True league play won’t start in Florida until late January, but this fall DI and DII colleges combined to create the Florida Cup competition, which culminated this weekend with both the semifinal and final rounds.
The semis saw two ranked DII teams butt heads with two ranked DI teams, with both DI squads coming out on top. On one half of the bracket, #9 Florida defeated USF (#12 in DII) 30-11. Last year, the Bulls upset FSU in this very same round, but the Seminoles would not deny outgoing coach Mike Naylor one last shot at rival Florida.
In the other semi, #2 Florida lambasted Miami (#25 in DII) by a demoralizing score of 102-0. Miami was coming off a finals appearance at the Battleship Tournament, making this score a bit of a shocker.
In the Cup title match, Florida and Florida State played a typically tight contest. When the two programs met earlier this season, Florida eeked out a 22-19 victory. This time, it would take the better part of the first half for either team to take an advantage, as a Florida penalty goal just before the halftime whistle was the only score of the opening stanza.
UF extended that momentum through the break, scoring an unconverted try shortly after intermission. FSU and Florida battled tightly the rest of the way, and Florida emerged 18-3 winners.
“Every time we play them I go into the game wondering how it’s going to go,” said Florida coach Ken Simmons. “I won’t say we’re confident we’re going to win, but we’re confident it’ll be a battle and we’re hoping to come out on top every time.”
The Florida and Florida State series of 2010/2011 is just at the midway point, as they’ll have to meet two more times in DI conference play in the spring.
“We’re getting to know the player personnel pretty well, so the challenge is keeping the edge,” said Simmons. “You don’t want to show them everything, but you can’t afford not to because you’ve got to go for the win. In the end, it’s going to be who makes the better adjustments with game plan and preparation.”
Simmons threw everything he had into Sunday’s title match, because he knew that after a long fall, anything but a Cup title would be disappointing for his players.
“The boys are real happy for it. The way we looked at it was our goal was to basically improve each week, and we feel like we did,” said Simmons. “I feel like the best rugby they’ve played was this weekend, so we were real happy with that, and happy they got to enjoy the reward of their whole season.”
Also on Sunday, USF defeated FSU 19-18 for the B-side championship match.