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Florida Football

Instant Analysis: Richardson provides a spark in season opening win

September 4, 2021
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No. 13 Florida got off to a quick start offensively before hitting a wall in the first half in their 35-14 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday night in the Swamp.

Here is our Instant Analysis.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Florida running back Malik Davis plunged into the endzone from the one yard-line with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter. Florida Atlantic hung around all game. Down three scores in the fourth quarter, a comeback definitely wasn’t an impossibility. But the Gators got a stop thanks to Gervon Dexter’s fumble recovery on a sweep play. Anthony Richardson came in to lead the series. A few chunk-plays later, Florida was down at the goal line and Davis took it in to make it a four-score game — putting the game out of reach.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: First it was Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce. Davis showed plenty of burst and evasiveness as he went for 84 yards on just eight carries in the first half and finished with 14 carries for 104 yards plus a touchdown. He really looked like his old self again. Pierce continued showing how tough of a runner he is. On the Gators’ touchdown drive on their first second half possession, Pierce totaled 37 yards of offense with multiple tackle-breaking plays in the redzone including the score.

Anthony Richardson then provided a spark for the Gators, leading a scoring drive in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. He accounted for 96 yards on the ground by himself on two fourth-quarter scores. Richardson finished with 160 yards on seven carries and a score.

THESE STATS DON'T LIE:  400-yards on the ground against just 153 yards through the air. Remember how everyone talked about the offense changing? Well, looks like we’re right for now. Florida didn’t move the ball down the field/get chunks in the vertical passing game. The Gators had 13 big plays for 292 rushing yards compared to just three big plays for 69 passing yards. The Gators utilized a flashy passing attack last year to move the ball quickly, Saturday night it was a running game and hurry-up offense.

THIS MATCH-UP PROVED KEY: If you want a literal one, the Gators front seven vs. the FAU offensive line. Florida totaled eight quarterback hurries and notched six sacks. Those came in clutch in the second half to help get the Gator defense off the field because it had N’Kosi Perry scrambling on key third downs. A crucial one actually came in the first half when Zachary Carter had a strip-sack to set up a Gator drive at the 49. It was his first of three sacks in the game.

If you want to get metaphorical there’s Emory Jones vs. himself. It was not the most auspicious start to the redshirt junior’s campaign as the Gator starter. Jones seemed out of sorts as a passer. Two head-scratching picks and several misplaced balls prevented the Gator offense from clicking at times or extending the lead. You hate to see someone wait so long to struggle in his first start.

WHAT A PLAY: It came in garbage time but it wasn’t any less impressive. Second and 10 from the UF 42 with two ticks under a minute left to play. Anthony Richardson took the snap, probed a little, and immediately had FAU’s Jaylen Joyner in his face. He sidestepped the defensive end then juked away from an attempt from cornerback Korel Smith followed by breaking through an arm tackle from Caliph Price. He dashed six yards before he treated Justin McKithen like an Olympic hurdle as he earned the first down. Pure athleticism from the quarterback.

UP NEXT: The Gators prepare to hit the road for the first time this season as they take on the University of South Florida Bulls in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Likely they’ll take the week to work out the obvious kinks in the offense and defense.

Instant Analysis: Richardson provides a spark in season opening win

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