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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Florida took the first step in salvaging its disappointing season against Appalachian State on Saturday in the The Swamp.

The Gators (7-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) broke a three-game home losing streak with a 48-10 win on Senior Day and gained some momentum heading into their final regular-season game with Florida State this weekend and whatever bowl game awaits.

“We needed a game like this for many reasons,” said senior safety Ahmad Black, who recovered a fumble against the Mountaineers. “One: to send the seniors out on a great note. And two: to try to get us back up. We suffered a tough loss last week. today was a great day for the Gators.”

It would have been easy for a still-reeling UF team to pack it in after that embarrassing defeat to South Carolina, which ended any hopes of an SEC championship and a BCS Bowl game appearance.

But the Gators regrouped, albeit against an FCS opponent, totalling 547 yards of total offense, 311 coming on the ground, and racing out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.

“Disintegration of a senior class is what wrecks a team, and this team is not wrecked,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “We’re not really good in some areas. But it’s certainly not a play-hard issue, an attitude issue or anything like that.”

The senior class showed the togetherness Meyer talked about when an unfamiliar face crossed the goal line for the final score of the game in the fourth quarter.

Already up 42-10, Meyer sent in defensive tackle Gary Beemer, who is a walk-on redshirt senior,  on 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Beemer took three handoffs from Jordan Reed, who scored three rushing touchdowns and threw another to starting quarterback John Brantley. On the third try Beemer punched in the first touchdown of his career — college or otherwise — as his teammates celebrated with him on the field and sideline.

“My last touchdown was never ago,” Beemer said. “The chance if I was a starter here to score a touchdown, as a defensive lineman, is astronomical in itself. For them to just come up to me with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and say, ‘Hey, would you like the ball on the goal line?’ I’m still trying to process it and make it a reality.”

It was a classy moment for a senior class that also showed what can bubble over during a frustrating season.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore was kicked out of the game along with ASU defensive back Ed Gainey following offsetting personal foul penalties for fighting. UF is waiting to hear from the SEC league office as to whether Moore will face a suspension against FSU as well.

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For a group of players just looking to go out on a high note, missing a starter against the Seminoles would be an unneeded obstacle.

“We’re playing for pride right now,” senior center Mike Pouncey said.

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