Chomp: Gators get much-needed win over Texas A&M, need another victory when they face South Carolina

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) dives past Texas A&M defensive back Jacoby Mathews (14) for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft) (Sam Craft, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

Hey, Florida fans!

It sure feels good to be writing this newsletter after a win!

🏋️‍♂️ Strong 2nd half lifts Gators over Aggies

Florida went on the road and had a solid second-half performance to pull away from Texas A&M and get back in the win column for the first time in nearly a month with a 41-24 victory.

The winning performance by the Gators (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) was led by a strong ground attack — running back Montrell Johnson Jr. rushed 22 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, running back Trevor Etienne rushed for 80 yards on 17 carries, and quarterback Anthony Richardson had seven rushing attempts for 78 yards and two touchdowns — and a defense that dominated in the second half, pitching a shutout over the final 30 minutes.

Florida coach Billy Napier said he was proud of the Gators’ response in the second half.

“I think we could have easily got frustrated with our defensive performance in the first half, but man, in that locker room you would never know,” Napier said. “It’s really a group that stuck together. They knew what the issues were. The ownership in each position group, being vocal about things they could do better. I think the staff did a terrific job making adjustments.”

GAME RECAP: Richardson scores 4 TDs, Florida beats Texas A&M 41-24

In the air, Richardson finished 17 of 29 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He and the rest of the Gators offense played turnover-free ball.

“It feels good. I’ve always been able to run the ball and pass the ball. Just coming out today and being successful with those things feels pretty good for us.”

On the defensive side, the Gators had two takeaways with a pair of fourth-quarter forced fumbles. They also recorded two sacks in the game.

“It feels great. What I’ve been doing is just doing my job. Just trusting everybody else and trusting them to do their job. It feels great for me because coach [Napier], he hates turnovers. I’m pretty sure we all do. He harps on it all the time,” Richardson said. “Just to see him smiling about it, it makes us feel good.”

For Texas A&M (3-6, 1-5), this was its fifth straight loss — its longest losing streak since 1980.

It was the Gators’ first win over the Aggies since they defeated the Texas A&M team quarterbacked by Johnny Manziel in 2012 in College Station. It was also Florida’s first SEC road win since Dec. 5, 2020, at Tennessee. The Gators are now just one win away from bowl eligibility.

In an episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters reviews the game and reacts to the performance.

🏠 Florida takes on South Carolina in its last home game of season

Florida will host South Carolina (6-3, 3-3) on Saturday in its final home game of this season, which is Senior Day.

This is the first meeting between Napier and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer as head coaches.

In the Gamecocks’ last game, quarterback Spencer Rattler threw three touchdown passes and South Carolina became bowl-eligible with its sixth win of the season, a 38-27 victory over Vanderbilt.

“South Carolina has got a very talented team. I think this is a team that has a good group of veteran players, combination of players that they recruited in high school and transfers,” Napier said at a news conference Monday. “I think they’ve won five out of the last six. You see the effort on the tape. Certainly Coach Beamer, we have a ton of respect for what he’s created there and what he continues to build there.

“So this is a team that is very capable. They’ve got some really unique matchup players, individual players that I think can present a number of challenges. So big day in The Swamp, obviously sold out. We announced that last week. It’s going to be Senior Day for 17 guys.”

Certainly always an emotional time for those players, in particular. So I think the good thing I see from our players is we’ve got a group that wants to send this group out the right way.

Florida last hosted South Carolina in 2020 and beat the Gamecocks 38-24. The overall series favors the Gators at 29-10-3 and in The Swamp at 16-2 against South Carolina.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 4 p.m., and the game will air on SEC Network. It’s the Gator’s annual Saluting Those Who Serve, presented by VyStar Credit Union, where the University Athletic Association will be honoring members of the armed forces, veterans and local first responders.

At last check, according to FanDuel Sports, the Gators are 7 ½-point favorites over the Gamecocks.

While the Gators have shown resiliency many times this season, the team is still looking for a complete game. David is joined by Will Miles, with Read and Reaction, in the latest Gators Breakdown episode to see how the Gators are — hopefully — close to turning a corner.

And make sure to visit later this week to find David’s preview of this week’s matchup.

🕛 Gators’ game at Vanderbilt set for noon

Florida’s away game against Vanderbilt on Nov. 19 will kick off at noon.

The matchup will air on SEC Network.

Florida last traveled to Nashville in 2020 and beat the Commodores 38-17 in FirstBank Stadium. Florida owns the all-time record at Vanderbilt 20-7-1 and the overall series 43-10-2. The Gators have won the last eight meetings and have not lost to Vanderbilt on the road since 1988.

🏆 Torrence spotlighted

We have two honors to mention for offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence.

The SEC announced Monday that Torrence was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. The junior is the third Gator to earn conference player of the week honors this season (Richardson on Sept. 5 and cornerback Jaydon Hill on Oct. 10).

Last Saturday, the transfer from Louisiana who followed Napier to Gainesville anchored an offensive line that paved the way for 291 rushing yards on a season-high 50 rushing attempts. Florida averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the win over the Aggies, and the Gators’ 5.9 yards per carry this season ranks third in the FBS and is on track to tie the school record set in 2008.

Torrence has started eight games this season and is the highest-graded guard in the country, according to Pro Football Focus, with an 88.6 grade. The Greensburg, Louisiana, native’s run block grade of 91.4 also tops the nation, over six points ahead of the rest of the country.

Florida’s right guard also earned Associated Press Midseason All-American status in October and has allowed zero sacks and zero quarterback hits, while not committing a penalty this season.

The Gators’ offensive line this season is tied for the third-fewest sacks given up in the SEC and tied for the 18th-fewest in the FBS. Florida posted its eighth game with one sack or fewer surrendered in nine contests this season in the win over Texas A&M.

And last week, Torrence was selected as a semifinalist for the 49th Rotary Lombardi Award after being named to the watchlist earlier this fall. Torrence is one of 12 outstanding players selected as semi-finalists.

The Rotary Lombardi Award is awarded annually to the college football offensive or defensive lineman, who in addition to outstanding performance and ability, best exemplifies the character and discipline of NFL Hall of Fame Head Coach Vince Lombardi.

Further balloting is taking place through Nov. 14 and then the Final Four will be announced on Nov. 17 and invited to attend the award presentation in Houston on Dec. 7.

🚪 ICYMI: Cox showed the door

This news broke right after I sent last week’s newsletter, so my apologies for just now getting it in. But we still wanted to mention that

Napier announced last Monday that Florida had dismissed pass rusher Brenton Cox for what the head coach called “more of a cumulative effect here.”

“We’ve kind of decided to move on here,” Napier said. “I think that being a football player at the University of Florida is a privilege. There’s certain expectations and standards that come with that. Obviously, he’s done a lot of good things for the University of Florida and we wish him nothing but the best.

“But sometimes you have to make decisions 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 as simple as that, we’ve decided to move on.”

READ MORE: Florida dismisses pass rusher Cox for ‘cumulative effect’

Cox, a fifth-year junior and one of the team’s best defenders, announced that he will be entering the NFL draft. The Stockbridge, Georgia native had 41 tackles, including 9 1/2 for loss and four sacks. He also leads the Gators with 19 quarterback hurries.

A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Cox transferred to Florida from Georgia during the 2019 season. He was a three-year starter for Florida, leading the team in sacks (8 1/2) and tackles for a loss (14 1/2) in 2021.

“First, I would like to thank God for the blessings and the opportunities that he has allowed me to experience throughout my life and especially in my football career. I would not be the man I am today without the constant support of my family and the community of people that surround me,” Cox said in a message posted on social media. “I would also like to express my gratitude to the Florida Gators football program, fans and my teammates.

“This football program has helped me to be a productive and positive student athlete on and off the field and I will forever be grateful for that. Being a part of this program and having the ability to wear the #1 Jersey was an honor and privilege,” Cox said in a message posted on social media. “I find it hard to express my disappointment in being dismissed from the team. It is truly a shock. I have always had a competitive spirit. I think sometimes that gets misconstrued.”

Napier said he was unaware that Cox appeared to throw a punch in the fourth quarter of Florida’s 42-20 loss to Georgia in Jacksonville. Replays show Cox turning and swinging at Bulldogs left tackle Broderick Jones after Jones blocked Cox during Kenny McIntosh’s 4-yard touchdown run.

In this episode of Gators Breakdown, David discusses Cox’s dismissal.

🏀 Florida men’s hoops gets 1st win under Golden

Basketball season has now begun.

The Gators men’s hoops team got their most lopsided season-opening victory in five years when it beat Gardner-Webb 116-74 on Monday night.

It was also the squad’s first victory under coach Todd Golden.

“It feels great,” Golden said after the game. “I thought we did a really good job of playing with purpose for 40 minutes.”

Transfers helped lead Florida to the win, with forward Alex Fudge, from LSU, scoring a team-leading 16 points off the bench and guard Will Richard, from Belmont, chipping in 14 points.

Forward Colin Castleton, who the SEC men’s basketball coaches named last week to their preseason All-SEC first team, added an all-around performance with 13 points, five rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists. The media voters also honored Castleton as a preseason first-team all-league player in October. He was also named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Watch List last week.

Next up, the Gators host Kennesaw State on Friday, with tipoff at 7 p.m.

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About the Author:

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