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Florida Gators reach first goal, win SEC East; undefeated season and national championship goals remain

did he or didn’t he? Brandon Spikes, left, takes down Georgia’s Washaun Ealey, but it’s another play in which the UF linebacker has his fingers inside Ealey’s helmet that is causing a stir.

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did he or didn’t he? Brandon Spikes, left, takes down Georgia’s Washaun Ealey, but it’s another play in which the UF linebacker has his fingers inside Ealey’s helmet that is causing a stir.

GAINESVILLE — The first goal has been accomplished, and it came earlier than expected. Florida has been steadfast that its primary goal was to win the East Division and get to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

The No. Gators (8-0, 6-0 SEC) earned their second straight East title Saturday thanks to their 41-17 win over Georgia and Tennessee's upset of South Carolina. UF's first undefeated season and its fourth national championship remain goals still within reach.

"We have such great respect for this conference and … the history (of) this conference, to represent the East in Atlanta is a great honor," coach Urban Meyer said. "You won't hear about that this week though. That will not even be talked about today. We're going to really concentrate on (Saturday's game against) Vanderbilt."

The achievement is among the top-five earliest clinches in SEC Championship Game history. The earliest: Oct. 29, 1994 (UF); Oct. 30, 2004 (Auburn) and Oct. 30, 1993 (Alabama); Oct. 31, 2009 (UF); Nov. 4, 2006 (UF); and Nov. 8, 2008 (Alabama and UF).

INJURY UPDATE: Sophomore RB Chris Rainey injured his left shoulder against Georgia, but Meyer said Sunday that he didn't have an update on the severity. Freshman RB Mike Gillislee was injured late in the game with a cramp/strain of his hamstring, but he is undergoing more evaluation. Gillislee has been a key on special teams. "That's critical (Gillislee's injury) because Wondy (Pierre-Louis) is out right now and Moses Jenkins," Meyer said. "Three of our best cover guys are out."

NO dissension: Meyer refuted rumors that there has been turmoil among players on the team. He also denied reports of an altercation between QB Tim Tebow and LB Brandon Spikes after the Oct. 24 win at Mississippi State, and said there was no "finger-pointing speech" to the team after the game.

"First of all, there's no finger-pointing speech, and there's no altercation," he said. "I'm not sure where you are gathering your information. There is no finger-pointing speech whatsoever.

"There was a very positive speech about staying focused on facing a great team with great talent. … After the Mississippi State game there was a very passionate locker room about how we can play better, but there was no altercation whatsoever."

Spikes said the senior leaders met with the team last week to take control and get everyone back on the same page.

"I think we're a good, strong team of guys, full of seniors," he said. "We kind of know what it takes.

"Me, Tebow, we get on guys to hold them accountable, let them know what's your value to the team. Things weren't getting done the way we expect, and we had a team meeting and maybe stepped on a few toes, but in the end it just kind of brought us all together."

SPIKES AND YOUTUBE: Spikes is all over YouTube with CBS video that shows him with his fingers inside the helmet of Georgia freshman RB Washaun Ealey as the two are in a pile after a tackle. Online posters are calling it eye-gouging. Earlier, Spikes had his helmet ripped off by Georgia LB Akeem Dent. Meyer said he wasn't aware of the incident but would talk with his All-America linebacker about it. "(He's) a very emotional player," Meyer said, "and if (he did gouge the player's eyes), I'll have a very serious talk with him."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3389.

Florida Gators reach first goal, win SEC East; undefeated season and national championship goals remain 11/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 1, 2009 9:02pm]
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