Notebook after UF's win: Hall of Famers honored, while current Gators play clean game

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports

No one quite knew what to expect when the Missouri Tigers (2-4, 0-3 SEC) and Florida Gators (4-2, 1-2 SEC) met on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field on Saturday afternoon. 

While the Gators have had a roller-coaster season, the Tigers came into The Swamp having nearly stunned the then-top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs last weekend.

Nonetheless, when both teams took the field, they were each looking for their first SEC win of the season. 

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And though it nearly came down to the wire and required some white-knuckling moments from the Gators, Florida was able to hang on beat Missouri 24-17, giving Billy Napier his first SEC and UF homecoming win. 

Here are a couple of storylines. 

Gators celebrate Hall of Fame inductees

Homecoming weekend for the Gators also meant homecoming weekend for six former Florida Gators athletes. 

Jeff Demps (football, track and field), Conor Dwyer (swimming), Joe Haden (football), Michelle Moultrie (softball), Chandler Parsons (basketball), Christian Taylor (track and field) and Mike Zunino (baseball) were all formally inducted into the UF Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night.

Members of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Jeff Demps, Joe Haden, Michelle Moultrie, Conor Dwyer, Chandler Parsons, Christian Taylor, Steve Beeland and Jeremy Foley, left to right, were inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame earlier in the week. They were introduced before the game against the Missouri Tigers at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 8, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

All but Zunino, a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, made the trip back to Gainesville for the celebrations. 

Come Saturday, the newly inducted class were welcomed to the field to be celebrated by The Swamp's 88,471 in attendance. 

Florida also recognized former tennis coach Steve Beeland, who was honored as a distinguished letter winner, and former athletic director Jeremy Foley, who was selected as an honorary letter winner after serving as UF's AD for 24 years. 

Florida plays clean game

Since Napier arrived to Gainesville, there's been an emphasis on playing disciplined football — something some might argue has been an issue in years past. 

Last season, the Gators averaged 7.8 penalties per game, which was the 12th-highest number among Division I programs. 

Coming into Saturday's contest, Florida averaged 6.2 penalties per game and 40.2 penalty yards per game. And while that number is certainly trending in the right direction, it's still 6.2 penalties too many. 

Against the Tigers, it wasn't until midway through the fourth quarter that the Gators committed their first turnover — a false start on 2nd and 14. 

The jump from junior offensive lineman Ethan White stood as the only time the Gators caused a penalty flag to be thrown on the field. 

Florida's advantage in the penalty margin was considerable as the Tigers committed six penalties and were backed up 55 yards. 

Johnson, Etienne a two-headed monster

Florida's sophomore running back Montrell Johnson Jr. led the Gators' rushing attack on Saturday, posting 86 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. Meanwhile, freshman Trevor Etienne was right on Johnson's heels with 83 yards on 10 carries. 

In the first half, the sophomore-freshman tandem combined for 14 rushing yards on six carries. 

But second-half adjustments opened up more opportunities for Florida's backs. 

The Gators tallied four carries that went for more than 30 yards in the second half with Johnson ripping off a 41- and 36-yard scamper in the third quarter and fourth quarter, respectively. 

Through six games, Johnson leads Florida's ground game with 374 yards and five touchdowns.