No. 25 Florida checks Charlotte with chance for rare 3-game streak

Field Level Media

September 20, 2023 at 2:04 pm.

Trevor Etienne and No. 25 Florida have a head of steam as they await Charlotte on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.

Etienne set career highs in carries (23) and rushing yards (172) in the Gators’ 29-16 victory over then-No. 11 Tennessee last Saturday. His rushing total eclipsed his previous best of 129 yards, set during Florida’s 45-38 loss to Florida State on Nov. 25, 2022.

Etienne highlighted his performance against the Volunteers with a 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

“I had the end zone in my eyesight, and I was going to do anything to get there,” he said, per the Gainesville Sun.

Etienne was recognized with the Doak Walker National Running Back of the Week Award.

A potent ground attack and an economical passing game — Graham Mertz completed 19 of 24 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown — allowed Florida to record a decided edge in time of possession (37:28-22:32).

After jumping back into the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 24 of last season, the Gators (2-1) vie for their first three-game winning streak since rolling off six straight victories in 2020.

“It validates your plan, what you’re selling to a degree,” Florida coach Billy Napier said of the team’s recent success. “That’s what you want as a leader. … That’s a lot more fun.”

Napier is keeping a keen eye on Charlotte (1-2), which posted a 24-3 win over South Carolina State in its season opener on Sept. 2 and led Maryland at halftime the following week before falling 38-20 to the Terrapins.

The 49ers dropped a 41-25 decision to Georgia State last week.

“I’d rather go back to where everybody in the world knows what we’re going to run on offense and defense but we can execute it,” Charlotte coach Biff Poggi said. “I am not going to sleep much. I am going to put on the film … and find out what we do best and do it.”

Trexler Ivey completed 20 of 28 passes for 257 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Colorado transfer Jack Hestera reeled in seven catches for 109 yards and a score versus the Panthers. He leads the 49ers in catches (14) and receiving yards (194) this season.

Charlotte inadvertently caught a break on Monday after the Southeastern Conference suspended three Florida players for one half on Saturday over their roles in a scuffle at the end of the game against the Volunteers.

The SEC released a statement saying Gators offensive linemen Damieon George Jr. and Micah Mazzccua and tight end Dante Zanders were being punished for “flagrant unsportsmanlike actions.”

George and Mazzccua were Florida’s starting right tackle and right guard, respectively, to begin the season. Zanders is a backup tight end.

“We had multiple players that screwed up,” Napier said. “They compromised the entire team ’cause you may not be available in the future, whatever the case may be. No different than some guy calls you a name at the local bar on Friday night. Are you going to compromise your wife and kids, make a poor decision?

“These things are teachable moments. Ultimately hopefully we do enough on our part to teach ’em.”