Live Blog: The Wars for Florida

It’s, as the NCAA Football series tells me, the Battle for the Seminole War Canoe. And it’s my first dedicated live blog of a game this year.

“Oh,” you say, what about that other one earlier today?”

Well, that wasn’t just one game. This one will be, with some UCF-USF tidbits sprinkled in, considering I’ve got two TVs set up and will be watching both games simultaneously.

Speaking of that game, it’s 10-7, USF, after the Delbert Alvarado Experience delivered on a short kick.

This USF-UCF tilt is being played at a much higher level than I would have expected. Also, for those who don’t know/care about USF football, former ‘Bama recruit (and the reason for Nick Saban’s comments about USF’s academic standards) Mike Ford is out for this game. That basically means Matt Grothe’s shouldering more of the load than he should.

Also, Grothe will be 21 on Monday, so there’s one hell of a birthday party waiting for him on the other end of this game should the Bulls win. (He’s listed as in a relationship on Facebook. We’ll see about that come Monday.)

Speaking of, the fauxhawked one just nearly got beheaded, then scrambled for a first down.

His next pass turns into a pick-six for UCF, which then gets called back, but UCF is hanging much tougher than I would have ever expected.

Good read on Major Wright here; he’s leading what should be the key unit in this game, UF’s secondary. They were great last week against

Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit are standing in front of the worst green screen since John McCain’s last speech.

Florida comes out in the all-blue, ESPN shows Mr. Two Bits, and the Gators take the field to the frenzied roars of 90,000 men, women and children.

There are few greater spectacles in sport.

“Into this fire steps Robert Marve,” Musberger intones.

Erin Andrews, looking pretty as always, gets Urban Meyer to say, “I think we’re going to see the old Percy Harvin play some ball today.” Oh, boy.

The opening kickoff flies into the end zone and the Hurricane catching falls end over end. Miami fans would prefer those verbs be reversed.

Graig Cooper for just a yard on the opening carry. Marve’s first pass is dropped by Leonard Hankerson. Their first third down is an incompletion.

On comes Brandon James, whose mere presence apparently causes a badly shanked punt. Florida will start in Miami territory.

Tebow introduces Harvin, Chris Rainey, and James.

First two UF plays are a pass dropped at the sideline and a Tebow keeper for a yard.

Five wide on third down, and Tebow scrambles for the first. The yellow hanky is just Miami offsides, so UF will continue their drive from Miami’s 23.

Timeout by Florida with 12:54 left in the first quarter. About the earliest one I’ve ever seen in any game of organized football.

It’s still USF 10, UCF 7, with about four minutes left in the first half.

Percy Harvin’s first play of the 2008 season gets nine on a sweep. The Gators are looking like a storm of blue hornets right now, whizzing about the field.

Tebow goes deep on second down, and Aaron Hernandez does his best pirouette to pull down a TD. It’s 7-0 Gators after the gorgeous play.

It’s also tied at 10 in Orlando.

Caleb Sturgis boots his second kickoff out of bounds. Nice.

Miami stays around zero net yards as Cooper gets nothing at the line. Dustin Doe does it again on second down, and Cooper loses a yard. The third down screen is dropped.

This punt, though, is put in the end zone.

Hey, the first “Hi Mom, send $” sign of the year!

UCF somehow got a penalty trying to kneel and end the first half. I’m not sure it was a delay of game, either. They go to the half tied at 10.

After Rainey gets stuffed for no gain, a direct snap to Harvin for seven.

I think Riley Cooper changed numbers so that I wouldn’t recognize him when he drops passes. But if he makes good catches like that one for a first, all is forgiven.

Tebow escapes the pocket, gets four yards. He’s got four carries already; make it five, after he can’t find anyone and hustles for a first down.

Jeff Demps just made three moves in three yards. Barry Sanders is jealous. Personal foul on Phil Trautwein for a late block will back the Gators up.

Screen to James gets a handful, but Miami’s very good safety Anthony Reddick cuts him down nicely. On third down, Tebow can find no one and tries to fit one in between two Hurricanes. He fails.

Chas Henry bobbles the snap, and drives a punt maybe 55 yards downfield. There’s a reason he’s an All-American.

Marve has to scoot, and does, getting seven on a nice squirt of a run. Javarris James gets maybe one. Then Miami gets its first first down with a two-yard dig to Hankerson.

Maybe two for Miami on the first down carry. Cooper carries for five or so on the second down, gets met violently by a safety. Marve then gets another first down on a draw.

The continued effort to establish the run isn’t doing much for Miami; another two yard first down carry there. Nice juggling catch by Darius Johnson for another first down as the Hurricanes take small bites and inch down the field.

Big third down now from the UF 33, and the Swamp is deafening; Marve’s deep throw on freshman Janoris Jenkins is just out of Johnson’s reach in the end zone.

Miami will go for it on fourth down; Marve rolls right and finds enough green for a first down. Great blocking by the wideout there.

At the end of the first quarter, it’s Florida 7, Miami 0.

The second quarter begins just like the first: Graig Cooper gets swarmed and gains a couple yards, if that. Massive end Carlos Dunlap hunts down Marve on another scramble on second, and the screen on third gets a couple. Miami will kick, and it’s good from 50.

UF loses a yard on its first play in the second quarter, but Tebow nets seven on an option keeper to make it third and four.

And on that play, Sean Spence conjures memories of Warren Sapp, pulling down Tebow behind the line. Henry’s punt is nothing special, and the ‘Canes will start around their own 30.

USF’s scored to make it 17-10 in Orlando.

Jacory Harris is in for UM, which, of course, means a two-yard rush on first down. I think they could put Walter Payton back there, and it might net the same result.

Nothing on that drive for Miami, and they’ll punt; James calls for it just short of the 20.

Pretty cool NCAA Football 09 commercial there; showed this game, digitalized and fictionalized.

Tebow runs into open space for 20. He’s been gutting Miami on the ground, but there’s been nothing there downfield, so the death-by-a-thousand-Tebow-carries plan may be working.

UF will have a third and eight after Riley Cooper can’t make a catch.

Tebow makes a Heisman play, spinning away from a sack and rifling a pass on the run to Deonte Thompson for the first down. He’s rather good at football.

Third and eight again for the Gators, and another Tebow bullet won’t find anyone.

Henry’s punt is a fantastic coffin corner; UM will start at the one.

And they get a first down immediately with a slant to Kayne Farquharson. It’s that first down when Patrick Nix decides to run Graig Cooper for a few.

It’s third and one, and the crowd is roaring, albeit a little more quietly than earlier. Cooper gets the first and the hush descends.

USF just had a kick blocked, but Jim Leavitt is in a ref’s face and yelling. Still 17-10 there.

It’s just 7-3 in Florida’s favor in Gainesville, and the Hurricanes have a third and 14; they’ll throw a screen, which gets dropped, and the penalty flag will be on UM, too. The punt comes from the end zone, gets blocked, and it’s a safety!

UF leads, 9-3. Great special teams play by Jeff Demps, who came screaming around the corner to snuff out that kick.

The kick is fielded by Brandon James, who finds the first seam, but runs into the kicker, who nails him as he’s cutting at the 45. UF will start from their 46.

Tebow tosses his way out of a sack on first down, then throws incomplete on second down.

Louis Murphy drops a first down catch on third down, but a great Henry punt will be downed at about the 6, so Miami will kneel to end the half.

At the half, it’s Florida 9, Miami 3.

UCF-USF becomes the featured game while UF-UM’s at the half, and we switch just in time to see a Grothe bomb drop in the hands of Taurus Johnson and take the Bulls into UCF territory.

Touchdown, USF, on a pretty throw-and-catch from Grothe to Cedric Hill.

It’s USF 24, UCF 10.

Michael Greco can’t hit on a first down rollout, and Ryan Weaver gets stood up by a Bull for no gain on second down. Third down brings a throw to the equipment boy and some dirty laundry, but the flag gets picked up.

Great coverage on the punt, however.

There’s something really creepy about this Reese’s commercial. But having the floor’s resident stoner voice his assent does not make me proud of noticing that.

Grothe dances away from pressure and gets a first down on third down. The camel’s back is herniated.

And we switch back.

Florida will begin the second half from the 30, and Harvin loses a yard when he can find nothing around the corner. Then, backside pressure forces a Tebow incompletion. Third down, more pressure, and Tebow’s pass gets batted up by Murphy over the middle and falls incomplete.

Another great punt by Henry, who may be the player of the game if the score stays like this.

A rollout pass to the flat by Marve, and it gets a first down. UF seems unable to get any pressure, though they’ve stoppered the run, and Cooper gets another two on that first down.

Travis Benjamin makes a catch for six. The ‘Canes have third and one. The crowd is loud.


Marve runs left and gets it.

A nine-yard gain by Cooper is his longest of the night. Another Miami timeout.

Marve scrambles, has no room to run, fires deep and over a receiver’s head.

Cooper tries to jump the pile. Brandon Spikes is unreceptive, and it’ll be fourth and one; Miami punts, and James calls for a fair catch.

First down is a pass to Cooper for one, and Harvin gets it on second down for 12.

To Rainey on the next first down, and that’ll be another first down.

Murphy sneaks behind the corner, but Tebow puts it about a foot too deep for him.

Tebow gets a few on second down; Demps falls while making a catch on third down, and UF will punt; another one inside the 20 for Henry.

Marve fakes to the running back, runs for seven or so. Cooper gets one on second down.

The third and one: Derron Thomas gets it on a second effort cutback.

Then, a first down, and a two-yard carry. Ho and hum.

A throw to the flat meets a sure tackle by Ahmad Black; third down, Marve’s throw to a double-covered receiver sails a bit. On the punt, James doesn’t call for a fair catch and gets snowed under.

False start by Mike Pouncey. Florida’s backed up within their own 20.

UCF scores and it’s 24-17 in Orlando with about three minutes left. Bright House Networks Stadium is lively in response.

Harvin, for a first down. Just one on that first down for UF, though.

Aaron Hernandez, you are a man: the tight end makes the catch over the middle, makes a move, and gets another 25 yards; then, on the next play, with Tebow being chased, he’s the safety net, mitigating the loss.

Tebow on an option, and he gets three.

USF’s punting to Joe Burnett after a three and out. He’s got a kick return TD already in this one, and he dances across midfield. Very loud there.

Carl Moore almost makes the deep catch, but he never gets a foot down, and that’s going to be reviewed.

Touchdown, UCF! Pass play, great run after the catch. I’m watching the wrong game!

UCF’s fans are all bouncing.

The jury’s in: Moore made a great catch, getting his elbow down even though nothing else hit the grass until after the jarring hit.

First and goal. Tebow, left, nothing doing.

USF’s near midfield; Matt Grothe, left and gets 5.

Kestahn Moore gets nothing on second down, and we’ll go to the fourth in Gainesville.

The score: Florida 9, Miami 3.

In Orlando, we’re all tied up, and USF’s going to have a chance to get on UCF’s side of the 50 if a sideline catch by Cedric Hill gets reviewed.

Play stands.

We come back to Tebow dropping, dropping, off his back foot to Harvin and a pass interference call gives the Gators first and goal from the two.

USF could have a 52-yard field goal try for the Delbert Alvarado Experience.

Tebow gets nothing on first down. Straining, spinning on second down, maybe one for him. This TD, if it comes, is not coming from Tebow.

Second effort by USF on fourth down looks like it got the first.

Percy Harvin? Mercy, mercy: he goes around end on the flip from Tebow and makes it 15-3, pending extra point. There is a communal sigh of relief in the Swamp as Jonathan Phillips adds the point after to make it 16-3.

Grothe hits Taurus Johnson for a first down; the Bulls are well within field goal range, and they’ve got one more timeout.

Yet, somehow, a delay of game penalty. It’ll be a 42-yard attempt for the Delbert Alvarado Experience.

Comes out awkward and stays left. And it’s still tied.

IMs with a USF student friend:

Me: Well, he’s a dead man.

USF: Eh. Yes.

Overtime in Orlando and a great catch by Hankerson in Gainesville to get a first down.

Miami needs to press; down 13 with 11:30 left in the fourth.

UF’s defense needs a third down stop here. They get it, as the ball goes in and out of Hankerson’s hands on a curl that would have been a first down. UM will punt, and it’s downed at the 5.

Strange four wideout bunch formation for Grothe, and the hanging slider gets knocked down.

TD pass to Taurus Johnson! Beautifully slotted behind the safety, and Johnson makes a good catch. Alvarado notches the extra point, and UCF must match.

Incomplete on the first down pass to Murphy in the Swamp; second down’s a throw in the flat to Hernandez, who gets about six.

There’s a Miami player on his back, torso not moving.

UCF, five-yard run to get it to a third and one in overtime; then, just enough for a first down.

On third down, Florida’s spread looks like Florida’s spread, and Brandon James gets about 20 yards; then, to Murphy for a bunch, and Tebow draws a 15-yard penalty.

Fourth and one in OT for UCF. Movement on the line backs ’em up.

Simultaneous snaps: Tebow throws a TD by waiting, and waiting, and finding Louis Murphy in the end zone; Greco scrambles for what could be a first down.

The magic runs out in Orlando. The spot’s inches short. Wow.

Final from Orlando, in overtime: USF 31, UCF 24, in a thriller that will make many miss the rivalry, that War of I-4. (And make me change the title and permalink of this blog.)

Florida, finally getting pressure, forces the three and out. Bravura performance in coverage all night for the Gators, and the line’s doing just enough now to shut them down.

If you had said a team would have 23 points in the fourth quarter in this game, I would have presumed a shootout; instead, both defenses have played well, and the Gators’, perhaps, exceptionally.

Ball pops out on James’ return, but Florida covers it.

Demps, back on the field after leaving for the locker room, gets nothing.

Musberger and Herbstreit lay into the officials in the Washington-BYU game.

Tebow does some voodoo in the backfield to get free, and Louis Murphy backs into the end zone while making a TD catch, but it gets called back for an illegal formation.

Brandon James just got JACKED UP by Sean Spence. That was a hit.

A touchback on the punt, and Erin Andrews says, “A lot of kids, when they go to the University of Florida, they go to Daytona for Spring Break. I don’t know anything about that.” She then transitions to talking about the mission work Tebow’s done.

This possession, UF has been in the backfield before you can say Marve. And James makes a nice return, getting the Gators a red zone possession without a single offensive snap.

They don’t do much with it, but Jonathan Phillips adds three. It’s Florida 26, Miami 3 in the waning moments of this game.

Time runs out.

The final from Gainesville: Florida 26, Miami 3.

Two games pitting four teams from the Sunshine State; one very good, one great.

See you tomorrow morning for The Hangover Cure.



Filed under College Football, Live Blogs

2 responses to “Live Blog: The Wars for Florida

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