GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida Gators could not capitalize on their chances this weekend, which proved costly.
Christian Kirk was mostly missing for three quarters against Florida on Saturday night.
Texas A&M’s best player showed up in the final frame, just in time to help the Aggies pull out a 19-17 victory over the Gators.
Kirk caught a 40-yard pass from Kellen Mond to set up one field goal and then returned a punt 43 yards to put the Aggies in position for the game-winner, a 32-yarder with 58 seconds remaining that turned out to be the difference.
“I was just trying to be patient,” Kirk said. “I was glad I could step up and made a big play on the return.”
Florida coach Jim McElwain spent part of the week telling punter Johnny Townsend to keep the ball away from Kirk, but Townsend missed badly on his final kick of the night. Kirk eluded several tacklers and gave Texas A&M great field position.
Mond took it from there, running for a first down and putting Daniel LaCamera in line for his fourth field goal of the game. LaCamera hit from 46, 43, 25 and 32 yards, with the final three coming on Texas A&M’s final three drives in the fourth.
“The offense is the hero of this game,” said LaCamera, a junior from nearby Tarpon Springs. “They set me up for a chip shot.”
Mond made everything happen for the Aggies (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference). The freshman completed eight passes for 180 yards, and added 52 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Florida (3-3, 3-2) had one final chance in its new uniforms designed to look like alligator skin. But Feleipe Franks threw an interception on first down to end any chance of a comeback.
The loss was Florida’s second in as many weeks at home and essentially knocked the Gators out of contention in the SEC’s Eastern Division race and surely will stoke more questions about the direction of the program — mostly the offense — in coach Jim McElwain’s third season.
Florida dominated in yards (371-263) and first downs (17-10), but came up short on the scoreboard.
“Guys played hard,” McElwain said. “Didn’t make a couple of plays down the stretch that we needed to to come out on the right side of the scoreboard. … I believe in these guys. I believe in this team, and I will continue to do that and continue to push hard and we’ll get better.”
Texas A&M: The Aggies kept their composure after falling behind several times in the game and kept coming back, a huge sign of progress for a team with a freshman quarterback.
Florida: Franks made a huge play with his legs, but was mediocre for most of the night. He continues to miss open receivers all over the field and misfired on every deep ball. Franks completed 17 of 26 passes for 129 yards, with two interceptions and was sacked five times.
Franks had a 79-yard run that set up Dre Massey’s short touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Five tacklers missed chances to take Franks down. He zigzagged his way across the field for what’s believed to be the longest quarterback run in school history.
The Gators may have been fortunate to score their first touchdown, which came after a bizarre do-over in the second quarter.
Lamical Perine was seemingly stopped short on a fourth-and-1 play at the Texas A&M 17-yard line. But officials supposedly whistled the play dead before the snap. So Perine got another shot, picked up the first down and then scored on the next play against the stunned Aggies. Perine made three defenders miss and then carried a fourth into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Florida lost senior defensive end Jordan Sherit, one of the team’s top pass-rushers, midway through the fourth quarter and probably for the season. Sherit injured his right hip and had to be helped off the field. He eventually left the stadium on a cart, and McElwain said he will need surgery.
Texas A&M: Gets a bye week before beginning a three-game home-stand against Mississippi State. The home team has won the last four meetings in the series.
Florida: Gets much-needed bye before playing rival and fourth-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. The Gators have won 21 of the last 27 meetings, including three in a row, but will be underdogs in this one.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)