5 major takeaways from Florida’s Week 2 win over South Florida

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Florida’s second game of the season played out much like its first. The Gators earned a decisive 42-20 win over South Florida on the road at Raymond James Stadium, but it wasn’t exactly a performance that inspired a lot of confidence ahead of the biggest home game UF’s had in years against No. 1 Alabama next week.

Florida’s offense exploded for 619 total yards, largely owing to a handful of explosive plays from redshirt freshman backup quarterback Anthony Richardson. But starter Emory Jones struggled once again, and though the Gators were able to take advantage of a weak Bulls defense, they will need to tighten a lot of things up ahead of the ‘Bama game.

Here are five takeaways from the win over USF.

Richardson is clearly the guy

Matt Pendleton/The Gainesville Sun

Against the Bulls, Richardson all but confirmed what many of us suspected after last week's win over Florida Atlantic: he gives this team the best chance to win. With Jones starting, Richardson only saw sporadic action. But he was nearly perfect when he got his chances. He went 3 of 3 for 152 yards and a touchdown through the air, including a 75-yard bomb to Jacob Copeland for a touchdown on his first play. The one pass that didn't result in a touchdown was a gorgeous pass to Copeland at the sideline that Richardson threw across his body. It wasn't all bad for Jones, who went 14 of 22 for 151 yards and a touchdown while also totaling 82 yards and a score on the ground. But he threw another very bad interception and could have had a second. He's just too slow reading the field, and the touch on his throws is inconsistent. Richardson came up limping after an 80-yard rushing touchdown, and that ended his afternoon. But if he's healthy moving forward, it's obvious who should see the most reps against the Crimson Tide.

Copeland has his breakout game

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

Last week, I wrote that no receiver stepped up at the clear top target in the passing game. Copeland must have heard the challenge, because he had the best game of his career, by far, on Saturday. He had five catches for 175 yards and two scores, and he was a part of nearly every big play in the passing game. Copeland is a former top recruit who has been a bit buried on the depth chart to this point in his career, but he really stepped up on Saturday. Xzavier Henderson, who is currently a backup, also had a great game, reeling in four catches for 68 yards and a score. He could challenge Justin Shorter for playing time and targets, who so far hasn't impressed in the first two games. He had just two catches on five targets Saturday for 23 yards.

We may have overreacted to the pass rush

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

After a season in which Florida struggled on defense, the disruptive pass rush it showed in Week 1 against the Owls was highly encouraging. UF sacked N'Kosi Perry six times and pressured him a lot more. But against the Bulls, the pass rush was almost non-existent. The team only totaled one sack, which came from Jeremiah Moon, and the only other quarterback hurry came from safety Mordecai McDaniel. The front seven did shut down the run game, though, totaling nine tackles for loss. Zachary Carter led the way in that department with 2.5 sacks in the backfield. USF's offensive line was a strength, but it's hard to imagine what Alabama's Bryce Young will do if he has that kind of time, especially with the way Florida's secondary is playing. More on that next. USF's offensive line was a strength, but it's scary to imagine what

UF needs to find the answer opposite Kaiir Elam

Matt Pendleton/The Gainesville Sun

There's not a single player on the UF roster who saw more offseason hype than cornerback Kaiir Elam, and for good reason. He's been a shutdown corner for as long as he's been playing in the orange and blue. He continued his high level of play on Saturday, totaling Florida's first and only pick of the season. Opposite Elam, however, are a lot more question marks. Avery Helm has started the last two games, but he has not played particularly well. However, his workload could be explained by the struggles of five-star true freshman Jason Marshall Jr. Marshall was expected to win the starting job after Jaydon Hill was lost for the season, but he'll need to play a lot better moving forward. He was beat a lot, and while Helm hasn't been very impressive, he has looked better both as a tackler and in coverage. But considering Elijah Blades hasn't seen the field much, it seems Marshall is the only other player competing for that spot right now.

Missing persons report: Florida's tight end room

UAA Communications/Isabella Marley

After the prolific numbers Kyle Pitts put up last year, many of us assumed the tight ends would play a prominent role in the passing game yet again, especially with an experienced starter in Kemore Gamble. But for the second week in a row, no tight ends recorded a catch against South Florida. Nick Elksnis was targeted late in the game on a throw from Jones in the end zone, but it was late and he couldn't come down with it. Aside from that, the position has largely been an afterthought. It's possible that Mullen is saving some looks for the Alabama game. But it seems more likely that Jones' relative ineffectiveness in the passing game has made it difficult to involve the tight ends. But we saw last year how big of an impact they can have on the game, and Mullen needs to find a way to bring them into the fold offensively. [listicle id=53273]

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