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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. McElwain pleased with first season at Florida



    Five days before the biggest game of his head coaching career, Florida coach Jim McElwain wanted to reflect on what happened 366 days before.

    That's when the Gators first contacted McElwain, then the coach at Colorado State, about coming to Gainesville. McElwain said he had to pinch himself to make sure the interest was real.

    "I just can't tell you how happy I am that the administration chose to go our direction and to trust us to help this program get back to where it belongs," McElwain said. "I'll tell you what: we're going to get there. And we're getting there in a hurry. It's still going to take time. …"...

    Coach Jim McElwain, hugging defensive back Brian Poole, says the Gators still have plenty more to accomplish.
  2. Take a spin on college football's annual coaching carousel


    As you read this, another Division I-A football coach likely has been canned. Or has moved on to a more prominent gig. Or had his contract re-upped. Welcome to the silly season, when pink slips are issued at a preposterous clip. Five coaches have been let go in the past few days, joining six others dismissed during the season and one (Illinois' Tim Beckman) fired in the preseason. Toss in the guys who saw the writing on the wall and bolted (South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, UCF's George O'Leary, Virginia's Mike London), and you have a profession in upheaval....

    LSU coach Les Miles appeared to be on his way out despite going 111-32 in 11 years and winning a national championship. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t.
  3. FSU loss points to Gators' flaws on way to SEC title game (w/video)


    GAINESVILLE — After spending most of the season learning how to deal with success, No. 18 Florida has one week to figure out how to bounce back from failure — a bitter 27-2 home loss to rival Florida State and one of its ugliest performances in years.

    "I think it'll be interesting in the building of this program, this organization, in how we handle disappointment like this," Gators coach Jim McElwain said....

    The coaches, UF’s Jim McElwain, left, and FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, meet after the Seminoles’ 27-2 win in Gainesville.
  4. FSU football jumps back into top 10, Florida Gators tumble


    Florida State is back in the top 10 after Saturday night's 27-2 win over rival Florida.

    The Seminoles jumped four spots in the AP poll to No. 10. The Gators dropped eight spots, to No. 18, while USF was among the other schools that received votes.

    In the coaches' poll, FSU rose five spots to No. 9. UF fell six spots to 15th....

    Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith (24) celebrates after sacking Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris.
  5. Florida State rolls past Florida at Swamp


    GAINESVILLE — After Florida State's national and ACC championship hopes ended Nov. 7 in a loss to Clemson, coach Jimbo Fisher reminded his team that the Seminoles' previous dynasty wasn't built on national championships.

    It was built on consistent success, even after heartbreaking losses and collapses. It was built on double-digit victories during transition years.

    It was built on seasons like the one No. 14 FSU capped Saturday night with a 27-2 win over No. 10 Florida. FSU beat UF for the third time in a row on the road — a first in school history — and secured a fourth consecutive 10-win season during a year of reconstruction....

    Florida State running back Dalvin Cook picks up 32 yards on a run in the fourth quarter. Cook starts slowly but finishes with 183 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
  6. Florida State at Florida: 5 things you might have missed


    GAINESVILLE — Some of the most notable stories from Saturday night's rivalry game between No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Florida State started showing up before kickoff. Here are a few things you might have missed:

    1. The Gators were without one of their top offensive weapons, but were aided by a bolstered defensive line. UF announced before the game that WR Demarcus Robinson was suspended for a violation of team rules. The 6-foot-1 junior entered Saturday as the Gators' leader in receptions (47) and yards (505) and has also caught two touchdown passes and earned eight starts. It was unclear whether he will be available in next week's SEC championship game against Alabama. Junior Chris Thompson started in Robinson's place. UF was also without Cam Dillard (leg), who had started every game at center. Trip Thurman took his place. The Gators did, however, get some reinforcements on defense. DL Joey Ivie (Pasco High) returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games with injuries and recorded UF's first tackle. DT Jon Bullard also started with his knee in a brace, though coach Jim McElwain called him "probably out" earlier last week....

  7. Florida Gators suspend WR Demarcus Robinson against Florida State


    GAINESVILLE - Florida will take on Florida State's loaded defense without one of its top offensive playmakers.

    The Gators announced that WR Demarcus Robinson won't play because he "made a choice." That's what coach Jim McElwain says when any player violates team rules and earns a suspension. It's unclear whether Robinson will play in next week's SEC championship game.

    Regardless, his absence is a loss for UF. Robinson, a 6-foot-1 junior, leads UF in receptions (47) and yards (505). He has started eight games this season and has also caught two touchdown passes....

  8. Video: Breaking down Florida-Florida State


    Spoiler alert: Today's Florida-Florida State  game might not be pretty. With two great defenses, it might be downright ugly.

    Fortnuately, Joey Knight and I are at least nice to look at. We break down the Gators-Seminoles matchup in our latest Spanning the State preview video. 

  9. Stakes bigger today for Gators, Seminoles


    GAINESVILLE — Last week's wins by the Gators and Seminoles weren't even finished yet when No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Florida State began thinking about tonight's rivalry game.

    "After we beat Chattanooga, we already knew what was next," FSU defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker said. "I remember sitting on the sideline like, it's time."

    And for the first time in years, the matchup has high stakes befitting both programs' reputations. Tonight's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium marks only the second time in the past decade that both teams boast top-15 rankings....

    LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  10. Baker's Dozen: Previewing the college football weekend


    Strength vs. strength

    Florida State RB Dalvin Cook faces a Florida run defense today ranked No. 8 nationally in yards per game. Only one of the previous top-25 run defenses has been able to slow Cook:

    Boston College (No. 1): 15 carries, 54 yards, 0 TDs

    Louisville (17): 22 carries, 163 yards, 2 TDs

    Clemson (20): 21 carries, 194 yards, 1 TD...

    Associated Press
  11. FSU's Sean Maguire looks forward to spotlight game (w/video)


    Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire isn't shying away from Saturday's stakes.

    The second road start of his career will come in a rivalry match against No. 10 Florida in one of the most hostile environments in college football.

    "I mean, this is everything you dream of," Maguire said. "Obviously Florida-Florida State, postseason (stakes). This is big. This is everything you dream of. I can't wait."...

    Sean Maguire has shown downfield passing ability, but he faces a Gators defense loaded with talented defensive backs.
  12. VIdeo: Previewing USF-UCF football


    As USF prepares to travel to UCF for the Knights' black-out season finale, I couldn't help but wonder: Where can you buy a black paper bag to put over your head?

    Times staff writer Joey Knight and I discuss that in our weekly college football preview video. This one focuses only on the USF-UCF showdown and why it's hard to see the Bulls falling to their I-4 rival. 

  13. FSU victim advocate: School reports few sexual battery complaints


    The director of Florida State's victim advocate program testified in a deposition that her department saw 113 victims of sexual battery last year and has handled about 20 complaints against football players over her nine years.

    "The sexual battery was the really large number" of cases seen by the department, Melissa Ashton said in the deposition, obtained Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request....

    The actions of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher are at the core of a lawsuit against the school.
  14. Jimbo Fisher questioned in Jameis Winston's accuser's lawsuit against Florida State


    Four days after beating Boston College in the third game of the season, Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher gave a deposition in a lawsuit involving his former star quarterback.

    Fisher spoke with lawyers on Sept. 22, according to a deposition transcript obtained Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request.

    The 186 pages reveal little new information about the case involving Jameis Winston. The sections involving Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman - Winston's accuser who is suing Winston and FSU - were redacted....

  15. Geoff Collins, Charles Kelly and Danny Hope among country's top assistants


    Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is one of 34 national nominees for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the country's top assistant coach.

    Collins could be a hot commodity in the offseason; UCF is reportedly strongly considering him as the Knights search for a new head coach.

    Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and USF co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope are among the other nominees....