Photo credit: Zach Goodall, AllGators.com
The No. 13 Florida Gators took on the Florida Atlantic University Owls tonight in the season's Week 1 opening game, a night game during the first week of major-conference football.
The Gators entered halftime with a solid 14-0 lead over the Owls, but with plenty of missed opportunities for Florida.
It would be the first time in over 600 days since the Gators hosted a full-capacity crowd at The Swamp, showing off its 2021 squad in front of the Florida Gator faithful. A 'White Out' event tonight, Gator fans were in for a treat as the Gators showed off some of its talents during the first half tonight.
A surprise guest in attendance tonight, former Gators head coach, current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer was in attendance along with his wife Shelley. It would be the first time Meyer has made his way back to The Swamp since 2010.
It wouldn't take long for the Gators to assert their dominance over the Owls on the ground tonight, showing off a re-branded offense led by redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones. Jones would have the Gators take a quick opening-quarter touchdown lead over FAU by way of completing 4 out of 6 of his passes for 33 yards.
The Gators ground unit would be the stars, however, carrying the football five times in its opening drive for 42 yards. That would be capped off with a three-yard touchdown run by running back Dameon Pierce.
Jones would get right back in on the action during Florida's second drive of the day, too with a long 23-yard run, capping it off with a nine-yard touchdown toss to redshirt senior receiver Rick Wells Jr. It would be Wells' first touchdown reception of his career.
The Gators defense would join in on the fun late in the first quarter, sacking FAU quarterback N'Kosi Perry, which would result in a fumble and a Florida Gators possession. Zachary Carter would be credited with the strip-sack, recovered by Gervon Dexter.
The Gators wouldn't make the most of their opportunity, however, turning the football over deep in Owl territory with Jones throwing a touchdown in the end zone.
The team's standout player on offense was running back Malik Davis who was able to showcase his renewed confidence, rushing for 86 yards on just seven carries during the first half. Davis broke off several long-gain runs tonight and looked much more powerful than in years past.
The Florida offense would have yet another opportunity to score against the Owls before halftime. After driving the football down the field on eight plays for 51 yards all the way to the FAU 2, the Gators would turn the ball over on downs, unable to come up with the touchdown on a designed run called by head coach Dan Mullen.
The Florida offense would end the first half with 250 yards, including 72 passing yards and 178 yards on the ground. Florida wanted to assert its dominance on the ground early and often this season and it looks like they've started that journey thus far against the Owls.
Florida will look to come out of halftime firing better offensively while remaining stout on defense. Though the Gators gave up some yards defensively, they were able to hold off the Owls' offense to zero points throughout the first half. They'll look to continue the strong effort in the second half.
While the score appears close, the Gators have had plenty of self-inflicted wounds in this one, turning the ball over via an interception and on downs for their final two drives of the first half.