Sunday Hash: Chowing down on Florida’s big road win at Texas A&M

It’s not going to get Florida into the College Football Playoff rankings or any real rankings for that matter.

And we may be putting too much into Florida going on the road and winning against a flu-ridden team that was forced to go back to its original starting quarterback because the new starter was out with a concussion.

But it did seem kind of special to see Gator fans and players celebrating a road SEC win Saturday.

Forget about bowl eligibility (which requires another win), this seemed like a team that took another step forward after shuffling through a difficult first two-thirds of its schedule.

What does this mean for these 5-4 (2-4 SEC) Gators? Let’s talk optimistically (for once) about it in Pat Dooley’s Sunday Hash.

Billy Napier talked about it the same way when it came to Anthony Richardson

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The education of Anthony has been a slower-than-expected process, but he has now played three straight games without a turnover. “It feels great for me because coach, he hates turnovers,” Richardson said. “I’m pretty sure we all do. He harps on it all the time. Just to see him smiling about it, it makes us feel good.”

Yes, Napier was smiling...

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… because his defense was a plus-two in the turnover battle and the two strip sacks were huge in the game. Florida is plus-six in the last three games after having 10 turnovers in the first six games. And Florida has already surpassed the total of turnovers gained last year and is tied with the number in 2021. [autotag]Patrick Toney[/autotag] wants you to take that!

Napier was also smiling because of the way his quarterback played

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It wasn’t perfect, and for a while, it looked like he’d have to be perfect the way Texas A&M was scoring points. But Richardson looked poised and didn’t blink when the game was a shootout.

“I think he’ll look back and this will be one of those days that he will say was kind of a pivotal day,” Napier said. I think everybody is ready for a combination of consistent and spectacular, which is what we saw against the Aggies. Who wouldn’t be?

It is crazy to think about how Richardson plays on the road vs. at home

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I gave you the stat about his two true road games this year in the Saturday Six Pack on Gators Wire. Let’s expand that.

In five true road games over two seasons, Richardson has accounted for 1,298 yards and 15 touchdowns. And that includes last year’s Kentucky game when he barely played. Five games, 259.6 yards a game, three touchdowns a game.

Those are the averages. On the road.

At halftime, it looked as if Texas A&M would become the fifth team this season...

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… to go over the 500-yard mark in total offense against Florida (the Aggies had 307). [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag] said there were some loud speeches at halftime.

“It was a little bit of tough love, like let’s go, it’s still a game and we aren’t playing like how we are supposed to play,” he said. “We told them to shut it out, and the boys stood on that, so I’m definitely proud of those boys.”

Look, this defense is still on pace to break the all-time record at Florida...

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… for yards allowed per game at 441.4 (428 is the record). But Florida went six straight possessions getting a stop. I’m not sure that has happened before this season.

“I think that early kick, we stumbled out of the blocks,” Napier said. “Obviously, we all watched it. There’s nothing to be proud of about it.” No, there was not.

Then came the 106-yard second half for the Aggies

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“I think we could’ve easily got frustrated with our defensive performance in the first half, but man, in that locker room, you would never know,” Napier said. “It’s really a group that stuck together. They knew exactly what the issues were. We’re starting to play football the way it’s intended to be played.”

A good example of that was Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr...

AP Photo/Gary McCullough

… who stepped into [autotag]Brenton Cox[/autotag]’s JACK position and played well with six tackles, two tackles for a loss and a strip sack. “He’s been productive when given opportunities in the past,” Napier said. “Sometimes, you don’t know until that opportunity’s presented to you.”

One thing is for sure – the rest of this season will tell the coaches a lot about next season’s roster.

This team is certainly learning from adversity

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It has trailed in every game except one – the win over Missouri – but always seems like it has a chance if it can just get a stop. That was the difference in the games they have won – they got stops.

The games they lost? Not so much.

The best stat to show Florida’s improvement during this game was that A&M converted on its first three third-down attempts and then Jimbo Fisher’s offense went 1-for-10 the rest of the game.

One more stat to finish it off...

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… that tells you how Florida took command of the game in the second half with its running attack led by [autotag]Montrell Johnson[/autotag]’s 100 yards. Florida had the ball in the second half for 19:37 to Texas A&M’s 10:23.

This is the way this team is built and the way Napier coaches. You pound away and force the opponent to panic (45 passes, 25 runs for the Aggies).

One more stat – I’d like to have the A&M stat crew regrade all of my old tests because it is a participation trophy group. Florida ran 78 plays and A&M was credited with 35 solo tackles and 42 assists. Florida had 35 and 14 on 70 plays.

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