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Florida Gators

Gators continued growing up in wild win over LSU

Matt Zemek



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mississippi State is not always an easy place to win. Plenty of good SEC teams have been ambushed in Starkville over the years, especially in night games. Even in seasons when the middle tier of the SEC isn’t especially strong, the punishment handed out by this conference every week can — and does — take a tool on good teams. Winning at Mississippi State, in some years, would often be considered a big deal.
Yet, given the way the Florida Gators won in Starkville in last Saturday night, it was hard to view that game as a season-changing win. It was an important win. It created confidence. It certainly improved the mood of the locker room and gave players a positive experience to build on. Yet, few were going to assign any profound level of meaning to that win over MSU if the Gators couldn’t at least put up a good fight against No. 5 and unbeaten LSU, a team which won at Auburn and had legitimate hopes of pursuing an SEC title. With Georgia and Alabama both at home, LSU just had to get through Florida to arrive at a sense that it could attain true greatness this season.
Could the Gators provide not just temporary or token opposition, but offer a strong presence which could earn LSU’s respect — and gain a measure of national notice?
The Mississippi State game showed Florida could exhibit a modest level of competence and fend off an opponent with manifold weaknesses. That game, phrased differently, featured a challenge based on raising the Gators’ floor.
This LSU contest was a challenge based on raising the Gators’ ceiling.
This was a true grow-up game — not the game you’re supposed to win, but the game in the prime 3:30 time slot against a top-five opponent. Can you trade punches in the ring? Can you endure the ups and downs which are a natural part of elite competition against a formidable adversary? Can you absorb the magnitude of a moment, breathe calmly, and perform when needed?
Florida did all of those things against LSU, even on a day when quarterback Feleipe Franks was noticeably — and expectedly — inconsistent in the passing game. Florida didn’t play flawlessly and didn’t play with a ruthless consistency, but whenever it had to play well, it did. It stood up to the power and speed of LSU’s defense to make acrobatic pitch-and-catch plays on the go-ahead touchdown drive which answered LSU’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Coach Dan Mullen struggled to unlock the talents of his offense on Saturday — more Kadarius Toney, please — but he and his staff found the right play mixture on that essential fourth-quarter drive, refusing to be conventional or predictable.
When Florida did grab the lead, the Gators’ pass rush locked this game down Jachai Polite and CeCe Jefferson were monsters up front in the final seven minutes, and with Trey Dean manning the secondary, the Gators had balance and attention to detail at all levels of their defense. They didn’t give up the home run, and they often got home, sacking or pressuring LSU quarterback Joe Burrow in money situations.
Florida should have led this game, 21-10, in the third quarter, but Feleipe Franks — who was tough and resilient, but not artful — threw an interception in the end zone which easily could have become the play which decided the outcome. When LSU took its 19-14 lead, the odds were good that the pick was going to stand up and remain the difference.
The Gators picked up their quarterback. They wouldn’t allow that one mistake to define the day. And by the time Brad Stewart picked off Burrow and raced in for the clinching score (above), the Gators defense defined a conference win for the third straight week.
The team which looked lost for most of the Kentucky game and was immersed in a steep learning curve now seems to have its feet solidly planted on the ground, knowing not only what it needs to do, but knowing it can compete with quality teams.
The Florida Gators just grew up. This doesn’t mean they are back on top of the mountain, but it does mean they are back in the upper tier of the SEC, back in the conversation surrounding good teams.
Florida wasn’t a good team three weeks ago. The Gators are now. This is what growth looks like… and just wait until Mullen finds an elite quarterback to go with the defense he and Todd Grantham have.
This was a happy day for Florida in the present moment. It could turn out to be an important day for Mullen and the future of his program.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders



Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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