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    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Head To Head Matchup: Running Backs

    How do you want a player to beat you? That is the untenable dilemma the Noles may face in the person of 5-11/195 lb. junior Percy Harvin. Harvin leads the Gators with 35 catches, 595 yards and 7 TDs. He also is second in rushing with 525 yards and 8 TDs and is averaging 9.5 yards a carry.

    Harvin is a dual threat for the Gators as the Noles well know from last year. Harvin in last year's game against the Noles rushed for 157 yards and 1 TD. He also had 67 receiving yards. Harvin is thought of more as a receiver than a running back but he has also found a lot of success running the ball.

    The key to Harvin's success has been his ability to operate and make plays in space. Says Florida head coach Urban Meyer, " I think Percy is also a tailback, but we're doing what we have to do with him to win games."

    Consider this as evidence of Harvin's rushing ability. Earlier this season against South Carolina, Percy Harvin rushed for a career-high 167 yards, which is the second-highest total by any wide receiver in the nation in a game this year. On the first play of the second half, Harvin carried the ball a career-long 80 yards for a touchdown. It tied the seventh longest run in UF history.

    The leading rusher just ahead of Harvin for the Gators is freshman Chris Rainey who has 74 carries for 557 yards and 4 TDs. Rainey is averaging 7.5 yards a carry.

    Rainey at 5-9, 185 was a Florida high school player who rushed for more than 7,000 yards and 90 touchdowns during a 45-game win streak at Lakeland, Fla., High School. He sprints too, running the lead leg for Florida’s 4x100 relay team, which took third in the NCAAs nationals last spring. In Saturday's game against The Citadel, Rainey rushed for 142 yards and 1 TD.

    The third leading rusher behind Harvin is freshman Jeffrey Demps with 440 yards and 5TDs. Demps is averaging a huge 9.6 yards a carry. His five touchdown runs have been for 35 yards or more. Demps also has 130 receiving yards and 1 TD.

    Earlier in the season, Demps had his second-straight 100-yard game with his 10-carry, 129-yard performance against LSU. He became the first true freshman to have back-to-back 100-yard games since Neal Anderson in 1982.

    Demps joins Anderson and Emmitt Smith as the only true freshmen in school history to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. Demps at 5-foot-8, 176 pounds was a world class sprinter, whose 10.01 100-meter time while at South Lake High has prompted a discussion that he is the fastest player in college football history.

    And when it comes to rushing, you cannot ignore Heisman winner and Gator QB Tim Tebow. Tebow on the season has rushed for 427 yards and 11 TDs. He is averaging 11 rushing attempts a game. Tebow's average yards per carry is 3.53.

    Florida is averaging 6.1 yards per rush this season, which is ahead of the school record of 5.9 (1976). The Gators are averaging 7.3 yards per play on the year, just off of the record of 7.4 (1995, 2001).

    Florida has had a player rush for 100-or-more yards in a game this season six times (five time in 2007). This season Florida’s running backs have accounted for 1,549 yards on 212 carries (7.3 yards per carry) and they have 16 touchdowns.

    In 2007, the Florida running backs carried the ball 136 times for 761 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns. In 2007 as a group, they averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

    The Gators' rushing offense ranks #11 in the nation rushing for almost 230 yards a game and 37 TDs. The Gators are averaging 6.12 yards a carry.On third down conversions, the Gators are ranked #12 converting 48.74% of their third downs.

    In the red zone, the Gators are ranked #9 scoring 92.16% of their attempts. They have scored 39 TDs and 8 field goals within the red zone. To be in the top echelon for rushing, the Gators have to have a good offensive line. They are ranked #12 in the nation with tackles for a loss allowed.

    The Gators also do not make mistakes. They rank #2 in the SEC in least number of fumbles lost. In addition, they have only lost one fumble this season on the road.

    Defensive matchup: The Nole defense will have their work cut out for them against a tough Gator rush offense.The Nole rush defense is ranked #21 in the nation allowing almost 110 yards a game on the ground and 9 TDs. At home the Noles have been stingy allowing only 3 TDs on the ground and an average of 80 yards per game.

    For the Nole defense, it starts up front with the play of defensive end Everette Brown. Brown is ranked #2 nationally for tackles with a loss with 20 1/2. Brown also has 1 fumble recovery and 3 forced fumbles.

    Defensive end Neefy Moffett is also a factor with 7 tackles for a loss and is second on the team with 4 1/2 sacks. He also has 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Moffett had the interception returned for a touchdown in the Nole win over Clemson.

    The Nole defense is also ranked #2 in the nation with 95 tackles for a loss.The Noles seem to like home cooking since 66% of their tackles for a loss have come at home.

    The Noles have a solid linebacker corps led by Derek Nicholson. Nicholson leads the Noles with 70 tackles, 13 of which are for a loss. He also has one sack and two fumble recoveries. He returned a fumble for a TD against Maryland this past Saturday.

    Linebacker Toddrick Verdell is second on the team with 50 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 interception. Dekoda Watson is fourth in tackles with 38 and 1 interception.

    The Nole defense is ranked #1 in the nation in allowing opponent third down conversions with a 24.14% rate. Within the red zone, the Noles are ranked #12 nationally allowing opponents to score 71.43 % of the time.

    Of the 25 scores within the red zone, the Noles have allowed opponents 13 TDs to 12 field goals.At home, the Noles are even better with a 60% conversion rate for opponents within the red zone.

    The running game for the Noles will revolve around Antone Smith and Jermaine Thomas. It will be interesting to see if Jimbo Fisher uses Ponder in run situations more and also if Preston Parker may be utilized due to his speed.

    For the season, Antone Smith has rushed for 696 yards and 14 TDs. Smith is averaging 4.67 yards a carry and a little over 63 yards a game. Smith has had one 100 yard game when he rushed for 154 yards and 3 TDs against Colorado. Against Maryland this past week, he rushed for 45 yards and 1 TD. He also has 1 receiving TD for the season against Chattanooga.

    Freshman Jermaine Thomas has rushed for 441 yards and 2 TDs and is averaging 7.8 yards a carry. Thomas has had one 100 yard game against Georgia Tech when he rushed for 130 yards.

    Christian Ponder may see some designed opportunities running the ball on Saturday. On the season, he has rushed for 390 yards and 4 TDs. Against Maryland, he was the leading rusher with 81 yards and 1 TD.

    The Noles are ranked #30 in the nation in rushing offense averaging 187.55 yards per game and scoring 24 TDs on the ground. They are averaging 5 yards a carry.On third down conversions, the Noles are ranked #18 converting 47.14% of their third downs.

    In the red zone, the Seminoles are ranked #19 scoring 88.89% of their attempts. They have scored 27 TDs and 13 field goals within the red zone. The Nole offensive line as fans know has been a work in progress. The Noles are ranked #65 in the nation in allowing tackles for a loss.

    In fumbles lost, the Noles rank #5 in the ACC. At home they have lost 4 fumbles for the season.

    Defensive matchup: The Nole running game will be facing a tough Gator defense that is ranked #13 in the nation in rushing defense allowing 102.82 yards a game and 6 TDs.

    In its last game against The Citadel, UF’s starting defensive line is made up of Justin Trattou, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Jermaine Cunningham. Florida has opened with the four in eight games this season.

    Marsh is questionable for the game due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee. The Gators will definitely be without backup tackle Matt Patchan who has a sprained knee.

    Florida is ranked #2 in the SEC in tackles for a loss with 43. Florida's sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the Gators with 9 tackles for a loss. The 6-6 Dunlap is very versatile as he blocked two punts in a first half game earlier in the season against Vanderbilt.

    Linebacker Brandon Spikes is close behind with 8 tackles for a loss and 3 interceptions. He also leads the Gators in tackles with 74. Spikes has been named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America.

    The Gator defense is ranked #18 in the nation in allowing opponent third down conversions at a 32.03% rate. Within the red zone, the Gators are ranked #1 nationally allowing opponents to score 62.96 % of the time.

    Of the 17 scores within the red zone, the Gators have allowed opponents 13 TDs to 4 field goals. On the road, the Gators have only allowed opponents 4 TDs within the red zone at a 50% conversion rate.

    Quick Stats: For the Gators, fourteen different players have had at least one carry in 2008. For the Noles, sixteen different players have at least one carry.

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