By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
This was a tough first season in Gainesville for first year head coach Billy Napier. The Gators started the season off with a win over No. 7 in the Swamp. It looked like they were going to have a great season.
That was the best game quarterback Anthony Richardson played this season. They finished the regular season 6 – 6 and 3 – 5 in SEC play. They lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, which is shocking.
The average season landed Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl against No. 17 Oregon State.
Florida was down to their third string quarterback because Anthony Richardson declared for the NFL Draft and skipped the bowl game. I have to wonder who is advising him because there’s no way he’s getting drafted in the first two rounds.
Backup quarterback Jalen Kitna, son of former NFL quarterback John Kitna was arrested on child pornography charges.
This was the first start for Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Miller, and it showed. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 180 yards. Miller is a transfer from Ohio State.
The Beavers dominated and won the game 30 – 3.
“It’s my job to have the team ready to play,” Napier said. “We were not as ready to play as we needed to be.”
The Beavers reached 10 victories for the third time program history and the first time in 16 years. They first accomplished the feat in 2000, when coach Jonathan Smith was the team’s quarterback.
OSU running back Deshaun Fenwick rushed for 107 yards. He took up the load when Pac-12 Conference offensive freshman of the year Damien Martinez went out with an apparent shoulder injury on the Beavers’ second drive.
Martinez had rushed for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games and needed just 30 yards to become the fourth freshman in program history to gain 1,000 for the season. He had 12 yards on three carries before the injury.
Florida was 16th in the nation with 213.7 yards rushing per game, but Oregon State also had the 20th-best rush defense in allowing a 114-yard average. This was the fifth time the Beavers didn’t allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards, holding the Gators to 39.
Oregon State allowed just 219 yards while gaining 353.
Florida committed 11 penalties for 82 yards, including six for false starts. Back-to-back false starts wiped out a potential touchdown drive in the first quarter.
“I don’t know if we’ve had that many in an entire season, much less one game,” Napier said. “We lived in third-and-long today as a result of inefficiency, missed opportunities, penalties. When you live in third-and-long, your percentages of having success are not good.”
The Gators will begin next season with a trip to Pac-12 champion Utah. The roster will be very different so this will be a tough game.
One positive thing is they are a “serious contender” for Coastal Carolina signal caller Grayson McCall. He entered the transfer portal on December 12.
McCall took over as the Chanticleers starting quarterback in 2020 and never looked back. He’s since started 32 games, compiling a completion percentage of 70.4, 8,019 passing yards, 78 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 1,053 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns along the way.
He’s the only player to earn Sun Belt Player of the Year honors three times in conference history.
Finishing 6 – 7 is disappointing but Napier should be able to improve in his second season.