Chomp: Gators end regular season with tough loss to Seminoles

Florida running back Montrell Johnson Jr. (2) pushes off Florida State defensive back Renardo Green during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears) (Phil Sears, Copyright 2022 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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

Welp, Gators fans, that’s the end of the regular season and the first under Billy Napier.

😔 Florida falls to rival FSU in final regular season matchup

Florida suffered a 45-38 defeat to rival Florida State on the road Friday night to end the regular season with back-to-back losses.

It was the highest-scoring game in the Florida-FSU rivalry, which dates to 1958. Florida State (9-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) gave up a season-high 38 points but made a stop on the final drive to secure the Seminoles’ best regular season since 2016.

“Heck of a football game. Obviously, it came down to the last possession,” Napier said after the game in Tallahassee, the Gators’ first matchup there since 2018. “A lot of good out there. I think probably what I’m most proud of is how hard the players played in the game. They put it on the line, I think, across the board. It wasn’t always pretty. But you’re talking about a group that — I’m on the sideline, I watched it with my own two eyes — they played the game of football the right way. Got nothing but respect and admiration for our players. The effort, the physicality, the mental toughness. This is a group that’s made a ton of progress as people, relative to making up a team. Having a team. Having a group that cares for each other. There’s a legitimate brotherhood, like I would do anything for a teammate in that locker room. And I think that showed up tonight.”

Florida (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) ran for 262 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Running back Trevor Etienne had a season-best 129 yards on 17 carries, and running back Montrell Johnson Jr. had 85 yards on 17 carries. Each scored a touchdown.

In the air, wide receiver Ricky Pearsall had a career-best 148 receiving yards, including touchdowns of 52 and 43 yards in the first half. Quarterback Anthony Richardson completed 9 of 27 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He had 11 straight incompletions in the second half.

“You got to evaluate each one of those plays independently. I saw a guy that competed. That’s what I saw,” Napier said of Richardson starting hot but later having a streak of incompletions. “I saw a guy that made some unbelievable plays as a runner. Made some elite throws at times. When you’re playing a game like that, there are going to be things that you can do better, there’s no question, even if you win the game. That’s the thing we got to understand. Even if you win the game, those same things you can learn from, they happened. Regardless, there’s opportunity. Sometimes problems are opportunities in disguise.

“I’m proud of Anthony and the way he competed in the game.”

GAME RECAP: Florida State outlasts Florida for 45-38 win

The Gators played without a few of its top players. Wide receiver Justin Shorter, who had a team-leading 577 receiving yards, did not play. Safety Rashad Torrence II was also out.

Florida is now waiting to find out which bowl game it will be selected to play in.

Gators Breakdown host David Waters, in the latest episode of the podcast, reacts to the loss and the end of Napier’s first regular season leading the Gators.

🏀 Gators defeated by Mountaineers in tournament’s 5th-place game

The Florida men’s basketball team lost 84-55 to West Virginia on Sunday evening in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament’s fifth-place game.

Guard Kyle Lofton — the only Florida player to score in double figures — had a season-high 17 points, his second game in double-figure scoring this season. The Gators (4-3) shot 34% (20 of 58) from the field, hit 2 of 17 (12%) from 3-point range, made 13 of 22 (58%) from the free-throw line and were outrebounded 49-28 by the Mountaineers (6-1).

Head coach Todd Golden said after the game that his team did a poor job of dealing with adversity in the first half.

“There could’ve been a couple calls that went against us that could’ve gone our way and maybe would’ve changed things, but we did a very poor job of handling that adversity and fighting through it,” Golden said. “I thought we did a good job at the end of the first half of hanging on and cutting that thing down to eight where I thought we’d have a good shot to get back into it at the beginning of the second half. It looked like Colin was really out of sorts and didn’t give us a lot after sitting on the bench for a while, then they got off to a 20 to two run to start the second half, and we just weren’t able to recover.”

The Gators’ loss Sunday came after they fell to Xavier 90-83 on Thursday in opening-round play of the event in Portland, Oregon. Guard Trey Bonham, making his first start after transferring from VMI, led Florida (3-2) with 23 points and Guard Will Richard, a Belmont transfer, added 18. Forward Colin Castleton had 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. And guard Riley Kugel scored 12 points.

In their second game of the tournament, the Gators rode a big early lead to defeat Oregon State 81-68 on Friday night in a consolation semifinal at the Phil Knight Legacy. Bonham scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half when Florida built a double-digit lead on its way to the win. Richard added 13 points, Castleton 12 and Kugel 10.

Up next: Florida returns home to play Florida A&M on Wednesday.

✉️ 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.

🎙️ Listen to more Gators Breakdown

You can catch up on previous episodes of Gators Breakdown at or click one of the following to tune in: Megaphone | Apple Podcasts | YouTube | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

About the Author:

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