GAINESVILLE — Florida senior LB Brandon Spikes has been suspended for the first half of Saturday's home game against Vanderbilt as punishment for his unsportsmanlike conduct in last weekend's 41-17 win over Georgia.
Spikes became embroiled in a national controversy after a CBS video clip, released Sunday on YouTube, showed him with his fingers inside the helmet of Georgia RB Washaun Ealey. Spikes' gloved hand pulls on the helmet as the two are in a pile at the end of play.
Video posters called it eye gouging, and some national columnists called for Spikes to be suspended.
On Sunday, UF coach Urban Meyer said he wasn't aware of the incident, but by Monday morning Meyer's wife and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong urged him to watch the video, and afterward he took action.
"I don't condone that, and I understand what goes on on the football (field), but there's no place for that," Meyer said Monday. "We're going to suspend Brandon for the first half of the Vanderbilt game. I spoke with him. That's not who he is. That's not who we are. He got caught up in emotion. I love Brandon Spikes. Our team does. We're going to move on. He has our full support."
Florida is off on Mondays, and players are unavailable, but Spikes issued a statement expressing his regret.
"I accept responsibility for my actions and I accept the consequences of my actions," he said. "I would like to apologize to my team and coaching staff, and Washaun Ealey. Football is a very physical and emotional game, but there is no excuse for my actions."
Meyer spoke to SEC commissioner Mike Slive on Monday, and the league said it reviewed the situation and concurred with Meyer's decision.
Asked if Spikes was retaliating for an earlier play, Meyer said "yeah." Earlier, Spikes had his helmet ripped off during a play.
Four of the game's five personal fouls called were in the first half, three on Georgia. At one point in the second quarter, officials gathered Florida QB Tim Tebow and Georgia LB Marcus Dowtin to warn them about things getting out of hand.
Tebow said that while he does not condone Spikes' behavior, Saturday's game was emotionally charged and unsportsmanlike conduct was occurring on both sides.
"I don't think that we did anything in that game that they didn't do," Tebow said. "If you go back and look at it and study it, you can see it in the film, too. It was an intense game; both teams were very passionate about it. There was probably a little bit (more cheap shots) because of the rivalry. It was an intense game. Both teams wanted to win."
Tebow defended Spikes against accusations of being a dirty player, calling him someone who cares about his team and teammates on and off the field. But he said Spikes can be emotional.
"He brings fire and he brings juice to everybody," Tebow said. "Without that, he would not be as great of a player as he is, and he would not be even close to the leader that he is."
Rainey questionable: Sophomore RB Chris Rainey might miss Saturday's game after separating his shoulder against Georgia. DT Brandon Antwine might be out for the season with a shoulder injury. "They haven't made a final determination yet," Meyer said about whether Antwine will need surgery. "Your heart breaks for him. He's all Gator, he's 100 percent in, and he's a really good player. … He's fighting like a maniac because if he does have surgery, I think it's (season) over."
Jones recognized: Middleton grad A.J. Jones was Florida's defensive player of the game with two interceptions. Meyer said Jones epitomizes the concept of hard work.
"As a redshirt freshman he played, didn't play very well and got beat out," Meyer said. "He didn't practice very well. He had weight issues; he would always be too light. But he's a poster child for what hard work can do, and he's done it exactly the right way."
Sturgis honor: Sophomore K Caleb Sturgis was named SEC special teams player of the week; he hit a 56-yard field goal Saturday.
Kickoff set: The Nov. 14 game at South Carolina will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will air on Ch. 10.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]