This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.
Hi, Gators fans!
We’re talking NFL and college football this week.
First, let’s get to the big game, which featured multiple former Gators.
🕹️ ‘Human joystick’ on display in Super Bowl
One of those former Florida players was Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who made two of the biggest plays in Kansas City’s 38-35 win over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“It is the biggest game of my life,” Toney said. “It was, for real.”
Toney caught a 5-yard toss from quarterback Patrick Mahomes early in the fourth quarter to tie the game, with the PAT giving Kansas City its first lead of the game.
And after the Chiefs tightened up their defense, forcing Philadelphia to punt, Toney returned a line-drive kick 65 yards for the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. During the punt return, he demonstrated to all of the non-Gators fans out there who hadn’t seen him play before why he has been nicknamed “the human joystick.” Toney caught Arryn Siposs’ punt at the Chiefs’ 30-yard, started to the left, then juked his way out of a tackle before reversing course. Picking up a wall of blockers, Toney raced down the right sideline before he was closed in on at Philadelphia’s 5-yard line. The return set up Mahomes’ 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Skyy Moore that gave Kansas City a 35-28 lead.
SUPER BOWL COVERAGE: Mahomes, Chiefs beat Eagles 38-35 | Toney makes most of his Super Bowl touches
Toney’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency prompted the New York Giants to give up on him midway through his second NFL season. The Chiefs gave him a second chance, and the talented receiver proved he’s no first-round bust.
Former Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, running back La’Mical Perine and punter Tommy Townsend were also on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning roster.
On the Eagles, star safety and former Gator C.J. Gardner-Johnson recorded two tackles and two assists.
🏟️ Texas & Oklahoma to move to SEC in 2024
Texas and Oklahoma are heading to the Southeastern Conference in 2024, a year earlier than originally planned, after Big 12 officials cleared the way last Thursday for the storied programs to exit their league.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement that the schools will become full members of the conference on July 1, 2024.
“We are continuing our preparation for this membership transition, and we look forward to welcoming the conference’s new members and moving into our future as a 16-team league,” Sankey said.
MORE DETAILS: Moves by Texas, Oklahoma from Big 12 to SEC bumped to 2024
The moves by Texas and Oklahoma have been in the works since 2021, when the SEC invited the Big 12′s marquee programs to join what is already the strongest football conference in the country.
Money has been a driving factor in the shifting landscape of college athletics realignment. Adding Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC’s broadcast portfolio is expected to only increase the league’s payout. They will land in their new league just in time for a new $3 billion deal with ESPN that gives the network the broadcast rights to all the conference’s football games.
💰 SEC divides $721.8M in total revenue among schools
Sticking with conference news, the SEC said last week that it distributed an average of $49.9 million to its 14 member schools for the fiscal year that ended last August, The Associated Press reported.
Sankey said this past Thursday that the league divided $721.8 million of total revenue among its members. The amounts were from the 2021-22 fiscal year which ended Aug. 31.
In the previous fiscal year, the SEC had distributed $764.4 million of total revenue — or about $54.6 million to each school.
The total distribution amount includes revenue generated from television agreements, bowl games, the College Football Playoff, the SEC football championship game, the SEC men’s basketball tournament, NCAA Championships and a supplemental surplus distribution.
🎤 Orange Park stop on Napier spring speaking tour schedule
Coach Billy Napier’s 2023 spring speaking tour dates were announced last week.
Napier will kick off his tour on March 20 in Melbourne. It will be the first of 10 stops that include Orange Park.
FULL STORY: Napier’s spring speaking tour to make stop in Orange Park
This will be the first time in the 25-year history of the Clay County Gator Club that it has been in the rotation of a Florida football head coach’s speaking tour.
Napier will not be stopping in Jacksonville during this year’s speaking tour.
🐊 Gators QB commit discusses his journey
The Gators’ recruiting class of 2024 is now center stage, headlined by five-star quarterback DJ Lagway from Willis, Texas.
In the latest Gators Breakdown episode, host David Waters and Will Miles are joined by Lagway as he discusses his journey so far and what’s ahead for the elite signal-caller.
Lagway told them: “Florida staff shows genuine love.”
🏀 Men’s basketball team loses 2 more games
The Florida men’s basketball team lost both its games last week.
This past Wednesday, Florida was crushed 97-69 on the road at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide, who is undefeated in SEC play this season, raced to a 29-point halftime lead against the Gators.
Forward Colin Castleton posted 29 points and 10 rebounds in the matchup, which was a rough way Florida Florida to end a four-game stretch that included three Top 5 opponents and a visit to Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.
“No. This was a tough stretch, man. I thought we played pretty well to be in a one-possession game at Rupp and just got hit with a buzz-saw tonight. Not going to cry over spilled milk. I feel like you don’t want to ever just — not that the game doesn’t matter — but we’re going to flush this,” coach Todd Golden said. “There’s not a lot to take away from this.”
GAME RECAPS: Alabama races past Florida 97-69 | Vandy snaps skid, beats Florida 88-80
And over the weekend, Florida fell 88-80 at home to Vanderbilt. Castleton led the Gators with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Castleton has posted back-to-back 25/10 double-doubles and three total this season. No other Gator since the start of the Billy Donovan era (1996) has had more than one 25/10 game in their career.
Golden said the loss was disappointing.
“That’s the main thought. What allowed us to get pretty good, with the Tennessee game, winning six of seven in league or whatever we were able to do, we were getting really good at controlling the controllables, doing the things that don’t require talent necessarily and being really good at those things. Then when the things that do require talent were going our way, we were really good,” he said. “I thought today, we did a poor job that way.”
This week, the Gators (13-12, 6-6 SEC) will attempt to end its three-game skid when they host Ole Miss at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Then on Saturday, Florida will be in Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. That game, which is set to tip off at 2 p.m., will be on ESPN 2.
✉️ 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 News4JAX.com/GatorsBreakdown or click one of the following to tune in: Megaphone | Apple Podcasts | YouTube | Google Podcasts | Stitcher