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Gators notebook: 15 UF players unavailable in Saturday’s loss

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida defensive back Shawn Davis tackles Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller during Saturday's game at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.

Florida’s pass rush was seemingly nonexistent at times in Saturday’s 41-38 loss in College Station, and it might be explained by UF’s unavailable list. Fifteen Gators didn’t make the trip to Texas A&M, including defensive linemen Kyree Campbell, Khris Bogle and Lamar Goods.

Furthermore, the Gators were without back-up quarterback Emory Jones, offensive linemen Riley Simonds and Ethan White, as well as freshmen Kamar Wilcoxson, Derek Wingo, Ethan Pouncey and Jahari Rogers, in addition to five others. 

3rd-and-Grantham returns?

Fair or not, the mantra “Third-and-Grantham” exists, and Saturday’s defensive performance seemed to give credence to the former instead of the latter. 

UF’s defense allowed Texas A&M to convert 12-of-15 third-down opportunities in the 41-38 upset, and coach Dan Mullen didn’t shy away from singling out the defense after the game. 

“Yeah, you’ve got to make plays and get off the field. Last week, they were six of 15 on third down,” Mullen said. “So (the first two games) weren’t very similar (to today).”

Gators linebacker/defensive end Jeremiah Moon didn’t disagree with Mullen’s assessment of the product on the field during drive-defining sequences, saying the Gators ultimately let down the offense when it mattered most.

“Disappointed. Uh, 12 of 15 third down. We got to get off the field, we gotta wrap up, we got to tackle and we gotta get to the quarterback, and we got to cover,” Moon, who registered two tackles Saturday, said. “It’s simple, and we're not doing that right now. So those are the things we're gonna have to come in on Monday ready to work on.”

Pitts joins elite company in first quarter

Although he would be noticeably absent in the third quarter, likely due to a left foot injury, Kyle Pitts moved into elite company with his touchdown reception midway through the first quarter. 

Pitts became Florida’s all-time leading tight end in touchdown receptions with his seventh touchdown of the season, giving him 13 receiving touchdowns in his career. With seven touchdowns, Pitts leads all Division I football players in touchdowns. 

Pitts hauled in his 13th catch of the season on a seven-yard reception on UF’s first drive, then picked up 16 yards on 3rd-and-14 on his 14th reception in 2020 to set up the 5-yard record-setting reception. He would finish the game with five receptions for 47 yards and the touchdown, although the slight limp in the second half put a damper on Pitts’ performance, as did the eventual outcome. 

If Pitts stays on pace — and is healthy — he’ll be well on his way to becoming the first Gators tight end since Aaron Hernandez to win the Mackey Award.

Late fumble overshadows effort of Gators backfield

Malik Davis’ game-changing fumble likely overshadowed a strong performance from Florida’s backfield Saturday.

Whether it was Dameon Pierce bulldozing the Aggies on the team’s first drive or Davis displaying his physicality in multiple sequences as he picked up extra yards after the catch, the Gators found ways to get their backfield involved early and often in ways that had become sporadic as of late. 

Gators quarterback Kyle Trask credited the offensive line with much of Florida’s improvements in the run game. 

"The offensive line was just doing a great job. All week they did a great job of just locking in on all the looks that we're gonna get on Saturday,” Trask said. “Also, the swing passes, we want to get our athletes in space and get them one-on-one to break tackles and make plays, and we did that pretty well at times today I'd say."

And the Gators displayed they may have more depth at the position than previously indicated, as Florida sophomore running back Nay’Quan Wright would lead the team in rushing yards with 31 yards on six carries. Wright would also register his first collegiate touchdown on a one-yard score in the second quarter to give the Gators a 21-14 advantage. 

“We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board and clean some things up as a team,” Wright said.

Florida running back Dameon Pierce scores a touchdown against Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.