Sep 24, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers place kicker Chase McGrath (40) kicks a field goal against the Florida Gators during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Tennessee holds off previous bane No. 20 Florida

Hendon Hooker threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another to lift No. 11 Tennessee to a 38-33 victory over No. 20 Florida on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hooker completed 22 of 28 passes for 349 yards and rushed for 112 yards to fuel the Volunteers (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), who nearly squandered an 11-point lead in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

Anthony Richardson connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Pearsall to trim Tennessee’s lead to 38-33 with 17 seconds left. The two-point conversion attempt failed, however Florida recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Richardson, who threw for 453 yards and had four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing), saw his bid for a last-gasp TD pass sail into the arms of the Volunteers’ Kamal Hadden to end the game.

Jabari Small totaled 122 yards from scrimmage (90 rushing, 32 receiving) and had a rushing and receiving touchdown for Tennessee, which snapped a five-game losing skid to Florida.

Bru McCoy reeled in five catches for 102 yards and a score for the Volunteers, who played without top wide receiver Cedric Tillman (ankle).

Justin Shorter had seven catches for 155 yards and Pearsall had five for 103 with a touchdown for the Gators (2-2, 0-2).

Florida’s 7-3 lead was short-lived as Hooker elected to keep the ball on an option for a 4-yard score on the Volunteers’ next drive.

Richardson rushed for a 7-yard touchdown on the next possession, however Hooker capped a 12-play, 99-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring strike to McCoy to give Tennessee a 17-14 lead with seven seconds to play in the second quarter.

The Volunteers continued the momentum to start the third quarter, with Small reeling in a pass and scooting just inside the pylon for a 16-yard touchdown.

Richardson and Small traded 1-yard touchdown runs for their respective teams in the third quarter before Tennessee forced a turnover in the red zone on the next possession. Jeremy Banks recovered Richardson’s fumble on the Volunteers 13-yard line with 12:34 left in the fourth.

Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright and Florida’s Montrell Johnson Jr. swapped 5-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter before Pearsall reeled in a 3-yard scoring strike with 17 seconds left.

Chase McGrath drilled a 32-yard field goal to open the scoring late in the first quarter before Florida answered on its ensuing possession.

Richardson created space within the pocket and connected with tight end Keon Zipperer, who broke an attempted tackle and ran over Trevon Flowers for a 44-yard touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) scores a touchdown against the Utah Utes during the second half at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Kentucky has questions; No. 12 Florida carries momentum

No. 20 Kentucky apparently will be without veteran tailback Chris Rodriguez on Saturday night when the Wildcats (1-0) take on No. 12 Florida (1-0) in a Southeastern Conference opener in Gainesville, Fla.

Wildcats coach Mark Stoops offered no update Monday on the availability of the running back — or on that of returning linebacker Jordan Wright — saying, “I don’t have anything I can report.”

Rodriguez pleaded guilty at a pretrial hearing in July to operating a motor vehicle under the influence, but it is unclear if his absence remains tied directly to that issue. Wright also was held out of the opener for an undisclosed reason, and both players are absent from the team’s depth chart this week.

“Again, I’ve been advised, there are things going on, there are layers to this,” Stoops said. “I cannot comment on it. I’m not trying to hide things from you. If I could say it, I would … I think you can understand it’s out of my hands.”

Rodriguez has rushed for 2,740 yards in his career, including 99 in last year’s 20-13 win over the Gators in Lexington, but he did not play in the opening 37-13 win over Miami (Ohio) last week.

Kavosiey Smoke, who rushed for 32 yards against the Bobcats, will start against the Gators, who rallied to beat No. 7 Utah last week, 29-26. With transfer Ramon Jefferson and JuTahn McClain out with injuries, redshirt freshman La’Vell Wright could see increasing action.

“We’re excited to get La’Vell going again,” Stoops said of the redshirt freshman. who was impressive in fall camp before getting “dinged up”– Stoops’ words. “He’s another big, strong guy who can hit it up in there for some tough yards.”

Will Levis passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns for Kentucky last week.

Florida rolls in with momentum after the Gators showed the kind of grit new coach Billy Napier was hoping to see to defeat Utah, the Pac-12 defending champion. Utah led four times in the game, and each time the Gators responded, with quarterback Anthony Richardson leading the way.

Richardson passed for only 168 yards but rushed for a team-leading 106 yards and three scores for the Gators, including the go-ahead touchdown with 1:25 left to complete a 14-play, 75-yard drive.

“Anthony Richardson is one heckuva football player,” Stoops said. “Very good player. Very talented.”

Napier praised Richardson’s decision-making and game-management, saying, “He rose to the occasion.”

The Gators also unveiled another threat in running back Montrell Johnson, a transfer who followed Napier from Louisiana, where he ran for 838 yards to earn 2021 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors. Johnson rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against Utah.

The Gators rushed for 283 yards but gave up 230 to the Utes, so Napier sees plenty of areas for his team to improve, including handling their success.

“I think the big question,” he said, “is how is this group of players and this staff going to handle everybody patting them on the back for the next week?

“I think we have a little bit of the best of both worlds here. We got some momentum, but we also have a team that is very self-aware. I think we’ve got a smart group. They understand good football. They watched the tape. They know they can do better.”

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Jack Miller III (10) hands off to Florida Gators running back Montrell Johnson (2) in the first quarter. The Florida Gators scrimmaged in the first quarter during the annual Orange and Blue spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2022

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Thumb surgery sidelines Florida QB Jack Miller

Florida quarterback Jack Miller underwent surgery for a right thumb injury, multiple reports said Friday.

247Sports reported Miller could return before midseason.

Coach Billy Napier had yet to name a starting quarterback, but it’s been assumed that he will choose Anthony Richardson. Still the loss of Miller is big for the Gators, who don’t have an established backup at the position.

Florida’s 2021 starter, Emory Jones, transferred to Arizona State and has been named that team’s starter.

Miller transferred from Ohio State in the offseason. He saw limited action in 2021 as a redshirt freshman, playing in four games, and completed seven of 14 passes for 101 yards.

Florida will host preseason No. 7 Utah in the season opener on Sept. 3.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) warms up against the Missouri Tigers before the game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Florida QB ‘learned lesson’ after 105-mph speeding bust

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson said he “learned my lesson” after being cited for driving 105 mph.

The Gators sophomore faces a court appearance next month for traveling more than 30 mph over the speed limit on April 4, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Addressing the incident for the first time Saturday, Richardson told Gators Online it was his first speeding ticket.

“I know I’m not perfect, but it was a mistake,” he said. “I was speeding. My mom always tells me to drive safe because I can not only hurt myself but I can hurt other people. I shouldn’t have done it and I can definitely say I learned my lesson.”

Richardson said he addressed the incident with his Gators teammates on Friday, promising he would “handle his business” and “do everything right from this point forward.”

The news of Richardson’s citation broke after his strong performance in Florida’s spring game Thursday night. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score.

A Gainesville, Fla., native, Richardson is expected to be the Gators’ No. 1 quarterback this season after Emory Jones entered the transfer portal.

Richardson completed 39 of 66 passes for 556 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions in 12 games during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He has also rushed for 462 yards and three touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

UL offensive coordinator Rob Sale speaks to members of the media at the Ragin' Cajuns Football Media Day Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018.

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Reports: Giants OL coach Rob Sale headed to Florida

New York Giants offensive line coach Rob Sale reportedly is leaving after one season to become the offensive coordinator for the Florida Gators, multiple outlets reported on Tuesday.

The move reunites Sale, 42, with new Gators coach Billy Napier, with whom he worked at Arizona State and Louisiana. Sale spent three years as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offensive coordinator/offensive line coach under Napier, and Louisiana set multiple school records on offense in 2019 and finished 19th in the 2020 College Football Playoff rankings.

Napier was hired last month to replace Dan Mullen in Gainesville. The Gators went 6-7 (2-6 Southeastern Conference) this season.

Sale’s ties to Giants head coach Joe Judge, who is 10-23 in two seasons in New York, date back to 2007 when he was a strength and conditioning assistant and analyst with Judge at Alabama. That’s also where Sale first crossed paths with Napier, who also was an assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2011.

Judge, who took over as Giants head coach in 2020, had two other offensive line coaches during his short tenure to date: Marc Colombo, who was fired midway through the 2020 season, and Dave DeGuglielmo, who finished out the 2020 season and joined the staff at Louisiana Tech in 2021.

–Field Level Media

Dec 23, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA;  Florida Gators wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) is carted off the field in the second half against the UCF Knights at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Gators WR Justin Shorter ‘doing well’ after scary hit

The family of Florida Gators wide receiver Justin Shorter said he is expected to make a full recovery after a scary moment in the final moments of Thursday’s Gasparilla Bowl.

The redshirt junior was carted off the field late after taking a hard hit from a UCF defender while attempting to make a leaping catch. He spent the night at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla.

The Florida football program shared a statement from Shorter’s family on Twitter on Friday.

“We are happy to share that Justin is doing well, is clear to head home today and is on his way to a full recovery! We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of prayers, love and endless support — he is going to be fine!

“Special thanks to everyone on the UF athletic staff and St. Joseph’s Hospital for their professionalism, care and support they have shown Justin and our family.”

Shorter caught three passes for a team-high 54 yards in the Gators’ 29-17 loss to the Knights. He finished the season with 41 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.

–Field Level Media

Cajuns head coach Billy Napier on sideline as Louisiana Ragin Cajuns take on the Miami University Redhawks in the Lending Tree Bowl in Mobile, AL.  Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.

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Report: Florida to name Louisiana’s Billy Napier head coach

Florida could name Louisiana’s Billy Napier as the Gators’ next head coach as early as Sunday, Yahoo Sports reported.

Napier has guided the Ragin’ Cajuns to an 11-1 record this season and owns a 39-12 record in four seasons there.

He would replace Dan Mullen, who was fired on Nov. 21 after leading the Gators to a 5-6 start.

Florida finished 6-6 and gained bowl eligibility Saturday with a 24-21 win against rival Florida State in Gainesville. Greg Knox served as the interim coach for the Gators.

Napier, 42, was the Sun Belt Conference’s Coach of the Year in 2019 and guided Louisiana to a conference title in 2020. The Ragin’ Cajuns will defend their title Saturday against Appalachian State.

Before taking over the program in Lafayette, La., Napier worked as an assistant coach at Arizona State, Alabama, South Carolina State, Colorado State and Clemson.

Mullen, 49, left Florida with a 34-15 record in four seasons. His Gators went to three New Year’s Six bowl games, winning two.

–Field Level Media