Saturday night’s outcome for Florida football was not what the fanbase expected as the South Florida Bulls nearly pulled off a massive upset in the Swamp. However, the Orange and Blue prevailed, 31-28, but not before the damage had been done.
The Gators looked all out of sorts both on offense and defense. For the former, Anthony Richardson had his second-straight subpar performance in which he threw a pair of picks, while the defense simply could not find an answer for the Bulls’ running game. The end result was a game that pretty much amounted to a loss despite the mark in the win column.
However, there were a few shining spots — most notably, the Gators’ ground game which carried the team to the promised land while the defense did manage a couple of interceptions along with a forced fumble.
The Gators Wire staff assembled shortly after the game to give their immediate takes in a good, bad and ugly format. Take a look below at each respective member’s immediate reaction to Florida’s ugly victory in the Swamp against USF.
Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun
GOOD: The running game really blossomed in this one as [autotag]Montrell Johnson[/autotag] and [autotag]Trevor Etienne[/autotag] both put the team on their shoulders and carried the Gators to a dicey victory. They started off slow in the first quarter, gaining just 32 yards on five attempts, but after Johnson’s 62-yard touchdown run, the ground game started hitting on all gears.
BAD: The defense let USF’s ground game run all over it and really never seemed to have an answer for the Bulls. Even as the clock wound down in regulation, USF was able to grind downfield to get into field goal range… which they botched away on two bad snaps. Florida caught two big breaks there.
UGLY: Anthony Richardson threw a pair of picks once again and threw a few other ducks that had fans clenching their teeth. He got off to a solid start throwing the ball, going 7 of 9 for 75 yards in the first half but came out of the locker room stale with his head simply not in the game. He was not at all effective on the ground either after coming up lame on a slide following his longest run of the night.
David Rosenberg - Assistant Editor
GOOD: The three-headed monster Florida’s deploying at running back bailed out Anthony Richardson and the offense against USF, but it’s [autotag]Trevor Etienne[/autotag] who looks like the most promising player of the bunch. Seeing him lead the team in carries and finish off that last touchdown drive to take the lead felt right, and we should only be seeing more of this young man after a strong start to his collegiate career.
BAD: Richardson is a problem right now, but I think he works things out so I’ll give him another week before digging into him again. Billy Napier’s play calling in big moments down the line won’t be spared, though. After driving down the field with a potent rushing attack, Napier opted to go for a goal-line fade that Richardson didn’t put in the right spot and threw an interception on. You run the ball into the end zone 11 out of 10 times there, and that decision kept this game closer than it needed to be. Also, can we stop with the wide receiver screens? They do not work.
UGLY: The front seven looks lost without their leader, Ventrell Miller. [autotag]Shemar James[/autotag] had an early sack and fumble recovery, but he and [autotag]Scooby Williams[/autotag] left a lot to be desired in the middle. Up front, [autotag]Brenton Cox Jr[/autotag]. is the only player I’m seeing consistency from on a weekly basis, and he needs some help with Miller down. That boot can’t come off Miller’s foot fast enough.
Pat Dooley - Staff Writer
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Florida found a way to win its second game of the season 31-28 when USF missed a field goal with seconds to play thanks to a bobbled hold.
That’s three games and three games that came down to the final quarter for these guys.
GOOD: Nobody complained louder than me about Florida’s inability to come up with turnovers over the last two seasons. The Gators needed every one of the three turnovers to help them win, especially the interception by [autotag]Tre’Vez Johnson[/autotag] to set up the winning score.
BAD: Florida’s defense has some real issues with teams running the ball. Utah gashed the Gators and Kentucky had some important big runs. But USF rushing for 286 yards is not a good sign for the rest of the season, especially with [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag]’s tender ankle.
UGLY: We hate to say it but defenses are obviously going to make Anthony Richardson throw the ball. On Saturday night, he was 10 of 18 with two bad interceptions. The second one was a bad call as well after Florida ran it down USF’s throat and then tried a first-and-goal fade pattern.
Sergio De La Espriella - Staff Writer
GOOD: If the Gators are going to win football games this season, it’s clear that the offensive production is going to come from the ground game. Running backs [autotag]Montrell Johnson[/autotag] Jr., [autotag]Trevor Etienne[/autotag], [autotag]Nay’Quan Wright[/autotag] all found the end zone and split the carries fairly evenly, with Johnson Jr. making the most of his opportunities, rushing for over 100 yards.
BAD: It’s very clear that the Florida defense is completely different without [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag] out there. The defensive line took a step back from their stellar performances over the first two games, allowing USF to rush for nearly 300 yards, something that tougher SEC competition will almost certainly exploit.
UGLY: I’m not ready to sound the alarm on Anthony Richardson’s passing ability, but it’s clear that he needs a lot of work and time to develop into the player we think he can be. The talent and athleticism are there, but Saturday’s two interceptions showed, he’s just not there yet. Side note: unless you have 2012 Calvin Johnson, don’t throw a goal-line fade.
Tyler Nettuno - Gators Wire alumnus
GOOD: Well, [autotag]Jalen Kimber[/autotag] had Florida’s first pick-six since 2018, which ultimately proved to make the difference in this one, and another clutch interception from Tre’Vez Johnson late in the fourth quarter set up a game-winning touchdown. The secondary looked good and won the game for this team. Great performances from Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne on the ground played a big role as well. That’s about all I’ve got. Winning is always better than the alternative, but UF was lucky to avoid an embarrassing upset at home in this one.
BAD: Florida was outgained in this one by a mediocre Bulls team, allowing nearly 300 yards on the ground including more than 100 for quarterback Gerry Bohanon. The Gators were out possessed by 13 minutes as they struggled mightily to stay on the field, going just 3 of 8 on third downs. They ran just 48 offensive plays. What I’m trying to get at is that the flow of this contest was a nightmare for Florida, and it has to figure out something to spark this offense because what we saw simply won’t cut it against tougher opponents.
UGLY: I was willing to believe that last weekend’s performance against Kentucky was just an off-night for Richardson. I expected a nice bounce-back this week. We saw the opposite. Richardson may have been even worse in this game, and he threw two more interceptions. He’s still looking for his first passing touchdown this season, and he looked entirely ineffective against a bottom-tier FBS opponent. Make no mistake, he’s still the best this team has at the quarterback spot by a country mile. But given the lack of electric playmakers on offense outside of Etienne, it’s not nearly enough right now.
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