WATCH: Florida Gators Cruise to 35-14 Victory Over Florida Atlantic in Season Opener
By Chris Harry, Florida Gators // September 5, 2021
ABOVE VIDEO: The No. 13 Florida Gators open up the 2021 college football season by defeating the Florida Atlantic Owls, 35-14. The Gators run for 400 YDS & 4 TD, with Anthony Richardson and Malik Davis each going over 100 YDS.
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (Florida Gators) – The first packed house at Spurrier/Florida Field in more than 21 months probably left the fans wanting more from the home team’s new-look offense, but they settled for a 35-14 victory over Florida Atlantic and a long-awaited night of college-football atmosphere with a crowd of 86,840 celebrating the return of the “Swamp.”
Quarterback Emory Jones, in his first career start (and tasked with replacing 2020 Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask), accounted for 187 yards of offense and passed for a touchdown.
Senior tailback Malik Davis rushed for 102 yards and a score, while classmate Dameon Pierce ran for a couple TDs, as the 13th-ranked Gators took care of the Owls on a pretty September football night. Jones, the fourth-year junior from LaGrange, Ga., completed 17 of 27 passes for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions (one coming in the end zone), while rushing 10 times for 74 yards.
Redshirt freshman backup Anthony Richardson figures to be a topic of conversation this week, after relieving Jones and leading the Gators on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, the second coming on his electrifying 73-yard run.
Richardson, who ducked in for two series in the first half, completed all three of his seven passes for 40 yards and rushed seven times for 160 yards (all but 28 in the second half). He looked really good, but this was Jones’ game all the way, though, and he’ll come away from it knowing he and the Florida passing game have a lot of work to do after leading the nation in throwing the ball last season at 378.6 yards per game.
Defensively, Florida gave up 351 yards and 23 first downs, but forced a pair of turnovers on the way to flirting with the unit’s first shutout since 2019 — and a year after finishing 89th nationally and allowing 30.8 points per game.
UF scored on its first possession, with Jones leading an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Pierce scoring on a 2-yard run. A 9-yard Jones-to-Rick Wells scoring toss gave the Gators a two-touchdown cushion in the first period. Pierce added a 3-yard score in the fourth period and Davis dove over for a 1-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter.
The Owls staved off a shutout with an eight-play, 67-yard drive ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Johnny Ford. Florida Atlantic quarterback N’Kosi Perry completed 19 of his 33 passes for 261 yards, with his lone TD passing coming with 1:37 left in the game.
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