Halftime Takeaways: Gators overwhelmed early by ‘Bama but not out

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Florida trails Alabama 21-9 at the half, but the Gators held the Crimson Tide scoreless in the second quarter.

Alabama looked dominant early, scoring on its first three drives and forcing an interception by Emory Jones. Florida is without its star backup quarterback Anthony Richardson, and it’s hard not to notice his absence.

With 30 minutes left to go, here’s what we got from the first half of Florida vs. Alabama.

WATCH: Malik Davis runs for Florida’s first touchdown

Anthony Richardson is the spark of the Gators offense

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida needs Anthony Richardson, even as a backup. Dan Mullen decided that Richardson would only play if starter Emory Jones couldn't against Alabama, and the lack of explosive plays was noticeable. Richardson's scrambles, designed or not, energize the offense. Keeping him safe is a priority, but a close game could be decided by a mistake from Jones. The Gators still have had big plays in the first half, but the frequency at which Richardson produces them is hard to match.

The tight ends return to the offensive game plan

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Emory Jones targeted tight end Kemore Gamble on three of his first four pass attempts and the duo connected on all three for 31 yards. After going without a reception in Florida's first two games, Gamble finished the half with a career-high five receptions for 32 yards in the first half against Alabama. Jones went to backup Keon Zipperer twice in the second quarter. After a shuttle pass resulted in 1 yard, Zipperer exploded for a 30-yard gain on a drive that ended in a touchdown. Florida head coach Dan Mullen said that he had saved parts of the playbook for bigger games. Going to the tight ends early seemed to catch Alabama off guard.

Tackling is a problem against good athletes

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama's first three drives against Florida resulted in touchdowns, and the Crimson Tide didn't particularly struggle to drive down the field during any of them. Florida's defense failed to make easy tackles at times, including a missed tackle by cornerback Kaiir Elam in the red zone. Alabama's skill players appear to be too fast and elusive for Florida to handle. The Gators tightened things up in the second quarter and forced three straight punts. Elam made up for his earlier miss with a pass breakup to close out both drives.

The crowd is a factor

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

Gators fans showed up in numbers to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this week to support their team, and they made a huge impact early on. Alabama seemed overwhelmed by the crowd noise early. Bryce Young got caught up in the first quarter and failed to snap the ball before a delay of game penalty, and the defense jumped offsides on the first drive. After the Crimson Tide went up 21-3, the crowd quieted down and even turned on quarterback Emory Jones. Boos rained in as Jones struggled, but he earned back the raucous cheers when the Gators drove down the field.

Alabama is really good, but not inhuman

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama looked like they were going to run away things early, but the second quarter should provide at least a sliver of optimism for Gators fans. The defense proved that Young can be gotten to and the offense is showing new looks that work when Jones doesn't panic. Malik Davis is once again proving to be reliable in the backfield with 56 yards and a touchdown. Jones's 10 attempts for 40 yards helps draw attention off Davis and should be Florida's bread and butter in the second half. 12 points is a manageable comeback, even against Nick Saban's dynasty. Follow us @GatorsWire on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Florida Gators news, notes and opinions.

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