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Florida Gators Shake Off Some Rust En Route to 35-14 Victory Over Owls

The Florida Gators were able to take care of business on Saturday night, though they'll have plenty of questions still offensively heading into Week 2.

Photo credit: Zach Goodall, AllGators.com

It's the start of a brand new season for the No. 13 Florida Gators as they took care of business tonight against the Florida Atlantic University Owls. Florida would exit Week 1 by way of a 35-14 victory over the Owls, competing in front of a packed home crowd, the first filled-up stadium since 2019. 

The announced attendance for tonight's game was 86,840.

While it didn't always seem to go Florida's way - two first-half turnovers (interception, downs) - they were still able to finish off the lesser opponent in the Owls, not allowing a single point defensively. While the team still has some work to do on offense, it will take solace in the fact that the defense looked solid the entire night.

Florida came into this season wanting to establish the run better with its re-shuffled offensive line and new signal-caller in Emory Jones and it was able to accomplish just that, especially during the first half of action. Florida would run the football 183 yards in the first half with 87 of those yards coming from redshirt senior running back Malik Davis

For the second time in his Florida career, Davis would top 100 yards in a game. It was the most confident Davis has looked carrying the football in quite some time, typically seen catching the football out of the backfield rather than tough running between the tackles.

His previous 100-yard rushing game came in 2017 as a freshman against Vanderbilt.

The Gators opened the second half with a 15-play, 88-yard drive against the Owls, capped off with a Dameon Pierce touchdown. Those are the type of drives that Florida will look to have this season as it hopes to dominate its opponents on the ground this season.

At one point, Florida totaled 225 yards on the ground, more rushing yards in a game than Florida had at any point last season. The change in philosophies was felt tonight, and Florida appeared to make a point to continue establishing themselves as that type of offense.

The Gators finished the night with a total of 400 yards even on the night.

Defensively, Florida asserted its dominance, led by defensive lineman Zachary Carter who finished the game with three sacks and a forced fumble through 3 quarters of action. The Gators would hold FAU to a respectable 352 yards. While pitching a shutout until 4:27 remained in the game.

While the Florida ground game would be the centerpiece of the night for its offense, the play at quarterback will spark much more controversy moving forward. 

The Gators will want to see more out of Jones moving forward, the first-year starter completed 17 out of 27 of his passes for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It wasn't a stellar night through the air for Florida, but that could all change as the weeks move forward.

With 10:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Gators sent Sophomore QB Anthony Richardson onto the field in place of Jones, likely to provide a spark for its offense after a stalled drive ended in a punt with Jones at the helm.

Richardson would drive the Gators downfield for a touchdown, completing all three of his passes for 40 yards, along with carrying the football once for  26 yards. His longest pass of the night would be for 36 yards downfield for Ja'Markis Weston. The drive would be capped off by a Davis touchdown.  

That wouldn't be all, however. On Richardson's second drive of the second half, he would take the football 73 yards on a read-option play. That would be the longest run by a UF quarterback since Trey Burton took one 80 yards in 2012.  

Richardson would finish the night rushing for 160 yards, making this the 7th time that a Florida QB has gone over 100 yards, five by Tebow. Richardson capped the night with an incredible hurdle, adding to his rushing total for the night. 

Florida will have a lot to think about as it moves forward to USF next week, but it's clear that there isn't a set quarterback to run this offense, at least not yet.