Antonio Callaway

Getty Images

Antonio Callaway, six other Gators suspended for Michigan opener

20 Comments

Antonio Callaway and six other players have been suspended for Florida’s season-opening game with Michigan, as first reported by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. The players were suspended for a violation of team rules, and a Florida spokesman declined to elaborate on which rule was broken. However, GatorBait has reported the suspensions stem from misuse of school scholarship funds. From the site:

Some of the players involved used the funds from part of their scholarship agreement to buy electronics equipment, then later reported the cards stolen. Some players sold the electronics equipment purchased with the school-issued funds.

Sources informed GatorBait.net that the purchases have been either returned or the school funds used will be paid back by the athletes.

The other players not making the trip to Arlington, Texas, are junior defensive end Keivonnis Davis, sophomore defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones,freshman linebacker James Houston, freshman linebacker Ventrell Miller, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith and freshman offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort.

“We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing,” head coach Jim McElwain said in a press release. “Action has been taken – they have missed some practice and will miss the Michigan game. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will have some players step up as we move forward.”

The only other player beside Callaway the Gators figure to miss against Michigan is Davis, who appeared in all 14 games in 2016 with five starts. He recorded 27 tackles, three TFLs and 1.5 sacks over the year.

Callaway, however, figures to be a big loss.

The junior has been Florida’s leading receiver both years on campus, collecting 54 grabs for 721 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. He also added five rushes for 32 yards and a touchdown, returned 26 punts and took a kickoff back for a touchdown.

Callaway was cited for marijuana possession in pleaded no contest last month. The school also faces two Title IX investigations in relation to Callaway, one for an alleged sexual assault that left suspended from the team in the spring of 2016.

Michigan was ranked ninth in the initial Coaches’ Poll, released earlier this month, while Florida came in at No. 16. The Gators and Wolverines will meet at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC).

Florida WR Antonio Callaway pleads no contest to drug charge

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
2 Comments

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway had charges for marijuana possession dropped after he decided to plead no contest to a drug paraphernalia possession misdemeanor. The no contest plea was part of an agreement Callaway made with the state attorney, which is said to be routine in incidents like the one Callaway was involved.

In May, Callaway was cited for possession of seven grams of marijuana in his pants and another 5.4 grams located in a vehicle Callaway was a passenger in. In June, the state attorney confirmed he had offered Callaway a plea deal, where Callaway could plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and then have the possession charges dropped entirely. The attorney denied making the plea deal because Callaway is a football player at Florida and insisted the plea deal is common for charges involving such a small amount of marijuana.

Callaway will likely be fined and/or sentenced to some community service, but that will be determined at a later point in time. Callaway was fined $301.

What remains to be seen now is how Callaway will be handled within the Florida program. A suspension of some sort would be expected for such an offseason incident, but for how long? It is worth noting Florida opens the season with a big neutral site game against Michigan instead of staying home to play a cupcake opponent in the opener.

No. 1 Alabama strolls into Playoff with 3rd straight SEC championship

Associated Press
4 Comments

Though no one will ever come out and say it, Alabama didn’t have to win on Saturday. The Tide clinched their third straight College Football Playoff trip with last week’s 30-12 victory over Auburn, and nothing that happened under the Georgia Dome roof would change that. As far as the next month is considered, the only thing on the line in Atlanta was whether Florida or Auburn would represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.

But, to quote a famous, fictional Alabamian, Alabama did as Alabama does. They won anyway. And they won big.

No. 1 Alabama waltzed to a 54-16 rout over No. 15 Florida, securing the Tide’s third straight SEC championship and its third straight Playoff berth.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway, then immediately forced a three-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Any shot at a Florida second-half comeback ended in the middle of the third quarter when, staked to a 1st-and-goal at the Alabama 2-yard line, three consecutive runs netted zero yards and Appleby’s fourth down connection to Goolsby sailed out of bounds. Alabama immediately answered by moving 98 yards in eight snaps, most of which came on the legs of Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough.

Scarborough capped Alabama’s next drive — this a 14-play, 13-run, 7-minute, 34-second, 91-yard migration — with his second rushing touchdown of the day, opening the gap to 47-16 with 9:15 remaining. Derrick Gore closed the scoring with a 10-yard burst up the middle with 3:48 to play.

For the game, Alabama rushed 38 times for 234 yards and four touchdowns; Scarborough carried 11 times for 91 yards and two scores, and Harris added eight rushes for 86 yards. Hurts booked a modest day of 11-of-20 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. Appleby completed his day with 26 completions on 39 attempts for 261 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Florida totaled precisely zero rushing yards on 30 credited rushes.

Alabama became the second team in the league’s championship game era to win three straight SEC titles; next season they’ll attempt to tie Florida’s record of four straight SEC Championship victories from 1993-96. The win secured Nick Saban‘s fifth SEC championship at Alabama (and his seventh overall) . It also pushed Alabama past Florida for the most SEC Championship victories at eight in 12 total appearances and edged the Tide to a 5-4 lead in head-to-head SEC title games. The victory extended the Tide’s overall SEC championship lead to 26 total crowns.

The Tide’s 54 points were five off the SEC Championship record (Auburn, 2013) and the most by a Florida opponent since Nebraska steamrolled the Gators 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Saturday’s game was notable for a number of reasons. It was the 25th SEC Championship. It was the final SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. It was the final SEC game legendary broadcaster Verne Lundquist will ever call. And it was the first SEC title game since, oh, about 2005 with absolutely zero national championship stakes on the line.

And as long as the Tide stays this far ahead of the rest of the SEC, it won’t be the last.

Alabama having its way with hapless Florida

AP Images
1 Comment

The SEC Championship was competitive… for about a drive.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway. Florida then forced 3-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Appleby closed the half completing 17-of-26 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Hurts hit 8-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a score. Alabama has out-rushed Florida 52-7.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

No. 14 Florida shuts down Georgia to keep control of SEC East

3 Comments

The No. 14 Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) made sure they would end the day in first place in the hotly contested SEC East with a 24-10 victory over Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC). It is Florida’s third straight win (and third straight double-digit victory) against Georgia in the series.

The game was not particularly enjoyable to watch for many, as the defenses took advantage of some sloppy offensive play on both sides. Georgia managed to get just 164 yards of offense and went 4-for-14 on third down. Florida’s offense did not fare that much better, with fewer than 250 yards of offense and a turnover. Luke Del Rio completed 15-of-25 attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown (and an interception on the opening series of the game). Georgia’s freshman Jacob Eason had an even longer afternoon, completing 15-of-33 attempts for 143 yards. Florida really clamped down on Georgia’s running game, limiting Nick Chubb to 20 yards on nine rushing attempts. The Bulldogs rushed for just 21 yards in the game.

Florida held a 14-10 lead at halftime and expanded their lead in the third quarter on an Antonio Callaway touchdown run. From there, Florida could keep Georgia at a distance with a few punts and turnovers on downs the rest of the way.

With the win, Florida remains on top of the SEC East standings with a one-game lead in the loss column on Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida also owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Kentucky, but not with Tennessee. Florida may have a small buffer, but the Gators also may have the most difficult remaining SEC schedule among the SEC East contenders. Florida plays at Arkansas next week and now had a mid-November game at LSU that was rescheduled from earlier this season (which was originally a home game for the Gators).

Georgia is now eliminated from being able to win the SEC East with four conference losses, so the sights will be on trying to finish strongly to improve whatever bowl opportunities will be available. Georgia can throw a wrinkle in Kentucky’s SEC East hopes next week in Lexington before closing out SEC play at home against Auburn in two weeks. Georgia’s final three games of the season will all be at home, starting with Auburn and finishing with UL-Lafayette and ACC rival Georgia Tech.