This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.
Hi, Gator Nation.
First off, we just want to say happy Thanksgiving to all of our fellow Florida fans! We’re thankful for your support through the good and the bad.
And unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of positive news to discuss in this week’s newsletter.
Gators pull scholarship offer to Nease QB
Nease quarterback Marcus Stokes had his scholarship offer pulled from Florida after a clip surfaced on social media of Stokes using a racial slur while singing a song.
“I was in my car listening to rap music, rapping along to the words and posted a video of it on social media. I deeply apologize for the words in the song that I chose to say. It was hurtful and offensive to many people, and I regret that,” the senior posted to Twitter.
“I fully accept the consequences for my actions, and I respect the University of Florida’s decision to withdraw my scholarship offer to play football. My intention was never to hurt anybody and I recognize that even when going along with a song, my words still carry a lot of weight. I will strive to be better and to become the best version of myself both on and off the field. I know that learning from my mistakes is a first important step.”
The timing of Stokes’ offer being pulled comes just over a week after quarterback Jaden Rashada flipped from Miami to the Gators.
Florida’s 2023 recruiting class now stands at 23 commitments.
😒 Mistakes, penalties, lack of run game result in embarrassing loss to Vandy
After two straight wins for the Gators, the 2022 season seemed to be turning a corner only for Vanderbilt to ruin Florida’s turnaround.
Florida (6-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) lost 31-24 to Vanderbilt (6-5, 3-5) on the road this past Saturday, ending the Gators’ eight-game win streak over the Commodores. The Gators came into the game having won 15-straight games against Vanderbilt in Nashville dating back through 1992 — a 30-year span.
But Saturday wasn’t the first time that the Gators seemingly had a hard time waking up for a noon (11 a.m. local time) kickoff in Nashville, and too many penalties and mistakes, as well as a lack of a run game, were too much for Florida to overcome.
“There was a lot of Florida beating Florida out there today,” said coach Billy Napier.
The Gators were penalized seven times for 80 yards in the game.
“I think some of the penalties are technical, but I also think that we lost our composure at times today,” Napier said.
As for the run game, despite success throughout the season with running backs like Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne, the Gators only totaled 45 yards on the ground.
“I’ll be able to tell you more when we get to the film, but ultimately, they (Vanderbilt) did a good job to fit the runs. They played inside-out. They forced us to throw it to the perimeter at times. They made Anthony hand the ball off at times,” Napier said. “There were a lot of different things that contributed to that.”
Then there were the mistakes. With 3:22 left in the first half, cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. fumbled a punt from Vanderbilt punter Matthew Hayball at the Gators’ 5-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone where it was recovered by long snapper Wesley Schelling for the touchdown and a 14-6 Vanderbilt lead at the half.
Florida was down 28-12 going into the final quarter. Quarterback Anthony Richardson connected with wide receiver Daejon Reynolds for a 74-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but still Florida trailed 28-18 after the two-point conversion pass failed for the second time in the game,
Vanderbilt kicker Joseph Bulovas then kicked a 27-yard field goal with 4:38 left to play to extend Vanderbilt’s lead to 31-18.
After that, Richardson passed to Reynolds for a 16-yard score with 3:13 remaining, making it 31-24. But kicker Adam Mihalek missed the PAT, meaning another touchdown for the Gators wouldn’t give Florida a win — just a tie.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Florida went for an onside kick, but it was recovered by Vanderbilt. The Gators defense did get a stop, and the offense got the ball back with 0:46 left in the game but failed to score.
“It’s a setback. There’s no question about it,” Napier said. “Problems are often opportunities in disguise. I think it’s a little bit of a reality check to some degree, that we got to do these things. We got to take care of the ball. We got to eliminate the penalties. We have to rush the ball effectively. We exposed some of our depth issues. There are lots of things that this can teach us. Ultimately, that’s what’s important here — that we learn from the experience.”
“Again, I think our group is well-versed on what winning football looks like. We did not do what is required to win today.”
It’s also worth noting the loss of linebacker Ventrell Miller due to targeting in the fourth quarter was a big deal and will certainly have an impact on the first half of the upcoming matchup against Florida State.
In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters reviews and reacts to Vanderbilt’s upset win over Florida.
The loss highlights what’s been an up-and-down year for the Gators under their new head coach and the inconsistent SEC East teams, with the exception of undefeated and top-ranked Georgia. As Vanderbilt earned its second straight SEC win over the week, No. 5 Tennessee suffered a crushing 63-38 defeat to South Carolina — the team Florida dominated the week prior. 🤷♀️
🗓️ Florida-Florida State on a Friday!?
The Gators are back on the road this week to take on No. 19 Florida State for their final regular season game.
This matchup will have a different feel, as it will be played on the Friday after Thanksgiving instead of the Saturday when the two in-state rivals have traditionally met.
The all-time series dates back to 1958 with the Gators owning a 37-26-2 lead and an active three-game winning streak.
The Seminoles, led by coach Mike Norvell, are coming off a 49-17 home win over Napier’s former team, Louisiana. It’ll be the first meeting between the two as head coaches.
At last check, according to FanDuel Sports, the Gators are 10-point underdogs to the Seminoles (8-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., with the game airing on ABC.
👏 At least we already beat FSU on the court
After the Florida men’s basketball team’s 76-74 loss at home to Florida Atlantic, its first of the season, the Gators somewhat demeaned themselves with a 76-67 win over Florida State in Tallahassee.
Forward Colin Castleton, who was named last week to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50, scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half and Florida overcame a 17-point halftime deficit for the victory. It marked the fourth-largest comeback in program history and second-largest for the Gators on the road.
The Gators now head west and will face Xavier on Thanksgiving Day in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy event in Portland, Oregon. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Eastern and will be airing on ESPN2.
The Florida-Xavier matchup is paired with a Duke-Oregon State showdown in the bracket, with the respective winning and losing teams meeting up the following day. The Gators will then meet a team from the opposite side of the bracket — Gonzaga, Portland State, Purdue or West Virginia — to wrap up the event on Sunday.
It will be the Gators’ first holiday tournament appearance under head coach Todd Golden.
🏆 Kruger inducted into National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame
Former Florida men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger was one of nine members inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022 on Sunday in Kansas City.
Dan Cross and Craig Brown, two members of Florida’s1994 Final Four team, represented the Gators at the event, along with current Florida associate head coach Carlin Hartman, who coached with Kruger at Oklahoma for five seasons, and Florida letterman and longtime broadcaster Bill Koss.
Kruger coached Florida from 1990-96 and led the Gators to a 104-80 record, highlighted by the team’s 1994 Final Four run. He twice earned SEC Coach of the Year honors at Florida (1992, ‘94) and oversaw two All-Americans in Stacey Poole (1993 AP honorable mention) and Cross (1994, ‘95 AP honorable mention). Cross, Poole, Brown, Dwayne Davis, Andrew DeClercq and Dametri Hill each earned All-SEC honors under Kruger’s guidance.
Kruger totaled 674 wins over the course of his head coaching career. He holds the distinction of leading five different programs to the NCAA Tournament and added a second Final Four to his resume in 2016 at Oklahoma.
✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts & questions
David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here, and we’ll share our responses to your questions.