Nov 12, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores running back Ray Davis (2) hugs head coach Clark Lea after the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Florida visits as Vanderbilt sets sights on SEC win streak

Vanderbilt snapped a 26-game Southeastern Conference losing streak with a 24-21 win at Kentucky last week.

The Commodores now hope to start a winning streak when Florida visits Nashville on Saturday.

For Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5), quarterback Mike Wright’s 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Will Sheppard with 32 seconds left provided the go-ahead points in the takedown of Kentucky.

Linebacker/safety CJ Taylor intercepted Will Levis on the ensuing possession, giving the Commodores their first league win since Oct. 19, 2019.

It also was the first SEC win for second-year coach Clark Lea, who spent last week battling the flu.

Lea, who played fullback at Vanderbilt from 2002-04, was overcome with emotion after his 18-point underdogs upset the then-24th-ranked Wildcats.

“They just kept fighting, and when you stay in the fight and you believe, good things happen,” Lea said. “They were able to make it happen at the end.”

The Gators (6-4, 3-4) also are coming off perhaps their best performance of the season in a 38-6 shellacking of South Carolina, during which they outgained the Gamecocks 515-237 and outrushed them 374-44.

Running backs Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne rushed for 161 and 100 yards, respectively, while quarterback Anthony Richardson added 96 while throwing for 112 and two scores.

“Saturday against South Carolina is the first time I’ve really felt like, ‘OK, hey, this is the type of team we want to have,’” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “(It) felt more like what we intended to be from the very beginning. Just the energy, the sideline, the team throughout the week. I thought, by far, the best week of practice that we’ve had.”

Discipline has been a key component of the rebuild each coach is attempting. The Gators led the SEC in fewest penalty yards per game (39.8) and turnover margin (plus-10), while the Commodores rank fourth in penalties (45.8) and tied for sixth in turnover margin (a net of zero).

Vandy, a home underdog, will have to contain one of the league’s best rushing attacks. The Gators average 6.5 yards per carry with sacks subtracted, while Vanderbilt allows 5.2 by the same measure.

The Commodores have recovered 10 fumbles, but the Gators have only coughed up the ball four times. Vanderbilt linebacker Anfernee Orji leads or is tied for the SEC lead in tackles (95), forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (two).

The Commodores probably will try a similar strategy; they average 4.9 yards on rushing plays, which is what Florida allows. Both Wright (126 rushing yards) and running back Ray Davis (129) ran well against Kentucky, marking the second and fourth times, respectively, each has gone over 100 yards this season.

Those two will be a challenge for Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller, whose 62 stops rank 11th in the league and second on the team behind defensive back Rashad Torrence II (73).

The Gators have won the last eight in the annual series, including 42-0 last year in Gainesville.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier looks on against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Recruit Jaden Rashada flips from Miami to Florida

Four-star quarterback prospect Jaden Rashada called an audible over social media on Friday morning by agreeing to join Florida, four-plus months after committing to Miami.

Rashada is listed by 247Sports’ composite rankings as the No. 7-rated quarterback in the 2023 class. He initially selected the Hurricanes over the Gators as well as LSU, Mississippi and Texas A&M in June.

“After a lot of prayer, conversations with my family and those close to me, I have decided to change my commitment and play for the University of Florida,” Rashada wrote early Friday morning on Twitter.

“I have tremendous respect for Miami and what they are going to accomplish there, but I have watched this season and Coach (Billy) Napier and his team are building something very special in The Swamp and I want to be a part of it.”

Per Sports Illustrated, Rashada has thrown for 4,883 yards and 63 touchdowns and added 420 yards and five scores during his four-year high school career at Pittsburg (Calif.) High School.

The addition of Rashada gives Florida the No. 8 overall recruiting class for 2023, per the 247Sports rankings.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA;  Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Evan Stewart (1) runs the ball against the Mississippi Rebels in the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M, Florida try to put struggles aside in SEC battle

When it comes to Southeastern Conference play, the Texas A&M Aggies and Florida Gators are generally expected to be near the top of the standings, perhaps behind Alabama and Georgia, respectively.

There is a bigger gap these days, though.

With both teams desperately needing a win, the Aggies (3-5, 1-4 SEC) will clash with the Gators (4-4, 1-4) on Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas.

Riding its first four-game losing streak since 2005 when it was in the Big 12, Texas A&M will try to rebound from a 31-28 home loss to Ole Miss last week — the Aggies’ first home game in six weeks.

While quarterback Haynes King (shoulder) may be available Saturday, coach Jimbo Fisher likes what he has seen from Conner Weigman, who went 28-for-44 for 338 yards with four touchdowns against the Rebels.

“Red zone, third down, I thought he did a really nice job,” Fisher said. “He’s got a great feel for the game. I said he’s very instinctive. He’s had enough at-bats at practice he feels really comfortable on the offense, and he’s going to do a really good job.”

The Cypress, Texas, native’s 338 passing yards were the most in a game by a true freshman in school history. His four passing TDs matched the highest figure by an Aggie in a game since Kellen Mond had that many vs. South Carolina in 2020.

The Aggies are tied with Auburn for last in the SEC West, while Florida is saved from the cellar only by woeful Vanderbilt’s 0-4 record in the East.

Local Gainesville, Fla., product Anthony Richardson wasn’t the problem in the Gators’ 42-20 loss against archrival Georgia last week. He went 18 of 37 for 271 passing yards and one touchdown, but the Gators allowed 555 yards of total offense to their border foe while losing their second consecutive game.

“I gained a level of respect (for) that group in terms of how they responded at halftime,” Florida coach Billy Napier said of his team cutting its deficit to 28-20 on Richardson’s 78-yard TD to Xzavier Henderson, who had five catches for a career-high 110 yards.

Napier dismissed talented edge rusher Brenton Cox Jr. from the program on Monday for a “cumulative effect.” The former five-star prospect started all 32 of his games at Florida, and led the team with eight tackles for loss this year and was tied for second with two sacks.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Kenny McIntosh (6) runs the ball in for a touchdown as Florida Gators linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) defends during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gators dismiss starting LB Brenton Cox Jr.

Florida dismissed starting linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. from the team Monday, with head coach Billy Napier saying it was time to “move on” from the redshirt junior.

Cox led the Gators with eight tackles for loss and was tied for second with two sacks this season. Cox transferred to Florida from Georgia ahead of the 2019 season.

“Brenton, we’ve kind of decided to move on here,” Napier said Monday. “Being a football player at the University of Florida is a privilege. There’s certain expectations and standards that come with that. Brenton [was] in his third year, obviously has done a lot of good things for the University of Florida, and we wish him nothing but the best.

“Sometimes, you have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. And certainly, Brenton, we’re going to do everything we can do to help him with his transition. But it’s as simple as that. We’ve decided to move on.”

Napier went on to say the decision was the result of a “cumulative effect,” not one incident.

Cox had 35 tackles and also led the team with nine quarterback hurries. Cox started all 32 games in which he played in Gainesville.

Florida plays at Texas A&M this week.

–Field Level Media

The Florida Gators went into the half trailing the Georgia Bulldogs 24 to 0. The Florida Gators were the home team for this year's annual Florida vs Georgia college football rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Saturday, October 30, 2021.

Jki 103021 Bsfloridageorgia 15

Georgia, Florida to discuss rivalry game’s location next year

Georgia and Florida released a joint statement Monday addressing the future of their annual college football rivalry game, saying they will discuss whether to continue holding the game in Jacksonville, Fla., next year.

The contract between the universities to play the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville ends in 2023, though there are options for 2024 and 2025.

“The annual game between our two universities is an important tradition,” the statement said. “At this time, both programs are focused on our current seasons. Typically both schools begin conversations regarding future games in the series as the last contracted game nears. We anticipate following that timeline.

“When those discussions take place, we will consider a multitude of factors including tradition, finances, future SEC scheduling models with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, and what is best for both schools’ football programs overall.”

Jacksonville has been the site of the Georgia-Florida game since 1933. In the nearly 90 years since then, the schools only played on one another’s campuses one time apiece — 1994 in Gainesville, 1995 in Athens — before returning to Jacksonville.

But Georgia coach Kirby Smart recently said he “firmly believe(s) that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus.” He also allowed that having the game in Jacksonville is a moneymaker for both schools.

No. 1 Georgia and Florida will meet at TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL’s Jaguars, this Saturday. The Bulldogs lead the Gators 53-44-2 in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) stiff arms Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Aaron Beasley (24) as he tries to tackle him during the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Seeking faster start, LSU takes on Florida

LSU and Florida typically are ranked when they renew their annual rivalry.

This time around, though, both the Gators and Tigers will be sitting outside the Top 25 when they square off in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday in a battle of two teams still trying to find their footing under new head coaches.

LSU (4-2, 2-1 SEC) is in its first season under former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, while Florida (4-2, 1-2) is now under the direction of former Louisiana head coach Billy Napier.

The Tigers had won four in a row and were ranked No. 25 before losing in a 40-13 rout at home to then-No. 8 Tennessee last Saturday.

“We’re right in the middle of the process,” Kelly said. “We’re working at it every single day, and it’s a journey. I’m excited to be on it.”

LSU has dug itself an early hole in all three SEC games. Against Tennessee, the Tigers lost a fumble on the opening kickoff, which led to a touchdown, and they trailed 20-0 in the second quarter. Jayden Daniels’ 300 passing yards weren’t never enough for LSU.

“We certainly can’t start the way we did,” Kelly said. “The great part about it is you get to flip the script and get back to work, which we do that (Monday) and get ready for a trip to Gainesville and a very difficult place to play on the road.”

The Gators gave Napier his first SEC win when they held off visiting Missouri 24-17 last Saturday. Montrell Johnson Jr. ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on eight carries to pace Florida.

Like Kelly, Napier stressed that the Gators are in the early stages of establishing a new version of the program.

“You probably would have taken 4-2 at this point in the season,” he said. “How we got to this point is the problem. We have not executed our formula to win games at the rate at which we desire at any point. I think we are very much a work in progress.

“(Still) I’m proud of the intangibles that we’ve developed with this group of players. Every day I’m here, the more I’m confident about what we can accomplish.”

The Gators possess a 33-32-3 edge in the all-time series with the Tigers, but LSU has won the past three matchups.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators safety Corey Collier Jr. (20) tackles Missouri Tigers running back Cody Schrader (20) in the first half at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 8, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Missouri Tigers

Jaydon Hill’s 2 interceptions key as Florida beats Missouri

Jaydon Hill intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown as Florida defeated Missouri 24-17 Saturday in a Southeastern Conference clash in Gainesville, Fla.

Montrel Johnson Jr. rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown and Trevor Etienne added 83 yards on the ground for the Gators (4-2, 1-2 SEC).

Nathaniel Peat rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown for Missouri (2-4, 0-3). Brady Cook completed 22 of 30 passes for 220 yards, but he threw the two key interceptions.

The Tigers outgained the Gators 195-65 during the first half and built an 11-3 edge in first downs. But Florida got its ground game rolling in the second half to take control.

Florida took a 3-0 lead after Xzavier Henderson’s 48-yard punt return set up Adam Mihalek’s 37-yard field goal with just shy of three minutes left in the first quarter.

Hill’s interception and subsequent touchdown with a 1:01 left in the quarter pushed the Gators’ lead to 10-0. He stepped in front of Cook’s pass at the Missouri 49 and had clear sailing to the end zone.

Missouri cut its deficit to 10-7 with an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive capped by Cody Schrader’s 5-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left in the half.

After Missouri recovered an Anthony Richardson fumble, the Tigers tied the game 10-10 with Harrison Mevis’ 28-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half.

Florida got a 41-yard run from Johnson on its second play of the second half, but Mihalek missed a 47-yard field goal try.

Runs of 39 yards by Etienne and 32 yards by Richardson set up Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown as the Gators moved ahead 17-10.

Missouri marched back down the field, but Hill intercepted Cook again — this time at the Florida 4-yard line — late in the third quarter.

Johnson’s 36-yard run got the Gators rolling toward another score, which came on Richardson’s 9-yard TD pass to Ricky Pearsall for a 24-10 lead with 11:10 remaining in the game.

The Tigers responded with a 75-yard drive, capped by Peat’s 18-yard TD run to cut the lead to 24-17.

Missouri got a final chance to come back when Daylan Carnell intercepted Richardson with 2:57 left at the Tigers’ 32-yard-line, but the Tigers failed to capitalize.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) reacts after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers in overtime at Acrisure Stadium.  Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Vols WR Cedric Tillman (ankle) out against Florida

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman will miss the 11th-ranked Volunteers’ home game Saturday against No. 20 Florida due to an ankle injury, ESPN reported.

He was injured in the second quarter of last weekend’s 63-6 victory against Akron.

The 6-foot-3 senior has 17 receptions for 246 yards and one touchdown this season.

Tillman has 89 catches for 1,451 yards and 15 touchdowns in 41 career games at Tennessee.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) is brought down in the second half against the Bulls at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, September 17, 2022. Florida won 31-28 [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Usf Bulls

No. 20 Florida treks to No. 11 Tennessee in early SEC test

No. 20 Florida aims to continue its recent dominance of No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon when the Southeastern Conference rivals meet in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Gators (2-1, 0-1) have won five in a row and 16 of their last 17 encounters against the Volunteers (3-0, 0-0), including a decisive 38-14 decision last season.

Florida enters Saturday’s contest as an early 10.5-point underdog (BetMGM).

The Gators tackle their first road game of the season after squeezing out a 31-28 victory over South Florida last Saturday.

Anthony Richardson authored his second straight uneven performance after completing 10 of 18 passes for 112 yards and two interceptions against the Bulls. He was also picked off twice in Florida’s 26-16 loss to SEC-rival Kentucky on Sept. 10.

Richardson resides last among the 14 SEC starting quarterbacks in passing yards (423), completion percentage (53.2) and touchdown passes (zero).

“It’s an area of our team where we need to improve. There’s no question about that,” Gators coach Billy Napier said Monday of his club’s play at quarterback. “You can tell that. The average fan can tell that. My wife can. She’s informed me of that. So, we need to get better.”

Richardson said he listened to another woman — his mother — as a means to mentally move past his recent miscues.

“She started bringing up all these great quarterbacks and how many interceptions they’ve thrown and stuff,” Richardson said. “So, she kind of got on me about that.”

Richardson sat out Florida’s 38-14 victory over Tennessee last season with a strained right hamstring.

The Volunteers likely have no qualms about their quarterback Hendon Hooker, who completed 14 of 18 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-6 romp over visiting Akron last Saturday.

Hooker, who received an early exit versus the Zips due to the lopsided score, also threw for two touchdowns in last season’s setback to the Gators.

Hooker and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel each dismissed the notion that their team finds itself at a disadvantage this Saturday given the one-sided nature of the rivalry of late.

“We are going to approach it the same way we approach every other game,” Hooker said Monday. “All the outside noise doesn’t really matter to us. We are going to come in, we are going to gameplan how we do in a normal week, and we’re going to come in and work hard.”

“Each week is different, each day is different, each season is,” Heupel said. “For us, we’re however many months into our program, right here right now, and our kids are extremely confident, as they should be. They prepare the right way, they work hard, we have continued to grow. They know that the preparation is going to be the most important thing.”

Jalin Hyatt reeled in both scoring strikes and rolled up a career-high 166 receiving yards for the Volunteers, who have started the season 3-0 for the first time since winning their first five games in 2016.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators running back Trevor Etienne (7) rushes with the ball for a touchdown during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, September 17, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Florida Bulls

Trevor Etienne’s late TD vaults No. 18 Florida over USF

Trevor Etienne scored on a 3-yard run with just over five minutes left to cap a 28-yard drive following Tre’Vez Johnson’s interception and No. 18 Florida held on for a 31-28 win over visiting South Florida on Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla.

The Bulls (1-2) reached Florida’s 19-yard line in the final minute, but an errant snap on second down backed them up to the 33, and then a mishandled snap foiled Spencer Shrader’s 49-yard field-goal try that could have sent the game to overtime.

The Gators (2-1) saw an 11-point halftime lead wiped out when the Bulls’ Gerry Bohanon and Michel Dukes each scored a touchdown to put USF up 28-24 before Etienne’s score.

With sophomore Brian Battie rushing for a career-high 150 yards and Bohanon rushing for 102, the Bulls outgained the Gators 402-329 in total yardage and seemed to have their first win over a ranked foe since 2016 within reach.

But Bohanon’s second interception created a short field that the Gators cashed in on.

Florida’s Anthony Richardson threw for 112 yards and two picks.

Montrel Johnson Jr. led the Gators in rushing with 103 yards, 62 coming on a scoring dash in the second quarter.

Florida built its 24-13 halftime cushion on a pair of touchdowns in a 1-minute, 35-second span late in the second quarter. Nay’Quan Wright capped an 81-yard, penalty-aided drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:45 left in the half and Jalen Kimber followed with a 39-yard interception return on USF’s ensuing possession for a 24-10 Florida lead.

USF closed out the half with Shrader’s 49-yard field goal.

The Bulls owned a statistical edge at the break thanks to running 40 plays to the Gators’ 23. That helped the visitors to a 272-204 advantage in total offense with a 216-129 cushion in rushing.

Battie finished the first half with 99 rushing yards while Bohanon had 69.

–Field Level Media