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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from the Gators Season Finale Loss to FSU

Recapping the Gators' regular-season finale loss to Florida State with the good, the bad and the ugly from the performance.

Photo: Gators Defense; Credit: Zach Goodall

The Florida Gators (6-6; 3-5 SEC) capped off the 2022 regular season on Friday with a 45-38 loss to the Florida State Seminoles (9-3; 5-3 ACC). It was the highest-scoring contest between the two squads in their illustrious series history.

The Gators fell to .500 on the year to end Billy Napier's first campaign as UF's head coach.

All Gators recaps the regular season finale with the contest's good, bad and ugly.

Good: Florida's rushing game

The Gators' ground game continues to be a pendulum swinging between productivity and inefficiency this season.

On Friday, we saw an upswing toward the former.

A near-400-yard performance by Florida on the ground against South Carolina, followed by a sub-50-yard outing against Vanderbilt, created questions regarding the true nature of the rushing attack.

The Gators re-established the ground game as their identity against Florida State in the early going by creating considerable push-up front and deploying the two-headed monster of Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne.

The duo earned 17 carries apiece to lead the way for Florida's 262 yards, 5.7 yards per carry and two scores on 46 attempts on the day. They combined for 214 yards of that total.

Johnson contributed by churning out tough yards for Florida en route to 85 yards and a punch-in score on the goal line. Meanwhile. Etienne, as he's grown accustomed to doing, produced in an explosive fashion for the Gators.

After Florida went down by two scores, the Gators were clawed back into the contest after a score and a forced punt on the Seminoles. When they got the ball back, Etienne was the back UF elected to field on the crucial game-tying potential drive.

Taking two rushes for a combined five yards on the first two downs, Etienne was the go-to man again as the Gators faced a crucial 3rd and 5. This time, the true freshman split a gaping hole on the left side of the line to go untouched for a 45-yard score.

That continued to his 129-yard total and tied the game at 38.

The rushing game was a necessity due to the struggles realized by Anthony Richardson as a passer. It produced in a monumental way while reasserting itself after the abysmal outing in Nashville.

Consistency will be a point of emphasis for the Gators in that area heading into the offseason.

Bad: Anthony Richardson's arm

No, not the physical limb, but the efficiency with which he used it.

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A game that encompasses the Anthony Richardson experience: There are explosive moments paired with routine missed opportunities.

When the game commenced, Richardson looked to be firing on all cylinders as he found Ricky Pearsall on multiple occasions and Jonathan Odom for scores in the first half.

His prowess as a passer, which has been streaky throughout the year, looked to be on par with one of his better performances. However, as the game wore on, the version of Richardson that has grown much-maligned this year emerged as he struggled through the air.

The offense became one-dimensional, and it showed at the beginning second half as the Gators had three straight three-and-outs to start the half. Then, he paired that with 11 consecutive incompletions, finishing the contest just 9-for-27.

The plug-and-play wide receiver unit didn't help him — as five wideouts were inactive due to injury — but he still didn't produce in the way needed to elevate Florida to success.

Ugly: Containing Jordan Travis

A major issue for the Gators throughout the season has been the defensive unit's inability to contain dual-threat quarterbacks.

Heading into the matchup against Florida State, Jordan Travis presented the capability as a rusher that hurt Florida against the likes of Utah, USF and Tennessee in the early portion of the season.

However, after limiting Vanderbilt's Mike Wright from extending plays with his feet a week prior, Florida seemingly had the blueprint for limiting Travis and, consequently, the Florida State offense.

That wasn't the case, as the Seminoles' signal caller torched the Gators on the ground for 83 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't excessive production that hurt Florida, though, as the defense held the talented rusher to just over five yards per carry after he took off on the ground 15 times — albeit still too many yards per carry for comfort.

It was the opportunistic style in which Travis beat the Gators.

Making his presence felt as a scrambler, Travis found ways to evade a Gators pass rush that was seemingly set to hit home on multiple occasions at crucial points in the game. Notably, Florida has opportunities to bring the Noles quarterback down for sacks during third down situations inside the red zone, but he found a way to escape the grasp of Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr., Princely Umanmielen, Gervon Dexter and others consistently throughout the night.

His elusiveness proved to be the difference in the game. It perpetuated the idea that Florida's ability to keep contain is an issue even in life with Brenton Cox Jr. — who drew attention for his lapses in that area.

It also reiterated the Gators tackling woes, as when Travis did erase the negative plays by avoiding sacks, he turned them into positive yardage by forcing several missed tackles.

Florida has been predicted to face UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl by CBS on Dec. 17. If that's the case, they could face similar trouble as Dorian Thompson-Robinson utilizes his legs.

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