Listen, Read & Watch: Florida's bowl eligible after 24-21 rivalry win

Nov 27, 2021 | 0 comments


FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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Following Florida’s 24-21 victory over rival Florida State, interim head coach Greg Knox, Anthony Richardson, Dameon Pierce, Zach Carter, Antonio Valentino, and Kemore Gamble met with the media to discuss the win. Read the main takeaways or watch their interviews, as well as take a look at the highlights from the day.

GREG KNOX

  • Knox opened his press conference by thanking the crowd and the senior class during Saturday’s win. “Great win today. Really like to thank our crowd and Gator nation for coming out and showing great support for this senior class,” Knox said. “It’s a wonderful group of guys. This has been a week to remember.” Knox reminisced about his last time as an interim head coach as Mississippi State, and said it was under different circumstances. He added the seniors on this year’s team made his job much easier due to their work ethic. “What a big, big showing today. Was it our best? No. But it was a win, and it was a great win.”
  • With the win, Florida becomes bowl eligible, extending the streak to four-straight seasons. “(The team) is excited. That’s what we talked about last night. Who knows where it’s going to be or when,” Knox said. “I’ll tell you this. They are excited about that. They were excited about winning this game, and they knew it meant going to a bowl game.” When asked about potentially playing UCF, Knox said he didn’t care who the opponent was, he was just happy to make a bowl game.
  • Florida’s quarterback play made a huge difference in Satuday’s game. Emory Jones threw for one touchdown to start, but three first-half interceptions led to Anthony Richardson taking his place. Richardson threw for 55 yards and a touchdown and led another touchdown drive. “(Richardson) brought a lot of energy into (the game),” Knox said. Richardson was injured early into the game, but the training staff said he was good to go in at halftime. For Jones, Knox said all he needed to do was relax. “I told Emory, ‘You have to take what they give you. Stop trying to force things down the field and just take what they give you,’” Knox said. Going into the bowl game, Knox isn’t sure who the starter will be and said they would evaluate it and make sure both are healthy.
  • Dameon Pierce made a major impact in the second half with a touchdown, but his best play was a touchdown called back due to Pierce’s helmet coming off and him continuing to play. “He is a tremendous young man, and he plays with that type of passion,” That was unfortunate that his helmet did come off because he was determined that he was going to get that end zone.” During his senior day, Pierce rushed for 62 yards on 12 attempts for a touchdown.
  • Running back Nay-Quon Wright suffered what appeared to be a major knee injury in the third quarter. “I haven’t heard from the trainers yet on the severity (of the injury),” Knox said.
  • Malik Davis had a solid output on Saturday that included an impressive third and long conversion on a short pass. “That was really critical,” Knox said. He gave credit to Davis’ determination on that play and praised the running back room as a whole for their performances. “(The running backs) are determined guys. And they are unselfish guys,” Knox said. “They cheer for each other. They care for each other. They motivate each other. It is a very unselfish group.” The three running backs combined for 150 total yards and a touchdown against the Seminoles.
  • Brenton Cox Jr. had an impressive game today with four sacks and a forced fumble. “He came to play today. He was one of those guys I could tell in pregame he was going to play,” Knox said. “I could see it in his eyes. I could read his body language. I knew in this game today, he was going to play.” Cox Jr. more than doubled his season total of sacks (three) and now has seven on the season.
  • With a new head coach coming in eventually for the Gators, Knox said the new coach is inheriting a good team. “He is walking into a talented group,” Knox said. He added that whoever the new coach is, he will understand that he is inheriting a mentally tough team.

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ZACH CARTER

  • A fifth-year senior, Carter also played his final game in the Swamp. “It was everything I hoped for,” he said. “We kept fighting the whole time. We really played together as a team.” Carter says the message this week was sending the seniors out on a high note, and the team banded together to do just that. For him personally, he said he was not emotional. “I was so locked in,” he said. “I didn’t have time to be emotional. I was sad inside, but I kept a straight face.” Carter described the feeling of playing his final game in the Swamp as “surreal.”
  • Carter praised Cox Jr. for his performance this afternoon. “Don’t get it mistaken. Brenton is the truth,” he said. “Obviously, he’s been battling things all year, and it’s tough to do, but he goes out there every week and fights with his brothers. Four sacks? That boy showed out.” Carter leads the team with 7.5 sacks, and Cox Jr. is now second with 7.0.
  • Overall, the defense constantly pressured FSU quarterback Jordan Travis with four sacks and four hurries. “We had him out there scrambling for his life,” Carter said. Carter added that he told Travis on the field, “We coming.” Travis replied, “You got to catch me.” Travis finished the game with 102 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
  • During Carter’s recruitment, FSU did not offer Carter due to thinking he was too skinny. Carter chuckled at that when reminded. “I don’t know, man,” he said. “That’s still crazy to me, to this day, that they really said I was too small to play there. But hey, we won.” About the win, he said it means everything considering how the season has gone. Carter finished today’s game with four total tackles.
  • Carter summed up what the story of his final season would be. “I would just talk about the trials and tribulations,” he said. “Perseverance at the end to just keep going no matter what. We just stayed focus and got the job done.” Carter said between the coaching changes and losses, it was a tough season, but they overcame the adversity.
  • Carter described getting to play for a bowl game as a “great feeling.” “We’ve been talking about it all week,” he said. “We knew what was at stake. They were fighting for a bowl. We were fighting for a bowl. And we wanted it more.”

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ANTHONY RICHARDSON

  • After replacing Jones in the third quarter, Richardson led the Gators to 17 points in the second half, which proved to be the difference. With a bowl game coming up, and the quarterback controversy reopened, Richardson isn’t worried about playing time. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just here to play whenever my number is called.” On playing for a bowl game, he said the focus was to just win. “We just got to focus and keep our energy right,” he said.
  • Between Dan Mullen’s firing and the quarterback competition, Richardson has been in the middle of a controversial season. On Mullen, he said he was surprised that Mullen was fired, but added that this is a business, and it was probably a business decision. With a new head coach on the horizon, Richardson said the message was to “Just grind and get better.” In particular, Richardson is close to Jones, and feels for him after his struggles. “You do feel for him,” he said. “Of course you don’t want anybody to play bad.” Richardson added that they talk about this a lot in practice.
  • Richardson has battled multiple injuries throughout the season, including a knee injury before the South Carolina game due to a botched dance move in the hotel the night before. He explained that part of the issue is due to a meniscus tear in high school that he never got surgery on, and that he doesn’t think he will need surgery on it. “It does get frustrating at times,” Richardson said, but he believes that everything happens for a reason.
  • Richardson has often been the victim of rumors saying he will transfer due to a lack of playing time. When asked, he had a simple response: “I’m a Gator.”

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DAMEON PIERCE

  • One of the many seniors honored, Pierce wasn’t sure how to feel with it being his last game in the Swamp. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel leading up to the week, but as it got closer, it got more bittersweet,” he said. He added that he was so zoned in that the field was quiet to him, and that the day was perfect. “It couldn’t have been a better way to end it off.
  • Pierce’s no-helmet touchdown, albeit called back, quickly became a fan-favorite and drew comparisons to Earl Everett’s no-helmet sack in the 2007 BCS National Championship against Ohio State. “My momma been calling me hardheaded since I was little,” he said with a smile. Pierce added that he did not know it was a flag. “I don’t know why it’s a flag. Like, why do you want me to stop running?” he said. “I will do that 50 times out of 50 if it ever happens again.”
  • With his rushing touchdown, Pierce now has 15 total on the season, the most since Percy Harvin scored 17 in 2008. “It means a lot,” he said. “Just to have my name in the same presence as (other Gator greats) is an honor.”
  • Pierce talked about the quarterback controversy briefly and how it will be with a new head coach coming in. “We got two great quarterbacks,” he said. He added that whoever the starter ends up being depends on spring and fall camps and how they develop. He also compared the quarterback situation to the running back situation. Essentially, it doesn’t matter who is in, the goal is to win.
  • With his senior season coming to an end, the Gators have made a bowl game every year Pierce has been in Gainesville. He said that the team is ending the season on a good note, and it means everything to come out with a win today and play for a bowl. “The vibe in the locker room is good,” he said. “Hopefully we can add onto this performance. The vibe is back in the locker room. I couldn’t say that three or four weeks ago. We’re getting back to where we are as a team.”

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ANTONIO VALENTINO

  • On playing for a bowl game, Valentino shut down rumors that Florida might not accept a bid. “I have never heard that,” he said. “All I know is they’re going to tell us where we’re going, and we’re going.” Valentino added it doesn’t matter who they play or where it is, but they have one more game left no matter what.
  • After their final touchdown, FSU attempted an onside kick, but botched it when the kicker skimmed the top of the ball, and it rolled for about a yard. Valentino said he has never seen anything like that before. “I didn’t even know what was going on,” he said. He added that Christian Robinson’s reaction indicated what had happened.
  • On the day, Florida had 13 penalties for 107 yards, while Florida State had nine for 89 yards. “We had too many penalties that were after the whistle or before the whistle,” Valentino said. He added that there were not many penalties during the play, and the penalties they committed are completely avoidable.
  • Before the game, a skirmish broke out between the teams near the FSU sideline. Coming from Penn State, Valentino knows firsthand about big rivalries and what comes with them. “Obviously, I’m not from here, but it was made very clear to me what the expectation is in this game,” he said. Valentino added that he watched old Florida-Florida State games on YouTube and that Shariff Floyd talked to the defensive linemen at the hotel to talk about the rivalry. “It was a great environment,” he said.
  • Valentino also talked about Pierce’s non-helmet run. “Man, I love watching DP play football,” he said. “I don’t think y’all get it.” He said Pierce squats more than him, which is why Pierce is such a powerful runner. He added that it is unfortunate that you cannot play after your helmet falls off and that Mullen told the team about the rule before.

KEMORE GAMBLE

  • Gamble was the Gators’ leading receiver with 80 yards on three receptions, including a 47-yard touchdown to start the scoring off. “It feels great,” he said. Gamble said he was trying to help the team out. Gamble got involved early in the game with his score, but he said that wasn’t the game plan coming in. “They just called my number, and I made a play,” he said.
  • Although a senior, Gamble said he was thinking about using the additional year of eligibility given to the student-athletes by the NCAA due to COVID-19 and coming back for one more year.
  • Gamble’s mother, who has been battling health issues, was in attendance for today’s game. He was able to see her at the Gator Walk. “It felt pretty good having her back,” he explained.
  • Gamble briefly talked about the quarterbacks and their performances today while battling injuries. “Ant’s a tough guy. You can always count on him,” he said of Richardson. “He has a bright future ahead of him.” On Jones, Gamble said he is still young, and that he was dealing with injuries, but he will be fine.
  • Going into the bowl game, Gamble said the team wanted to play in one no matter what. “I love playing football,” he said. “I’m still going to play no matter what bowl game we’re in. I’m just that type of player, I just love playing football.”

FLORIDA-FLORIDA STATE HIGHLIGHTS

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Jake Hitt and Cam Parker contributed to this report

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WCC: Updates on everything they had to say can be seen HERE.

 

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