FINAL: Florida 41, Texas A&M 24

THE QUICK SLANT

FLORIDA 41, TEXAS A&M 24  

WHAT HAPPENED: Quarterback Anthony Richardson passed for two touchdowns and ran for a couple more, including a 60-yard dash, as the Gators snapped a two-game losing streak with a Southeastern Conference road victory against the depleted Aggies in front of more than 97,000 at Kyle Field. The game was a first-half shootout, featuring six lead changes, but UF dominated after intermission, getting an especially inspired performance from a defense that had taken its share of criticism in giving up more than 40 points and 500 yards in consecutive losses (at home against LSU and against top-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville) the last two weeks. Against the undermanned Aggies, who had six players out with flu and down another 11 due to injury, the Gators erased a 24-20 halftime deficit by outscoring the home team 21-0 on Richardson touchdown tosses of 19 yards to Ja’Quavion Fraziars and 12 yards to Caleb Douglas in the third quarter, plus Montrell Johnson Jr.’s 5-yard, put-away scoring run with 1:21 to play. The seven possessions of the first half all ended in scores, including Richardson’s electrifying and untouched 60-yard run up the right sideline, with A&M tailback Devon Achane’s 2-yard TD run with a minute left before intermission putting A&M ahead; for the last time, as it turned out. The Florida defense forced the first A&M three-and-out to start the second half and Richardson, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 201 yards, took possession after a 28-yard punt return by Xzavier Henderson, and needed just two plays to get the Gators in the end zone on a beautiful back-shoulder fade pass that Fraziars hauled in with one hand at the left-front pylon. After that, it was basically all Florida the rest of the way. UF finished with 492 yards of total offense, including 291 on the ground, while A&M, which had to turn to backup quarterback Haynes King (23 of 45 for 279 yards, 1 TD) after Conner Weigman was scratched due to the flu, finished with 413 yards. The overwhelming majority of those yards (read on) came before halftime.  

UF quarterback Anthony Richardson waves to the crowd after his 60-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter Saturday. (Photo: Hannah White/UAA Communications) 

WHAT IT MEANS: With their fifth win of the season, the Gators snapped a five-game SEC road losing streak (their previous last away victory in league play was 2020 at Tennessee). More importantly to the here and now, Florida needs just one win in its last three games to become bowl eligible, which has been a stated goal for Coach Billy Napier in his first UF season. The Gators also snapped their pseudo-hex of games against Coach Jimbo Fisher, winning for just the second time in 10 cracks (eight at Florida State, two at A&M) against their former cross-state nemesis. 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Credit to UF’s co-defensive coordinators, Patrick Toney and Sean Spencer, for whatever adjustments they made at halftime. The Aggies scored 24 points in the first and rolled up 307 yards of total offense, averaging more than nine yards a play while punting just once. In the second half, the Florida defense held A&M to no points, a measly 106 yards, forced five punts, a pair of turnovers and also turned the Aggies away on downs deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter. The Gators came into the game ranked 130th in the country (out of 131 FBS teams) in third-down conversion defense, surrendering a whopping 52 percent. The Aggies converted their first three third-down chances, but went 1-for-10 the rest of the way. 

STAGGERING STATISTIC: A&M, which began the 2022 season ranked No. 6 in the country and a trendy pick to reach the College Football Playoff, has lost five straight games for the first time since 1980. That was way back when the Aggies were part of the Southwest Conference (32 years from joining the SEC). A&M needs to win its final three games to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2008. 

UP NEXT: Florida (5-4, 2-4) will play its final home game (and celebrate its annual “Senior Day”) against SEC East foe South Carolina (5-3, 2-3) on Nov. 12 at “The Swamp.” The Gamecocks, who trampled the Gators 40-17 last season at Columbia, broke into the Associated Press Top 25 last weekend but lost at home to Missouri. USC is on the road later Saturday night at league-winless Vanderbilt.

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