COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS -- Florida won its Southeastern Conference opener against Texas A&M on Saturday despite losing several key players to injury.
Starting weakside linebacker Jelani Jenkins went down with a thumb injury early in the first quarter and did not return. Starting safety Josh Evans injured his right shoulder attempting to stop a run in the second quarter and did not return. The Gators also lost sophomore defensive back Cody Riggs, at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum, to a right foot injury, and right tackle Chaz Green because of cramping.
Jenkins returned to the sideline in street clothes with a cast on his right arm after going to the locker room for X-rays, but coach Will Muschamp said he did not know the severity of the injury.
Riggs and Evans are expected to be fine.
Running back Mike Gillislee (leg/groin), Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray (leg), linebacker Neiron Ball (knee) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (leg) all left the game as well but returned later.
After racking up 14 penalties in the season opener against Bowling Green, Florida had just three for 21 yards in Saturday’s win in College Station.
However, the penalties again came in inopportune moments and on undisciplined plays.
After the Aggies received the opening kick, the Gators defense had forced a three-and-out until sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson was flagged for a late-hit personal foul for slapping an Aggies receiver after the play.
Texas A&M used the first down to extend the drive and score the game’s opening points, a field goal from Taylor Bertolet from 27 yards.
McCray was also flagged for a personal foul, a roughing-the-passer call with the Aggies knocking on the door of the end zone. Instead of a third-down attempt, McCray’s flag set up Texas A&M with a first-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line, which it converted on the next play to go up 17-7.
Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, who struggled with false starts last season, picked one up in the first quarter, but it did not stall the drive.
Texas A&M led the nation in sacks a season ago, and that trend continued Saturday in full force.
Florida starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was sacked eight times in the game for a loss of 48 yards, including on back-to-back plays twice in consecutive series.
Driskel, a mobile quarterback who likes to escape pressure by scrambling from the pocket, rushed for 56 yards in the game, but the loss of yardage on the sacks brought his net number down to just eight positive yards.
Though the offensive line struggled in pass protection at times, Driskel also self-sacked himself by running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage three times Saturday.
Sophomore Jabari Gorman from Opa-locka Monsignor Pace saw time at safety after the injury to Riggs. He did not record a tackle. … Wide receiver and Hallandale High alum Frankie Hammond Jr. had an opportunity to catch a touchdown pass in consecutive weeks for the first time in his career, but could not handle a throw from Driskel that hit him in the hands on a slant pattern in the end zone. … Florida was 0-5 when trailing at halftime under second-year coach Muschamp until Saturday.