THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JULY 23, 2019
FLORIDA FLASHBACK: A TOUCHDOWN FOR MAMA
Desperate times called for desperate measures although to hear Urban Meyer talk about it following the 2006 SEC Championship Game, the fake punt on a fourth and ten from the Florida 15 midway through the third quarter was nothing more than a play practiced hundreds of times by players he trusted, the two principle ball handlers being senior punter Eric Wilbur and senior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius. Maybe so, but something had to be done to shift momentum away from Arkansas, which had taken a 21-17 lead, scoring on two straight possessions, the second on a pick six of a Chris Leak pass. When the Gators failed to respond on the ensuing possession, Meyer elected to gamble, figuring Arkansas would put on a return rather than risk a roughing the punter flag that would give the Gators new life.
Meyer guessed right. From the moment James Smith snapped the ball to Wilbur, the Razorbacks peeled back and didn’t pay attention to Cornelius, who circled behind Wilbur for a pitch and picked up blockers around the left side, finally running out of bounds 17 yards later at the UF 32. That bought field position for the Gators but not momentum. Three plays later it was fourth down all over again. Strangely, Meyer wasn’t willing to send Tim Tebow on to gain a measly yard. He sent the punt team out but Arkansas wasn’t about to be burned a second time, which only played right into Meyer’s hands.
Expecting more UF shenanigans, Arkansas had one deep returner back at the UA 10, single coverage on the gunners and eight lined up within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. There was no fake and hardly any pressure when Wilbur launched a towering 54-yard punt that Reggie Fish lost in the lights and muffed trying to make an over the shoulder catch around the three. The ball bounded into the end zone where freshman Wondy Pierre-Louis outran five other Gators to dive on the ball for a TD that gave the Gators the lead for good.
On the field of the Georgia Dome after the game, won by Florida, 38-28, Pierre-Louis was almost giddy. In his Creole-accented English, the native of Haiti explained, “I scored a touchdown for Mama!” It turned out Wondy’s mom had flown in from Haiti and it was the first time she had ever seen her son play football.
A month later, the Gators hammered an Ohio State team that some pundits were comparing to the best teams in college football history, 41-14, for the national championship in Glendale, Arizona, but that wouldn’t have happened without a touchdown for mama.
THE LIST FOR TUESDAY
Ranking the best special teams players in Florida football history.
1. Brandon James: For four years, James had an enormous impact on field position whether it was running back punts (4 career TD returns) or kickoffs (24.3 yards per return, 1 TD). Second team All-SEC as a sophomore (2007) and first team in 2008-09 James made first team All-America in 2008. For his UF career, James ran back punts and kickoffs for 4,819 yards. He had a special thing about Tennessee, running one back 83 yards for a TD in 2007 and 78 yards for a TD in 2008.
2. Jacquez Green: An All-American wide receiver, Green took over as Florida’s punt returner in 1996-97, taking two back to the house each season. Green averaged 13 yards per return as a sophomore in 1996, 14.5 as a junior in 1997 when he had a career-best 87-yarder for a TD against South Carolina.
3. Chas Henry: When Henry was about to take the field, Urban Meyer would tell him, “Make it wet,” and Henry would typically respond with a booming punt that hung in the air so long there was no chance for a return. His 165 career punts (43.0 average) were returned a combined 220 yards (1.3 yards per return). Second team All-SEC in 2008-09, Henry was first team All-SEC and first team All-America in 2010, the year he won the Ray Guy Award.
4. Caleb Sturgis: Thunderfoot hit eight field goals of 50 or more yards during a UF career that saw him connect on 70-88 attempts. His career best was a 56-yarder against Georgia in 2009. He scored 338 points in his UF career, made first team All-SEC in 2011-12 and first team All-America in 2012.
5. Judd Davis: A walk-on from Ocala, Davis was first team All-America and won the Lou Groza Award in 1993, yet didn’t make first or second team All-SEC. He did make All-SEC first team in 1994 but not All-America. In 1994, he was 65-65 on extra points and 14-16 on field goals including a 52-yarder against Southern Miss. He finished his career hitting 81 straight extra points and with 32-39 on field goals.
6. Johnny Townsend: Townsend led the nation in punting in 2017 when he averaged 47.5 per punt. He finished his UF career as the all-time punting leader with a 46.2-yard average. Townsend made second team All-SEC in 2015-16, first team as a senior in 2017. Townsend was a first team All-America punter in 2016, second team in 2017.
7. Jeff Chandler: Chandler is Florida’s all-time leading scorer with 367 points. He hit 67-80 on field goals (83.8%) with a career best 21-24 in 1999. He had a career-best 54-yarder against Georgia in 2000. He was a first team All-SEC selection in 1999 and 2001, second team in 2000. He was a second team All-America selection in 1999.
8. Andre Debose: It is mind boggling that Debose never made All-SEC even though he averaged 26.7 per kickoff return and ran four back for TDs. His best season returning kickoffs was 2010 when he averaged 28 yards per return, taking two to the house. As a punt returner, he averaged 14.0 per return in 2014, returning one for a touchdown.
9. Eddy Pineiro: The most accurate field goal kicker in UF history, Pineiro hit 38-43 of his kicks (88.37%) in his two years before he left for the NFL. He hit 16 in a row in 2017 when he was 17-18 for the season. He had four field goals more than 50 yards with a career long of 53 yards against Missouri in 2016. He had a pair of 50-yarders against UB in 2017.
10. Bobby Joe Green: Charley Pell used to have Bobby Joe show his punters how it was done. He would put hula-hoops inside the 5-yard line and would stand at midfield and land more than his share of punts inside the hoops. Folks who saw him play describe him as a legitimate weapon as a punter. When he played back in the 1950s, Green played both ways plus served as the team punter. He averaged 44.9 yards per punt as a senior in 1959 with a school record 82-yarder against Georgia.
Wednesday: The 10 most impactful games in UF history.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy at Big 12 Media Days, discussing recruiting his son:
“I told him if you come to Oklahoma State I’ll coach you like I do everybody else … If you’re the best player, you’ll play. If not, you won’t play – even though I’m sleeping with your mom.”
From Michael Lombardi of The Athletic on the blatant inconsistency of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is not punishing Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill despite allegations of child abuse and a history of domestic violence:
“Tom Brady, a great ambassador of the game and one of its greatest players, was forced to serve a four-game suspension for allegedly deflating footballs, which was never proven. I realize the integrity of the game and off-the-field discipline lie in two separate silos. However, the stain of the action, whether justified or not, creates the “black eye” that supposedly Goodell is there to protect. I completely disagreed with the Brady suspension and the removal of draft picks from the Patriots in 2017 — it was unjust and out of line. However, it was within the power of the commissioner’s disciplinary action, and that power does not need proof to be invoked. All it needs is doubt and harm toward the league. So tell me again: Why is Hill coming back without paying some price?”
From CL Brown of The Athletic on reaction to proposed changes in the NCAA basketball recruiting calendar:
“The reality is the sweeping changes to the recruiting calendar have added a level of uncertainty that could end up causing more chaos. Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel believes it could lead to more transfers. that coaches could take a player they shouldn’t simply because they haven’t evaluated him enough. Or a high-major talent who falls to a mid-major will transfer after a good season with the intent of playing in a power conference. Florida Atlantic’s Dusty May believes it could lead to more recruiting misses, like over-recruiting a player who happened to play well in a short viewing window but isn’t consistently that good. And none of the coaches are certain the moves will help fix the problem of cheating and wayward influences in the game. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has heard all the complaints. ‘We need to evaluate the new summer calendar in August and make adjustments,’ Brey said in a text message to The Athletic. ‘This is not a final product, but as coaches, we can have an open mind and then make suggestions to improve.’”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on Alabama heading into the 2019 season: “They’ve been down this road before. They are the best revenge team in college football history. They are concerned with themselves and why everyone in that silo called Clemson gets so upset. Why don’t they celebrate? They’ve now won three in the school’s history … Alabama has won five of the last10, Clemson has won three of the last 150.”
Barrett Sallee of CBSSports.com on the new LSU locker room: “The locker room, which was designed by HTNB Architecture, features a chair that folds out into a bed, complete with an iPad holder to watch film, charging ports and storage below the seat/bed. Instead of stand-up lockers, the new facility has an open center so players and coaches can see each other throughout the room. Helmet storage, more charging ports and personal safes are located above the players, including ports to charge devices in helmets that provide data to LSU coaches and support staff.”
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who played collegiately as Chris Jackson, will have his LSU basketball jersey retired. Jackson, who hung 53 on the Gators at the O-Dome in 1989, is the only freshman in NCAA history to average more than 30 points per game.
NFL QUARTERBACK RATINGS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Mike Sando, formerly of ESPN, has joined the staff of The Athletic. For the sixth consecutive year Sando has polled NFL coaches and executives to rank the league’s starting quarterbacks. Sando places the quarterbacks in four tiers.
Tier 1: (1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; (2) Tom Brady, New England; (3) Drew Brees, New Orleans; (4) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City; (5) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis; (6) Phillip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers; (7) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh; (8) Russell Wilson, Seattle.
Tier 2: (9) Matt Ryan, Atlanta; (10) Carson Wentz, Philadelphia; (11) Matt Stafford, Detroit ; (Tie, 12) Deshaun Watson, Houston; (Tie, 12) Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams; (14) Baker Mayfield, Cleveland.
Tier 3: (15) Cam Newton, Carolina; (16) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota; (17) Dak Prescott, Dallas; (18) Nick Foles, Jacksonville; (19) Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco; (20) Derek Carr, Oakland; (21) Joe Flacco, Denver; (Tie, 22) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati; (Tie, 22) Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay; (24) Eli Manning, New York Giants; (25) Mitch Trubisky, Chicago; (26) Marcus Mariota, Tennessee; (27) Sam Darnold, New York Jets.
Tier 4: (28) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore; (29) Josh Allen, Buffalo; (30) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami; (31) Case Keenum, Washington; (32) Josh Rosen, Miami.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Brad Beal has been offered a three-year contract extension worth $111 million to remain with the Washington Wizards. That is very nice work if you can get it … Former UF assistant coach DJ Durkin, who was fired at Maryland last season, is a “guest coach” for the Atlanta Falcons during training camp … Brooks Koepka, who faded in the final round of the British Open to finish in a 4th-place tie, is only the fifth player in history to post a top five finish in all four majors in the same year … Tim Duncan has joined the San Antonio Spurs staff as an assistant coach … The largest player in all of Division I football belongs to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Right tackle Daniel Faalele, a native Australian who took up football in the US as a high school junior, is 6-9, 400 pounds. He made honorable mention All-Big Ten at right tackle last year as a true freshman last year.