Chomp: Gators survive Missouri for 1st SEC win this season, host LSU next

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: Nathaniel Peat #8 of the Missouri Tigers runs the ball during the second quarter of a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 08, 2022 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) (James Gilbert, 2022 Getty Images)

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Hey, Gators fans!

It’s been a while, but we finally have an SEC win!

Now, a different set of Tigers will be coming to town...

🐊 Gators get by Mizzou

Florida got its first Southeastern Conference victory in about a year by defeating Missouri 24-17 in Gainesville for homecoming.

On paper, the stats were against the Gators (4-2, 1-2 SEC), but they still won. Missouri (2-4, 0-3) controlled time of possession, with 36:11 compared to Florida’s 23:21. The Tigers had 21 first downs and 370 total yards, while the Gators had fewer in both categories — 12 first downs and 297 total yards, 231 which were rushing yards. Florida’s running back room continues to impress, with Montrell Johnson Jr. rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown and Trevor Etienne racking up 83 rushing yards — a career-high for him.

Anthony Richardson completed 8 of 14 passes for 66 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. It was his fifth straight game with at least one turnover. He also ran for 45 yards.

While the game was always close (it didn’t help that Florida missed two field goals), I was never too worried.

Florida’s defense secured the win. Cornerback Jaydon Hill had a breakout performance with two interceptions. And it didn’t go unnoticed by the league — his career day earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the first time. (Hill is the third Gator to earn conference player of the week honors this season. Linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. and Richardson earned the honors following Florida’s 29-26 win over Utah in Week 1.)

GAME RECAP: Hill’s INTs help Florida hold off Missouri 24-17 in Swamp

In just his second game back coming off injury, Hill recorded his first career interceptions, including a 49-yard pick-six in the second quarter. His second interception came late in the third quarter. The Huntsville, Alabama, native became the first Florida player with two interceptions and a pick-six in the same game since CJ Gardner-Johnson did it against Michigan in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29, 2018.

“He was the first person that we called up in front of the team. If we were giving out game balls, we would give one to him today. What a story, if you really dig into it, what the young man has been through. The ACL in high school, the ACL here early in his career, then the LCL. The discipline to continue to rehab. The toughness to stay the course. He’s got passion about this game. I always felt like, watching him in spring ball, he was one of the best players we had. That showed up today. He’s a character. The guys stayed the course. To get him back, he was a difference maker today,” coach Billy Napier said.

Hill said, “Honestly, it’s just a blessing. Words can’t even describe the feeling honestly. I’m just grateful for being here and being able to play.”

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters gives his reaction and reviews the game, which was an improvement in some ways and a step back in others.

🐅 Once again, Tigers up next

This week, Florida will host LSU for the Gators’ sixth home game in seven weeks.

Florida announced back in August that its matchup against SEC West rival LSU was sold out, so expected a rowdy crowd cheering on the Gators under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier Field.

Last weekend, LSU (4-2, 2-1) was trounced by undefeated Tennessee 40-13 at Tiger Stadium. The Bayou Bengals’ other loss this season came at the hands of FSU in LSU’s season opener in New Orleans and Brian Kelly’s first game as the head coach of the Tigers since leaving Notre Dame.

“Excited about the challenges that come with playing a really good LSU team. Certainly, when you play LSU, you know they’re going to be unique mismatched players on the field, and they’ve got lots of them. We’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Kelly and the staff that he’s put together,” Napier said at his news conference Monday. “Again, it’s a great opportunity for us to be back at home and play in The Swamp at night, and we look forward to it.”

Right now, according to FanDuel Sports, the Gators are 2.5-point favorites.

Florida last hosted LSU in 2020 and lost 37-34. And last year, the Gators fell to the Tigers 49-42 in Baton Rouge. The Gators own the all-time record at home 16-14-3 and the overall series 33-32-3.

Saturday’s kickoff between the two teams is set for 7 p.m., and for those not heading to Gainesville for the game, it will air on ESPN.

The University of Florida Athletic Association will also be celebrating the inaugural Tom Petty Day on Saturday. You can learn more here.

🏈 Alex Brown named 2022 SEC Football Legend

Former Gator Alex Brown has been selected to the 2022 SEC Football Legends class, the league announced last week.

He was honored during Florida’s season-opening win against Utah.

Brown, a three-time All-American and three-time All-SEC selection, was the 2001 SEC Defensive Player of the year and a finalist for the Nagurski and Lombardi awards his senior season. He emerged as a sophomore, setting a school record with 13 quarterback sacks in 1999 and became only the third sophomore in UF history to garner first-team All-America honors.

During his Florida career, he registered 160 tackles and 120 “big plays,” including 33 quarterback sacks while helping lead Florida to four bowl appearances. Brown was a workhorse for the Gators, playing in 46 games for nearly 2,500 total career snaps in his career.

A fourth-round pick of Chicago in 2002, he started 123 games for the Bears from 2002 to 2009 before playing his final NFL season with the New Orleans Saints in 2010. His 43.5 career quarterback sacks rank fourth in Chicago history in that category. Brown was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

The 2022 Football Legends Class includes 14 former stars who excelled on the gridiron and helped write the rich history of the sport at their respective institutions. Among them are two big-name quarterbacks: Tennessee’s Peyton Manning and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. Click here to view the full class, which will be honored at the SEC Football “Weekend of Champions” Dec. 2 and 3 in Atlanta.

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.