Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gators Devour Noles at Drenched Doak

By JC De La Torre

After Florida dominated their cross state rivals in rainy Doak Campbell Stadium, concerns were focused on the injured Percy Harvin, who slid awkardly on a muddy field and had an FSU defenseman fall on his right ankle. The injury's severity was not made public but it may force Harvin to miss the SEC Championship game next week in Atlanta against #1 ranked Alabama. It would be the only bad news for Florida, as the Gators crushed Florida State 45-15 for their fifth straight victory in the series.
Percy Harvin opened the scoring, capping Florida's opening 9 play 65 yd drive with a 9 yd run to give Florida a 7-0 advantage just 4:08 into the ballgame. Michael Garvin returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yds to the Florida 24 yd line but the stingy Gator defense forced Florida State to settle for a 37 yd field goal by Graham Gano to cut the lead to 7-3 with 9:20 left in the first quarter.

After a rare 3-and-out by the Florida offense, FSU QB Christian Ponder was intercepted on a pass that was tipped by Florida CB Janoris Jenkins then nabbed midair by Major Wright deep in Gator territory. Jeff Demps ripped off a 44 yd run that would lead to a Tebow to Aaron Hernandez 7 yd touchdown as time expired in the first quarter, the Gators led after 1 quarter of play 14-3. After a short kickoff trying to avoid Garvin set up the Noles at their own 45, Ponder could do nothing with the football and FSU punted back to the Gators. Florida's running back Jeff Demps would cough up the football on the Gators' own 14 yd line, setting up the Noles at point blank range. Two incompletions and a 1 yd scramble later, Florida State settled for their second field goal from Gano and a 14-6 deficit.

After a penalty set the Florida offense back at their own 14 yd line, Florida would march the length of the field against the staunch Noles defense, highlighted by a 28 yd Tebow to David Nelson pass and a pass interference penalty on FSU's Tony Carter. On a 1st and 10 from the FSU 13, Harvin darted for 5 yds but during the play was rolled up on by two Florida State defenders. Harvin grabbed his right ankle in obvious pain. Florida State fans cheered the injury, and ticked off Tebow.

"That kind of irritated me," Tebow told the Associated Press, "I told the coach to give me the ball because I really wanted to hit somebody."

Coach Urban Meyer obliged and Tebow pounded it up the middle with a little help from his offensive line surged into the endzone for a 4 yd score to increase the Florida lead to 21-6.

Florida State got the ball back at the 40 yd line thanks to Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis kicking the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Ponder took advantage of the field position, driving the Noles 46 yds in 9 plays but once again, Florida State had to settle for only three points, this time 32 yds for Gano and the lead was 21-9 2:04 left in the first half. That would be too much time for the potent Gator offense. Ignoring the driving rain, Tebow hit on passes of 13, 8, 26, and finally a 24 yd touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez for the second time in the game to give the Gators a commanding 28-9 lead.

Garvin would burn the Florida kick coverage again, returning it 28 yds to the FSU 46 with 0:57 left. It would be enough time for Ponder to move the Seminoles into field goal range, but instead of taking the points, FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden called for some chicanery, faking the field goal and tossing it to the kicker Gano who promptly slipped and fell in the muck of the field, tackling himself and ending a dismal half for Florida State.

The second half would start no better. After Sturgis set up the Noles at their own 40 with another out of bounds kickoff, the very first play from scrimmage saw Ponder intercepted by Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, who returned it 26 yds to the 20 of Florida State. Tebow would make the Noles pay for the turnover, connecting with Louis Murphy in the back of the endzone for a 23 yd score and a 35-9 advantage.

Ponder's work was done for the day and an old Gator friend, Drew Weatherford, took over at quarterback for the Seminoles. Weatherford's first effort wouldn't do much as they would go three and out. The Gators took over at their own 26 yd line - but wouldn't stay there for long as on 1st down, running back Chris Rainey ripped off a 62 yd run, finally being dropped at the FSU 12 yd line. Florida State's defense stiffened and the Gators had to settle for a 29 yd Jonathan Davis field goal and a 38-9 lead. FSU would answer with their finest drive of the ballgame, an 8 play, 58 yd drive that was capped by Jermaine Thomas' 4 yd score to cut the lead to 38-15. Gano's extra point was blocked by the Gators.

It would stay that way until the 13:09 mark of the 4th quarter, when Janoris Jenkins stepped in front of a D'Vontrey Richardson pass at the Florida State 38 yd line. Florida ran the ball in from there, Jeff Demps plunging in from 2 yds out on the option to give the Gators their final margin 45-15.

"It was a good tail-whipping," FSU Coach Bobby Bowden told the AP, "I didn't think they would beat us like that here. The last time we had a beating like that was last year against them."

So there's one game left for Florida before they know their bowl fate, the big one versus Alabama. The Tide looked good today as well, demolishing their big rival Auburn 36-0. It should be a good one next week, Gator fans. We wanted a playoff - well, basically the Gators are in the semi-finals facing Alabama and whoever wins will move on the BCS Championship game.

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