Gators notebook: Whittemore, White leave game with injuries

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
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Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter scores a touchdown against LSU safety Jay Ward (5) in the first half Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

The Gators' injury list grew by at least two in Saturday's 49-42 loss at LSU.

Florida wide receiver Trent Whittemore went down on a crossing route midway through the second quarter. The pass by Emory Jones intended for Whittemore was intercepted by LSU’s Micah Baskerville for 54 yards to the UF 28-yard line. The Tigers would push the lead to 14-6 just one play later. 

UF coach Dan Mullen didn’t have an immediate update on Whittemore’s injury status.

“I’ll know more tomorrow with our training staff,” Mullen said.

Whittemore, a Gainesville native who became the first Florida pass-catcher to complete multiple passes in the same season since Trey Burton in 2012, wasn’t the only Gator injured during the game, as starting offensive lineman Ethan White went down in the second quarter with what appeared to be a foot injury, resulting in Josh Braun taking White’s place at left guard. 

A day of firsts despite the loss

UF’s 49-42 loss was notable for reasons other than the team’s likely elimination from SEC Championship Game contention. 

The 91 combined points was the most since the annual rivalry began in 1971, but that was hardly the most impressive statistic. 

In the team’s second SEC road game of the season, the Gators weren’t whistled for a penalty, which marks the first time in program history that Florida hasn’t committed a penalty in a football game. Even in a loss, that’s noteworthy – especially after the Gators were flagged for 15 penalties at Kentucky on Oct. 2. The Gators have finished with less than 10 penalties in 38 of the last 39 contests. 

Special teams gives early boost

The missed extra point aside, UF’s special teams unit stood out early against the Tigers. 

Florida wide receiver Jordan Pouncey managed to get around LSU’s three-man protection and block Avery Atkins’ punt attempt. The Gators took over at their 41-yard line, although the offense would proceed to go three-and-out on the subsequent drive. 

Considering the Gators’ recent lack of blocked punts, it was a notable achievement. 

Shorter has career game

Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter lived up to the five-star designation he received as a high school prospect in UF’s 49-42 loss at LSU. 

Shorter had a game-high 113 yards on six receptions Saturday, highlighted by a 42-yard toe-tipping touchdown as the first half expired that gave the Gators some hope heading into halftime. 

It was also a career-high in receiving yards for the 6-foot-5 Shorter, who transferred to UF from Penn State following the 2019 season. 

“I'd say winning is really the only thing that I think about, so if we just focus on winning games, I think we'll be fine,” Shorter said. “We just have to go back to the drawing board. Everyone works hard, everyone goes hard, so we just need to go back, watch the film tomorrow and just fix all the small things and just really focus on the small things moving forward.”

Shorter’s six receptions and two touchdowns were also career-highs for the Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, native, and it would be natural to think he’d want to maintain momentum after a standout performance. 

But Florida now heads into a bye week instead of regrouping for redemption, and Shorter feels it’s just what the Gators need after a third loss in five SEC games. 

Though it’s a double-edged sword: a week off allows for the necessary recuperation, yet a loss in the week prior means it remains on the forefront of the minds of players and coaches alike. 

“Definitely the bye week helps the body, because we're not going out there again and getting hit. It's a good time for us just to focus up and just focus on the small details,” Shorter said. “Every single game is a huge game and if we could just really, just go out there and work hard and focus on winning that next game, that's all that matters.” 

Mullen echoed a similar sentiment. 

“I’ll tell you in two weeks whether a bye week was good or bad,” he said.

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