Photo: Emory Jones; Credit: Zach Goodall, AllGators.com
Emory Jones' first game as the Florida Gators' unrivaled starter at quarterback did not go as smoothly as he had envisioned when preparing over the course of the offseason.
Facing off against the FAU Owls last Saturday, Jones would start the game out relatively well. Despite missing a few throws early on, the Gators rushing attack – that included the redshirt junior quarterback – willed the offense to back-to-back touchdowns on the first two drives of the contest.
From there, Dan Mullen's offense started to sputter, failing to score another point in the first half.
As the leader of the offense, a large part of the blame rested on Jones' shoulders, something he recognized when watching back his performance immediately following the game's conclusion.
"Mainly, I could just tell that, that was my first start," Jones said during his press conference period on Monday. "I learned how hard the grind is of being a starter and how detailed you have to be and how locked in you have to be mentally every single play. Basically just how much I have to pay attention to details, and just lock into play after play."
Accumulating for 113 yards on 17-for-27 passing, Jones ended the contest with a one-to-two touchdown to interception ratio, a dark cloud over what was slated to be a special night for the LeGrange (Ga.) native.
Overall, his struggles stemmed from his lack of anticipation – especially when attempting to make throws down the field – and inconsistency with ball placement on routine passes. When asked about how he felt going in, Jones said that he didn't feel nervous before or during the contest but believed he lacked comfortability with how he looked on film.
"I mean, I wasn't really that nervous coming in, honestly," Jones admitted. "It was just more of being comfortable out there. I mean, after watching it, I had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of plays.
"Just watching, I didn’t look very comfortable to myself, and I mean I’m very comfortable every day in practice. I’ve been doing this for a couple years, so just watching it, I didn’t feel like I looked really comfortable, like it was my first start.”
His first start it was.
While Jones struggled to make some plays that were presented to him throughout the evening – making decisions he doesn't usually make when competing in practice – the inexperienced signal-caller got his first taste of what a substantial snap count entails and learned the importance of homing in on the minute details going forward.
"Could do a lot of things differently, threw better balls and make better decisions but, I mean all I can do is just grow from it and just learn from it," Jones explained. "I’m glad I got the opportunity to actually just get a chance to learn from all that."
Now, Jones is focused on bouncing back in week two on the road against USF in Tampa.
Playing a Bulls team that is coming off a 45-0 loss in their season opener to NC State, Jones will have an opportunity to focus on the finer details he harped on in his media availability.
"I gotta do better than that and just come back and try to do better next week. ... It's easy to fix, like I said, just the attention to details and I’m locked into that this week."
Just one week out from an immense test when Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Gainesville, Jones' progression from his first-to-second start will be under the microscope. For now, Jones and the Gators are taking the season one game at a time.
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