GAINESVILLE, Fla – Florida interim coach Greg Knox may have felt something a little different from the Gators after they met at the team hotel on Saturday morning.
It had been a crazy six weeks for Florida, filled with losses, adversity and the sacking of coach Dan Mullen last Sunday. Rather than abandon the season, Knox and his seniors led Florida to a 24-21 victory over rivals Florida State, winning bowl eligibility while denying the Seminoles their own shot for six wins.
âWe’ve had a great senior class with some leadership,â Knox said. âThey understood the situation they were in and we talked about the opportunity in the chaos. In a chaotic situation that started on Sunday with Dan being fired and my installation, then all the things coming from outside. that I think they pulled together and did It made me stronger because I pulled with them and we held this thing together.
“And today when we watched our flagship video, we walked out of that meeting in this hotel, I knew when we walked out of that room, they were ready to play, and they were.”
Heading into the game, Florida looked like the most dejected team. In addition to playing without Mullen, Florida was also deprived of its defensive coordinator and offensive line coach, fired after an embarrassing 40-17 loss to South Carolina in order to make changes to stop the fall.
But that didn’t help the situation. Mullen was fired after a 24-23 overtime loss to Missouri last weekend to drop the Gators to 2-6 in the SEC game. Florida had lost four of their previous five games before the Florida State game, and the only win in that series was a much-ridiculed 70-52 win over FCS Samford.
Florida State, on the other hand, was 5-2 from a 0-4 start and looked poised for six wins in what would have been a remarkable turnaround. What happened was a botched match between two teams who made similar mistakes all season. The teams combined for 21 penalties and six turnovers, but Florida took control in the second half behind quarterback Anthony Richardson – who entered the game for good after Emory Jones threw an interception in the zone. goals (his third of the day).
Richardson has been a fan favorite all season due to his ability to make big plays on the floor, and his entry seemed to change the energy on the sidelines and in the stands. Florida became the aggressor at all levels and Dameon Pierce ran strong, with 62 yards and a touchdown.
After Florida took a 24-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, Florida State hit back. Jordan Travis, playing with a clearly injured right shoulder, did his best to bring the Seminoles back into the game – leading two touchdowns to close the lead to 24-21 with 49 seconds left.
The Seminoles lined up for the free kick, but kicker Parker Grothaus mistakenly hit the ball as he tried to put his leg over it. The ball moved a few inches and Florida State had no choice but to fall on it even though it didn’t travel the required 10 yards, ending the game. Knox later said, “I’ve never seen this before in my life.”
Florida State coach Mike Norvell said the mistakes of the special teams as a whole were one of the main reasons for their loss. The Seminoles lost a fumble on a missed punt by Ontaria Wilson in the third quarter, which led to a Florida touchdown that opened the game.
âCritical mistakes have been made,â said Norvell. âIt’s not just a moment, not just a game, but overall we need special teams to be something positive for us. There have been too many times this year that I don’t know not if we’ve posted the investment we’re making and the time we’re spending on it. “
Travis ended up finishing with 304 total yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough against a Florida-inspired defense, which has faced its fair share of criticism throughout the season. Florida defensive lineman Antonio Valentino attributed the improvement to interim defensive coordinator Christian Robinson.
âRegardless of the record, the standard here is that we don’t lose to Florida State,â said Valentino. âAs a defense, the last few weeks we’ve really come together. If you notice a guy is making a play, everyone is coming to celebrate with him. At the start of the season it wasn’t like that all the time. C-Rob brought it up and said, “Why isn’t it like that?” So it was a conscious effort, for all of us, to go out there and do it. “
As a result, Florida are keeping their season alive for one more game.
âWe knew what was at stake in that game,â said Florida defensive tackle Zachary Carter. “They were fighting for a bowl. We were fighting for a bowl. We wanted it more. We wanted to reach that bowl.”