FINAL: Florida Gators survive Samford Bulldogs

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Emory Jones accounted for 544 yards and seven touchdowns, delivering a career performance in Florida's come-from-behind, 70-52 victory against lower-division Samford on Saturday.

Although the Gators (5-5) ended a three-game skid, the offensive shootout in the Swamp felt more like a loss than any outcome in embattled coach Dan Mullen’s four years in Gainesville.

Florida gave up its most points (42) in a half against any opponent, and it came against a middle-of-the pack team from the Southern Conference and less than a week after Mullen fired two of his top assistants.

Mullen vowed to get Florida fixed following last week’s 40-17 drubbing at South Carolina. No one expected it to happen overnight. But the Gators lacked energy, looked lost at times and trailed by as many as 14 points in a game they were favored to win by more than five touchdowns.

There’s little doubt that losing to Samford (4-6) would have cost Mullen his job and left the Gators on the hook for his $12 million buyout.

Now, though, Mullen’s future likely hinges on Florida’s next two outings: at Missouri and at home against rival Florida State. Win them both and he gets a chance to turn things around in Gainesville. Lose one and athletic director Scott Stricklin likely would be searching for Mullen’s replacement.

No one can look at Florida and see a program headed in the right direction. The Gators have dropped eight of their last 10 against Power Five teams and were on the ropes against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Florida had won its previous four games against FCS opponents by a combined score of 199-16. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on five of their first six drives – with little resistance — and led 42-28 late in the second quarter.

Samford’s upset bid continued into the fourth with a successful onside kick that followed a touchdown. But the Bulldogs settled for a field goal, failed to convert on fourth down and couldn’t stop the Gators down the stretch.

Jones completed 28 of 34 passes for 464 yards and six touchdowns. All of those passing numbers were career highs. He also ran for 86 yards and a score.

Kemore Gamble caught six passes for 122 yards and two scores, and Dameon Pierce ran seven times for 78 yards and two more.

Samford's Liam Welch complete 33 of 52 passes for 400 yards, with three TDs and an interception. He also ran for 65 yards and two scores.

Montrell Washington ran for a touchdown, caught a TD pass and scored on a 98-yard kickoff return.

— The Associated Press

Florida 70, Samford 52

Samford        21      21      0     10 — 52

Florida           14      21    21     14 — 70

First Quarter

SAM_Washington 1 run (Z.Williams kick), 10:26.

FLA_Davis 6 run (Howard kick), 6:56.

SAM_Vice 58 pass from Welch (Z.Williams kick), 4:53.

FLA_Weston 9 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 4:02.

SAM_Stanton 40 pass from Welch (Z.Williams kick), 1:25.

Second Quarter

FLA_Jones 31 run (Howard kick), 14:19.

SAM_Welch 4 run (Z.Williams kick), 10:02.

FLA_Pierce 1 run (Howard kick), 8:10.

SAM_Washington 98 kickoff return (Z.Williams kick), 7:55.

SAM_Welch 10 run (Z.Williams kick), 3:17.

FLA_Wright 45 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 1:03.

Third Quarter

FLA_Davis 49 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 12:34.

FLA_Gamble 7 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 6:12.

FLA_Pierce 13 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 1:24.

Fourth Quarter

SAM_Washington 23 pass from Welch (Z.Williams kick), 13:59.

SAM_FG Z.Williams 33, 11:59.

FLA_Gamble 18 pass from Jones (Howard kick), 9:03.

FLA_Pierce 24 run (Howard kick), 5:37.

                                                SAM      FLA

First downs                                  28     28

Total Net Yards                         529       717

Rushes-yards                         32-111     35-253

Passing                                       418       464

Punt Returns                                0-0       0-0

Kickoff Returns                        6-198      6-122

Interceptions Ret.                         0-0       1-0

Comp-Att-Int                               34-53-1    28-34-0

Sacked-Yards Lost                        2-11      0-0

Punts                                            2-36.5     2-33.5

Fumbles-Lost                                 0-0      0-0

Penalties-Yards                             3-30     12-94

Time of Possession                     28:53      31:07


RUSHING_Samford, Welch 16-65, Stanton 7-19, Washington 3-18, D.Williams 2-6, Ware 2-4, Boles 1-3, (Team) 1-(minus 4). Florida, Jones 10-86, Pierce 7-78, Wright 8-47, Davis 6-33, Bowman 2-7, Lingard 1-3, Copeland 1-(minus 1).

PASSING_Samford, Welch 33-52-1-402, Washington 1-1-0-16. Florida, Jones 28-34-0-464.

RECEIVING_Samford, Washington 10-126, Creamer 7-96, Vice 4-94, Pollard 3-21, Smith 3-0, Stanton 2-42, Ware 2-16, King 2-7, Welch 1-16. Florida, Henderson 7-60, Gamble 6-122, Shorter 6-93, Pierce 3-48, Davis 2-65, Wright 2-53, Copeland 1-14, Weston 1-9.


A pylon sits on the field in the rain before the game between the Florida Gators and the Samford Bulldogs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 13, 2021. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

More:Florida looks to end three-game skid, faces Samford after staff shake-ups

Whitley: Mullen's salvage operation needs to kick in fast

How to watch: Florida Gators football vs. Samford Bulldogs on live stream


12:17 p.m. | Samford scores first

Samford scores on game's opening drive, a 75-yard march.

QB Emory Jones starting for the Gators.

12:25 p.m. | UF ties game

Malik Davis' fourth rushing TD this season. Davis' 6-yard run caps 9-play, 65-yard drive.

Florida running back Malik Davis runs into the end zone untouched for a score in the first quarter Saturday against the Samford Bulldogs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

12:38 p.m. | Samford back in front

Samford 58-yard touchdown pass.

12:42 p.m. | Scorefest at Swamp

Gators answer with Emory Jones' nine-yard touchdown pass to Ja'Markis Weston. Two-play, 55-yard drive at 4:02 mark.

12:50 p.m. | Samford leads again

Samford 21, Florida 14 at 1:25 1Q

 12:52 p.m. | Gators' first-quarter analysis

What went right: Malik Davis’ six-yard rushing touchdown tied the game with 6:56 remaining in the first quarter, and Kemore Gamble registered 76 receiving yards across a pair of receptions to help UF answer the first two times the Bulldogs found the end zone. Aside from those brief bright spots, it was a rather ugly first-quarter performance by the Gators against a FCS opponent that many expected UF to dominate despite the coaching changes less than a week earlier. 

What went wrong: After fielding the opening kickoff, Samford marched 75 yards and scored on the opening drive. Prior to Saturday, the Gators had allowed just 16 points to FCS opponents under Dan Mullen. It got worse, as Samford would take the lead again on a 58-yard reception by Michael Vice. UF answered quickly that time, but Samford struck again with under two minutes left on a 40-yard catch by Jay Stanton to put the Bulldogs up 21-14 on Florida. It’s not a reach to say that may have been the Florida defense’s worst quarter of the season. 

Play of the quarter: Give it to Vice for his score, as he beat UF safety Rashad Torrence in a one-on-one situation to give the Bulldogs the 14-7 lead. 

Trending: Having allowed Samford to score on its first three drives, the Florida offense is at midfield looking to answer k for the third time already.

— Graham Hall

Samford        21

Florida           14


12:58 p.m. | Jones ties it for UF

Emory Jones with a 31-yard rushing TD ties it up at 21.

1:13 p.m. | Samford retakes lead

QB Liam Welch's 4-yard run caps 3-play, 44-yard drive in 50 seconds.

UF averages 12 missed tackles a game.

1:21 p.m. | Game tied again

Ninth rushing touchdown of the season for Dameon Pierce that ties it up. He had four carries for 45 yards on that drive.

1:24 p.m. |Samford goes 99 for score

Samford runs the kickoff back for score. 

1:34 p.m. | Samford takes two-score lead

1:42 p.m. | Gators cut deficit

Emory Jones' 45-yard touchdown pass to Nay'Quan Wright.

1:45 p.m. | Gators' 2nd-quarter analysis

What went right: Emory Jones’ 31-yard rush tied the score up at 21 apiece as the second quarter commenced. Dameon Pierce finally got involved in the action, tallying 38 yards on a pair of carries midway through the second quarter before a one-yard rush tied the score at 28. UF fell into a double-digit hole not soon after, then Nay’Quan Wright hauled in a 45-yard reception to cut Samford’s lead to 42-35. 

What went wrong: Following a turnover on downs by Florida, the Bulldogs took a 28-21 lead on quarterback Liam Welch’s four-yard rush. After the Gators tied it back up, Samford didn’t even need a play to retake the lead as Montrell Washington took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards in the other direction to put the Bulldogs back in front. Samford would score again to take a 42-28 lead – the most points Florida has allowed in a first half to any opponent in program history. 

Play of the quarter: The kickoff-return touchdown has become exceedingly rare in today’s game, so the nod goes to Washington’s 98-yard return that gave Samford a 35-28 lead pending the extra point. 

Trending: As jeers ring out from those remaining at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Samford takes a 42-35 lead into the halftime tunnel.

— Graham Hall

Samford        21      21

Florida           14      21


2:11 p.m. | Gators tie it at 42

Davis ties the game back up with a 48-yard catch-and-run for six. Jones is over 300 yards passing for the first time in his career.

2:24 p.m. | Gators take lead, 49-42

UF takes the lead on a swing pass to Kemore Gamble that he takes in for the touchdown. Florida 49, Samford 42 at 6:12 mark. Florida has scored 21 unanswered for its first lead of the game. ones is now 23 of 28 for 393 yards and 4 TDs

2:39 p.m. | Gators up by 2 scores

Dameon Pierce's score is the fifth TD pass from Jones today and puts the Gators up 56-42 at 1:24 mark of third quarter. Jones now has a career-high 421 yards on 25-31 passing.

2:43 p.m. | Gators' 3rd-quarter analysis

What went right: Malik Davis’ 48-yard touchdown reception knotted the score up on UF’s first drive of the second half. Florida’s defense finally showed up when seldom-used safety Mordecai McDaniel, in less than two minutes of game-time, forced a fumble and then proceeded to intercept Liam Welch. UF took a 49-42 lead, the Gators’ first advantage of the afternoon, on the next drive when Emory Jones found Kemore Gamble from seven yards out. The Gators’ defense stopped Samford on fourth-and-short on the next drive, and Dameon Pierce scored from 13 yards out to give Florida a 56-42 lead. 

What went wrong: Although the Gators held the Bulldogs scoreless in the quarter, Samford’s offense still had some success in the third period of play, accruing 98 yards to reach 451 yards of offense heading into the fourth. And the Gators committed four penalties, including a holding call on the first play of the half. 

Play of the quarter: Davis’ score set the tone for the Gators after a devastating and downright embarrassing first half of play. 

Trending: Having led for much of the day, Samford is driving near midfield as the Gators look to avoid the shocking upset.

— Graham Hall

Samford        21      21          0

Florida           14      21        21


2:50 p.m. | Samford gets closer

Samford's Montrell Washington makes outstanding catch to make this a one-score game again. Welch 23-yard pass to Washington caps 7-play, 75-yard drive at 13:59 

Samford attempts the onside kick and recovers.

3:02 p.m. | Samford inches closer

Bulldogs hit a 33-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four points. Florida 56, Samford 52 with 11:59 remaining.

Samford’s 52 points are the most points scored by an FCS team vs. a P5 team.

3:09 p.m. |Gators up by two scores

Jones connects with Gamble for score with 9:03 remaining. Gators up 63-52

3:20 p.m. | Pierce puts UF up by 3 scores

What went right: UF regained its double-digit lead when Gamble hauled in his second touchdown reception of the afternoon. Pierce found the end zone for the third time against the Bulldogs when he made everybody miss on a 24-yard run on first down, putting Florida up 70-52. Emory Jones finished the game just 18 yards shy of UF’s all-time passing mark set by Tim Tebow on Jan. 1, 2010 against Cincinnati. 

What went wrong: Montrell Washington’s fantastic 23-yard diving grab pulled Samford within a touchdown less than a minute into the quarter. The Bulldogs caught UF sleeping on the ensuing kickoff and recovered the onside kick to retain possession, though they’d settle for a 32-yard field goal and would ultimately get no closer. 

Play of the quarter: Gamble’s touchdown capped a career game for the tight end – and finally put the Gators at ease in a contest that was far closer than expected.

— Graham Hall

Samford        21      21      0     10 — 52

Florida           14      21    21     14 — 70

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