Who would have thought that a team full of five stars would be ranked No. 1 in the country and look like this on Saturday?
Since Dan Mullen has been in Gainesville the Gators have been out-recruited by Georgia. On Saturday that showed. Georgia is an all-star team. They’re the AAU basketball team that other teams whisper about when they walk into the gym and hope that they won’t be matched up against them too early in the tournament.
Georgia is now 8-0 and they have the No. 1 class on Rivals with 15 four and five star commitments. This is Kirby Smart’s attitude towards recruiting. Florida has 13 total commitments with no five stars and five four-star commitments in the class.
Dan Mullen was asked after the game if there was a talent gap between Florida and Georgia, which led to this exchange between Mullen and a reporter.
Mullen is right. Florida did beat Georgia on the field last year but they haven’t beaten Georgia on the recruiting trail since Will Muschamp’s 2013 recruiting class.
Dan Mullen is a hell of a football coach, developer, game planner, and play caller. He and his staff simply have to get better on the recruiting trail and start competing with the Georgia’s and Alabama’s of the college football world if they want to start competing for championships with them.”
Baptism by fire
Starting Anthony Richardson was the right decision. Florida came into Jacksonville already playing for 2022 and Anthony Richardson should be and will be their starting quarterback next season. You need to get him valuable experience and playing time.
That will mean growing pains and when you’re facing a defense that came into the game allowing just 6.6 points allowed per game, there were bound to be some of those.
Richardson finished his first start completing 12-of-20 passes for 82 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions before he left the game due to an injury. He added 26 rushing yards on 12 carries and lost a fumble.
“Don’t think for a second that Anthony is not a competitor and wants to go out and is going to continue to work to get better,” Mullen said on Richardson after the game. “That’s a lot on me of coaching him up, helping him through, pointing out the things of areas that he can improve on out there on the field. And I talked to him about this. The talent’s there and we’ve just got to get him coached up on the intangibles.”
This game will likely be one that sticks in Richardson’s mind for a while. It certainly wasn’t the way he would have liked or wanted his first start to go but he has a long career ahead of him. This game won’t ruin him. The hope is that it’s just a stumble at the beginning of what looks to be a promising future.
Credit Emory Jones
Emory Jones waited a long time for the opportunity to start and he hadn’t truly been the reason Florida struggled. He’d been simply adequate. He was throwing too many interceptions, sure, but other than a rough game against LSU he was performing alright.
When Jones was informed that he wouldn’t start the Georgia game, a game that means a lot to the quarterback who grew up in LaGrange, Georgia, he could have pouted. He could have quit or entered the transfer portal but he didn’t.
“If you want to see the character that he has, didn’t flinch,” Mullen said of Jones. “When we said hey, we’re going to go with Anthony here, Emory’s response is, ‘Whatever it takes to help the team win, I’m all in. And I’ll be ready, Coach. You just point to me, and I’ll be ready to go.’ And he came in and I thought played really – I thought Emory came in and played really well, also.”
With Richardson’s injury status still unclear Jones could end up starting next week at South Carolina.
Can’t blame Torrence for his decision
Rashad Torrence’s first interception seemed to change the tide and momentum of the game. It ended up doing just that but in a negative way, no fault of his own.
Torrence intercepted Stetson Bennett around the two yard line and his momentum carried him into the end zone. Not wanting to take a safety, Torrence tried to take the ball out of the end zone to avoid turning an interception into two points for Georgia.
“As I got the pick, I know I didn’t get it in the endzone. I know that if I got tackled in the endzone that would be two points for the other team,” Torrence explained. “So my first instinct was get it out of the end zone and that’s what I did.”
Mullen also defended the decision, which had to be made instantaneously in the moment.
“It would have (been a touchback) but in that split second, and I talked to him, I told him that. I said it’s such a split second deal right there, you catch the ball, your momentum carries you into the end zone, take a knee take a touchback but he’s sitting there and making that instantaneous decision of how many steps did I take going into the end zone and didn’t want the safety,” Mullen said. “He made a play to get it out. They spot it at the 2 and then somehow they move the ball inside the 1 after they spot it afterward too. I asked what happened there but never got an explanation and they just said no, we moved it inside the one after we spotted it at the two. I guess that’s a question for the league in how that works because they didn’t have an explanation on that one. Certainly a heck of a play by him to make that play and that decision, you’re sitting there making that call and I’m thinking, and talking to him he knows right there, I don’t want to make this great play and end up with a safety, don’t know where I was at. I’m just trying to make a play and put us in the best situation as possible right there in that one little split second.”
Finish on a high note
The best case scenario for the Florida Gators right now is to be able to finish the season with a .500 record in conference play. Florida has four games left, needs to win both league games (South Carolina and Missouri) to do that and they need two more games to get to bowl eligibility.
Certainly not a sentence anyone expected to write or say on the eve of Halloween.
The goals have changed. They had already changed after a loss to Kentucky and then again after a loss to LSU. Now, Florida needs to play for pride. They need to play for the seniors, for each other, for the coaching staff, and for the logo on their chest.
What is this team made of?
“That’s a question I’ve got to ask myself man, what can I do? Because, you know, at this point, you know, at this point in the season you know, it’s disappointing,” senior running back Dameon Pierce said. “We’ve got more losses than we would want to have. But, you know, as a leader and as a senior guy on this team, you know, I’ve just got to lead by example and keep them guys encouraged.”
A lot has been made of where this program is headed. If the Gators end the season with four straight wins, then a bowl victory, they can finish 9-4 and carry some momentum into the offseason.
That’s what they have left to play for. That’s what they need to do the rest of the way.