Saturday, April 21, 2018
Colleges

Francisco Velez embraces Gators' kicking job

BATON ROUGE, La. — The last time Francisco Velez kicked a field goal in an actual game was during a state championship game at Ocala Trinity Prep in 2010.

On Saturday afternoon in front of more than 90,000 at LSU's Tiger Stadium, Velez, a walk-on, kicked field goals of 44 and 27 yards — the first of his college career — in Florida's 17-6 loss to the Tigers.

He took over for kicker Austin Hardin, who has struggled this season (4-of-8).

"I've been waiting for years, and I've been working hard and finally got my opportunity," said Velez, who until Saturday watched the Gator games at home with his parents and girlfriend. "I wasn't nervous. I was more nervous on the second one because the crowd had gotten so loud. But I wasn't nervous on the first one."

Velez, a redshirt junior, was at practice Thursday afternoon when Gators coach Will Muschamp told him he'd make the trip to Baton Rouge.

Then Florida special teams coach Jeff Choate informed him just before the game that he would be the kicker.

"I was happy, but it was a little unbelievable," Velez said.

Muschamp said Velez has earned the starting job.

JONES OUT, AGAIN: Former Armwood High standout and Florida RB Matt Jones is missing action again. Jones sustained an injury to his left knee, and Muschamp said he will be evaluated today. The severity was unknown after the game. Jones missed all of preseason camp and the first two weeks of the season with a viral infection.

TAYLOR'S TURN: Freshman RB Kelvin Taylor has been waiting patiently for his chance to play, and he made the best of his opportunity on Saturday. Taylor, the son of former Florida star and longtime Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, had 10 carries for 52 yards, including a long of 14 yards.

ABOUT THAT PUNT: With 1:23 remaining in the first half and the Gators trailing 14-3, Florida QB Tyler Murphy showed off some of his old high school skills with a 36-yard punt that pinned the Tigers on their own 1-yard-line.

"It's just a little trick we have," Murphy said. "Coach Muschamp called it, and I just wanted to give our guys a chance to pin them down. I punted a little bit in high school, so I've done it before."

BITTERSWEET HOMECOMING: It was a tough homecoming for Gators DL Damien Jacobs, a native of Gibson, La. Jacobs missed part of the game after he was tackled without his helmet and suffered a laceration.

"It was good to be home and have so many people here for me, my family and friends, but it would have been better if we had won," Jacobs said.

DID YOU KNOW: Florida failed to score a touchdown against LSU for the first time since 1979. It was also the first time in its past 10 games Florida hasn't scored a touchdown, dating to a 17-9 loss to Georgia last season.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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