The Florida Gators defeated the University of South Florida in The Swamp, 31-28. Thanks to a muffed hold, the South Florida kicker missed the game tying field goal with less than 30 seconds left to go. Throughout this game, the Gators had many miscues on offense, while the defense was solid and forced turnovers. The game was closer than it should have been.
What Went Wrong
Plenty of things contributed to the almost loss for the Gators, and it all starts with the quarterback. Anthony Richardson threw two interceptions against South Florida, one was a bad read, the other in a must score situation in the end zone. A disappointing statistic to start the season is, Anthony Richardson has more tackles than he does passing touchdowns. Now that’s just what went wrong on offense, and it’s not like Richardson played horrible, it’s the fact that he hasn’t played the same since the win against Utah.
Defense is the next thing that went unexpectedly wrong. It was quite obvious that without Ventrell Miller, the defense does not play the same. Even after a pick six by Jalen Kimber, the defense still struggled up until the fourth quarter. South Florida’s running back Brian Battie had a huge night against the Gators’ defense, putting up 150 rushing yards, while their quarterback Gerry Bohanon had 102 rushing yards. Accumulating over 200-plus rushing yards is definitely not ideal for a Gators defense, specifically on third down, where South Florida would be able to run the ball and pick up the first down. Otherwise, the Gators’ defense did pretty solid against the passing game, which is one thing that did go their way throughout the night.
Play calling was an issue tonight for the Gators’ offense. Something that made fans and even the commentators question why certain plays would be called. One specific example was in the fourth quarter on first and goal. What helped the Gators get into scoring position was their run game, and on the opponent’s five-yard line, the call was a pass by Richardson which was intercepted and lucky to not be a six going the other way. The run game was what got the team down the field, which is why it was surprising to see a pass play called. Especially when Richardson was struggling throughout the game on pass plays, and running the ball proved to be consistent. The run game, however, was one positive coming out of this game, and it definitely will continue to be a factor for Florida in the future.
What Went Right
The defense may have been in the “What Went Wrong” category, but they also were able to make the big plays when needed to. Their contribution of turnovers is the reason the Gators were given another shot to win the game. As highlighted before, they were able to get a pick six, but also on the very first drive for South Florida, the defense was able to force a fumble which did result in a field goal for the Gators. The big play that will be in the highlights from this game is the amazing diving effort by Tre’Vez Johnson to pick off Bohanon after Richardson threw an interception in the end zone. From this turnover, the Gators were able to punch it in for seven to lead the game with a little over five minutes remaining. Thanks to this, that would be the final time either team would score to end the game.
Now, the run game was the real star tonight, especially Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne. Johnson was able to rack up 103 rushing yards with one touchdown, while Etienne had 56 rushing yards and a very crucial touchdown. Nay’Quan Wright also contributed with 37 rushing yards and a touchdown. Running the ball proved effective in the Gators win against South Florida, and we can definitely expect this to be the Florida Gators strongest function this season.
Next week the Florida Gators play Tennessee at 3:30pm on CBS. After losing to Kentucky and barely winning against South Florida, the Gators will need to make some changes quickly if they have any hopes of winning this game. They should have beaten South Florida by a ton, but instead only won by three. Some would even say this was an accidental win, which may be true. If Anthony Richardson can settle down on his throws and is also involved in the rushing game, then the offense should be solid going into next Saturday. Defense will need to clean up on penalties, and having Ventrell Miller back could be crucial. The play calling will need to play to Richardson’s strengths, as well as to the run game if they have hopes of scoring against the Tennessee Volunteers’ defense. Hopefully things will be back on track, and this team will start to look like the one that beat Utah in week one.