Monthly Archive for September, 2007

AU VS FL POST GAME INTERVIEWS

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Auburn Vs Florida ESPN SPORTSCENTER REVIEW

Running backs ready for Florida

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Auburn averaged just 93.5 yards rushing in its first two games, a little more than half of what the Tigers averaged a year ago. But AU faced a couple of tough defenses in those two games and has been without the services of suspended tailback Brad Lester this season.

Fortunately, sophomore Ben Tate and redshirt freshman Mario Fannin have stepped up their play just in time for AU’s trip to Gainesville this Saturday.

In last Saturday’s blowout win over New Mexico State, Tate and Fannin both eclipsed the 100-yard mark as AU rushed for 229 yards, its best output of the season.

Todd Van Emst
Tate is averaging 86.2 yards per game.

“Ben’s tough. Ben’s getting better and better,” said AU head coach Tommy Tuberville. “He’s kind of deceptive. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of him and Mario.

“Even though we’ve made a lot of mental mistakes, they’ve gotten better as runners.”

Tate, who’s started all four games this season, leads the team with 345 yards and two touchdowns on 73 carries.

“This is only my fourth real game of being in there and playing,” said Tate. “That’s what people don’t realize. I definitely improve each game. I’m constantly learning. All I can do is get better each game.”

Tate’s biggest issue has been maintaining his patience on running plays.

“Sometimes we run a toss and I don’t have patience with my line,” he said. “I try to tell them, ‘You guys can’t keep running to the sideline because I can’t keep running to the sideline because I’m not getting anywhere.’ I get impatient with them and decide to outrun them. That’s just something I’m working on.”

Tate had his best game against NMSU rushing for 111 yards. He gives a lot of credit to AU’s upgraded offensive line, which featured three true freshmen last week, for his development.

“The line, they’ve got the young guys out there now and they’re definitely coming off the ball,” said Tate. “When that happens that helps me get into the secondary a lot better and exploit my talent and be able to show my speed and get to the corners.”

Fannin got off to a frustrating start, missing the first game because he wasn’t entirely up to speed on his pass protection, and fumbling three times in the next two.

The week before the NMSU game, Fannin toted a football to class and around campus to remind him of ball security.

Todd Van Emst
Fannin is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

“I did that every day,” said Fannin. “Some teachers were asking why I was doing that. Some of them watch the games so they understood.”

The strategy worked. Fannin rushed for a career-high 103 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries against the Aggies, including a 67-yard touchdown run at the end of the game.

Most importantly, he held onto the football.

“They tried to strip it a couple of times and they couldn’t get it,” said Fannin. “That boosted my confidence.”

That confidence boost and the improvement of both backs couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers. Lester’s suspension lasts one more game so AU must rely on Tate and Fannin to get it done against an athletic Florida defense.

“It’s going to be a great experience,” said Fannin.

Quick Hitters:

***Tate on his running style:

“I’m a guy, I wear on the defense. I pound you, I pound you and then I break the long ones off at the end. Ten carries for me is just getting warmed up.

“People might not think I can get the corner but as you see in every game I’ve got the corner, I’ve got around people. I’ve got that deceptive speed. It might not look fast until you get out there and run with me.”

***Fannin on the freshmen offensive linemen:

“Ramsey, he’s a good pulling guard. He came around there and knocked some folks on their butts. We saw that in practice. Pugh did a great job on the left side. He has a lot of talent.

“The freshmen stepped it up big time. I think we have a lot of mature freshmen who are getting to play this year.”

***LB Tray Blackmon practiced again Thursday and is probable for the UF game.

“Tray practiced better today, looked better,” said Tuberville.

***RB Tristan Davis also practiced Thursday but his status for the UF game is uncertain.

“Tristan practiced well,” said Tuberville. “He’s going to need another 48 hours. We’re going to run him again tomorrow, try to get more work done on that leg.”

***Punter Patrick Tatum returned to practice Thursday after missing a couple of days due to a death in the family. Ryan Shoemaker will be AU’s starting punter this week.

***Auburn practiced for 90 minutes in shells Thursday as they wrapped up preparations for their first road game of the season at Florida.

“We went a little longer today,” said Tuberville. “They had a lot of things to go over after practice yesterday that they didn’t feel like we had down good enough. Feel good about it now. Good practice. It’s been the best week of practice we’ve had.”

***Auburn will depart for Gainesville Friday afternoon, flying out of Columbus, Ga., and spending the night in Ocala. Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be carried on ESPN.

“Guys are excited about going on the road, something different. Four weeks at home is too long. Now, we’ll have some true tests on the road. This will be the first one.”

Auburn upset Florida last season, giving the defending National Champions their only loss. But Tuberville doesn’t expect that to factor into Saturday’s game.

“They got a different team. We got a different team,” he said. “Different players, different scenario. They’re playing good, we’re not playing good. Obviously, we’ve got a lot more to prove than they do.”

Florida Banged Up

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GAINESVILLE – The banged-up Florida receiving corps took another blow when sophomore receiver Percy Harvin missed part of Tuesday’s practice with a hip pointer.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said he expects Harvin to recover in time for Saturday’s game against Auburn. Harvin first hurt the hip last Saturday at Ole Miss.

“We think we’re going to get him back (today),” Meyer said. “Takes about two or three days, but he’ll be a go on Saturday, for sure. He’s got it where he got hit in the hip in the game. He was out here for three-fourths of (practice) and then they took him in for treatment.”

Harvin, who has been relied on more heavily since senior Andre Caldwell went down with a sprained knee two weeks ago, leads Florida receivers in yards (336) and is tied with Riley Cooper for the lead in touchdowns (three).

Harvin is coming off an 11-catch, 121-yard game against the Rebels.

“It’s a concern because he’s missing practice,” Meyer said. “He plays better when he practices. He’s killing himself trying to get back. They had him running, he wasn’t even supposed to run today but he was fighting through it.

“I’ve coached guys with hip pointers before. He’ll be fine. I just worry about missing practice.”

Meyer said Tuesday that Caldwell likely won’t play against Auburn. Sophomore cornerback Markihe Anderson (knee sprain) also will be out.

Freshman starting guard Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) is expected back and kicker Joey Ijjas (quad muscle) should be OK for Saturday.

ETC.: Though Meyer would like to see Florida’s pass rush improve, he’s been pleased with his team’s ability to stop the run. Florida is allowing just 54.5 rushing yards per game, “Our whole defense is built against stopping the run,” Meyer said. “There’s a belief in our defensive staff and our coaching staff that you stop the run and you run the ball to win.” . . Meyer said defensive coaches have been challenging players this week in practice. “We had one defensive player grade a champion and we won the game,” he said. “That’s not good defense. Our coaches are coaching almost as if we lost, which is good around here. That’s coaching really hard.”

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Michael Winslow (of Police Academy fame) makes noises on stage.

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Ohio State Player Arrested For Soliciting

Freshman reserve quarterback Antonio Henton (pictured, right) was arrested Monday at about 8:30 p.m. near Sixth Avenue and High Street during an undercover police operation, 10TV’s Cara Connelly reported.

A Columbus police sergeant who was part of the sting operation said Henton was one of 11 people – six men and five women – who were taken into custody on Monday night, Connelly reported.

“We were working an operation that involved undercover female officers that portrayed the role of prostitutes,” the sergeant said.

According to court records, Henton, 20, allegedly pulled his car alongside an undercover officer and offered her $20 for sex, 10TV News reported.

The sergeant said officers involved in the operation identified Henton immediately after his arrest.

“One of the officers that made the stop on him from the cruiser that follows Ohio State football knew immediately who he was,” the sergeant said. “He seemed very remorseful.”

After spending the night at the Jackson Pike Detention Facility, Henton made his first appearance in Franklin County Municipal Court where he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Henton did not speak during his appearance on Tuesday morning, and kept his head down while Judge Amy Selerno spoke to him.

“I as well as many fans and graduates of Ohio State University are very disappointed to see you today here in my courtroom,” she said.

Henton later posted bond was released at about 3 p.m., 10TV News reported.

Following the hearing, The Ohio State University announced that Henton would not travel to Minnesota for Saturday’s game against the Gophers.

Head coach Jim Tressel said Henton’s arrest was a disappointment.

“It’s a great disappointment for our Buckeye football family, and we are very concerned for Antonio,” Tressel said. “We want to help him utilize any available resources, including counseling, to deal with any problems and seek solutions. Antonio is keenly aware of the standard we have for ourselves, and that makes this even more disappointing.”

Tressel also said that Henton would be suspended indefinitely from athletic privileges.

A native of Fort Valley, Ga., Henton competed for the starting quarterback job throughout spring and fall football camp, and saw game action this past Saturday during the Buckeyes’ 58-7 win over Northwestern.

So far this season, Henton completed six passes for 57 yards, including a touchdown pass in the season opener against Youngstown State.

Henton, whose style at quarterback was compared to that of Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, also carried the football nine times for 41 yards.

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Gators have score to settle

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The 2006 meeting with Auburn, the last team to beat Florida, hasn’t been forgotten.

 

GAINESVILLE – Urban Meyer remembers late-night chaos in the visitors’ locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn had just scored a 27-17 home win over Meyer’s Gators, and he watched his players responded by challenging each other to fights, screaming in disgust, crying in the corners.

An assistant coach slid next to Meyer and advised him to change the mood.

 

“I said, ‘No, let it go,’ ” Meyer said Monday. “We let it go for about 15 minutes. I wanted to watch and I wanted to clear the air.”

The air clearance carried to the corridor outside the locker room, where receiver Andre Caldwell questioned quarterback Chris Leak’s ability to lead the team to a championship. The world knows what happened from there — Leak did take UF to titles, and the Gators haven’t lost since that night at Jordan-Hare.

Auburn returns the visit Saturday when the teams meet at Florida Field.

The Auburn loss has stuck with the Gators who returned for the 2007 season. Two second-half plays in particular — a blocked punt returned for a Tigers touchdown and a Chris Leak fumble at the Auburn 10 yard line — remain fresh in their minds.

“You would think that if we won 13 games, it could take some of the sting out of that one,” tight end Tate Casey said Monday. “Seeing them again was a huge motivator for us.”

Another motivator came two days after the loss, when Meyer gathered the team. They listened to tape comments from former Gator Danny Wuerffel, who talked about how his 1996 Gators rebounded from a loss to Florida State to win the Southeastern Conference and national championships.

Each player received a card with the quote; dozens of the players carried it with them through their trip to the BCS national title game in Arizona. Others just listened that morning and let the message govern their next three months.

“The [players] up front, the guys who counted, and our coaching staff,” Meyer said, “my mouth went dry. It was a heck of a deal.”

The loss also lingers because, well, it doesn’t happen so much around here anymore. The 25 true freshmen on the active roster here have never lost a college game. And the 26 guys in year No. 2 of their UF careers are undefeated save last year’s trip to Auburn.

It’s not a set of feelings these Gators, double-digit favorites this week, look forward to feeling again.

“I don’t know if it’s better to win or worse to lose,” quarterback Tim Tebow said. “Losing is heartbreaking.”

It’s also chaotic, a time that leads to screaming and crying and fights among teammates who’ll go down as the most tightly bonded in UF history. It’s a night few around here have forgotten. And it’s a night that’s fueled Florida for the last 50 weeks.

Knee Injuries Could Sideline Gators

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GAINESVILLE – Sprained knees may keep Florida WR Andre “Bubba” Caldwell and CB Markihe Anderson out of the lineup when the Gators face Auburn on Saturday, Gators coach Urban Meyer said Monday.

“Bubba’s going to be a game-time [decision],” Meyer said. “He’s very questionable. [S] Bryan Thomas is very questionable. Markihe is very questionable.”

Caldwell injured his knee against Troy on Sept. 8. Anderson suffered his knee injury – his second this season – against Tennessee on Sept. 15.

Meyer offered a more positive outlook for some of Florida’s other injured players. OG Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) and WR Riley Cooper (ankle) should be ready to play.

Meyer said he would rest K Joey Ijjas (thigh) until Thursday, but he expects Ijjas to kick on Saturday.

FREE SAFETY SHUFFLE?: Meyer said he is unsure what to do about the play at free safety, and he may open a competition for the starting job.

Senior Kyle Jackson has started all four games, but he has been replaced by freshman Major Wright three times. Meyer said Jackson, Wright, Thomas and sophomore Dorian Munroe may compete for the job.

“It’s a game-time deal,” Meyer said. “Instead of saying names, our free safety position has to play much better.”

Andy Staples