Tag Archives: Will Grier

Fight for the SEC East: Tennessee at Florida

This year the SEC East seemed to be pretty wide open for everybody except Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Now we can also add South Carolina to that list. So basically the race for the East will come down to Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee. This week we are fortunate enough to see our first matchup between two of those teams, a matchup that may even be called a rivalry by some (we’ll get into that later). Third-year Head Coach Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers will be paying Florida’s new Head Coach Jim McElwain and the Gators a visit down in The Swamp.

I have a very unique perspective on this game, because during every other game throughout the season I will be rooting for both the Volunteers and the Gators. This week is where it gets confusing for me. I lived in East Tennessee, the heart of Vol Nation, for about 15 years of my life. The Volunteers and watching their teams with my dad are the reason that I love sports. But then something tragic happened during my senior year of high school. I found out that the University of Florida would basically pay for my education if I took my talents to Gainesville. So what do you think I did? My dad started calling me his “Gator traitor,” but hey…money talks. I’ve been in Gainesville for five years now and am still as confused as ever because of my overwhelming love for both athletic programs. But at least that means I know a lot more than the average person about both teams and this upcoming showdown in The Swamp.

Enough about me and why I’m particularly well-qualified to write this post. Let’s get to the actual football talk. Last year, the Gators made the trip to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to play and obviously I had to make the trip as well. Leading up to that weekend, I was asked time and time again by my friends who I thought would win. I told them “It depends.” And of course they wanted to know what it depended on, in my little VolGator head. “IF Florida plays Jeff Driskel the entire game, they’ll lose. But if they give Treon Harris a chance, I think they’ll win.” And as ugly as that game was…it came down to just that. The Vols had controlled the game until Coach Muschamp finally let Harris play. Then the Gators ended up with a 10-9 victory in a beautifully checkered Neyland Stadium. Those ten points gave them their tenth victory in a row over the Volunteers.

A LOT has changed since that game, though. My allegiance on game day has not. I will still be wearing BLUE this year. But do I think I will still be on the right side of this “rivalry”? It depends. Yes, I’m allowed to say that about these games. I know too much about both teams to give a straight answer. So what does it depend on this year? For me, it still depends on Florida’s offense. But instead of which QB starts (both Treon Harris and Will Grier have been good enough), it depends on Florida’s offensive line. Honestly, heading into this season, Florida’s offensive line was always my biggest concern. And that’s no different now.

What’s interesting about this game is in the offense vs. defense match-ups for both teams. Tennessee’s offense has been very productive this year while Florida’s defense has been smothering opponents this year. On the other hand, Florida’s offense and more specifically their offensive line has been unimpressive this season while Tennessee’s defense has been almost equally unimpressive. The end result? A) This will be a low-scoring game. Maybe not as low-scoring as last year’s game between these two teams, but it also won’t be like that Ole Miss-Alabama game we probably all watched last weekend. B) Florida’s offensive line is the key to this game. If Florida’s offensive line can hold up better than it did at Kentucky last Saturday, the Gators can put up enough points to beat the Vols. But if the line keeps collapsing and spooking whichever quarterback is playing, Florida will be rushing the ball too much and leaving a lot of potential passing plays on the field.

About those passing plays the Gators would leave on the field…Will Grier has a great arm. No Gator fan will argue against that. But in his start at Kentucky last week, he was quick to try to get yards using his own two feet instead. And that was because of Florida’s weak offensive line. Grier did even manage to put the ball in the end zone on his two feet, stretching out like Superman at the end of his run. The problem with Grier running the ball so much is that in a lot of other cases he probably could’ve gotten off a pass to a receiver. And if the receivers had caught those passes, the Gators probably would’ve gained more yards and put up more points. It actually pains the Volunteer fan in me to say this, but I’m not so sure Tennessee’s defense (or defensive line) is that much better than Kentucky’s. So maybe Florida’s offensive line can get it together and give the Gators a good chance at getting their 11th victory in a row in this “rivalry.” But on the flip side, Florida’s offensive line may not hold up. And the Volunteer offense, led by Josh Dobbs this time, would be able to put more points on the board than the Gators despite a suffocating Gator defense.

There’s only one more thing I feel obligated to talk about here. And that is why I’ve been putting the world “rivalry” in quotation marks. Considering I was basically raised as a Volunteer fan, this game was always seen as our biggest rivalry game every season. Vol fans proudly call themselves “Gator haters” just like my dad began calling me a “Gator traitor.” The mayor as well as pretty much the entire auditorium gasped when I Gator chomped on stage during an academic awards banquet my senior year of high school. But when I came to the University of Florida and saw the flip side of this “rivalry,” I was a little disappointed. The truth is, there are at least two bigger rivalry games every year for Gator fans. Obviously most college football fans know of our bitter rivalry with the Florida State Seminoles. I’m also pretty sure Marco Rubio managed to put that one on display for the entire country, football fans or not. But there’s one other game that always overshadows our face-off with the Volunteers, the Florida-Georgia game. Maybe it’s because it’s the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (so much fun) or maybe because the Georgia Bulldogs have been stiffer opposition in recent history. Whatever the reason, the rivalry just isn’t the same coming from the Florida side. It’s up to Tennessee to get Gator fans to give this rivalry a little more respect now.

That all being said, this rivalry will always have a special place in my heart. But even with my “It depends,” answer for who wins this game, I know The Swamp will act as a 12th man for the Gators. It may not have saved the day for the Vols when they had that advantage over them last year, but I think it tips the scales slightly in favor of the Gators this time around. My true answer still remains…at the end of the day, the winner of this game really does depend on Florida’s offensive line. Whoever ultimately gets that win will be off to a good start in the race for the SEC East title. Luckily for me, this is the one weekend of the year during which I’m guaranteed a win by at least one of my teams! And let’s be honest, that has hardly ever been a guarantee for me in my recent years as a VolGator fan.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

“Guys, that was embarrassing”: Week 2 in SEC Football

“Guys, that was embarrassing…”

Those words have been torn apart by Florida Gator fans and sports journalists for the past few days. I stand with Florida Coach Jim McElwain on this one; Florida may have won, but that was an “embarrassing” effort by the Gators. Unfortunately, this same embarrassment seemed to be prominent in about half of the games that SEC football teams played in last weekend. Some of the winners put forth an “embarrassing” effort, even though they did manage to secure a win. And obviously the big losers just put forth an outright shameful performance on Saturday.

GUYS, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. This mortifying weekend for SEC football came right after a record-setting poll vote last week. The SEC entered the weekend with ten ranked teams. They exited the weekend with only seven ranked teams. It’s awful for me to have to relive this weekend of SEC football, but I’ll be glad to put all the underperforming teams on blast for your enjoyment. Maybe I’ll even get a kick out of it too.

The Losers

The worst loss suffered by an SEC football team this weekend belongs to Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas somehow managed to lose to Toledo…in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m still not 100% sure how this even happened. Even looking at the statistics for the game, it just seems incredible that Arkansas found a way to lose this game. The Toledo Rockets came into this game as 21-point underdogs and left this game victorious. Performances like this one from Arkansas are the reason people are saying the entire SEC is overrated this year. Arkansas was one of those ten ranked teams from the SEC, but now they’ve become the laughing stock of SEC critics everywhere. Thanks, Arkansas. I’m sure Toledo enjoyed their “borderline erotic” win against and overrated SEC football team.

This second loss is actually painful for me to write about. I watched as the Vols jumped out to an early 17-0 lead over the Oklahoma Sooners. I watched that lead turn into a 17-3 lead, but still wasn’t concerned. I saw the Oklahoma offense really start to warm up in the fourth quarter, and then I was nervous. Somehow the Vols managed to let a 17-point lead turn into a game that was tied at the end of regulation. In the first overtime period, both teams scored touchdowns. But in the second overtime period, Oklahoma’s offense moved the ball and Tennessee’s gave up the ball. What was once an impressive 17-point lead at home had become a gut-wrenching double overtime loss. What does this mean for Tennessee heading into the rest of the season? I have no clue. Maybe they just had an “off” half. Clearly they are capable of dominating a strong opponent for one half. But it takes two good halves of football to win the game, not just one. So can the Vols finally get it done this season? After Saturday, I really don’t know.

The Winners That Also Lost

Auburn…what was that? I really am at a loss for words about Auburn’s home game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. I’m starting to think Will Muschamp just tries to lose to FCS opponents. The offense struggled behind QB Jeremy Johnson and his two interceptions. Johnson was supposed to be a Heisman Trophy candidate but now he’s literally throwing away his chances of receiving that honor. On top of a weak offense, the Tigers gave up 438 yards on defense…to an FCS team. I just don’t get it. If the Tigers hadn’t pulled together for that last-minute score, then they would’ve never taken the game to overtime. But even winning in overtime is embarrassing against a team like Jacksonville State. I don’t know what’s going on, but please just get it together Auburn…please.

Missouri also had a scare against Sun Belt opponent Arkansas State, a team that had just been absolutely crushed by the USC Trojans during the opening weekend of college football. If it weren’t for Maty Mauk and Kentrell Brothers, the Missouri Tigers definitely would’ve suffered an embarrassing loss to the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Tigers actually went into the second half down 17-10 and somehow managed to fight back and win 27-20. How did they do it? In the second half Missouri’s defense, led by Kentrell Brothers, only allowed 37 yards and 3 points for the Red Wolves offense. Meanwhile, QB Maty Mauk put the team on his back and ended the game with 3 passing TDs as well as 75 rushing yards. Heading into conference play, the Tigers need more players than just Mauk and Brothers to actually show up to the games. SEC opponents aren’t quite as forgiving as Sun Belt opponents.

And now we finally get to look at the game that gave me this week’s article title. The Florida Gators played a humiliating game at home against the East Carolina Pirates. Just like last season, Florida’s kicker Austin Hardin proved to be anything but clutch, missing two field goal attempts that were both under 40 yards. QB Will Grier still looked like the Will Grier Florida fans were so excited about recruiting, but his rhythm was interrupted as he still shared playing time with Treon Harris. And even though the Gators held the Pirates to negative rushing yards (I know, shocking), they were unable to stop their passing game AT ALL. Not to mention, the Gators also racked up all sorts of penalties throughout the game. It went down to the wire, but Florida managed to get a crucial fumble recovery to seal their victory. Coach Jim McElwain was anything but impressed by this lackluster performance and had some choice words for his team throughout the night. At the end of the day, yes…Florida did win. But McElwain was definitely correct when he highlighted selfish mistakes and called their overall performance “embarrassing.”

“You guys should be embarrassed having to write about it!”

I am embarrassed…thanks for validating that Coach McElwain. I actually almost feel like this was a therapy session, during which I could air my grievances with SEC football teams. That’s how bad last week was for SEC football. Hopefully throughout the coming weeks, these teams can get their acts together and start playing like they belong in the best conference in college football. I’m just so tired of hearing all the doubters say the SEC isn’t the best conference anymore. But after last week even I am starting to think the doubters may be right. By the way, does anybody know if Georgia left their passing game in Athens last week? I couldn’t find it when they were in Nashville.

Sometimes I tweet about football…follow @OGKristenB!

The SEC East: More Drama Than High School

High school is one of the most dramatic places the majority of us ever spend any extended period of time. We think we get past the drama as soon as we get that diploma but sometimes “the real world” is just as crazy as those high school hallways. This week, SEC East football is proving to be just as dramatic…and not necessarily in a fun way.

Freshman QB Treon Harris led the Gators on their only two scoring drives during a 10-9 victory over the Vols Saturday. (USATSI)
Freshman QB Treon Harris led the Gators on their only two scoring drives during a 10-9 victory over the Vols Saturday. (USATSI)

The biggest drama in the SEC right now relates to the University of Florida Gators. The past two weeks during preparations for the football game in Knoxville versus the Vols, there was quarterback drama. The Gator Nation was adamant that freshman QB Treon Harris take over for redshirt junior Jeff Driskel. Though Driskel started and played the majority of the game on Saturday, it was only once Harris went in at quarterback that the Gators scored and eventually won the game. Gator fans everywhere rejoiced as the formerly stubborn Coach Muschamp had finally freed Treon Harris. Let’s be clear though, Harris didn’t put up any outstanding statistics or have any humungous plays. What Treon did was change the entire attitude of the players and the fans and made them all believe that they had a chance to come back from that nine point deficit to win their 10th meeting in a row over the Vols. It was unclear after the game whether or not Treon Harris would start this coming week at home against the LSU Tigers, but now everybody knows the answer to that question.
News broke yesterday that Treon Harris had been accused of sexually abusing a female student at the University of Florida early Sunday morning. Florida immediately suspended Harris from ALL team activities, even though he had not formally been charged with anything. As a young female who previously attended UF, I applaud them for that decision. Sexual assault needs to be taken seriously in every single case, regardless of who may be involved. Furthermore, I am impressed with the majority of my fellow Gators who have supported the university’s decision despite the impact it may have on a very big football game this weekend. In a time when athletes are increasingly escaping punishment for such actions because of their importance to the team, University of Florida President Bernie Machen made it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated and that the investigation will receive priority over the success of Florida’s football program. Even if Treon is never convicted or even charged in this case, the Gator Nation can rest easy knowing the right thing was done.
But now what happens as far as football in Gainesville goes? The Gator players and fans may not love this idea after the way the game went last weekend, but it’s time for everybody to rally around starting QB Jeff Driskel. He has carried the team to victory many times before and he can do so again if he has the support of everybody around him. With freshman Will Grier out due to a back injury and last year’s third-string QB Skylar Mornhinweg getting into a scuffle with a teammate, Jeff Driskel really is it for Florida (like it or not).
That is not the only bit of SEC East drama Florida played a part in recently. As in all rivalries in football or any sport, tensions run very high. After the Gators won at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, many UT students and fans participated in a chant saying “F*** you, Florida!” I get that sometimes you hate a rival school and you’re fired up from a close game BUT the use of any kind of obscenity around children and any other fans that could possibly be offended is unnecessary. No, Tennessee is not the only fan base to do that. In fact, I ran into many Vol fans before and after the game that were friendly to me despite the fact that I was clearly a Gator fan. But the fact remains that the obscene chant was broadcast over national television and filled a 102,000-person stadium. Of course, in true “BOOM” style, Coach Muschamp had a little something to say back to the fans in his post-game interview. Though he didn’t use any profanity Muschamp said it was great to see all those disappointed fans. Trash talking is going to happen in sports so people need to be prepared to hear all sorts of jokes and jabs but as a coach Muschamp should’ve filtered his thoughts and said that in a less malicious way. Kudos to the University of Tennessee for asking students to refrain from such chants in the future, kudos to all fans that did not participate in the chant, and let’s hope more schools start to crack down on unnecessarily profane chants at games.
There is a good kind of drama that is brewing in the SEC East, though. The race to be at the top of the East is more wide open than ever. Missouri sits atop the SEC East standings, with a 1-0 conference record and a 4-1 record overall. Behind them Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky are all tied at 2-1 in conference play. Yes, you read that right…Kentucky is relevant to the SEC East football standings this season. After nearly pulling off the overtime victory in Gainesville a few weeks ago, Kentucky managed to beat both the Commodores and the Gamecocks in SEC play. Even though the winner of the East is likely to eventually get blown out by whoever wins the SEC West this season, it’s fun to have some competition brewing heading into the meat of the season.
There’s no telling what will happen next in the SEC East. The Gators will be dealing with the investigation for weeks to come while heading right into some important games, Kentucky will continue to try to prove itself as a real contender in the East, Georgia will try to reassert its dominance, and Missouri will try to continue its SEC East dominance from last year. Meanwhile South Carolina will try to rebound from its three SEC losses, Tennessee will try to find a way to close out those tight games, and Vanderbilt will struggle to find a way to win under new coach Derek Mason. Fasten your seat belts because something tells me we’re all in for a wild ride!