Spikes benched, tried to gouge Bulldog

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Top-ranked Florida will be without star linebacker Brandon Spikes for the first half of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

Coach Urban Meyer suspended Spikes on Monday, two days after the defensive captain apparently attempted to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey in a 41-17 victory.

"I don't condone that," Meyer said. "I understand what goes on on the football [field], but there's no place for that. 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."

Spikes issued a statement apologizing for what he did.

"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 the coaching staff and Washaun Ealey. Football is a very physical and emotional game, but there is no excuse for my actions."

Meyer's wife mentioned Spikes' actions to him Sunday night, then defensive coordinator Charlie Strong did the same Monday morning. Meyer's said his first reaction was to move on. Then he saw a replay of the incident, which shows Spikes shoving his glove-covered right hand into Ealey's facemask and moving it back and forth.

Meyer then spoke to Spikes and determined he was retaliating after getting his helmet ripped off and eye poked earlier in the game. Meyer also talked to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, but Florida officials said it was Meyer's decision to suspend Spikes.

"We understand the game of football," Meyer said. "Some of us have played it. Very emotional things happened in that game in particular that were not good for either side, but the bottom line is we're Florida and he's Brandon Spikes and we expect certain things. He understands."

The SEC issued a statement saying it reviewed and accepted the discipline handed down by Florida.

The Florida-Georgia game was filled with chippy behavior, with pushing, shoving, five personal-foul penalties -- three against Georgia and two against Florida -- and plenty of smack-talking.

Officials even gathered Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Georgia linebacker Marcus Dowtin together in the second quarter and warned them things were getting out of hand.

"I don't think that we did anything in that game that they didn't do," Tebow said Monday. "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."

Spikes is fourth on the team with 42 tackles and has three sacks.

He considered entering the NFL draft in January, but decided to return for his senior season in hopes of helping Florida win a third national title in four years.

But he's battled injuries all season. He missed time early in the season because of an Achilles tendon injury, and sat out most of two games because of a strained groin. He played only a series against Arkansas on Oct. 17 and sat out the entire game the following week.

He returned against Georgia and finished with a team-high 10 tackles. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 5 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"He's very intense and very emotional and very passionate," Tebow said. "I think that's what makes him part of the great player that he is because he brings that fire. People look at him and the defense wants to play for him. The offense, they want to score so it makes it easier on him.

"He brings fire and he brings juice to everybody. 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."