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January 1, 2014
2013 in Review: 13 Football/Basketball headlines
There is no Times Square in Gainesville, FL. No crystal ball, elaborate New Year's Eve celebration or professional sports team. What there is in Gainesville is Florida football and basketball, the two athletic commodities that keep the college town on edge for most of a calendar year. As 2013 comes to a close, Inside the Gators takes a look at 13 headlines from these two sports in the past year.
13. Florida gets worked in Sugar Bowl. Entering its bowl game coming off a season in which its sole blemish was a turnover-filled loss against Georgia, the No. 3-ranked Gators were supposed to be one of the best teams in the nation. Instead, No. 21 Louisville worked Florida, scoring on the first play of in each half and dominating UF for most of the game.
12. Kenny Boynton sets career marks. Slowly but surely, Boynton racked up one career honor after another during the 2012-13 season. He left school as the second all-time leading scorer but is first in program history in three-pointers made (and attempted), field goal attempts, career starts and minutes played. Boynton was certainly a chucker at times, but he put in four solid years to UF and gave all he had to the program.
11. Billy Donovan works his magic on Mike Rosario. Arguably the biggest on-court story of the year for Florida was Rosario's turnaround. A huge question mark entering the season, he matured into a player who put winning above everything else and wound up leading the Gators in scoring most of the year because of his renewed mental focus. Donovan had everything to do with Rosario's improvement as the player averaged career-highs in field goal percentage, three-point shooting, free throw percentage and assists.
10. Gators lose 13 starters; eight are drafted. Following the Sugar Bowl, Florida's roster was ravaged by the departure of 13 starters including a couple of top-notch players - tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Jelani Jenkins - that had eligibility remaining. UF saw eight players get drafted overall, each of whom either started or played extensively in the NFL during the 2013 season.
9. Kelvin Taylor emerges. It took a season-ending injury to sophomore running back Matt Jones, but Taylor finally got his turn toting the rock in 2013. He had his moments at times but looked his best while taking direct snaps in a 19-14 run-heavy loss to South Carolina on Nov. 16. Taylor took 21 carries for 96 yards in that game, crossing the goal line twice. He flashed and looked like he could be a great player for Florida in the future, as many expected due to his pedigree.
8. A near-epic comeback against Georgia. Head coach Will Muschamp has never won a game in the Florida-Georgia rivalry (as a player or coach), but his team gave him a shot this year…in the second half. The Gators trailed 23-3 at the break but turned things around in a major way over the final two quarters, scoring 17-straight while holding the Bulldogs without a point. It was not enough and UF eventually felt to UGA 23-20.
7. Starting to win the close ones. After going 0-6 in single-point decisions during the 2012-13 campaign, Florida basketball has posted a 4-2 record in such contests over the first half of the 2013-14 season. UF's only losses came on the road with a depleted roster at Wisconsin and UConn; the Gators dropped those games by a combined seven points. Florida has already won close games against North Florida (eight points), Florida State (one), Kansas (six) and Memphis (two).
6. Tyler Murphy gets his shot. After biding his time for three seasons, Murphy played great when he took over for junior quarterback Jeff Driskel against Tennessee. He posted QB ratings of at least 161.1 in three-straight games, registering seven touchdowns (two rushing) to one interception before getting injured at LSU. Murphy was simply never the same after that. Gators fans will not get to watch him up close in 2014 as he decided to transfer after the season.
5. UF collapses in Elite Eight, again. Florida became the first team in event history to lose in the Elite Eight in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Michigan routed UF 79-59, taking an early 18-point lead and holding at least an 11-point advantage through the duration of the contest. It was the Gators' largest defeat since 2004 in what happened to be their most important game of the 2012-13 season.
4. Florida shines as seniors rise to the occasion. Though the Gators lost their three leading scorers from last season in Boynton, Rosario and Erik Murphy, the program's seniors have stepped up big time in 2013-14. Forward Casey Prather is leading the way as arguably the most improved player in the country, averaging a team-high 17.8 points and 5.7 boards in 29.5 minutes per game.
3. Injuries decimate Gators, which lose leaders on both sides of the ball. Florida's football program lost so many players - many of them starters - to season-ending injuries that all Muschamp would do at the end of the year was laugh when he got news of another player being sidelined. The two most important injuries actually came just three days apart as the Gators lost Driskel to a fractured fibula against Tennessee and saw senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley go down during practice with tears to his ACL and medial meniscus. Florida lost two of its best players but also the primary leader on offense and defense, respectively. The season was doomed from there.
2. Florida drops seven-straight games to end the season. While injuries played a major role in the Gators' problems in 2013, that is no reason for Florida to have lost seven-straight games after starting 4-1. UF fell 34-17 on homecoming to Vanderbilt (losing to VU for the first time since 1988) and lost to FCS Georgia Southern 26-20 (allowing GSU to net 429 yards of rushing in the contest). The Gators finished with a losing record for the first time since 1979 and missed a bowl game for the first time in 22 years.
1. Changes made but not at head coach. Fans may have been calling for Muschamp's head, but with the backing of athletic director Jeremy Foley, it was obvious that he was not going anywhere. Instead, Muschamp canned offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis; special teams coordinator Jeff Choate, a hire suggested by Pease, also moved on. Duke Kurt Roper has already been hired to replace Pease, making him Muschamp's third offensive coordinator in four seasons.