Today's storylines: UF vs. Arkansas
Published: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
Night game in The Swamp
Many players don't like night games because it means long hours during the day hanging out at the team hotel. But the Gators are always eager to embrace a night game in The Swamp. There's no place like it, they say. “It means a lot, especially because it's my last year,” cornerback/safety Jaylen Watkins said. “Last year, we didn't get a game at night in The Swamp. I'm happy to get one in my final year.” The Gators haven't played a night game at Florida Field since the 2011 Florida State game. It figures to be an electric atmosphere in the stadium tonight. “I've been here on the opposing sideline. There is a difference (in a night game in The Swamp),” Will Muschamp said.
There is at least one Razorback who knows all about the nighttime atmosphere in The Swamp. Randy Shannon experienced it in 2008 when he was the head coach at Miami. Shannon's Hurricanes were thumped by Urban Meyer's Gators 26-3. Shannon certainly wasn't happy about the outcome. But what really seemed to tick him off was Meyer's decision to kick a late field goal. Shannon thought the Gators were trying to run up the score. Shannon, who was fired in 2010 after four seasons at UM, makes his return to The Swamp tonight as the Razorbacks' assistant coach and linebackers coach.
Big uglies ready to root around with Hogs
After coping with some injuries early in the season (including losing right tackle Chaz Green for the year with a torn labrum), Florida's offensive line is getting healthy and starting to push people around. The line wore out Kentucky's defensive front last week by pounding the football in the running game. The big uglies are eager to grind away tonight with the Arkansas defensive line. “One thing that's great about our guys is I've never heard them complain one time about anything, whether we're throwing it more or running it more. Linemen are linemen. If we had 80 plays, they'd want to run it 79,” UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.
Hogs can bring the heat
UF's offensive line has done a solid job protecting its new starting quarterback, but the Gators are facing a much bigger challenge tonight taking care of Tyler Murphy. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in sacks with 15. Nine of those sacks have come from defensive ends Chris Smith (six) and Trey Flowers (three). They will be coming hard and fast off the edge tonight to try and knock Murphy down and knock him out of rhythm. “They maneuver them and use games with them. It's tough. We have a lot to handle with that,” Pease said.
Because of stellar defense on third downs and a solid running game, Florida leads the nation in time of possession at 38:58 per contest, which is just shy of two-thirds of every game. Florida's ability to get teams off the field has been a key, but so has the progression of Matt Jones (pictured) and fellow tailback Mack Brown, who finally seem to have found a rhythm on the ground.
In the past 10 years, Florida and Arkansas have played five times, with the Gators winning each contest. But in three of the five games, the Razorbacks had the Gators on the ropes late, the last time being in 2009 at The Swamp, when Florida scored 10 points late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 23-20 win on a field goal with nine seconds left. This game isn't much of a rivalry, but is frequently exciting.
Out of air
Arkansas has a formidable rushing attack, but its passing game is sorely lacking. The Razorbacks rank 105th in the country in passing offense, and the lack of balance has come back to hurt them in losses to Rutgers and Texas A&M. Florida comes into the game boasting the 6th ranked passing defense in the nation. When those two units go head-to-head, it could be another one-dimensional day for Arkansas.
Afraid of the dark?
Night games in The Swamp have been a rarity as of late, with the Gators not even playing in one last season. That may have been a good thing. Dating back to 2010, Florida has played at home under the lights a total of seven times, only managing a pair of wins. The victories came over Kentucky (2010) and Florida Atlantic (2011) while the losses were to LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina in 2010. The Gators then fell to Alabama and Florida State at night in 2011.