Austin Appleby

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No. 17 Florida defense dominates Iowa in Outback Bowl blowout, 30-3

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Austin Appleby may not have been able to beat Iowa (8-5) while he was at Purdue, but he was able to do that on Monday in the Outback Bowl with the No. 17 Florida Gators (9-4). Appleby had early mistakes with a pair of turnovers on the first two drives of the game, but Appleby ended his day with 222 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gators pull away from the Hawkeyes in Tampa in a 30-3 victory.

The story of the game was Florida’s defense, which came up with three interceptions of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and held the Iowa offense to just 55 passing yards. Iowa was limited to just 226 yards of offense and went 4-of-16 on third down. Even a 100-yard day from Akrum Wadley (115 yards) was not enough to keep the Hawkeyes within reach once the game snowballed out of control.

Florida scored the first touchdown of the game on an 85-yard pass play to Mark Thompson with multiple missed tackles along the way. Chauncey Gardner padded a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Gators tacked on two more field goals from there to pile on in the 27-point victory. Considering how Florida was embarrassed last season by a Big Ten team in the bowl season (Michigan), this must have been a little extra sweet to do the same to another Big Ten team.

The loss by the Hawkeyes clinches a losing bowl record this season for the Big Ten. At 3-6 and just one game remaining to play (Penn State in the Rose Bowl), the Big Ten had a rough postseason that included two New Years Six bowl losses by Michigan and Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff). A Penn State win would at least give the Big Ten a split in NY6 bowl games if it can beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is now 6-5 in the bowl season with two more games to play. Auburn faces Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl later tonight and Alabama will face Clemson in the nationla championship game next week.

Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowl games, which has culminated in a five-game bowl losing streak for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Florida head coach Jim McElwain picked up his first bowl victory of his career.

Iowa’s 2017 season will get underway on September 2 at home against Wyoming from the Mountain West Conference. Iowa will play key division game son the road against Wisconsin and Nebraska next fall, as well as on the road against Big Ten East opponent Michigan State (who can’t possibly be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016, right). The Hawkeyes also host Ohio State in early November next fall.

Florida’s 2017 season will start in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines on September 2 in the Cowboys Kickoff. Other non-conference games will include home games against UAB (the Blazers are back in 2017!) and rival Florida State. In conference play, the Gators host Tennessee as well as LSU and Texas A&M.

As a reminder, the Florida victory means you get a free bloomin’ onion at your local Outback Steakhouse tomorrow, January 3.

Florida leads Iowa, 10-3, in defensive Outback Bowl at halftime

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The Outback Bowl was expected to be a true defensive battle between Iowa and Florida, and through one half of play that has most certainly been the case, although Mark Thompson ripped through for a 85-yard touchdown play late in the first half to give the Gators a 10-3 lead at halftime.

Florida got the ball to start the game, but the drive ended with Austin Appleby being picked off on a tipped and caught by a diving Brandon Snyder. But Florida’s defense responded by forcing Iowa to a three-and-out to force a punt. That would only lead to another interception off a tipped pass from Appleby, this time with Desmond King getting himself in position to have the ball fall in his chest on the ground. It was Florida’s second turnover in the first five minutes of the game.

King’s interception would lead to a field goal by Keith Duncan for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Florida would answer on the next drive with a 44-yard field goal off the leg of Eddy Pineiro.

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard nearly reached across the goal line for the first touchdown of the game midway through the second quarter, but the ball was placed just outside of the end zone and Iowa opted to go for it on fourth down. It did not go so well, with Florida stuffing the play for a turnover on downs.

No. 23 Florida clinches SEC East with goal line stand at No. 16 LSU

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The wait appeared to be worth it for No. 23 Florida (8-2, 6-2 SEC) as the Gators clinched the SEC East with a 13-10 victory on the road against No. 16 LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC). The game, originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville earlier this year but was rescheduled due to a hurricane, was quite the physical one that saw the Gators fund an edge on the ground in the fourth quarter. A 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro with 4:37 to play gave the Gators a lead and the special teams unit recovered a fumble by LSU on the ensuing kickoff to run some more clock. But it was a goal-line stand on the final play of the game that would put the game in the win column for the Gators.

Down 16-10, LSU had the football with a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line and got two plays from the one-yard line to punch it in for a game-tying touchdown and potential game-winning PAT, but the Gators thwarted the Tigers when Derrius Guice lept over the pile and was stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the game.

Jordan Scarlett rushed for 108 yards and freshman Lamical Perine showed he can carry a pile on a key late drive. The play of the game, however, came shortly after LSU botched a field goal try and had a desperation pass by holder Josh Growden fall incomplete to allow Florida to take over from their two-yard line. Austin Appleby unloaded for a deep ball down the right sideline to Tyrie Cleveland, who broke a tackle and raced his way the remaining distance of the field for a 98-yard game-changing play to finish off a 10-point swing. The 98-yard scoring play more than doubled Florida’s offensive output at that point in the third quarter (68 total offensive yards before the play).

LSU running back Leonard Fournette was not scheduled to play today but reportedly convinced Ed Orgeron to allow him to play after a pregame dustup lit a fire under the banged-up Fournette. Fournette carried the football 12 times for 40 yards.

With the win, Florida clinches its second-straight SEC East Division title, which means the Gators are heading to Atlanta for a repeat of last year’s SEC Championship Game against SEC West champion Alabama. Alabama clinched the West last week with a win and an Auburn loss. It will be the first repeat SEC Championship Game matchup since Alabama and Florida clashed in the 2008 and 2009 conference championship games, although both of those games were between the top two teams in the country those seasons. Alabama may be the top team this year, but Florida will likely be outside the top 10. The SEC East hasn’t had a representative in the top 10 for the title game since No. 5 Missouri in 2013. Alabama and Florida have also met in the SEC Championship Game eight times prior to this season. Each team has won four meetings.

Before the SEC Championship Game, Florida will play rival Florida State next week in Tallahassee. LSU will close out its regular season on the road against Texas A&M.

LSU and Florida one half through a defensive slobber knocker

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The tempers between Florida and LSU got a little carried away before the game ever started, leading LSU running back Leonard Fournette to suit up on a day he was not expected to be available. It turned out Fournette served as nothing more than a decoy to start the game for the Tigers. Fournette has carried the football five times for 25 yards as the defenses for the Gators and LSU are setting the tone in this one. LSU leads Florida at the half, 7-3.

LSU scored the lone touchdown of the half on their first possession of the game. Derrius Guice punched it in from the one-yard line at the end of a 12-play drive covering 80 yards. With the Tigers once again sniffing a touchdown in the second quarter, Guice had the ball knocked out of his hands, allowing Florida to come up with a much-needed turnover. With the Gators lacking any offensive punch though, the turnover yielded nothing more than changing the field position.

Florida can clinch the SEC East Division with a win in Baton Rouge. If the offense cannot score points today then Florida will have to hope Tennessee loses either one of their final two games this season in order to book a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

QB Luke Del Rio “highly doubtful” for Florida’s next game

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The Florida Gators do not appear to be optimistic about quarterback Luke Del Rio being available for their next game against Vanderbilt this weekend. Florida announced Del Rio is “highly doubtful” for this weekend’s game after missing this past weekend’s game at Tennessee.

Del Rio suffered a left knee injury two weeks ago against North Texas, forcing him to miss last weekend’s game against the Vols. Florida expects to be able to work Del Rio back into the practice routine starting Tuesday and will continue to monitor his progress as they make sure he is good to go before testing him in a game.

“I would say he’d be highly doubtful for this week,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said Monday. “But I’m still not going to count him out.”

Austin Appleby stepped in to get his first start at Florida since transferring from Purdue when he took the field on Saturday at Tennessee. It is expected Appleby will once again get the start against Vanderbilt. Del Rio visited with the team and was in a uniform last weekend, more so he could communicate and help Appleby out as best he possibly could from the sideline.