Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) is tackles by Florida Gators defenders during a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla., Nov. 27, 2021.

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Gators hold off Seminoles to earn bowl bid, 24-21

Quarterback Anthony Richardson entered in relief of Emory Jones and directed three second-half scoring drives Saturday afternoon to lead host Florida to a 24-21 victory over Florida State in Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators (6-6) secured bowl eligibility with the victory and likely denied the Seminoles (5-7) a similar opportunity.

Emory Jones, who suffered an ankle injury in practice earlier in the week, started at quarterback for the Gators. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 163 yards and connected with tight end Kemore Gamble for a 47-yard touchdown pass on the game’s opening drive.

But Florida State intercepted Jones three times in the first half to keep the game close. Richardson came on to complete 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards, but took care of the ball with no turnovers and threw a touchdown pass.

FSU quarterback Jordan Travis battled through injury early in the game to lead the Seminoles to a near comeback, pulling within three on his 7-yard touchdown pass to Ontaria Wilson with 44 seconds left in the game.

But FSU’s ensuing onside kick attempt failed and the Gators were able to run out the clock.

Travis completed 18 for 29 passes for 202 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Travis hurt his shoulder on the Seminoles first drive when he was sacked by Florida linebacker Brenton Cox Jr., who had all four of Florida’s sacks. Travis played the ensuing series after getting looked at by team trainers, but had to exit again.

FSU’s next two drives ended with a McKenzie Milton interception and a punt after the Seminoles replaced Milton with redshirt freshman Tate Rodemaker.

Travis returned with 10:09 left in the second quarter and directed a seven-play, 68-yard drive which he capped with a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7 with 6:45 left in the second quarter.

But after the Gators were held to 47 yards rushing in the first half, they gained 103 in the second half, most coming after Richardson entered the game midway through the third quarter.

After Florida gained a 10-7 lead, the Gators cashed in on a muffed punt by FSU receiver Ontaria Wilson. It took Florida seven plays – including a 22-yard pass from Richardson to Malik Davis on third-and-21 – to score on Richardson’s 5-yard pass to Justin Shorter and a 17-7 lead.

Dameon Pierce, who led Florida rushers with 62 yards on 12 carries, scored from 3 yards out to extend the Gators’ lead to 24-7 with 12:36 left in the fourth.

Florida State’s slim bowl hopes reside with the possibility that not enough teams qualify with 6-6 records, allowing for the NCAA to grant exemptions to some 5-7 teams.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA;Florida Gators tight end Kemore Gamble (2) runs past Samford Bulldogs defensive end Joseph Mera (35) during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Records fall as Florida outlasts Samford 70-52

Emory Jones completed 28 of 34 passes for 464 yards and threw six touchdown passes without throwing an interception to help the host Florida Gators survive a 70-52 shootout victory over Samford on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

After a mostly back-and-forth game, Jones’ 18-yard touchdown pass to Kemore Gamble with 9:03 left in the fourth extended Florida’s lead to 63-52 and helped the Gators (5-5) finally shake off the Bulldogs (4-6), who tied the record for most points scored by an FCS team against an FBS team since the divisions split in 1978.

Jones, who also ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts, broke a school record for combined yards passing and rushing previously held by Tim Tebow.

Samford came close, but fell to 0-25 against FBS teams since 1984.

The Gators totaled 717 yards of offense but allowed Samford to rack up 530 total yards of its own.

Bulldogs quarterback Liam Welch completed 33 of 52 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns with one interception and ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

This came the week after Florida fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Florida running back Dameon Pierce helped the Gators seal the outcome with a 24-yard touchdown run. Pierce finished with 78 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.

Samford and Florida each scored touchdowns on their first three drives and dueled to a 28-28 tie before the Bulldogs took a 42-28 lead with 3:17 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard touchdown by Welch.

Samford’s first-half scoring output was the most points Florida has ever allowed in the first half of a game.

The Gators followed with 28 unanswered points, scoring touchdowns on their next four drives to take a 56-42 lead with 1:24 left in the third.

Montrell Washington’s one-handed catch falling down in the end zone on a 23-yard pass from Welch cut the deficit to seven with 13:59 left in the fourth.

Samford coach Chris Hatcher then dialed up an onside kick, which the Bulldogs recovered. But Samford was held to a 33-yard field goal by Zach Williams on its ensuing possession.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen walks off the field after a loss to Georgia during the annual Florida Georgia rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Fla. October 30, 2021.

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Florida hoping to halt freefall against Samford

Things have gone south quickly for the Florida Gators.

So much so that Gators head coach Dan Mullen fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy after the Gators gave up 459 yards in a 40-17 loss to South Carolina last week.

Florida (4-5) will try to snap a three-game losing streak when it hosts FCS program Samford (4-5) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

Florida and Samford, which competes in the Southern Conference, will meet for the first time since 1922. The Gators have won both games in the series.

The Gators, who need two more wins to secure bowl eligibility, will face three opponents currently under .500 to finish the regular season. But Florida has lost its last two games by an average margin of 25 points and allowed 41 points per game during its current skid. Meanwhile, Florida has been held to only 24 points over its past two games.

“It’s always hard,” Mullen said of the staff changes. “Those guys are friends of mine. I have a lot of respect for them. Both excellent football coaches. But my responsibility as the head coach is to do what’s best for the Florida Gators. That comes above it all.”

Gators linebackers coach Christian Robinson will handle play-calling duties on defense, and assistant Michael Sollenne was promoted to offensive line coach.

Samford is coming off a 35-14 victory over The Citadel last week. Running back Jay Stanton led the Bulldogs, rushing for a season-high 134 yards and a touchdown.

Montrell Washington added a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown and Midnight Steward scored on a 94-yard fumble return.

Bulldogs quarterback Liam Welch has been a catalyst for their offense, completing 256 of 385 passes for 2,697 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while rushing for 391 yards and five touchdowns.

But Samford’s defense has allowed 35.9 points and 480 yards of total offense per game.

“I think we have a really good team,” Samford coach Chris Hatcher said. “Our record does not show that. I still believe that, and I may be the only one who does. But I do. I believe we have a really good team. And if we didn’t, I’d tell you.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Jack Bech (80) runs against Florida Gators safety Rashad Torrence II (22) during the first half  at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrion Davis-Price’s record day leads LSU past No. 20 Florida

Tyrion Davis-Price rushed for a school-record 287 yards and three touchdowns as LSU upset No. 20 Florida 49-42 in an SEC game Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.

Max Johnson threw three touchdown passes to Jaray Jenkins, including the game-winner on fourth and goal from the one with 3:30 left in the game to lead the Tigers (4-3, 2-2).

Anthony Richardson relieved an ineffective Emory Jones and rallied the Gators (4-3, 2-3) with four second-half touchdown drives.

On the first possession of the third quarter Dwight McGlothern picked off Jones and ran 37 yards for a touchdown that increased the Tigers’ lead to 28-13.

Richardson replaced Jones on the next possession and ran five yards for a touchdown and for a two-point conversion that cut the lead to 28-21.

Three plays later, Davis-Price ran 40 yards for a touchdown and a 35-21 lead.

Richardson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Justin Shorter and an 11-yarder to Dameon Pierce to tie the score at 35 at the end of the third quarter.

Davis-Price ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 42-35 lead.

Richardson answered with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Copeland.

Pierce’s seven-yard touchdown run gave Florida a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

LSU drove 90 yards and Davis-Price ran 18 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead.

Micah Basketville intercepted Emory Jones and returned the ball 54 yards to the Gators 28. On the next play Johnson threw a touchdown pass to Jenkins for a 14-6 lead.

On the ensuing possession Jay Ward intercepted Richardson and returned 26 yards to the Florida 21.

Johnson and Jenkins teamed on a five-yard touchdown pass that increased the lead to 21-6.

The Gators drove 77 yards in the final 29 seconds of the second quarter as Jones connected with Shorter on a 42-yard Hail Mary completion for a touchdown that trimmed the lead to 21-13 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) flies forward for extra yards in the first half. The Florida Gators lead 21-0 at the half over the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon, October 9, 2021 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]2021

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Emory Jones and No. 20 Florida flatten Vanderbilt

Emory Jones established career highs of 273 passing yards and four touchdowns as No. 20 Florida continued its domination of Vanderbilt with a 42-0 trouncing on Saturday in SEC action in Gainesville, Fla.

Dameon Pierce scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) as the Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) beat the Commodores for the eighth straight time and 30th in the past 31 meetings. Jones completed 14 of 22 passes.

Jacob Copeland, Ja’Quavion Fraziars and Trent Whittemore also had scoring receptions for Florida. Rashad Torrence racked up 15 tackles while Trey Dean III and Daquan Newkirk had interceptions for the Gators.

Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-2) dropped its 15th straight SEC game since defeating Missouri 21-14 on Oct. 19, 2019.

Ken Seals completed 22 of 43 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions for the Commodores. Dashaun Jerkins and Elijah McAllister had interceptions for Vanderbilt.

Joseph Bulovas missed field goals of 39, 41 and 33 yards as the Commodores were shut out for the second time in the past three games.

The Gators totaled 479 yards to Vanderbilt’s 287.

Florida outgained the Commodores 202 to 33 in the third quarter while scoring 21 points to stretch its lead to 42.

Pierce got the assault going when he caught a short pass from Jones and turned it into a 61-yard touchdown with 12:07 left in quarter.

Copeland caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Jones to make it 35-0 with 10:26 remaining. Pierce tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run to boost the lead to 42 with 8:46 left in the stanza.

Vanderbilt ran 49 plays to Florida’s 31 in the first half but still trailed by three touchdowns. The Gators had 215 yards and the Commodores had 200 in the half.

Pierce scored from the 1 with 11:16 left in the first quarter to get the Gators on the board. Nearly six minutes later, Jones connected with Fraziars on a 5-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0.

Jones and Whittemore teamed up on a 9-yard strike to increase the margin to 21 with 3:55 left in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the fourth quarter at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to make up ground in division race, No. 20 Gators face Vandy

No. 20 Florida aims to rebound from a costly setback when it faces Vanderbilt on Saturday in SEC play at Gainesville, Fla.

Last weekend’s 20-13 loss to Kentucky leaves the Gators (3-2, 1-2 SEC) in dire shape in the SEC East.

Not only do they trail the surprising Wildcats by two games in the East, but also undefeated No. 2 Georgia — which Florida plays Oct. 30.

Quarterback Emory Jones said it is time for the Gators to regroup and make the best of the situation.

“We all said that the season can go one of two ways — be pouty, be sad about it and lose out, or we can stay focused, get back to the drawing board and tell ourselves we are going harder than ever before and win out,” Jones said. “That’s what we were going to do and we’re going to try our best to go out there and do our job every week.”

Facing the Commodores (2-3, 0-1) typically is a day when Florida adds to the victory column.

The Gators have won the past seven meetings and 29 of the last 30. The last time the teams played in Gainesville, Florida won 56-0 in 2019.

In fact, Vanderbilt has dropped 14 straight SEC games since defeating Missouri 21-14 on Oct. 19, 2019. In their lone SEC contest this season, the Commodores were trampled 62-0 by visiting Georgia.

Keeping up with Florida figures to be a test for Vanderbilt.

“The environments are unforgiving on the road. I think that’s also exciting for us,” Commodores coach Clark Lea said. “We look forward to playing in those hostile environments. We’ll get up for that.”

Vanderbilt is coming off a 30-28 home victory over Connecticut as Joseph Bulovas booted a 31-yard field goal with no time remaining.

The Commodores are allowing 35 points per game while scoring just 16. Quarterback Ken Seals has passed for 894 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Stopping the run has been a major issue for Vanderbilt and it will represent a challenge to slow a Florida rushing attack that ranks third nationally at 292.2 yards per game.

The Commodores allowed 192 to UConn after giving up more than 200 in each of their previous three games. They rank 115th out of 130 teams in rushing defense at 204.6.

Jones leads the Gators with 439 rushing yards while passing for 871 yards and five touchdowns against six interceptions. He has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for a team averaging 31.4 points per game.

Jones helped Florida hold a 382-224 yardage edge over Kentucky and the Gators controlled the ball for more than 36 minutes. But Florida committed 15 penalties for 115 yards.

Calling the penalties disappointing, coach Dan Mullen said, “It’s my responsibility to make sure the discipline this team plays with and executes at a high level.”

The Gators defense is allowing 19.8 points per game. They have racked up 18 sacks — the 3.6 per game is tied for eighth nationally. Defensive lineman Zachary Carter has a career-high 5.5, raising his career total to 15.

Last season, the Gators beat the Commodores 38-17 in Nashville, Tenn.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Kentucky Wildcats offensive tackle John Young (71) and tight end Brenden Bates (80) react after a successful field goal attempt by place kicker Matt Ruffolo (96) against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky gets chance to ‘prove it’ against No. 10 Florida

It’s prove-it time for the Kentucky football program.

At 4-0, the Wildcats feel like they are ready to compete with the Southeastern Conference’s big boys. And with No. 10 Florida coming to Lexington for a big East Division contest Saturday night, opportunity is literally knocking on the big blue door.

How will Kentucky answer?

“I think our players know that we can play with anybody if we play well,” said Wildcats coach Mark Stoops. “That’s the point where we’ve gotten to as a program. But we still have to do that.

“We have to have a great week. We have to play well. We have to prepare well. We have to control what we can and execute at the highest level.”

While Tennessee is historically Kentucky’s biggest football rival, it’s the Gators who have traditionally dispensed the cruelest outcomes, particularly since Stoops was hired after the 2012 season to build a program that could do in football what the Wildcats have done for generations in basketball.

Kentucky is 1-7 against Florida under Stoops with at least four losses harder to swallow than a plate of offal. One of those losses included 2017, when the Wildcats squandered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and lost 28-27.

Another was the result of a controversial call in 2014 that helped the Gators pull out a 36-30 triple overtime win. And in 2015, Kentucky managed just three field goals, but had the chance to win with two fourth-quarter possessions.

That was one of 16 straight Florida wins at Kroger Field, which will be sold out for what insiders around the Kentucky program believe can be its breakthrough game. The Cats are 2-0 in the conference, thanks to last week’s 16-10 win at South Carolina.

“We’ll have our hands full, but we’re really looking forward to having a great home atmosphere this weekend,” Stoops said.

The Gators (3-1, 1-1) come into this one after handling Tennessee 38-14 last week. Some wondered if Florida would suffer an emotional letdown after nearly shocking top-ranked Alabama (31-29) on Sept. 18, but the Gators took a lead just before halftime and pulled away from the Vols in the second half.

Quarterback Emory Jones paced Florida with arguably the best game of his career. Jones completed 21 of 27 passes for 209 yards while running for 144 yards, making him the first Gators’ QB to pull off the 200-100 double since Tim Tebow did it in 2009.

“I was just processing information, processing the defenses and I was doing that pretty smooth,” Jones said. “I made quick decisions. That’s me feeling more comfortable out there, from what I know about myself.

“Overall, it was a pretty good performance by me, but there were a lot of things I could still do better and a couple of mistakes I still made.”

After being intercepted five times in the first three games, Jones avoided a pick against Tennessee. And at least for now, the talk of inserting redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson has died down.

Florida will need that version of Jones in its first real road test. The Gators did win at South Florida on Sept. 11, but the Bulls are nowhere near the level of opposition that the Wildcats will provide this weekend.

“It’s such a challenge from one weekend to the next,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators running back Malik Davis (20) runs the ball during the football game between the Florida Gators and The Alabama Crimson Tide, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Sept. 18, 2021.

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Tennessee looks for elusive win vs. No. 11 Florida

Once upon a time, a Tennessee-Florida football game was not just a main event in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division, but in the country.

Now it’s just another game for these programs. It’s been made that way by Alabama’s dominant 13-year run and Tennessee’s stunning fall from being a national power to its conference’s version of Miami or Texas, a team badly in need of something good to happen sooner instead of later.

The Volunteers (2-1, 0-0 SEC) will have that chance Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla., albeit against a program they’ve beaten once since 2005. Tennessee will have to come up with something special to pick up the first big win of the Josh Heupel era.

“We’ve got to do the ordinary at a really high level in a big game like this against a really good football team,” Heupel said.

The 11th-ranked Gators (2-1, 0-1) distinguished themselves far more in last week’s 31-29 defeat at home against No. 1 Alabama than in non-conference walkovers against Florida Atlantic and South Florida.

Florida was the more physical football team for long stretches, rolling up 245 yards on the ground and nearly overcoming a 21-3 deficit in the first quarter. But the Gators were unable to convert a game-tying 2-point run with 3:41 left and couldn’t get the ball back until just four seconds remained.

While the consensus among college football experts was that Florida proved its chops despite losing, coach Dan Mullen said his players weren’t celebrating making a good showing by any means.

“Our guys expected to win the game, to be perfectly honest with you,” he said. “I mean, they’re pretty disappointed that they didn’t. There wasn’t much praise or happiness or smiles (Monday) morning in the team meeting.

“There’s some positive things that we can take out of it, and there are things that we need to get corrected. It’s making sure we embrace that. Let’s actually build off what we did well and do it even better.”

The Gators’ showing in the trenches drew lots of attention. The last time the Crimson Tide was pushed around that consistently on the defensive line, coach Nick Saban was trying to figure out a way to win with the Miami Dolphins in 2006.

Malik Davis rushed for a game-high 86 yards on just 10 carries, while quarterback Emory Jones added 77 yards on 19 attempts. But he also tossed his fifth interception in three games that was quickly turned into one of Alabama’s three first-quarter touchdowns.

Jones was 18 of 28 in the air for 195 yards, playing the entire game with backup Anthony Richardson (hamstring) sidelined. Mullen said Richardson could return this week.

The quarterback position is also a question for the Volunteers. Starter Joe Milton sat out a 56-0 rout of FCS foe Tennessee Tech last week with a leg injury. Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker played efficiently, completing 17 of 25 passes for 199 yards and three scores while adding 64 yards and a score on the ground.

Heupel said Milton would get work in practice Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We’ll see where we are at at that point, as far as whether he’ll be able to play or not,” the coach said.
Tennessee is averaging 42.7 points, but this will be its first road game. And it will be in a venue where it hasn’t won since 2003.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end Jahleel Billingsley (19) celebrates with wide receiver John Metchie III (8) after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Florida Gators celebrates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Alabama outlasts No. 11 Florida, 31-29

Top-ranked Alabama got three touchdown passes from freshman Bryce Young on Saturday and stopped a potential game-tying 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter to hold off No. 11 Florida 31-29 in Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) pulled within two points with 3:10 left in the game on a 17-yard touchdown run by Dameon Pierce. But Malik Davis’ 2-point attempt to even the score failed.

The Gators missed an extra-point try in the second quarter, setting up the two-point deficit.

By the time Florida got the ball back, it had just 4 seconds and was at its own 24. The Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0) made it academic by sacking Emory Jones to end the game.

Young completed 22 of 35 passes for 233 yards and no interceptions in his first true road start. Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries, scoring touchdowns on the ground and in the air.

Jones completed 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards and an interception, his fifth in three games. He also rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Davis added a game-high 96 rushing yards on 11 attempts.

Alabama established a 21-3 first quarter lead behind Young. He found Jase McClellan, Jahleel Billingsley and Robinson for scores of 7, 26 and 7 yards.

Florida clawed within 21-9 at halftime on Davis’ 26-yard touchdown run, then closed within 21-16 just over four minutes into the third quarter on a 3-yard rushing score by Pierce, the first of his two TDs.

Robinson made it 28-16 on a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:33 left in the third quarter, but Jones answered with a 5-yard scoring run 29 seconds before the end of the third period.

Alabama kicker Will Reichard connected on a 24-yard field goal with 9:30 remaining for a 31-23 lead.

–Field Level Media