The Florida Gators opened their 2021 season with a 35-14 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls. The Gators were in control for the entire game but Florida didn’t play as well as they could have.
Emory Jones made his first career start at Florida and looked good in his first two drives but really struggled afterwards. Jones struggled throwing the ball downfield and also stared down his receivers which resulted into interceptions.
While Jones struggled, redshirt-freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson shined. The Gainesville native led the Gators in rushing and looked more comfortable running Florida’s offense than Jones.
The Gators front seven had an outstanding game forcing two turnovers and recorded six sacks against FAU’s offense. One veteran defensive lineman stood out in the game and even earned SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.
Another major takeaway from the season opener for Florida was their rushing attack. Florida’s ground game had a special game thanks to big runs from Richardson, Malik Davis looking healthy again and their offensive line creating lanes for their backs.
Jones Struggles, Richardson Shines
In his first collegiate start, redshirt-junior quarterback Jones struggled after leading the first two drives that ended in touchdowns. At the end of the day, Jones completed 17 out of 27 passes for 113 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Jones did run well as he had 74 rushing yards on ten carries.
He struggled throwing the ball down the field as his accuracy left a lot to be desired and he also wasn’t making his reads. During both of Jones’s interceptions, Jones didn’t look at any other receiver but stared at the one target he was going to throw to. Both of those picks ended up being easy interceptions with the ball hitting the FAU defensive backs in the chest.
While Jones struggled, Richardson made some big time plays. He didn’t throw the ball exceptionally well but he was throwing to third stringers and walk-ons. However, it was his legs that made him look special.
Richardson led the Gators in rushing with 160 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. Three of the seven carries he had on Saturday night were Sports Center Top 10 worthy. The first one was when he rushed for 20 yards and then stiff armed one of the Owls defensive backs into next week like Derrick Henry.
His second highlight run of the night was his 73-yard rushing touchdown. It was a read option where Richardson decided to keep the ball and just out ran FAU’s whole defense. Richardson is about 6-4, 240 pounds and he’s out running some pretty fast defensive backs. His final highlight run of the night was towards the end of the game when Richardson had a couple of broken tackles and jukes before hurdling over #11 from FAU and picking up the first down.
Jones is still the starting quarterback at Florida but what Richardson should the college football world last Saturday has people excited about his future and potential with Dan Mullen as his head coach.
Florida’s Front Seven Dominates
Todd Grantham received a ton of criticism last season for having one of the worst defenses in the program’s history. While Florida’s defense didn’t look elite on Saturday, their front seven might be one of the best in the country.
Redshirt-senior defensive end Zachary Carter had a monster game as he recorded four tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Carter was named SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week after his terrific performance.
Linebacker Ventrell Miller also led the Gators in tackles with seven on the night. Sophomore defensive tackle Gervon Dexter made some big plays in the first game of the season as he recovered two fumbles.
Florida’s Ground Game Goes Berserk
Going into the season, everyone knew that Florida was going to be a run-first team with Jones at quarterback. In their first game of the season, Florida’s ground game had an incredible night.
Florida rushed for 400 yards against the FAU Owls which is the most in the Mullen era at Florida. The Gators also lead the country in rushing yards which is pretty impressive considered they don’t run the triple option like Navy.
Richardson led the Gators in rushing with 160 yards averaging 22.6 yards per carry. Running back Malik Davis also had 14 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time since the 2008 National Championship game that Florida had two players both rush for over 100 yards. Senior running back Dameon Pierce also had six carries for 31 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
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