Florida vs. Jacksonville State storylines


Fifth-year UF seniors Earl Okine, left, and Lerentee McCray are two of eight links to the 2008 BCS national championship team.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:05 a.m.

Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Adam West take a closer look at this season's final game in The Swamp.

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Fifth-year UF seniors Earl Okine, left, and Lerentee McCray are two of eight links to the 2008 BCS national championship team.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

Ealey, Gators familiar foes

The Gators certainly are familiar with Jacksonville State senior running back Washaun Ealey, and he with them. He's the former Georgia Bulldog that middle linebacker Brandon Spikes intentionally poked in the eye in the Gators' 41-17 thrashing of the Bulldogs in 2009. When Spikes' poke went viral on YouTube, Ealey said he really didn't have a problem with what Spikes did. But UF didn't like it. The school suspended Spikes for the first half of the next game (Vanderbilt). But, back to Ealey. Faced with some disciplinary issues at UGA, he transferred to Jacksonville State in 2011. This season, the former 'Dog has rushed for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns. The UF defense will focus a lot of its attention on containing Ealey.

Plenty of quarterback experience for Gamecocks

With starter Jeff Driskel out with a sprained ankle, the Gators go into today's game with very little experience at quarterback. True sophomore Jacoby Brissett will be starting his third game and his backup, redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy, has taken only a handful of snaps in his career, all in mop-up duty. It's totally different for Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks have enough experience at quarterback for two teams. Starter Marques Ivory and Coty Blanchard will both play, and both have thrown for more than 2,000 yards in their JSU careers. Ivory has thrown for 4,663 yards and Blanchard 2,333. JSU is the only school in all of the FCS to have a pair of 2,000-yard career passers. The Gators, of course, don't even have one.

Back to the 1980s — again

Last week when the Gators broke out their orange jerseys against Louisiana-Lafayette, it brought back memories of the 1980s. Playing Jacksonville State today will do the same, in some way. This is the school where former UF coach Charley Pell got his start as a college head coach. The Gamecocks made him the youngest coach in the nation when they hired the 28-year-old to take over the program way back in 1969. In Pell's second season, JSU was a perfect 10-0. In his first seasons with the Gamecocks, Pell compiled an impressive record of 33-13 before leaving to become the defensive coordinator at Virginia for two seasons. In 1976, he was named the defensive coordinator at Clemson. A year later, he was named the Tigers' head coach. In 1979, Pell replaced Doug Dickey at Florida. Pell, of course, was fired amid an NCAA scandal early in the 1984 season. He died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 60.

FCS test?

Florida's 50-game winning streak against non-BCS opponents may look good on paper, but it hasn't always looked great on the field. Almost exactly a year ago, UF struggled in a closer-than-it-looked 54-32 win over another FCS opponent in Furman, a game in which the Paladins tallied 446 total yards (including 233 on the ground) and only trailed by five points going into the fourth quarter. Jacksonville State, which upset Ole Miss in a double-overtime game in 2010, will surely be looking for a similar result today.

Give it a rest

Many Florida fans believed these two games following SEC play would give UF's starters a chance to breathe after eight straight conference games, but it didn't turn out that way last week as the Gators needed a desperate late-game rally to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette, 27-20. With a looming rivalry game against Florida State on the horizon, the Gators could use a fast start today so that their starters are well-rested for the 10th-ranked Seminoles next weekend.

March toward a milestone

What once seemed like a formality is now very much in question. With two regular-season games and a bowl ahead, Mike Gillislee stands 158 yards from becoming Florida's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason racked up 1,267 yards in 2004. Gillislee, who set a high-water mark for himself of 1,500 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns in the preseason, won't reach those lofty numbers this year with 842 yards and seven touchdowns so far. The senior hasn't had a rushing score since his 146-yard, two-touchdown outburst against a tough LSU defense on Oct. 6. A date with an FCS opponent that allows 186.2 rushing yards per game could be just what Gillislee needs to get back on track.

Receiving attention

While most of the crowd's focus will be on Florida's 19-man senior class today, the UF secondary will be paying attention to one of the Gamecocks' seniors. Jacksonville State receiver Alan Bonner is having a great season with 45 catches for 745 yards and eight touchdowns. He'll look to go out with a bang today in his final college game. Bonner has fared well in the past against SEC competition with four career touchdown catches in games against Ole Miss, Kentucky and Arkansas.

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