No. 8 Florida looks to bounce back against Mizzou


No. 8 Florida looks to bounce back against Mizzou

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) This was supposed to be a celebratory week at Florida.

The Gators expected to beat rival Georgia, clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game and then worry about staying undefeated against Missouri.

Six turnovers changed everything.

The mistake-prone Gators lost 17-9 to the Bulldogs, leaving them in an unenviable position of trying to regroup from a setback that likely will prevent them from playing for a title.

How will No. 8 Florida (7-1, 6-1 SEC) respond? Coach Will Muschamp and everyone else will find out Saturday when the Gators host conference newcomer Missouri (4-4, 1-4).

``The tough thing about football is you have to wait seven days,'' Muschamp said.

Florida probably could use the extra time to work on its offense. The Gators rank 100th in the nation in total offense, have the worst passing attack in the league and have been fairly predictable on first down.

And for the first time this season, the Gators acknowledged that they don't have a big-play receiver and that the offensive line has protection issues.

``Last game wasn't our best performance,'' center Jon Harrison said. ``I just know we're going to bounce back this Saturday and make sure everyone is fundamentally sound. You guys won't see that anymore out of the offensive line.''

If the Gators don't shore things up, they could be in for another long day.

The Tigers have a formidable front led by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. They lead the nation in forced fumbles (17), using three of them to dominate Kentucky last week and get their first SEC victory.

``Confidence levels are up,'' Richardson said. ``For the most part, we are just out here trying to get another win. We want more than one win in the SEC, so we are trying to get another one.''

Quarterback James Franklin returns to the starting lineup for the Tigers after injuring his knee against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, sitting out the following week's game against Alabama and then coming off the bench last week against the Wildcats.

Franklin, who also missed the Arizona State game in September because of a shoulder injury, has completed 62 percent of his passes for 821 yards. He has four touchdown passes and two interceptions, but can make plays with his feet.

He had limited mobility against Kentucky, but led the offense to scores on three of four possessions in the second half.

``We were very cautious with him,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ``We tried not to play him, but he was released to play. He did a good job. He really has come around a long ways. We'll see how this week goes and we'll adjust accordingly game-plan wise.''

Florida, meanwhile, has dealt with a flu bug this week. Backup defensive tackle Leon Orr ended up in a hospital, and safety Matt Elam and several others missed practice because of illness.

Regardless, Muschamp expects his team to bounce back from the flu and last week's loss.

``We've got a mature bunch that's able to refocus and put it behind them,'' he said. ``You don't forget the loss. I don't want them to forget the loss. I want them to learn from it and use it as motivation. ... The bottom line is you have to refocus and move forward.

``You can't let it linger.''

The Gators can still win the Eastern Division, but they need help. They need either Mississippi (Saturday) or Auburn (next week) to upset Georgia.

If not, the Gators still could win out - they finish the season with Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3), Jacksonville State (5-3) and No. 9 Florida State (8-1) - and make the Sugar Bowl.

``We're just focusing on Florida right now, getting back to where we need to be,'' cornerback Marcus Roberson said.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty-plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor, but the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots. 

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period.

It was No. 77’s second tally of the series. He also directed six shots at the Columbus net and made a couple of hits...all from a player who's been fighting through injury the past few weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.