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College Gridiron 365

Gators Fall Short Tigers Capitalize

Kevyn Bryant II

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floridagators.com

The LSU Tigers captured their fourth consecutive win against the Florida Gators Saturday night thanks to a 45-35 victory in Gainesville. Even though the Gators were able to score at will, their poor defense was blamed for the loss. LSU has won the last five contests versus Florida, and Saturday was no different, thanks in part to their ability to score on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where they have struggled all season.

The Gators’ performances on third down last weekend were atrocious, and on Saturday night they got even worse. Despite entering the game ranked 125th out of 131 teams nationally in that defensive category, the Tigers converted 8 of 12 third downs and earned first downs on both of their fourth-down attempts.

LSU scored touchdowns on its first six drives of the game, covering at least 73 yards on each drive to take a 42-21 lead with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter. Even a strong overall performance from Florida’s offense wasn’t enough to compensate for their defensive deficiencies, as the Gators scored two touchdowns in succession while making a couple of key stops.

Head coach Billy Napier said, “There’s lots of things we can do better. There’s nothing fun about losing,” head coach Billy Napier said. “… It’s my job to position the team to win, to have success, and I could do my job better. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

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Despite the fact that Florida-LSU is one of the fiercest annual battles in the SEC, the rivalry has been one-sided as of late, with LSU having won 10 of the last 13 games since 2010. Let’s examine what took place Saturday night in Gainesville, Florida.

As of Saturday, the Florida defense had given up 50.6% third-down conversions, tied for 125th worst in the country. LSU converted 66% of their tries, and they went 6 for 7 on third down in the first half, converting 40 yards on third-and-8, 13 yards on third-and-8, 26 yards on third-and-10, and 54 yards on third-and-8 for a touchdown. LSU converted a fourth-down try after that, and it subsequently scored.

Florida held the Tigers to just 2 of 5 on third down in the second half, but LSU breezed down the field on earlier downs to make that possible. Florida gave up 528 yards on LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels’s six touchdown passes and 349 yards on the ground, for a total of 44 yards. Despite the fact that the Gators were mostly healthy on defense, the Tigers tallied 26 first downs and averaged 7.5 yards per play. On one play, four UF defenders missed tackles as a result of a 50-yard run that resulted in a touchdown early in the third quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, Florida was looking for a stop in a one-point game when sophomore cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. made an incredible interception. On the play, sophomore defensive lineman Gervon Dexter tackled Daniels head-up but fell on him with all of his weight, resulting in a roughing the passer penalty. Although the call was technically correct, it was not made until after Marshall intercepted the ball, and there was no other way for Dexter to have landed. LSU then kicked the field goal and iced the game. If the interception had stood, the outcome might have been different.

LSU once again had great success on field-goal attempts late in a game, the only problem. LSU kicked a 47-yard field goal down the stretch to go ahead 10-0 with 1:52 left in the game, even though their kicker had missed three of five kicks entering the contest. That’s how it seems to go in these instances with LSU winning games against Florida, as they always find a way to win.

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According to the experts, there are certain moments throughout the game when they question Napier’s decision-making. In many of the Gators’ earlier matchups, there was an explanation for Napier’s difficult choices, but on Saturday night, it was tough to grasp why he chose not to drive for a score down 28-21 in the first half with 2:17 remaining and the ball on the UF 27. Florida ran some plays, but Napier kept his timeouts and let the clock run down. When LSU tried a last-second Hail Mary from the 44-yard line with 1 second remaining, UF could have scored a long but feasible field goal if Napier had used his timeouts earlier.

After the game, Napier avoided explicitly critiquing the officials to avoid drawing attention from the SEC. The Gators were clearly disadvantaged by certain calls that went LSU’s way Saturday night. It was not the officiating that was the issue, according to Napier. He said, ‘They let them play.’ Luck was not on the Gators’ side, although not every call went LSU’s way or UF didn’t commit costly mistakes.

The Gators’ resilience was the most positive takeaway from the game, according to Napier and the coaching staff. Despite any difficulties, Florida continues to rally together, which is something the coaching staff has emphasized since the day they took over the program. This occurred during Tom Petty Day on Saturday, after the Petty family was honored on the field during the singing of ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ a new tradition for the Gators between the third and fourth quarters.

The Gators and Tigers have split their 33 games against one another … LSU has won 10 of the last 13 games and four of the last five in Gainesville, Florida, since 2010 … LSU is 16-15-3 all-time against Florida in Gainesville after winning the last five games … UF has scored 24+ points in eight of the last 13 games … Florida has won 30 of the last 39 games against unranked opponents since 2018, with their first unranked loss coming against LSU … The Gators have won 173 of their last 183 games in The Swamp, an NCAA record for home winning percentage (.836) since 1990 … Florida has scored in 429 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NCAA history.

The Gators will utilize an off week to rest their wounded players, Torrence and Richardson in particular, and prepare for their season-long battle with No. 1 Georgia. This is the ideal time for a Florida team that must find some answers on defense before facing Georgia. Because of an exceedingly imbalanced schedule, the Gators have just one home game remaining in 2022. My hopes are still high for the Gators and I think they can very well fix the season with 3 more wins, one of them being a big win against Florida State at the end of the season but only time will tell.

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College Gridiron 365

Kansas State Triumphs 28-19 Over NC State in Pop-Tarts Bowl Clash

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

Kansas State emerges victorious with a 28-19 win over NC State in the highly anticipated Pop-Tarts Bowl, setting Orlando abuzz with excitement.

Despite a valiant effort in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on Thursday night, the Wolfpack fell short in overcoming an early deficit, succumbing to Kansas State with a final score of 28-19.

The Wolfpack concludes their season with a 9-4 record, narrowly missing the chance to etch their name in school history with only the second 10-win campaign. The elusive feat was last achieved in 2002 with Philip Rivers at the helm, guiding the team to an impressive 11-3 record.

Facing the challenge without their All-America linebacker Payton Wilson, who opted to sit out the game in preparation for the draft, the No. 19 NC State struggled to contain the running game early on. The Pack found themselves in a tough spot as Wildcats quarterback Avery Johnson connected with DJ Giddens for a 37-yard score on fourth down, establishing a 7-0 lead.

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With Wilson absent from the lineup, Kansas State exploited the gap, amassing 258 yards on the ground, with Giddens contributing 151 yards. Despite NC State quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s 31-yard touchdown run against Kansas State on Thursday night, the Wolfpack was unable to seize control, never holding an advantage and only narrowing the gap to a two-point margin.

At the close of the second quarter, Kansas State maintained a lead of 21-7, with the halftime score standing at 21-10. NC State injected some intrigue into the game in the third quarter with a bit of trickery. Trent Pennix’s 60-yard touchdown run off a fake punt reduced the deficit to 21-19 with 1:50 left in the period.

The Wolfpack’s attempt to level the score was thwarted as Armstrong was taken down during the two-point conversion attempt. In his inaugural game as a freshman, quarterback Johnson, stepping in after Will Howard’s departure, threw for 178 yards, ran for an additional 71 yards, and orchestrated a decisive 15-play, 72-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

The game-clinching moment came as Jayce Brown secured an 8-yard TD pass from Johnson with a mere 2:48 left on the clock. Any hopes of a Wolfpack comeback were dashed when Parrish intercepted Armstrong on their subsequent offensive play.

Armstrong’s performance in the final game included running for 121 yards, scoring one touchdown, and passing for 164 yards. The Wildcats of Kansas State concluded the season with a commendable 9-4 record.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Glory: Crush Syracuse 45-0

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

In a spectacular display of prowess, the USF football team, under first-year head coach Alex Golesh, ended its season on a high note with a resounding 45-0 victory over Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl. The win marked USF’s first bowl victory since 2017 and a significant turnaround, securing a winning record for the first time since 2018.

The Bulls’ defense played a pivotal role in the triumph, forcing four turnovers, including two scoop-and-score touchdowns, and orchestrating their first complete game shutout since 2009. Defensive MVP Daquan Evans led the charge with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown. Special Teams MVP Aamaris Brown-Bunkley contributed by returning a botched field goal attempt for a touchdown and adding three tackles.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown, named Offensive MVP, delivered a stellar performance, completing 19 of 26 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Brown also showcased his versatility by rushing for a team-best 64 yards on 14 carries and even catching a 21-yard pass from Sean Atkins. Brown became only the second Bull to surpass 4,000 total yards in a season, finishing with 4,101 yards.

Atkins, the Bulls’ first 1,000-yard receiver, secured six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls’ offensive prowess propelled them to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brown’s connection with Atkins and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Khafre Brown highlighted the offensive dominance. John Cannon’s 40-yard field goal further extended the lead to 24-0.

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The defense continued its relentless performance, with Evans forcing another fumble, and Tramel Logan returning it 61 yards for a touchdown, making it 31-0 at halftime. USF’s defense held Syracuse to just 159 yards, 10 punts, and a mere nine first downs throughout the game, limiting them to 1-of-17 on third downs.

The second half saw Tavin Ward intercepting Syracuse’s first possession, setting up Brown for a 35-yard touchdown pass to Atkins, further widening the gap to 38-0. Nay’Quan Wright’s two-yard touchdown plunge in the early fourth quarter sealed the deal at 45-0.

The victory marked USF’s largest margin of victory in a bowl game and its fourth bowl win against an autonomous “power” conference program. The Bulls outgained Syracuse 407 to 159, with notable individual achievements from Brown, Atkins, and Logan.

Looking ahead, USF has already welcomed 25 new recruits on the first day of the NCAA Early Signing period, securing a top-class ranking in The American and among non-autonomous “power” programs. The Bulls will shift their focus to spring practice in March, building on the momentum gained from their outstanding Boca Raton Bowl triumph.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Berth with Dominant Victory Over Charlotte

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

In a triumphant display on Senior Night at Raymond James Stadium, the USF football team (6-6; 4-4 American) punched their ticket to the postseason, securing a resounding 48-14 victory over Charlotte (3-9; 2-6 American). The Bulls celebrated not only the achievements of 16 seniors but also the program’s 11th bowl berth, marking the end of a drought since 2018.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown led the charge with another stellar performance, throwing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Brown’s remarkable day also included 43 yards rushing and a touchdown, making him the first Bull to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, with his 2023 total reaching an impressive 3,078.

A standout throughout the season, wide receiver Sean Atkins continued his impressive run, logging his seventh-straight game with seven or more receptions. Atkins made seven grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown. Notably, he also showcased his versatility by throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass, becoming the first Bull since 1998 to both catch and throw a touchdown in a single game.

Running back Michel Dukes contributed significantly to the offensive prowess, running for a career-best 104 yards on 15 carries. The Bulls’ offensive excellence was complemented by a robust defensive effort that saw Logan Berryhill securing his third interception of the season, while Mac Harris and Daquan Evans notched their first interceptions.

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Jhalyn Shuler and D.J. Harris led the defensive charge with nine tackles each, playing a crucial role in holding Charlotte to less than 300 yards of offense and forcing three turnovers.

The turning point in the game came just 20 seconds into the second half when Brown connected with Jaden Alexis on a deep pass. Alexis, in a spectacular display of skill, spun his defender around and zigzagged for a 60-yard touchdown, giving USF a commanding 28-7 lead.

Although Charlotte managed a response with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jairus Mack, the Bulls remained undeterred. Brown orchestrated a drive resulting in a field goal and followed it up with a daring onside kick, which USF successfully recovered at their own 46. Brown then capped off the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 38-14.

As the Bulls continued to dominate, John Cannon added his second field goal of the day, and USF entered the fourth quarter with a commanding 41-14 lead. The victory marked a five-win turnaround from the previous year, the largest in program history, and a return to the bowl season for the Bulls.

Reflecting on the game and the historic season turnaround, USF fans began to celebrate a bright future for their football program. The Bulls now eagerly await the official announcement of their bowl destination on December 3, savoring the prospect of postseason action for the first time in five seasons.

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