September 12, 2011

The Silver Lining: 9/12 Orange & Blue News

In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week The Silver Lining will take on a "news and notes" format to keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.

Lauded for only giving up three points in their first two games while blowing out a pair of cupcake out-of-conference opponents, Florida football received their highest rankings since Oct. 3, 2010 - No. 16 in the Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Top 25. Their ranking will undoubtedly be tested for the first time this season on Saturday when they go up against Tennessee, a team that ranks ninth in the country in passing yards (358.0/game) and has scored 87 points combined in two games against Montana and Cincinnati.

Inserted as the team's starter after spending the entire preseason thinking he would be the back-up, quarterback Rex Grossman put on a show Sunday for the Washington Redskins. In arguably the Gators' best NFL performance on Sunday, Grossman went 21/34 for 305 yards and two touchdowns for a QB rating of 110.5. He found former and now current teammate wide receiver Jabar Gaffney three times for 54 yards and one of his scores, reestablishing a connection that was so smooth in Gainesville, FL from 2000-01.

Not wanting to be overlooked, a trio of former Florida players also stood out in NFL action on Sunday. Safety Reggie Nelson, now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, had a team-high nine tackles (seven solo) and defended two passes in his team's 27-17 victory. Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings' primary wide receiver and kick returner, began the game with a 103-yard return touchdown. Defensive end Ray McDonald, who signed a free agent contract in the offseason that made him a starter with the San Francisco 49ers, proved the team's money was well spent with a team-high six solo tackles including three for a loss and three hits on Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson.

In four games played over the weekend, No. 9 Gators soccer (5-2) and No. 7 Florida volleyball (7-2) split their contests evenly. Soccer fell to No. 5 Florida State 3-2 on Friday before dominating Florida Gulf Coast 5-0 on Sunday, while volleyball took down No. 10 Texas 3-2 Friday prior to being upended 3-2 by No. 3 Stanford in Sunday's finale of the Nike Big Four Classic. Junior midfielder Erika Tymrak led the soccer team with two goals over the weekend, while seniors outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (35 kills, 33 digs) and right-side setter Kelly Murphy (26 kills, 59 assists) registered consecutive double-doubles in their matches.

Not having won a Grand Slam title since 2006, former Gators tennis player Lisa Raymond felt she was well overdue. The doubles specialist competed in the 2011 U.S. Open over the weekend and wound up capturing the women's doubles title as part of the event's No. 4-seeded duo with partner Liezel Huber. Raymond, a 38-year-old who has won 71 doubles titles and is 700-251 all-time in doubles matches as a professional, also became part of the No. 1-ranked team in the world for the first time since 2000.

Gators junior left tackle Xavier Nixon was one of eight players who carried an American flag onto the field Saturday as Florida went out to compete against UAB in their second game of the season. Head coach Will Muschamp said after the game that the players who did so all carried flags to represent family members who either are serving or had served in the United States Armed Forces. For Nixon specifically - whose parents were in the stands watching their son - the honor meant a lot. "The day of 9/11 changed my life as well many other Americans," he said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "That lifestyle, you gotta grow up fast and you gotta have tough skin cause [my parents were] counting on me back home to do the right things, to do what I need to do to progress in my life. It was just a weight on my shoulder I had to carry."

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