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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly From the Florida Gators Loss to LSU

The Florida Gators dropped another game in the road to an SEC foe. That requires a deeper look into the good, the bad and the ugly from the contest.

There is a lot to be said about the Gators third loss of the season to LSU on Saturday.

Losing to an undermanned Bayou Bengals team for the second year in a row, the trip to Tiger Stadium exposed some serious questions marks about the future of Florida football, both short term and long term.

While the effects of the game in both regards will likely be analyzed on AllGators throughout the bye week, now is the time to recap the damaging loss to the Tigers on Saturday.

As a result, I break down the one good, one of many bads, and a special two-part ugly from Florida’s performance against LSU.

Good: Anthony Richardson

The near-savior of the day.

167 yards on 58% completion isn’t usually the stat line you would expect when talking about promising performances from a quarterback. Add in 37 yards on the ground and four total touchdowns and the narrative changes slightly.

However, when you turn on the film and watch the redshirt freshman go to work, his poise and ability to control the game pops.

Taking over after the first drive of the second half, Richardson produced in a way that signified a star in the making for the Florida Gators offense.

He still made two poorly judged mistakes while at the helm, both of which resulting in interceptions and one of which may have put the nail in Florida’s coffin at the end with an ill-advised heave to Rick Wells.

However, he was also the reason they were in the game to begin with.

Showcasing raw playmaking ability through the air and on the ground in the second half against LSU, Richardson made an immediate impact following Emory Jones’ second interception — third overall — of the game.

Being the catalyst for what turned out to be a shootout, Richardson consistently made high-level throws with rhythm and anticipation, getting the Gators' best wide receiver Jacob Copeland involved in the process.

His talent was showcased in a high volume, but given his youth and immaturity, Florida has to be content with allowing the growing pains that were evident when he faced pressure. Simply, Florida needs to remain patient while he learns what he can and can’t do as a passer in the SEC.

Going forward, there are questions swirling about the possibility Richardson starts when the Gators take on Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 30.

If Mullen does start Richardson — which he should — Florida will be grooming a hometown hero with tremendous upside to be the future of the program after a disappointing 2021.

His play against LSU speaks volumes. He was able to prove he can be a dynamic player for opposing teams to defend.

Now, it’s time to hand the reins over and allow him to continue developing with a high volume of in-game reps.

Bad: Emory Jones

Jones’ first year as the unrivaled starter in the Gators offense has not gone to plan for the redshirt junior.

Being groomed to be the heir of Kyle Trask in blue and orange for three seasons, Jones was awarded for his patience and hard word with the title of starting quarterback.

However, showing lapses in judgment and a lack of anticipation to push the ball downfield, Jones has been criticized by those accustomed to seeing the high-octane offense that Dan Mullen operated last season.

His struggles came to a head-on Saturday.

In his seventh start of the season, Jones would account for just 161 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown — a Hail Mary to end the first half — on 63% completion.

Following the Hail Mary conversion to Justin Shorter as the second quarter clock his triple zeros, Florida had momentum coming out of the locker room.

Given a chance to double up on points when receiving the ball to start the second half, Jones would make another costly error. Instead, he threw a pick-six.

As a result, Florida fell down 28-13, and Jones would be benched in favor of Richardson for the remainder of the game — outside of three plays in relief of an injured Richardson.

His rough day was a major reason for the Gators program-sinking loss to a Tigers team that was depleted and swirling out of control at 3-3.

To make matters worse, head coach Ed Orgeron and LSU announced that they would be parting ways after the season on Sunday, sharing that the talks to depart were a large focus of the week leading up to the matchup with UF.

While the loss doesn’t sit on Jones’ shoulders, much like the other two did not, his inability to take care of the football and manage the game from his spot at quarterback possibly has him on the outside looking in at the starting spot after just seven games as the unrivaled QB1.

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Ugly Pt. 1: Defense

Counter left, counter right.

Doesn’t matter, Florida couldn’t stop it.

Even though the Gators defense had been much improved from last season, Saturday in Baton Rouge was a call back to the most glaring concern from last season, utter ineptitude.

In fact, the issue was magnified by the lack of in-game adjustments — at least the correct ones — to stop the Tigers rushing attack that pounded the rock on a play where the LSU running back would follow two pulling offensive lineman on a counter rush.

“We made the adjustments we were given to make,” linebacker Mohamoud Diabate said. With his carefully chosen words, he indirectly cast the blame onto scheme and coaching, and it was warranted.

Historically, LSU has been a team that can run the ball on any team in the country with ease, pairing elite running backs with monsters along the offensive line.

Not this year, at least until week seven.

Entering in as the 127th-ranked rushing defense in the NCAA, LSU found a rhythm against the Gators, establishing it with Tyrion David-Price in the second half.

Posting 321 total yards on the ground, the Tigers saw their lead back in Price rush for a career day against Todd Grantham’s defense, blowing away the rushing totals he established earlier this season.

He tallied 287 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries on the day. Embarrassing numbers for a defense that has been focused on redeeming itself this season.

Former Florida linebacker great Brandon Spikes shared his thoughts on the Gators getting gashed by the counter concept to Davis-Price over and over again.

The wasn’t the only time he shared his disbelief following the conclusion of the contest.

“That's pretty easy to stop,” Spikes said. “I could blow that [expletive] up myself back in the glory days. I don't get it.”

Last year, a historically great Gators offense was plagued by a discombobulated effort defensively. That happened again against LSU, dropping two straight games to the Tigers as considerable favorites.

Both coming by way of a defensive struggle.

While changes to the defensive staff has been necessary for some time, after Saturday’s performance, it’s an imperative move to make.

Ugly Pt. 2: Dan Mullen

This has been brewing for quite some time, and the pot has finally boiled over.

If Dan Mullen’s legacy as the Florida Gators head coach wasn’t smeared with their loss to the Kentucky Wildcats two Saturdays ago, it sure is now.

Unexpected losses to a lesser opponent have been the Gators M.O. since Mullen’s arrival in 2018.

Dropping games to Missouri, Kentucky (twice), LSU (three times) and Georgia (twice with a third loss pending in two weeks), Florida’s efforts to return to national prominence have once again come crashing down.

His prowess as an offensive mind will never be questioned. When he wants to dial it up, he is arguably the best play-called there is in college football.

However, his shortcomings as a leader — and nonchalant attitude going into games that are not marquee matchups — have tainted what had the potential to be an illustrious resumé when he made the flip from Mississippi State to Florida a few years ago.

Against LSU, the stubbornness of Mullen’s past — refusing to make the necessary personnel moves — came back to hurt him and his team in a big way, as Todd Grantham’s defense gasped for air and his quarterback situation met its breaking point.

If the losses weren’t tough enough to swallow, the questions marks of his commitment to the program have created serious concern about his future as the head ball coach at UF.

Mullen is 4-6 in his last 10 games against Power Five opponents. He was shown smiling when walking across the field after what was a season-defining loss to Kentucky two weeks ago.

Does he no longer care?

A considerable portion of the fan base seems to think that’s the case and have turned on the once-beloved head coach.

The LSU loss is one that many view as inexcusable. As a result, Mullen’s seat is getting increasingly warmer week-by-week.

Stay tuned to AllGators for continuous coverage of Florida Gators football, basketball and recruiting. Follow along on social media at @SI_AllGators on Twitter and Florida Gators on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.