Florida football: 3 things the Gators learned from Texas A&M, with South Carolina up next

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

The Florida Gators (5-4, 2-4 SEC) will look to build off their momentum from a win at Texas A&M last weekend when they host South Carolina in their home finale at The Swamp on Saturday (4 p.m., SEC Network).

The game is a sellout. For Veterans Day weekend, Florida will honor those who serve in the military and first responders as part of its "Salute to Service" weekend. Florida also will recognize its 1992 and 1997 teams during the game, both of which finished ranked in the top 10 nationally. 

It will be an emotional Senior Day as well. Florida will honor 17 seniors, headlined by linebacker Ventrell Miller, who has played through injuries as a vocal leader on defense.

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South Carolina (6-3, 3-3 SEC) is led by quarterback Spencer Rattler, who has thrown for 1,823 yards with 8 TDs to 9 interceptions. Rattler, an Oklahoma transfer, has also rushed for 2 TDs.

"South Carolina has got a very talented team," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "I think this is a team that has a good group of veteran players, combination of players that they recruited in high school and transfers."

Here are three things the Gators learned from their 41-24 win at Texas A&M last Saturday.

Florida goes to RBs Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne to share the load

Florida's three running back rotation has become a two running back rotation, with Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne getting the bulk of the carries. Johnson rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries and 1 TD, while Etienne had 17 carries for 82 yards, which included faking out three Texas A&M defenders on a 3rd-and-5 for a nine-yard gain.

"Those two guys have been a huge bright spot relative to what we've been able to do offensively," Napier said. "No question. Two new players, both of which are getting more comfortable, very capable. Both are smart players. Both are very consistent in their work ethic, their practice habits, their prep during the week.

"They've got discipline. They take care of themselves. They both have character. And they certainly have been very productive."

Nov 5, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA;  Florida Gators running back Montrell Johnson Jr. (2) runs the ball in the first half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Anthony Richardson's seven carries, which included some designed quarterback runs, has phased Nay'Quan Wright and Lorenzo Lingard out of the run game.

"We've rolled the other guys in at times," Napier said. "But I think when those two -- we kind of saw it -- they were both in a good place Saturday. We were able to continue to feature those guys."

Johnson's 22 carries against the Aggies were a season high.

"It really didn't seem like a lot of carries in the moment," Johnson said. "But the next day I felt it. My body was really sore. But I'm glad the coaching staff kept coming to me. I felt the rhythm late in the game and helped the team win."

Edge rush OK without Brenton Cox Jr.

Florida generated a decent edge rush without Cox, who was dismissed from the team last week for violation of team policy.

The Gators finished the game with two sacks and three QB hurries. Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr., who started for Cox at the jack position, had 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a strip sack recovered by linebacker Amari Burney for the second of UF's two turnovers. Lloyd Summerall III, also rotating in at the jack position, had a fumble recovery. 

"Coming in, I know I had to play my role," Powell-Ryland said. "So it was kind of -- it came with it."

O'Cyrus Torrence playing at an elite level

Torrence earned SEC offensive lineman of the week honors, as the starting right guard paved the way for a dominant rushing performance against Texas A&M. Florida rushed for 291 yards on 5.8 yards per carry against the Aggies.

Torrence has started eight of nine games for the Gators this season and is the highest graded college football guard in the country, according to Pro Football Focus, with an 88.6 grade. 

"He's 335 pounds," Napier said. "He's got 11-inch hands. He's got long arms. He's got more lean mass on his body than any player on our team. He's a big-time player.

"More importantly, he has discipline. He has character. He's tough. He's a very consistent worker. He's durable. And football comes easy to him. He processes really well. He's a good communicator."