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    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Head To Head Matchup: Receivers

    One word describes the Florida receivers- f-a-s-t. The Gators are explosive not only on the ground but through the air.

    Leading their air assault is all everything wide receiver Percy Harvin who has 35 catches for 595 yards and 7 TDs. Harvin has scored a touchdown in each of the last 13 games he has played in and his streak leads the nation. Four of Harvin’s team-leading seven touchdown receptions this year have come on his last 16 catches.

    For the year, Harvin has had two 100 yard receiving games. He had 186 reception yards against Ole Miss and 112 yards against LSU in addition to 3 TDs in the games. For the season he is averaging 17 yards a catch.

    Second in reception yards for the Gators is 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior Louis Murphy who has 30 catches for 476 yards and 5 TDs. Murphy in last year's FSU-Florida game burned the Florida State secondary for an early touchdown.

    Murphy was the only Gator to make at least one catch in all 13 games last year has now extended his streak to 24 (currently tied for fourth-longest in the SEC) with two catches for 24 yards and a touchdown against The Citadel. Six of his 10 career touchdowns have come on passes of 30 or more yards. Murphy is averaging almost 16 yards a catch.

    Third in reception yards is 6-0, 195-pound redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson who has 18 catches for 269 yards and 3 TDs. Thompson had 56 yards receiving in the Gators’ 70-19 rout of The Citadel and has managed at least three catches in three of his last four outings. He was one of the top receiver prospects in the nation. Says Thompson, "Everyone is fast and everyone is just like me. That’s what makes our offense so good. All of us are fast."

    Next in reception yards is 6-foot-3, 255-pound sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez for the season has 22 catches for 220 yards and 3 TDs.Against USC, Hernandez had his third touchdown reception this season, which is tied for the highest total among all SEC tight ends. He replaced all everything senior tight end Cornelius Ingram who was lost for the season by a torn anterior cruciate ligament during preseason practice.

    In passing offense, the Gators rank #56 in the nation averaging almost 215 yards a game and 25 TDs through the air. Look for the Gators to try and exploit the FSU secondary with their speedy receivers. The Nole secondary will have their ultimate test this Saturday and it will be up to defensive backs Myron Rolle, Tony Carter, and others to step up to the plate.

    Defensive matchup: Mickey Andrews admits that preparing for the Gators has been difficult. He has compared the preparation to preparing for Georgia Tech. Says Andrews, "You have a week’s time to get ready for a team that does a lot of things with a lot of different people at different positions, different kind of motions. They don’t always give you what they start in.”

    The Gators will be facing a Nole defense that is ranked #4 in the nation in pass defense allowing 163 yards a game and giving up 11 TDs through the air. The Noles also have 9 interceptions which puts them at #76 in the nation. In what hopefully will not be the case on Saturday, the Noles have had only 2 of their interceptions at home.

    In passes defended, the Noles rank #40 nationally. Defensive back Korey Mangum has 7 passes broken up while defensive back Myron Rolle has 5 break ups. Opponents are only completing 50.7 % of their passes against the Noles.

    Defensive back Darius McClure surprisingly has returned to practice but is not expected to play on Saturday. Kenny Ingram who has been playing at linebacker this season has again practiced with the secondary this week.

    For the Nole receivers, Bobby Bowden has said that there will be no further discipline of Bert Reed or Cameron Wade so FSU will have its full complement of receivers.

    The reception yards leader is Greg Carr with 26 catches for 440 yards and 3 TDs. On the season, he is averaging 12.2 yards a catch. Almost half of his catches this season have been for 15 yards or more.

    Preston Parker leads the Nole receivers in receptions with 38 catches. He has 359 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Parker has started to come on strong toward the end of the season and is a receiver that Ponder can rely on in the clutch. He is averaging almost 10 yards a catch and also has rushed for 87 yards on 10 attempts.

    Freshman wide receiver Taiwan Easterling has been impressive and has 29 catches for 317 yards and 1 TD. More than half of Easterling's catches have gone for either a first down or a touchdown.

    Freshman Bert Reed despite his problems has also been impressive on the field having 253 reception yards and 3 TDs.

    Corey Surrency has been an up and down player and in the last game against Maryland had two dropped balls in the end zone. Despite that, he is the TD reception leader with 4 TDs on the season. Rod Owens has also been catching more and for the season has 159 receiving yards.

    The Noles are ranked #85 in the nation in passing offense averaging 190 yards a game and throwing 16 TDs through the air. The majority of their TDs through the air have been at Doak having thrown 11 TDs in front of the home crowd.

    Defensive matchup: The Noles will be facing a Gator pass defense that is ranked #20 in the nation allowing almost 174 yards a game and giving up 10 TDs through the air.The Gators' opponents are completing 54.2% of their passes.

    On the road, the Gator pass defense has been stingy allowing only 3 TDs. In passes defended, Florida is ranked #20 nationally with 62 passes defended.

    For the Gators this season, three different players have returned an interception for a touchdown (ties school record). The five interception returns for touchdowns are tied for first nationally this year and are the most in a season in school history. UF’s 479 interception return yards rank second nationally and are the second-highest total in school history since the stat began being recorded in 1977 (509, 2000).

    For the Gators, Ahmad Black is the interception leader with 6 for the season. He also is tied for second on the team with 5 pass breakups.Against South Carolina, the 5-9, 190 lb. sophomore safety made his sixth interception of the season, which is tied for fourth in school history. His total is tied for second nationally this season. Black has returned two for touchdowns this year, which is tied with 13 others for the most in the country. Black also is sixth on the team in tackles with 41.

    Also, 5-11 sophomore corner Joe Haden is the leader in the secondary in pass breakups with 7 and also has 2 interceptions. He is second on the team in tackles with 64.

    Florida is averaging 24.0 yards per interception return this season, which ranks eighth nationally. Ahmad Black’s 80-yard interception returned for a touchdown against Hawaii was the third longest by any player in the SEC in records dating back to 1996. As of games played through Nov. 22 , the return is the ninth-longest returned for a touchdown by any player in the nation this year and is the longest by an SEC player.

    In addition to those players in the secondary, Gator linebacker Brandon Spikes has three interceptions this season against top-25 teams, which is tied for second among all players nationally and is the most by any linebacker in the country.

    Spikes is one of five linebackers in the nation to have two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season. With his interception returned 12 yards for a touchdown in the Gator's game against USC, he tied the Florida single-season record for returns for touchdown in a season

    Quick stat: The Gators have 12 players with at least one catch for the season. The Noles have 17 players who have at least one catch for the season.

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