The Florida Gator football team starts the 2021 season off with a win, beating Florida Atlantic 35-14 Saturday night in Gainesville before an announced crowd of over 86,000 fans.
How it happened:
The first half and the stifling Gators defense
The first half saw the first start in the career of junior quarterback Emory Jones. Freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson saw action in a couple of drives in the first half, but Jones received the majority of the offensive snaps.
The Gators dominated in the first quarter gaining 156 yards while limiting FAU to just 59 yards. The Gators scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and went into the second quarter with a lead of 14-0.
Senior running back Dameon Pierce scampered into the end zone just over three minutes into the night for the first score of the season for the Gators. The second touchdown of the first quarter, and the half, went to senior wide receiver Rick Wells courtesy of an Emory Jones touchdown pass. That was Rick Wells’ first touchdown as a Florida Gator.
The second quarter went scoreless as Florida was just two yards from a third touchdown and FAU could not make it past the Gator 40-yard line.
The second half and Anthony Richardson
Dameon Pierce started the second half where he left off in the first – scoring on a short-yardage rushing touchdown. That score made it 21-0 Florida.
In the middle of the third quarter, junior defensive end Khris Bogle notched a clutch sack to force a punt from FAU. A 33-yard return on the punt gave the Gators great field position, but they were unable to capitalize on it. The score was 21-0 entering the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw mass scoring. Two touchdowns from both the Gators and the FAU Owls happened in these 15 minutes.
Quarterback Anthony Richardson re-entered the game with 10 minutes left in the night and shined. He ended the night with 160 rushing yards and a touchdown, becoming the first UF quarterback to rush for 100 yards since Jeff Driskel in 2013.
Richardson was not the only player to have success on the ground. Gator running back Malik Davis scored a rushing touchdown, after not scoring in the 2020 season.
Mullen and more
In the postgame press conference, Gatorhead coach Dan Mullen talked about what surprised him during the game. He said few things surprise him anymore, but he did say the “number of penalties surprised me.”
Mullen was grateful for the fans in the Swamp. He said, “the best part of the night was the crowd… the electricity in the stadium again.”
When asked about Malik Davis’ performance, Mullen said, “that’s the Malik I know and expect throughout the season.”
Malik Davis spoke about getting to play in Tampa for the Gators’ next game against USF. Davis, who is from Tampa, said, “I haven’t played in Tampa in four years so I’m definitely excited.”
Emory Jones, who threw two interceptions in the game, said the focus in practice next week will be “attention to detail.” When asked if he expects outside noise about a quarterback controversy after Anthony Richardson’s performance, Jones said, “absolutely.” He added that he wasn’t worried about that, though. He said he is focused on next week.
The Florida Gators take on the USF Bulls on Saturday at 1pm.