Much as I, as a non-drinker, lament the relative deadness of Gainesville, a drinking town with a football problem, on non-football days, I must admit that a handful of Saturdays over the year are magical.
This is one of those Saturdays. (Sort of.)
Today’s the “Orange and Blue Debut,” hereafter known as the O & B, the University of Florida’s spring game, and because I don’t want to break any NCAA regulations didn’t feel like putting on all manner of Gator apparel and sweating this early in the day, I’m watching ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the game and some of the festivities beforehand.
The most important festivity? The Fastest Gator competition, also the reason I’m blogging prior to the 1:07 start time.
First announced in February as a competition to win a full athletic scholarship, it’s turned into a chance to win sideline access for the Hawaii opener and some swag, but there were 400 entrants in Thursday’s semifinals, and Urban Meyer and a stopwatch hewed that number down to about two dozen semifinalists, who will be thrown to the lions in the form of receivers Louis Murphy and Deonte Thompson and running back Chris Rainey.
ESPN’s giving the finals the ESPN treatment. We have Jared Davis, Gabe LoFria, Stephen Reid, and Jeff Mesadien…and Rainey.
Rainey false-starts. then stays on a knee and allows the others to race. Then, by himself, he blisters a sub-4.4 time that doesn’t even look all that hard, then, in speaking to Erin Andrews, proves that his talents may well be limited to speed. I would say he’s not quite a MENSA member, but he might not be able to spell MENSA.
I escaped the loud and distracting voices in my common room and fled to the suitemates’ room, taking advantage of their 42nd straight weekend at home. We’re about ready for kickoff, as Tim Tebow has already head-butted a DB in the circle at midfield. I’ll be keeping track of the game, and also of the number of crappy PSAs that sneak into ESPN’s commercial stream.
How bad and repetitive are these PSAs? We’ve been seeing the same ones since we got here in August, and now we guess which one is next after one’s been one. And we’re good at that.
Nice spring day, about 80 with some humidity. Rules are thus: two 12-minutes quarters in the first half, two 10-minute quarters with a running clock in the second half, QBs in no-hit red jerseys, linemen playing both ways, possessions starting at the 35-yard line, and fair catches on punt returns.
Tebow is playing for Blue, who start with the ball; they come out in the shotgun and Tebow can’t find anyone, rolls left, and gains four. Second down is a run by Mon Williams for a few. Tebow’s offense is a collection of nobodies, with Rainey the most prominent name in a group that includes Riley Cooper and David Nelson at wideout.
Williams grinds for a few on third, then Tebow passes to Nelson for five, then there’s an option to Rainey for another first down.
Play-action on first down, and Tebow bombs to Cooper, who drops a possible TD. Tebow nearly gets hit, and Jacques Rickerson, in coverage, nearly looks like an actual corner. Rainey gets eight on second down, and Tebow can’t quite hit Cooper in the end zone, as Major Wright blows him up.
Fourth and two means go. (And why not? Who cares?) Rainey gets a carry, runs into a lineman, and gets a first down. Then, on first, Rainey makes his number, the same 8 Percy Harvin wore as a freshman, Harvinesque, darting between tacklers to get within the 10.
Lee Corso informs us: “The baseball team does not dictate what football does here,” in reference to right fielder/wide receiver Riley Cooper’s game against Arkansas later in the day. But if it’s just Riley Cooper, prolific dropper of passes, I say he can return to McKethan Stadium.
Mon Williams pounds off-tackle for eight yards and a TD on first down; it’s 7-0, Blue, after the Jonathan Phillips extra point.
Orange comes out with Cameron Newton, a Daunte Culpepper/JaMarcus Russell clone, in the shotgun, and he hits Deonte Thompson and Brandon James for two passes to the Blue 45. Then he overthrows everyone on a flat ball on first down, and fakes the back out on second down as he runs for about six.
Newton’s woes continue on third and fourth down, though, as pressure forces an overthrow on third and Newton decides Markihe Anderson is a receiver on fourth. Anderson, in true Riley Cooper form, drops the pick, and Blue will have the ball on downs.
No PSAs yet. Yet.
Tebow pitches to Rainey, who accelerates into a roadblock and gets sandwiched after seven yards. Tebow is then under pressure again, but hits Somebody Whoever (Butch Rowley, sorry) for a first down.
No sooner does Chris Fowler call Tebow’s play “sharp so far” than Tebow drops the snap, rolls left, and has a pass glance off Rowley’s hands and into those of Ahmad Black. Oops. Orange ball.
Corso asserts that the team needs some good receivers after watching a forever disappointing Riley Cooper and sometime-long snapper Rowley drop passes. Instant punditry, everyone.
Andrews talks with John Brantley, current cast-wearing third-stringer. Why is this important? Well, Brantley was the 2007 Gatorade Player of the Year and he’s the third-stringer. This is Urban Meyer’s embarrassment of riches at QB.
Carlos Dunlap then abuses his tackle for a yank-down sack of Newton, and moves out to the flat to make a tackle downfield on a Justin Williams screen. That’s impressive.
Fowler reports from the booth that 60,000 are at the game, a far cry from Alabama, sure, but also from the “2,000” that Florida State draws. Corso’s best response: “3,500.” Good for you.
Rainey then gets free-he-hee, makes a good catch, and severs every one of Ahmad Black’s ankle ligaments with a sick juke en route to a score, making it 14-0.
Orange’s deepest drive so far, keyed by a pass to Brandon James, will resume when the second quarter begins. It’s Blue 14, Orange 0.
So far, I have Dunlap looking good, Rainey looking good, Tebow looking good, Riley Cooper looking mediocre, Cameron Newton looking way too far downfield, and the Orange defense looking for Band-Aids. About what I expected.
If I keep typing Riley Cooper’s full name, it’s only because I say it in my head every time I type it; it rolls off the tongue real sweet-like, like an athlete’s name should.
This will help Cooper in ten years when he’s a regional manager of a bank and trying to pick up ladies in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, I’m sure: “My name’s Riley Cooper. It sounds like I was an athlete.”
Wait, the game’s on?
Newton’s somehow a better than 50% passer as the Orange team lines up for second and eight, but you cannot stop Cam Newton from throwing incomplete passes, as he throws two to the players in green (note: that would be the grass, Cam) and forces a field goal try.
Apparently, you can stop Caleb Sturgis, one Independent Florida Alligator columnist’s answer to Tim Tebow for the kicking game. (I’ll find the link.) He’s wide left from about 40.
PSA Watch: We have our first! It’s ex-Presidents Bush and Clinton talking about tsunami relief, the dark-horse candidate striking first. Smokey the Bear, you have some catching up to do.
I looked back to the computer, and there were two carries, and then I looked right, and there was Erin Andrews, and there was a second-down coverage sack. I have no more details. Did I mention there was Erin Andrews?
Third down’s a pass to Riley Cooper, who makes a catch, then drops the ball on a fumble. If that’s getting better, watch out for him as a grad student.
Tebow then throws fifteen yards downfield, and gets a second tipped pass picked; the pick is returned for a TD, but Tebow nails the heir to Reggie Nelson’s throne, Major Wright, with a vicious hit on the return. Apparently, the red jersey only means no one can hit you. It’s 14-7, Blue.
Chris Fowler, by the by, was telling stories about Tebow doing surgeries in the Phillipines with a couple of days of training. I’m not sure I believe that, considering the Family and Consumer Sciences major doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on surgical training.
But it is Tim Tebow.
Blue comes out with a pitch and a handoff to Rainey, who gains six yards combined to bring up third and four. Tebow rolls left and hits Aaron Hernandez, who gets hit by a helmetless Dustin Doe. Still, it’s a first down.
Tebow goes deep, but first, goes down, as Chris Rainey is unable to block a large person up the middle. Rainey atones with a scamper for 15 on second down. Another pass in the left flat to Hernandez nets five.
On second down you cannot stop Riley Cooper from dropping passes in the end zone. But on third down, you can stop Rainey up the middle.
Fourth down has Tebow alone with five wide, and Riley Cooper FINALLY makes a catch and runs with it, slicing up the middle to get within the five.
In a real game, this is Tebow Smash time, but it’s not a real game, so Rainey will try to squirt through the middle, instead getting a couple. On second down, though, he vaults over the line for a score. It’s Blue 21, Orange 7.
Craig James is reporting about the turmoil in Michigan, where “coaches are speaking French and players are speaking Spanish.” If I’m a Michigan fan, I gulp.
Erin Andrews is up in the stands, asking Bull Gators Pam and Bob Tebow about “Timmy,” whose mom is worried about his virus, and whose dad takes the opportunity to talk about Tebow having a “national platform to honor Jesus” and the sorority powderpuff game Tebow’s hosting at Norman Field tomorrow. I may be there, I may not.
Hey, Emmanuel Moody just carried the ball! He didn’t go down, but he didn’t go far, either.
By the way, Cam Newton’s running the two-minute drill like a lethargic blue whale right now, so there’s a lot of promise for the backups here.
Dunlap again gets to Newton, running around the line again and putting a hand at the QB’s collar. That’s three sacks so far, putting him on a pace for eleventy million this year. I’m a journalism major, so I’m not so sure that’s correct, but…well, anyway, I know the score as we head into halftime.
It’s Blue 21, Orange 7.
Andrews is talking to Meyer, who dismisses the Tebow blast of Wright as “typical Tebow.” Yeah. Sounds about right.
Ooh! E:60 is coming back. I can’t wait to not watch it again!
Our halftime entertainment is Tebow and Kirk Herbstreit walking down the second half of Stadium Road, a mostly pedestrian road shut down especially for this interview. Tebow’s typically modest, saying the Heisman “shouldn’t change who you are” and repping Danny Wuerffel’s Desire Street Ministries.
Tebow’s off-season Friday nights: “You want to keep your character. Maybe you’re not doing anything wrong, (but) I’m always trying to do the right thing.”
On goals: “Even though we won a national championship, I think our team is more focused than it was two years ago.”
To open the second half, Emmanuel Moody decides it makes sense to look good for once, ripping off a thirty-yard gain on the opening carry and another twelve-yard off-tackle run. Then, a dive for the end zone is abortive, as Moody gets jack-knifed at the goal line by Brian Thomas and the ball burbles into the painted area. Still, if he can hang onto the ball, that drive showed Moody may be, if not as advertised, at least close.
Stolen from my Deadspin comments at halftime:
“Okay, I get sick of the focus on Tebow, too, and I’m supposed to have one of the biggest Tebowners around.
But I don’t see all that much difference between Tebow and Wuerffel, the latter of whom just came on to talk about Florida Credit Union here, except that Wuerffel didn’t get as much pub.
And that’s because ESPN wasn’t quite this huge back then, and Wuerffel wasn’t as vocal and fiery as Tebow is. Plus, Tebow himself has toned down the Jesus talk to an extent, but I can’t for one second think any of it isn’t rooted in a sincere desire to effect positive change. And I respect that.”
I was going to write something here about that, but I’ve sort of spoken my piece.
Corso begins raving again about Joe Haden, who is undeniably a good athlete, calling him “the Percy Harvin of the defense,” and that makes one think great things…until one realizes that Haden was still part of a unit that required a nitroglycerin tablet every five minues to prevent viewers from spontaneous heart attack.
Then he picks South Carolina to win the East, so take the above with a grain of salt.
Hey, Tebow’s taken the Blue team into the red zone! Hey, there’s a TD pass to Riley Cooper! Hey, it’s 28-7, Blue! Hey, this meme is tired!
And Corso picks LSU to win the West, saying Ryan Perrilloux will “settle down” as #1. I suppose it’s better than taking Vanderbilt and Mississippi State to meet in Atlanta, but the ol’ Scooter’s taking some chances with his picks this year.
Emmaneul Moody continues his Shiva impression (that’s an Oppenheimer joke, folks) with another 15 off-tackle right. He’s got 84 yards on seven carries, and that, even against split defenses, is impressive.
Of course, the ESPN ticker ruins my day with the news that Gavin Floyd is pitching a no-no against the Tigers today. Of course, this is the first time I pick the Tigers to win all year. Of course.
Carlos Dunlap once more harasses Newton, bringing the estimate on the number of girls’ phone numbers he will receive tonight to 422. (Again, I’m a journalism major.)
It’s Blue 28, Orange 7, as the third quarter ends.
Links for anyone actually reading: the GameCast for that prospective no-hitter, Caleb Sturgis is “the Tim Tebow of kicking”, what could have been a fantastic story about that Fastest Gator deal, the Oppenheimer quote, Tebow’s powderpuff game, and “go study alligator penis.”
That’s quite a lineup, there.
Mack Brown is on the phone. No questions yet about his son-in-law.
Oh, and here is that paper’s live blog. Mine’s funnier, but the guy has a few good tidbits which I will steal mercilessly: Chaz Henry’s punt, long, long ago traveled 64 yards, Sturgis nailed the make-up field goal he got, then two 50-yarders, and then couldn’t hit from 60, and Rainey’s 40 time from that Fastest Gator competition was supposedly a 4.24.
If so, that’s the fastest recorded time in UF football since Meyer’s been here, and the fastest anyone has run in Gainesville since Joakim Noah stopped being a fixture in the nightlife.
I guess there’s still a football game going. It’s still 28-7, but Orange is driving.
Corso is now outlining all of his blowout defeats, the point being that players quit on you late in blowouts, not, as Fowler mentions, “that your teams were bad.”
Orange scores. Woo. It’s 28-14, Orange, and you couldn’t even cover. Dammit.
Tiger’s six shots back at Augusta, one-under after five holes; Detroit will take a 1-0 lead into the second period against Nashville thanks to Darren McCarty; Edgar Renteria broke up Floyd’s no-no after seven and a third with an outfield single. This has been me browsing ESPN’s various tickers.
For some reason, there are four seconds on the clock, and it is stopped. Right. Newton, now playing for the Blue team, hands off for no gain, and this one will end with the score Blue 28, Orange 14.
ESPN follows it with the X Games. Right.