

According to his Virginia bio, 26 of McGee’s 43 receptions last season went for a first down or a touchdown, and 14 of those catches came on third-down plays.

McGee will drive to Gainesville this weekend and start classes Monday.

“I’m excited to get down there and get going,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to come in and get to know the guys and doing anything and everything the coaches ask me. I want to bring as much as I can to the team and the university to help the team win. Whatever that is, I’m willing to do.”

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida baseball team has had a lot of success in seven seasons under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, highlight by three consecutive trips to the College World Series from 2010-12.

Still, the Gators’ current run through the SEC is unprecedented during O’Sullivan’s tenure. In fact, Florida’s 11-game SEC win streak is unmatched in program history over the past 46 years.

You have to go all the way back to 1968 for the only time the Gators reeled off 11 consecutive wins over SEC opponents. Led by head coach Dave Fuller, Florida finished 25-13 that season to win the SEC Eastern Division title.

The Gators won their final 10 regular-season conference games and then knocked off Alabama in the first game of the SEC Championship Series before losing the next two to the Crimson Tide.

Gators baseball

Florida enters tonight’s home game against Vanderbilt unblemished in conference play since a 4-1 loss at South Carolina on April 11. The eighth-ranked Gators (33-16, 18-6 in SEC) came back to win the final two games of the series and have swept three-game series against Georgia, Missouri and Alabama since.

“We’re having a lot of timely hitting, going up to the plate and getting the job done,’’ Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon told reporters Wednesday. “We’re playing really well as a team, everyone is contributing. Due to that, we’re winning a lot.”

Turgeon did his part in the three-game sweep at Alabama by going 8-for-11 and earning SEC Player of the Week honors.

The Gators rarely win sexy. They usually do it the old-fashioned way: solid pitching, steady defense and timely hitting. The only categories they currently lead the SEC in are sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies. They are second in fewest walks issued per nine innings.

Those little things have led to some big wins.

ESPNU is in town tonight for the showdown between top-10 teams (Vanderbilt is No. 10).

The Gators are 11-1 at home against SEC foes this season and under O’Sullivan, Florida is 8-1 against Vanderbilt and his good friend, Commodores head coach Tim Corbin.

If those trends stay true, the Gators will be owners of a new school record and another win closer to a potential SEC title late Thursday night.

“I think they are excited about playing on national TV,’’ O’Sullivan said. “It should be a fun weekend. They know what’s in front of them. We talk about it. There’s no sense in not talking about it. It’s an exciting time of year. We want to keep getting better.”

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The NFL Draft starts Thursday. My prediction is that the first mock draft for 2015 comes out about 12 seconds after the final pick in this year's draft.

Personally, kind of mock drafted out. Ready for the real thing. So are several Gators who actually have a chance to get picked.

Here are some fresh links covering the draft and other nuggets of interest to Florida fans:

--Gators DT Dominique Easley could be a steal in later rounds of draft writes Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free-Press.

--Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union writes about the Florida prospects in this year's NFL Draft.

Darrin Kitchens

--Gators LB Darrin Kitchens (photo, left) is eligible to get drafted. If Kitchens makes an NFL roster, it will most likely be via the free-agent route. However, he had plenty to celebrate this week as he graduated from UF. Kitchens was one of 51 UF student-athletes to participate in commencement ceremonies over the weekend. Congrats to all

--Former UF standout Chandler Parsons can't escape "what ifs' on Damian Lillard's buzzer-beater writes Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle.

--Gators coach Will Muschamp was in Tampa on Monday night to speak and here is a Q&A from Tampa Bay Times UF beat writer Antonya English.

--Larry Muschamp, father of Gators coach Will Muschamp, passed away. Here is a nice photo gallery of Mr. Muschamp that tells story of family over the years.

--The Gators, winners of six in a row heading into tonight's game against Mercer, are up to No. 4 in the latest Baseball America poll. Here is a look at BA's Top 25 tracker. For a look at Mercer's rise, here is a story by Michael A. Lough of The Macon Telegraph.

--Gators CB Marcus Roberson is one of several St. Thomas Aquinas grads as potential draft picks writes Steve Gorten of the Sun-Sentinel.

--Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com with his post-spring review of the Gators.

Thursday May 1, 2014 Muschamp: Hawkins only transfer; Roper discusses Driskel

Updated: 8:34am, May 1

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp will be in Fort Lauderdale tonight to speak to the Broward County Gator Club.

Doors open at 5 p.m. at the War Memorial Auditorium. For more information, click here.

Will Muschamp

Muschamp took questions Wednesday from reporters on the SEC football media teleconference. There wasn't much news but a few tidbits are worth mentioning:

--Muschamp said that freshman safety Marqui Hawkins is the only player who is planning to transfer. Muschamp announced last week that Hawkins decided to transfer to see if he can find a school where he can play receiver.

--Muschamp said injured running back Matt Jones (knee) and linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Matt Rolin (knee) are on pace to be fully cleared by the time fall camp opens.

"Jones is on target. Matt Rolin is on track. Alex Anzalone is on track. [Receiver] Andre Debose was non-contact [in spring], but is ahead of schedule. I think we're in pretty good shape."

--Muschamp said first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper made a positive impact on the team in spring camp. He praised Roper's ability as a teacher.

Meanwhile, Roper did a Q&A with CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman and touched on several topics.

Roper reiterated how impressed he is with quarterback Jeff Driskel as an athlete and potential big-time college quarterback. He does want Driskel to develop a better touch on some of his throws.

Q: What do you tweak mechanically when it comes to the deep ball or the touch throws?

Roper: With the touch throws, you gotta feel it come out of your fingers more. It's almost like he's not feeling it roll off his index finger enough. What I'm trying to get him to do, is on touch throws, get him up a little bit more on his toes and really feel it come out of his fingers, so it's less arm and more fingers. On the down-the-field throws, it's the same thing. When you finish, you have to finish a little bit higher with your release and feel it come off your fingers to control the amount of air. A lot of guys will throw it too flat. That's what happens when they try to over-throw it or try to strong-arm it. He needs more touch, more fingers on both those types of throws.

For the complete Q&A with Roper, you can click here.

QUOTE OF NOTE

"There's no perfect answer to please everybody. We did what was best for our league. We all have a hidden agenda, whatever university we represent. That's the decision that was made by the SEC, and I support it." Muschamp on the SEC's future football scheduling format

Wednesday April 30, 2014 Tyus Reaches Final Four far from UF and NBA Playoffs

Updated: 10:48am, April 30

VIDEO: Highlights of former Gator Alex Tyus, named Euroleague MVP in April for his stellar play.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- More than three years later the scene remains fresh. It was outside the UF men’s basketball team’s locker room immediately after a 74-71 Elite Eight loss to Butler in 2011 at New Orleans Arena.

The senior trio of Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus was trying to come to grips with a missed opportunity to reach the Final Four. They also knew their college careers were over.

Alex Tyus

Parsons leaned up against a wall, his hands holding him up as he looked at the ground. Macklin stood not far away, leaning on the same wall and in a daze. And then there was Tyus, whose jumper with 9:26 left had given Florida an 11-point lead that soon vanished.

Tyus had a blank stare on his face as he tried to answer a few questions. He had come to Florida as part of Billy Donovan’s first signing class after the back-to-back national-title teams. In a Sweet 16 win two days prior to the Butler loss, Tyus had one of the best games of his career, scoring 19 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a win over BYU and sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette.

Not long after the Gators arrived back in Gainesville and went their separate ways, Parsons and Macklin were selected in the NBA Draft. Parsons has developed into one of the league’s most versatile players.

Macklin had a cup of coffee with the Pistons but has spent most of his time in the NBA D-league or overseas. Meanwhile, Tyus, who converted to Judaism while in college, went to Israel to start his professional career.

Four seasons later Tyus is going to the Final Four -- of the Israeli Basketball Super League. Tyus plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv and was named the Euroleague MVP for April on Tuesday.

With Maccabi Tel Aviv center Sofoklis Schortsanitis suspended for disciplinary reasons, Tyus moved from his usual forward spot to center and has averaged 13.5points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 blocks during Maccabi’s April run.

Maccabi is coached by former Princeton guard David Blatt and features former Boston College playmaker Tyrese Rice in the backcourt.

 

VIDEO: Gators DT Leon Orr says he will be cleared May 1 and throws in some freestyle too.

The SEC made headlines Sunday night by announcing it was sticking with an eight-game conference schedule instead of going to a nine-game slate.

The same debate is currently being discussed by the ACC.

Here are some fresh links covering the Gators and other items of interest to Florida fans:

--Maintaining rivalries wins out among SEC ADs writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com.

--ESPN.com writer Jeff Barlis offers his list of post-spring questions for Florida.

--UF wideouts receive high praise writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.

--Once spring football concludes you never know what might turn into a big story, which led Gators coach Will Muschamp to tell The Orlando Sentinel that his program is not ‘out of control.’

--The Miami Dolphins pick up option on former UF standout Mike Pouncey.

--Former Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins’ stock continues to rise according to NationalFootballPost.com.

--The Bucs are using former Gators running back/sprinter Jeff Demps at slot receiver writes Marc Sessler of NFL.com.

--Former Gators slugger Preston Tucker has done same in Astros organization to catch Houston’s attention from Kennon Riley of ClimbingTal’sHill.com.

Rally caps

Maybe rally caps have helped, but not as much as Florida's pitching during its turnaround season.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – You know it’s going good for the Gators baseball team when it loses midweek games to Jacksonville and Florida A&M – and still moves up in a couple of the national polls.

The reason for the faith in the Gators is the way they responded. Florida swept Missouri over the weekend to improve to 30-15, 15-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The Gators have won eight consecutive SEC games to take a three-game lead over South Carolina in the East with three league series remaining.

The Gators’ 6-5 win Sunday over Missouri was their 30th of the season, one more than they had last season (29-30). Florida has also surpassed last season’s win total (14-16) in SEC play.

So what’s going on at McKethan Stadium? Did Mike Zunino and Co. sneak back into the lineup to turn around the program’s fortunes quickly after a disappointing 2013?

Nope.

Rather some good old-fashioned baseball. Here are five reasons the Gators lead the SEC heading into the home stretch of the regular season:

PITCHING, PITCHING AND PITCHING

When you start comparing the offensive numbers from last season to this season, it’s remarkable how similar they are. The Gators hit .269 last season, and are batting .269 this year.

Logan Shore

Florida averaged 4.8 runs per game in 2013, 4.7 runs through 45 games in 2014. A year ago, the Gators left an average of 7.5 runners on base per game. This year: 7.5. The team’s power numbers and fielding percentage are similar as well.

The big difference is pitching. The Gators’ ERA has improved from 3.92 to 3.23 and Florida is allowing more than half a run less in 2014 than 2013 (from 4.4 runs allowed per game to 3.8). The team’s WHIP has improved from 1.31 to 1.23.

Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan is known for his ability to recruit and develop pitching staffs and 2014 is one of his best jobs yet. Starters Logan Shore (5-2, 1.76 ERA, pictured above) and Aaron Rhodes (5-2, 2.08) were excellent in the Missouri series, highlighted by Rhodes’ one-hitter in a 5-0 win Saturday.

The bullpen has also been superb, with seven different pitchers recording at least one save. Ryan Harris (2-1, 2.70 ERA) has a team-high four saves while Rhodes and Bobby Poyner have three apiece. Over the last 10 games – Florida is 8-2 with a pair of SEC sweeps – the pitching staff has a 2.08 ERA and has allowed only 72 hits in 91 innings.

TIMELY HITTING

They might be hitting for the same average as last season, but more of the hits have come at the right time. UF has five walk-off wins after Ryan Larson’s game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning Sunday.

Florida’s lineup is producing more in the clutch, batting .291 with runners in scoring position – 11 points higher than a year ago (.280). The Gators have won eight games in their last at-bat.

WINNING AT HOME

Despite the back-to-back losses to Jacksonville and Florida A&M, the Gators are not being kind to visiting teams at McKethan Stadium.

Florida is 21-8 at home compared to 20-16 last season. In four home series against SEC foes, the Gators are 11-1, sweeping LSU, Georgia and Missouri. The only home conference loss was a 9-3 loss to Arkansas on March 16.

ONE-RUN, EXTRA-INNING GAMES

The Gators often did not rise to the occasion in one-run games in 2013. Florida lost 10 of 17 one-run games and was only 2-4 in extra innings.

Different season, different story in 2014. Florida is 12-6 in one-run games and 6-2 in extra innings.

Another important factor in Florida’s success has been its ability to avoid prolonged slumps. While the losses on consecutive nights to Jacksonville and Florida A&M raised some eyebrows, the Gators quickly rebounded with a 7-1 win over Missouri on Friday night behind Shore’s strong start. Florida has not lost three consecutive games all season.

GUSHUE STAYS STEADY

The Gators continue to put up modest power numbers. Florida hit only 28 home runs in 59 games (0.47 per game) last season and that figure has dropped slightly in 2014 – 19 home runs in 45 games (0.42 per game).

However, the man in the middle of the lineup – junior catcher Taylor Gushue – has been a steady force. Gushue leads the Gators in the Triple Crown categories with four home runs (tied with Casey Turgeon), 36 RBIs and a .335 batting average.

BONUS REASON

The Gators were 13-6 and preparing to host No. 1-ranked Florida State in mid-March when sophomore outfielder Harrison Bader was cleared to return following a suspension that cost him the season’s first 19 games.

Bader’s defense and offensive contributions have helped the Gators maintain a winning pace. Florida is 17-9 in the 26 games since Bader’s return. Meanwhile, Bader has hit .284 with six extra-base hits, 13 RBIs and seven stolen bases.

Gators and Les Mile

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Les Miles preferred that the annual Florida-LSU game take a hike, but the SEC announced Sunday that the game is hanging around on the conference schedule.

As part of its announcement Sunday regarding the format for future football scheduling, the SEC released the permanent non-division opponents.

For the Gators, that game remains against LSU. The two teams have played every year since 1971 but when the conference began to review its football scheduling format in the spring of 2013, Miles made it clear he wouldn't mind facing an SEC East team other than Florida each year.

Florida coach Will Muschamp was in favor of keeping the game, which is one of the league's most colorful rivalries.

Personally, I've always liked the Florida-LSU game on the schedule. (Memo: Please do not egg my house tonight for saying that. Twitter reaction seemed to not agree with my view). The Gators will still face another SEC West school each season on a rotating basis, but games against Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will be spread out.

Here are the permanent non-division opponents are as listed below:

 ·         Alabama (west) vs. Tennessee (east)

·         Arkansas (west) vs. Missouri (east)

·         Auburn (west) vs. Georgia (east)

·         LSU (west) vs. Florida (east)

·         Ole Miss (west) vs. Vanderbilt (east)

·         Mississippi State (west) vs. Kentucky (east)

·         Texas A&M (west) vs. South Carolina (east)

 Meanwhile, the SEC has added a strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis starting in 2016.

In Florida's case, that doesn't mean much. The Gators already face FSU each year from the ACC and the two schools recently announced an extension of the rivalry through 2018.

As for maintaining an eight-game schedule instead of going to a nine-game schedule, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive had this to say in a release:

"The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games," Slive said. "In fact, just last year, five of our schools comprised the top five toughest schedules in the nation according to the NCAA and nine ranked in the top 20.

"A number of our schools play annual ACC opponents, and recent history shows our schools are already playing a significant number of strong non-conference opponents across the country on a home and home basis or in neutral site games.

Here's the bottom line in Florida's case: the Gators will continue to play one of the nation's toughest schedules with annual games against SEC East rivals Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and newcomer Missouri, LSU from the West and FSU from the ACC.

After the SEC schedule and FSU, that leaves UF three games each season to be creative in the schedule such as neutral-site games such as the one Florida has scheduled against Michigan in 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Of course, there's nothing like SEC football to wake up Twitter on a Sunday night.

Here is some reaction to the SEC's decision to stay at eight games:

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