Austin Barber holds up Treyaun Webb in the Gators' 49-7 victory over McNeese State Friday night. Photo courtesy of Ashley Ray.

Florida Football Gets Back on Track; Crushes McNeese State 49-7

Gators quarterback Graham Mertz shouted to the sky with excitement after his 50-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Pearsall late in the third quarter. The ball floated in the air and dropped into Pearsall’s hands in stride as the crowd erupted in The Swamp. Although the game was already out of reach, as the score extended the Gators’ lead to 40-0, it was a perfect pass on a close-to-perfect night for the Florida Gators football team (1-1). 

The team only punted once and held the McNeese State Cowboys (0-2) to just 112 yards of offense. Additionally, six rushing touchdowns were scored by four different Gators and the team totaled 327 yards on the ground. 

It was an impressive bounce-back game from head coach Billy Napier and Florida, who suffered a disappointing Week 1 loss to Utah.  

“We did some things that were significant statistically, but it wasn’t really about that,” Napier said. “From the players in the locker room just now, I appreciate the response that we saw from the players after last week. We’ll enjoy tonight, wake up tomorrow and get ready for the big one next week.”

Run Game Comes Back to Life

A run game that was nowhere to be found against the Utes in Salt Lake City was rejuvenated against the Cowboys Saturday Night in the team’s dominating 49-7 victory. 

Montrell Johnson Jr., who had only six rushing yards against Utah, quickly opened the scoring for the Gators, punching it in from two yards out. A blocked extra point caused the Gators to settle with a 6-0 lead.  

Later in the first, despite being forced to start at their own one-yard line, the Gators managed to go on an 11-play, 99-yard drive. Quarterback Graham Mertz, finished off the drive on a quarterback sneak, extending the Florida lead to 13-0 with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter. 

The ground game didn’t take their foot off the pedal. Treyaun Webb earned his first rushing touchdown as a Gator on a two-yard run to increase the lead to 19-0. Then to cap off the first half, Florida went on a 10-play, 74-yard drive which was ended by a Trevor Etienne eight-yard touchdown.

“The run game just kind of dominated,” wide receiver Ricky Pearsall said. “They came out in a three-high look, so we just knew we were going to get the run game going.”

As the Gators ran into the halftime locker room, they led 26-0. 

Right out of halftime, the Gators defense earned a quick stop and the offense was back to work. Mertz and company went down the field in a little under three minutes to score once again. Johnson Jr. rushed into the endzone for the second time on the night, increasing the Florida lead to 33-0. 

Johnson Jr. ended with 119 yards on the ground which led all rushers.  

Back Home

Later, a safety from Jamari Lyons put two more points on the scoreboard and the onslaught continued as Webb would go on to score his second touchdown of the night and extend Florida’s lead to 49-0. 

Cornerback Jaydon Hill said the team took advantage of the opportunity to dominate in The Swamp.

“This week, there was a big emphasis on just executing and dominating and we did a pretty good job,” he said. “But we can’t be satisfied with that. We have to bounce back next week and come even harder.”

With under three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, McNeese State recovered a Gators fumble and capitalized to avoid the shutout. 

Though, the Gators played an all-around strong game, as both the defense and offense dominated the Cowboys throughout the matchup.

Next, the Gators will host the Tennessee Volunteers (2–0) at home in their first SEC game of the season. Despite falling to the Volunteers last season, Pearsall is confident in the team’s ability to pull off the upset. 

“I think our confidence level is always good,” he said. “Against Utah, we kind of beat ourselves. It was more about executing and eliminating penalties. And obviously, I think we did a better job of that tonight. I think that’s going to give us a good amount of momentum going into next week.”

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