In your wildest dreams you’ve probably never imagined a bottom of the ninth rally that ends with a walk-off catcher’s interference call, but that’s how the #1 ranked Florida Gators beat Eastern Michigan, 8-7, Wednesday night at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
After giving up 5 eighth inning runs, the Gators trailed EMU, 7-4. They got back two in the bottom of the eighth on a 2-run triple by freshman Deacon Liput. In the bottom of the ninth, the Gators tied the game on singles by Ryan Larson, Jonathan India and Nick Maldonado. After Liput was intentionally walked to load the bases, Reed was awarded first base when catcher Jeremy Stidham’s mitt caught a piece of his bat during the swing. Reed got credit for the most bizarre game winning RBI of his career.
It was a sloppy win for the Gators (5-0), who committed two errors while the pitching staff walked five and hit five batters. At the plate the Gators managed 10 hits off the EMU pitchers plus they took advantage of three EMU errors, seven walks and three hit batters. Mike Rivera had 2 hits and 2 RBI while India had 2 hits including a double and an RBI. Jeremy Vasquez also had two hits for UF.
Shaun Anderson, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, got credit for the win.
SEC FOOTBALL JOB SECURITY
Nick Saban, Alabama (105-18, 9 years, salary $7.25 million): The only thing that could affect Saban’s job security is if some NFL team offered the biggest contract in the business and that included total control over personnel plus a stake in the ownership. If no NFL team is willing to pony up that kind of cash, then Nick will be content to finish out his days in Alabama. He’s one national championship away from tying Bear Bryant (6 national titles) for most all-time, two national championships from trying Bear for most all time at one school (6).
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (34-18, 4 years, salary $4.93 million): Freeze has improved by one win in each of his four years on the job. He took the Rebels to a 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State last season. Impressive huh? Tell that to Ole Miss fans and they’ll reply, “Yeah, but …” because what impresses the faithful are two straight wins over Alabama. Ole Miss is the only SEC West school that was a member of the league back when the SEC Championship Game originated in 1992 that still hasn’t made it to Altanta. Freeze has the faithful believing it’s just a matter of time.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (55-35, 7 years, salary $4.275 million): It’s puzzling to a lot of folks why Mullen hasn’t already bolted. He’s taken the Bulldogs to a school record six straight bowl games. Other than an SEC championship, which seems a remote possibility considering the Bulldogs play in the same division as Alabama, there isn’t much more Mullen can accomplish in Starkville, yet he remains the HBC. Maybe it’s because it would take 4-5 consecutive losing seasons or heinous NCAA crimes to get fired.
Jim McElwain, Florida (10-4, 1 year, salary $3.75 million): Mac exceeded expectations in 2015 by winning the SEC East and going 10-2 in the regular season of his first year on the job. The Gators might be a better team in 2016 yet they might not win as many games. As long as he has the Gators on the right path toward becoming a championship level program again, Mac’s job is safe.
Les Miles, LSU (112-32, 11 years, salary $4.7 million): Les had one foot out the door at halftime of the Texas A&M game back in November, but even the school prez and AD’s not so secret plans to oust him went straight to hell. After that monumental screw up, Les is bedrock solid and playing with a loaded roster that could bring home a national championship in 2016 if there is any kind of QB play at all. Essentially, you can count on Les being the LSU coach until son Ben Myles graduates in 2017. After that, he might tell the higher ups to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas (18-20, 3 years, salary $4 million): The perception is the Hogs are on the way up, but they lost some key coaches, the left side of their offensive line, their All-American tight end and two stud running backs from last year’s 8-5 team. Bielema can get by with another 7-8 win season but things better improve dramatically in 2017.
Butch Jones, Tennessee (21-17, 3 years, salary $3.75 million): The Vols take a 7-game winning streak into 2016 which means they will be favored to win the SEC East. But what happens if they struggle? Better yet, what happens if the court of public opinion votes Jones off the island for calling a player “a traitor” for coming to the aid of a woman who allegedly was sexually assaulted by another UT player. If Jones wins the SEC West you can bet the long arm of the law in Knoxville will figure out a way to make all these troubles seem like it was the woman’s fault.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina (salary $3 million): The powers that be have given Muschamp everything he’s asked for from big salaries for the assistants to more support staff. Facilities are first rate, too. There is a commitment to patience, a necessity since – unlike the Florida team he took over in 2011 – the cupboard is reasonably close to bare.
Barry Odom, Missouri (salary $2.35 million): The faithful in Columbia better be patient. Very patient. The defense will be reasonably good but the offense stunk last year and will stink again. Mizzou will be hard pressed to match last year’s five wins in Barry Odom’s first year on the job.
Kirby Smart, Georgia (salary $3.75 million): What happens if Kirby Smart can’t deliver Georgia to the promised land in a hurry? Mark Richt was fired because all he did was win 10 games a year. Smart was hired to win the championships Richt couldn’t or didn’t win. Will the faithful be content if all Smart can do is win 9-10 a year?
THE HEAT IS ON
Mark Stoops, Kentucky (12-24, 3 years, salary $3.25 million): In each of the last two years the Wildcats have teetered on the verge of a bowl game only to see the season tank in November. The last time Kentucky went to a bowl game was 2010 when Joker Phillips was the coach. If the Wildcats (a) don’t beat Florida and (b) don’t go bowling this year, more patience will be difficult to come by in Lexington.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (7-17, 2 years, salary $2.25 million): There has been another staff overhaul at Vandy, which isn’t exactly a sign that all things are hunky dory in Nashvegas. Mason did improve the team from 3 wins to 4 in 2015 but even after changing offensive coordinators and most of the offensive staff after the 2014 disaster things didn’t improve all that much. Vandy plays great defense but the offense is the worst in the SEC and maybe as bad as it gets in all of Division I. James Franklin took the Dores to a school record three straight bowl games. If Franklin doesn’t get Vandy to a bowl game this year he could be on his way out.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn (27-13, 3 years, salary $4.5 million): Since starting his Auburn career with a 12-2 record and a national championship game loss to FSU, the Tigers have been jammed in reverse (8 wins in 2014; 7 in 2015). Adding insult to injury in 2015 was (a) Auburn had to play its bowl game in Birmingham, (b) it took a win in the bowl game to guarantee a winning season and (c) the offense was no longer entertaining. You could even say the offense stunk.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (36-16, 4 years, $5 million salary): Sumlin isn’t the golden boy anymore. When three stud QBs transfer out in the last two years in which you are 16-10, folks start to doubt and there is a lot of doubt in College Station right now. Sumlin probably needs 9 wins this year although he can probably survive with 8. Anything below that and he’s as good as gone.
SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS
1. Kentucky (21-7, 11-4 SEC)
T2. Texas A&M (21-7, 10-5 SEC)
T2. South Carolina (23-5, 10-5 SEC
T4. Vanderbilt (17-11, 9-6 SEC)
T4. LSU (16-12, 9-6 SEC)
T6. Ole Miss (18-10, 8-7 SEC)
T6. FLORIDA (17-11, 8-7 SEC)
T8. Alabama (16-11, 7-8 SEC)
T8. Georgia (14-12, 7-8 SEC)
T8. Arkansas (14-14, 7-8 SEC)
11. Tennessee (13-15, 6-9 SEC)
T12. Mississippi State (12-15, 5-10 SEC)
T12. Auburn (11-16, 5-10 SEC)
14. Missouri (10-18, 3-12 SEC)
Wednesday’s results: Texas A&M 68, Mississippi State 66; Auburn 84, Georgia 81; South Carolina 84, Tennessee 58
Saturday’s games: FLORIDA at LSU; Ole Miss at Georgia; South Carolina at Mississippi State; Kentucky at Vanderbilt; Texas A&M at Missouri; Auburn at Alabama
CIRCLING THE WAGONS IN KNOXVILLE
Perhaps Tennessee’s intention Tuesday was noble but even the best of intentions can be perceived wrongly. When the 16 head coaches from the athletic department held a news conference it was to show solidarity and to deflect all the criticism that there is a culture of sexual violence within the athletic department. That was the intention.
Instead the news conference gave the impression the athletic department is circling the wagons and bracing for the Title IX lawsuit largely brought on by the alleged rape of a campus woman by football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, but claiming a culture of rape has existed on the campus dating all the way back to the days when Peyton Manning was playing college football. There are times when anything you say seems defensive and only adds fuel to an already blazing fire. If one coach or the athletic director had held the news conference it would have gone over a lot better than the gang of 16. If this was athletic director Dave Hart’s brainstorm, then it’s obvious he hasn’t learned a thing since his days at Florida State.
FSU has extended the contract of basketball coach Leonard Hamilton to 2018-19. Heading into tonight’s game at Duke, FSU is 16-11 this year, 274-184 for his 14 years on the job. Hamilton has won one ACC Tournament championship but none of his teams have ever advanced beyond the Sweet 16 game in the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2012. Hamilton has signed an outstanding class for 2017 and the FSU faithful think he can win a lot of games. Uh-huh.
A lot of folks were surprised when Auburn running back Peyton Barber announced he would leave early for the NFL. There’s a reason Barber defied conventional wisdom. His mom is homeless and he intends to play in the NFL so he can take care of her.
University of Miami legendary QB Jim Kelly, who took the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls during his Hall of Fame NFL career, says good times are on the horizon now that Mark Richt is the head coach. Kelly does say don’t expect too much too soon, however. “It's not going to happen overnight, but once he has his influence on this program, and people start to realize the U is going to be back, I can't wait,” Kelly told the Sun-Sentinel.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which SEC football coach has the least amount of job security heading into 2016?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Gainesville native Charles Bradley might be the best soul singer you never heard about. Bradley’s act is straight 1960s and 1970s soul music. There’s a lot of James Brown and Otis Redding in his music. He’s coming home to Gainesville tonight to do a concert at Bo Diddley Plaza. If you live in Gainesville and you’ve never heard him, it’s worth the time and the effort. Todays’ music is Bradley and Sharon Jones together with the Daptone Records Super Soul Revue at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2014.