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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. No. 1 team in college football? Pick a team, any team


    The college football season began with certainty, or at least the impression of it. Ohio State took every first-place vote to become the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the history of the Associated Press poll.

    As the season approaches its halfway point, predictability has been replaced with parity.

    Eight teams got at least one No. 1 vote in this week's AP or coaches' polls, and four others were in the top five of at least one AP ballot....

  2. Florida Gators AD on Steve Spurrier: 'He changed the culture of this place'


    In the wake of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's official resignation - not retirement, he says - his former school, Florida, has issued these reactions about the former Gators coach and Heisman Trophy winner:

    Athletic director Jeremy Foley: "He changed the culture of this place. I have been here a long, long time. When I first came here in 1976, all anybody wanted to do was win one Southeastern Conference Championship. Obviously, he came here and changed that standard a little bit. He produced the championships. Obviously, he produced the first national championship and he did it the right way. He had fun doing it. I talked to Coach Spurrier this morning and we talked about how much fun we had when he was down here winning ball games. He changed it. He made this place a winner....

    "Obviously, college football loses a unique personality. A guy who did it the right way. He has been on that, doing it the right way. He is a tremendous offensive talent and it was fun to watch Coach Spurrier coach his ball players as he would say. You are going to miss that. You are going to miss probably one of the most unique personalities in the game, ever. A true winner and a class guy and we are proud to call him a Gator and I am proud to call him my friend."...

    Steve Spurrier gives quarterback Danny Wuerffel a pat on the head as Wuerffel is named the MVP after Florida's victory over Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl.
  3. Steve Spurrier retirement: Reaction from across the country


    Reaction continues to pour in after Monday's surprising announcement that coach Steve Spurrier is retiring.

    That news is expected to become official at noon when Spurrier, the former Gators' Heisman Trophy winner and legendary football coach, addresses reporters at the University of South Carolina.

    Some notable reactions:

    Current Florida coach Jim McElwain, via Twitter: "Thank you, Coach Spurrier, for paving the way and showing us all what greatness truly is. #GoGators #HBC"...

    Steve Spurrier watches from the sideline during a 1999 game against Western Michigan.
  4. Reports: Steve Spurrier retiring from coaching


    Florida legend Steve Spurrier is retiring from coaching, according to Sports Illustrated and multiple other outlets

    The State newspaper's Josh Kendall reported that Spurrier told his South Carolina Gamecocks of the decision Monday night and that an interim coach will be announced Tuesday.

    Spurrier, 70, is one of the biggest names in the state's college football history. He won UF's first Heisman Trophy in 1966 when he threw for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns. Spurrier spent 10 seasons in the NFL and spent his final year (1976) with the Bucs....

  5. With Grier suspended, Gators turn to Harris


    GAINESVILLE — Even when QB Will Grier began to emerge as one of the SEC's top passers, Florida coach Jim McElwain insisted that he believes strongly in sophomore Treon Harris.

    With Grier landing a year-long suspension Monday for violating the NCAA's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, the Gators will get to see an extended look at whether McElwain's faith in Harris is justified....

    Treon Harris becomes Florida’s starting quarterback, bringing dual-threat ability.
  6. UF quarterback Will Grier suspended for season, will appeal


    GAINESVILLE — The last time University of Florida quarterback Will Grier stood at a podium at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, he was the Gators' hero.

    Grier, 20, overcame the flu to key UF's 38-10 blowout win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss, returning the Gators to national prominence in a year of mediocre expectations.

    Nine days later and three floors up, he clutched a lectern and bit his lip as he tried to explain how he landed a mandatory, yearlong suspension for failing an NCAA drug test — and how he potentially dashed his undefeated team's chances of competing for the Southeastern Conference championship....

    Florida quarterback Will Grier tearfully apologized.
  7. FSU's Jimbo Fisher savors sixth straight win over Miami (w/video)


    TALLAHASSEE — As Florida State officials tried to hurry coach Jimbo Fisher out of his postgame news conference Saturday night, Fisher leaned back in his chair.

    "It's Miami-Florida State," Fisher said. "You don't win six in a row very often."

    In fact, the Seminoles hadn't done it in more than four decades, during a stretch of seven in a row that ended in 1972.

    So after remaining unbeaten against Miami with a 29-24 win, Fisher was in no hurry to leave. He had plenty more to say about another victory by his young Seminoles (5-0, 3-0 ACC)....

    Florida State's Dalvin Cook (4) scores on a 36-yard touchdown pass and a 72-yard run in the first quarter against Miami at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1175029
  8. Florida Gators move into Top 10, FSU football rises one spot


    Florida and Florida State both moved up in the latest AP Top 25.

    The Gators jumped three spots to No. 8 after Saturday's win over Missouri. With LSU moving up one spot to sixth, that sets up a top-10 showdown this week at Tiger Stadium.

    The Seminoles gained one spot to No. 11 after earning a 29-24 win over rival Miami....

  9. FSU vs. Miami: 5 things you might have missed


    TALLAHASSEE — You know it's a big game when Florida State retired the No. 55 jersey of one of its former greats, linebacker Marvin Jones, and Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez is present to cheer on Miami.

    Here are five other things you might have missed from Saturday night's rivalry game at Doak Campbell Stadium:

    1. Although FSU RB Dalvin Cook (hamstring) played — and had an immediate impact with two touchdowns before tweaking his leg in the second quarter — other injuries were less obvious but still significant. Seminoles LG Kareem Are (knee) did not dress and was replaced in the starting lineup by junior Chad Mavety. The 'Noles were also without LB Terrance Smith (ankle). S Nate Andrews (bone bruise) didn't start but played sparingly in the first half. UM got a boost with the return of WR Stacy Coley, who missed the past two games with a lingering hamstring injury. He caught two passes for 60 yards on UM's first two drives....

    WR Stacy Coley, being tripped up by Lamarcus Brutus, returns to UM after missing two games.
  10. Dalvin Cook stars as No. 12 FSU beats Miami


    TALLAHASSEE — The answer to the state's most pressing college football question was answered quickly and repeatedly Saturday night.

    Dalvin Cook's hamstring was fine.

    Florida State's dynamic running back put together one of the best efforts in one of college football's greatest rivalries, scoring on two of his first three touches and dashing for the game-winning score with 6:44 left in a 29-24 win over rival Miami. ...

    Miami’s Rashawn Scott dives into the end zone on a 58-yard touchdown reception from Brad Kaaya in the second quarter, pulling the Hurricanes within 17-10.
  11. Dalvin Cook warming up for FSU football


    TALLAHASSEE -- Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook is warming up for Florida State, less than an hour before kickoff against rival Miami.

    The Seminoles' standout has been day to day with a hamstring injury. Cook is officially listed as the top running back on the pregame depth chart, and he has not seemed limited during drills.

    Cook sustained the injury in the first quarter of last week's win at Wake Forest. He leads the ACC with 142.5 yards per game, despite missing three quarters of last week's game. ...

  12. Anti-Al Golden sentiment follows Miami to FSU


    The anti-Al Golden sentiment followed Miami to Tallahassee.

    Here's the message on an aerial banner trailing behind one plane circling Doak Campbell Stadium, less than three hours before kickoff: "UM admin lowered the bar - we haven't #FireAlGolden."

    Similar messages have circled the Hurricanes' home games and last week's game at Cincinnati.

    I spotted one "Keep Al Golden" T-shirt - in garnet and gold - on my drive to the stadium. They were reportedly selling in Tallahassee this week, as FSU fans want to keep a UM coach who is winless against the Seminoles....

  13. Baker's Dozen: Previewing college football weekend (w/video)


    Tables turned

    What has historically been one of the sport's great rivalries has turned one-sided, with Florida State winning five in a row against Miami. Here's a statistical breakdown of the Seminoles' streak:

    For kicks

    FSU's Roberto Aguayo (right) knows when the Miami game is approaching — he starts hearing about famous misses wide right and wide left. "It changed the history of Florida State," said Aguayo, the 2013 Lou Groza Award winner as the nation's top kicker. If tonight's game is close, both teams have solid kickers. Aguayo tied a career high with a 53-yard field goal against UM last year. The Hurricanes' Michael Badgley tied a school record with five field goals (including the winner in overtime) last month against Nebraska....

    FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2014, file photo, Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal with three seconds left in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Tallahassee, Fla. Growing up in Mascotte, Florida, Roberto Aguayo and his brother would go outside and imagine it was the last second of the Florida State-Miami game with a field goal needed to win it. In a rivalry that is defined by kicks more than any other, Aguayo is hoping to not join the list of FSU kickers who have missed important kicks. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser, File) NY150
  14. FSU's Johnathan Vickers knows how to fill void



    As coach Robert Craft watched North Florida Christian's starting and backup quarterbacks go down with injuries during the 2013 state high school playoffs, he was running out of options.

    Craft had already doubled his standout senior's action, playing the four-star recruit nearly every snap at either middle linebacker or running back.

    Now, with his top two passers injured and the Class 2A state semifinal a few days away, Craft had no choice but to put Johnathan Vickers at quarterback, too....

    Florida State running back Johnathan Vickers dives into the end zone to score a touchdown against Wake Forest as Wake Forest defensive back Deonte Davis, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond) NCNR101