The SEC has announced two Florida Gators as SEC Player of the Week after Florida’s 41-39 comeback victory over South Carolina. Quarterback Graham Mertz earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week while placekicker Trey Smack earned Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.
Mertz and Smack become the fifth and sixth Gators to gather SEC Weekly Honors during the 2023 season.
Graham Mertz has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week, as announced by the league office Monday morning. This marks the second time in Mertz’s collegiate career that he has been named offensive player of the week for his respective conference. Mertz was named Big 10 Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 248 yards and 5 touchdowns versus Illinois during his time at Wisconsin.
Additionally, Mertz was named to the Davey O’Brien Great 8 List for Week 7. By being named to the list, Mertz is now officially on the Midseason Watch List and is eligible for the 2023 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.
Mertz continued his already exceptional season with a career performance on Saturday. Mertz totaled 30 completions on 48 pass attempts, good for a completion percentage of 63. Those 30 completions led to 423 yards passing and three touchdowns.
This is the first 400-yard passing performance by a Gator quarterback since Anthony Richardson on Nov. 19, 2022 against Vanderbilt and the first ever 400-yard passing game by a Florida quarterback against South Carolina.
The Overland Park, Kansas native set career high marks in pass attempts and passing yards during Saturday’s contest. His two previous highs in these categories were set in Florida’s Week 1 contest against Utah.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of Mertz’s performance was leading the Gators offense on two drives late in the contest to complete a ten point comeback victory.
Down 27-37 with 9:11 remaining on the clock Mertz conducted a 75 yard scoring drive highlighted by three completions of 10, 17, and 19 yards all to Ricky Pearsall. The drive capped off with a four yard touchdown pass to Arlis Boardingham.
After a defensive stop, Mertz was tasked with leading another 75 yard scoring drive to take the lead. Key completions of 26 yards to Pearsall and 22 yards to Eugene Wilson III eventually set up a 21 yard strike to Pearsall in the end zone giving the Gators a 41-37 lead.
After a game sealing interception and run out of the clock, the Gators had completed the first double-digit fourth quarter road comeback since September 23, 2017 against Vanderbilt and the most recent double-digit comeback (home or away; at any point of the game) since 2019 at Kentucky.
Mertz, was not the only Gator contributing to the 41 point offensive output. Trey Smack was an important component in the Gators victory and was named SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in Week 7.
This is the second time this season that Smack has been presented with this award as he was honored back in Week 4 when the Gators recorded a victory over Charlotte.
On Saturday against South Carolina Smack made four of five field goals, converted on all three extra point attempts and totaled nine kick offs for 516 yards, averaging 57.3 yards per kick and recording six touchbacks.
The Severna Park, Maryland native tied his career long field goal during the contest as he drilled a 54 yard attempt in the third quarter.
Smack also recorded two makes from 44 and 48 yards. His only miss during the contest, and for the season, was blocked by South Carolina.
Photo credit: Maddie Washburn, UAA Communications