The Florida Gators took down the USF Bulls in relatively dominant fashion, 42-20, to earn their second victory of the season on Saturday in Tampa.
Entering their second tune-up game to begin the 2021 season, Florida looked to capitalize on their opportunity to work through the growing pains seen in week one associated with new faces taking over starting roles. Starting strong, the Gators would look to have all three units clicking on all cylinders.
However, as a runaway game was in the making with a 35-3 halftime lead, the Gators' re-emergence from the tunnel proved to bring similar struggles faced during their week one matchup against FAU.
Showing a mix of positive and negatives throughout the contest, AllGators presents the good, the bad and the ugly for UF’s win over USF.
Good: 666 yards of total offense (unless you're superstitious)
Performing on the heels of a dominant offensive attack in 2020, the 2021 Gators are holding their own.
The Florida offense has been a vastly criticized group following the first two games, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing at a high level.
One week removed from a stellar 400-yard rushing game on the backs of Malik Davis and Anthony Richardson, Florida had their way against the USF defense for a large portion of the contest.
Totaling 666 yards of offense on Saturday, Florida assumed a balanced attack that consisted of multiple home-run hitting in both facets.
Through the air, wide receiver Jacob Copeland explosively asserted himself — after just one catch in week one — with five receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Led yet again by Richardson on the ground, largely due to an 80-yard scamper off the right edge for a touchdown, Florida churned out over 300-yards by way of seven different ball carriers.
While the offense is drastically different in terms of scheme from last year to this year, the numbers are proving not to be as wildly different as many believed they’d be coming into the season but is subject to change as the Gators enter their conference schedule.
Despite the decrease in passing yards per contest, the veteran running back room — and improved offensive line — have taken steps forward to make up for those losses on the ground.
If Florida can continue marching down the field offensively — and capitalize with points when given the opportunities — the Gators will be in a good spot for the remainder of the year.
Bad: Turnover differential
Two weeks, four turnovers.
Florida has been severely stung by the turnover bug in the first two weeks of the season. Despite the quantity just equating to two per game, the giveaways have come at inopportune times, subsequently taking points off the board.
Against USF, bad decisions and lack of anticipation were yet again the biggest downfall for starting quarterback Emory Jones after a promising first half.
Attempting to make a pass outside the numbers on his first pick of the day, Jones eyed down his receiver the entire way and allowed defensive back Mekhi LaPointe to easily jump the route and take it back the other way.
On his second interception thrown coming on the ensuing possession, Jones looked to find Trent Whittemore down the field. Despite having Whittemore behind the defense, Jones attempted to zip a pass through a small window into instead of lofting the ball over the top.
As a result, the Bulls took it in the opposite direction.
While Florida did come away with one turnover versus USF — an acrobatic interception by Kaiir Elam in the second quarter — the Gators' inability to take care of the football on offense has them in the negative (-1) on the season as the Gators' defense recovered two fumbles in week one as well.
With the caliber of talent yet to reach the heights it will in week three against Alabama, Florida has been able to overcome their carelessness with the football.
However, if the trend continues, turnovers will be the downfall of the Gators in 2021.
Ugly: Quarterback controversy builds
Despite Dan Mullen’s insistence that there is no quarterback controversy heading into the biggest weekend of Florida’s season, the electrifying show put on by Richardson in his first two performances has caused division within the Gators fan base.
In two weeks of action, Jones has accounted for 264 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions on 63.3 percent completion plus 155 yards and a score on the ground.
Meanwhile, despite operating with significantly fewer snaps, Richardson has accumulated 192 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 275 yards and two 70-plus yard touchdowns on the ground.
Week one proved to be no anomaly where Richardson’s talents and execution are concerned on Saturday.
As a result, outsiders have called for the Gainesville native to assume the starting role, not necessarily because of Jones’ ineptitude — as he has proven he can have success at points this season — but because of the abundance of talent Richardson possesses and has shown.
Despite Richardson out dueling Jones, the decision — if there was one — may have been made for the coaching staff when Richardson pulled up lame nearing the end of his 80-yard touchdown run against USF.
Diagnosed by head coach Dan Mullen as having hamstring tightness, Richardson failed to return for the remainder of the game and made his way into the locker with a slight limp following the game's conclusion.
While the injury itself and the severity are still unknown, the Florida offense will stick with Jones in the meantime, hoping he learns from his previous mistakes as a passer.
However, the controversy will only reignite when Richardson returns, given the production and explosive plays from the redshirt freshman in his small sample size.
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