Florida coach Billy Napier looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Utah on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Florida’s Billy Napier Looks Ahead To Homecoming Game

After falling 33-14 against Kentucky last Saturday, Florida head coach Billy Napier reflected on the mishaps of the game, and what’s needed to recover against Vanderbilt this Saturday.

Down Go the Gators

Florida (3-2, 1-1 SEC) has now suffered two dispiriting losses this season. The Gators’ road performances have been poor, being outscored by 32 points, trailing at halftime of both games by double digits and ultimately being 0-2 away from The Swamp.

Florida has now lost three straight games to Kentucky. However, giving up 280 rushing yards to Kentucky’s Ray Davis on Saturday may be a new low. During Monday’s press conference, Napier expressed disappointment in his team across several different aspects of the game.

In both total defense and success rate, Florida was the top defense in the SEC going into Saturday’s game. Earlier in the year, Florida aggressively attacked the portal to address their interior issues.

As Cam Jackson and Caleb Banks played early in the season, those problems appeared to be solved. However, Jackson and Banks missed three tackles in the losing effort as the Gators were gashed by Kentucky, who ran for 329 yards as a team.


Change is Needed

Additionally, with the exception of offensive lineman Austin Barber, Florida’s 2023 line lacks high-end talent with experience. Kingsley Eguakun, the team’s starting center, is battling an ankle injury, which has forced him to miss three games. Furthermore, from a recruiting perspective, freshman Knijeah Harris was a huge acquisition, but overall the Gators have struggled to land elite offensive linemen during the Billy Napier era.

Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-2) travels to Gainesville for Florida’s homecoming game on Saturday. Napier has only lost twice in The Swamp since he became the head man at Florida. Last season, the two losses came against No. 20 Kentucky and No. 25 LSU. The Gators will look to continue their home dominance against unranked opponents.

Looking at Napier’s nine losses, his worst might have been to Vanderbilt just a season ago. Ray Davis, who transferred to Kentucky this year, piled up 131 total yards and Vandy’s front stuffed the Florida run game, holding the team to just 2.1 yards per attempt. The 31-24 Vanderbilt victory was highlighted by former Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson’s 400-yard passing game, but also a devastating interception he threw in Florida territory.

The Commodores won their first game over Florida in Nashville, ending Florida’s eight-game winning streak against them. The Gators have lost just three homecoming games in the past 10 seasons after winning 33 in a row from 1980-2013. Florida must regroup and head into the game strong-minded to take the win against Vanderbilt.

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