Florida Gators 35, Florida Atlantic Owls 14

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Florida opened the season Saturday with a 35-14 win over Florida Atlantic by using the running game.

The Gators had two 100-yard rushers, Malik Davis (14-104) and backup quarterback Anthony Richardson (7-160), in going for 400 yards.

Florida has now won 32 consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in FBS. Florida last lost a home opener in 1989 to Ole Miss.

Florida will next play at South Florida (0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Tampa before returning to Gainesville for games against Alabama and Tennessee.

Whitley's wisdom: Jones deserves a payoff for his patience

More:Gators ready to unveil new-look offense, improved defense against Owls

No. 11 Florida 35, Florida Atlantic 14

FAU        0   0   0   14 — 14

Florida  14    0   7  14 — 35

First Quarter

FLA_Pierce 2 run (C.Howard kick), 11:27.

FLA_Wells 9 pass from E.Jones (C.Howard kick), 1:52.

Third Quarter

FLA_Pierce 3 run (C.Howard kick), 6:47.

Fourth Quarter

FLA_Davis 1 run (C.Howard kick), 7:42.

FAU_J.Ford 2 run (Shahriari kick), 4:27.

FLA_A.Richardson 73 run (Christmann kick), 3:43.

FAU_B.Robinson 13 pass from Perry (Shahriari kick), 1:37.

                         FAU                                           FLA

First downs          22                                           25

Total Net Yards    360                                          553

Rushes-yards       36-79                                     46-394

Passing                   281                                           159

Punt Returns               1--1                                   3-50

Kickoff Returns          3-61                                     1-0

Interceptions Ret.         2-0                                0-0

Comp-Att-Int             20-35-0                         20-35-2

Sacked-Yards Lost      4-29                              0-0

Punts                          5-47.4                          2-49.0

Fumbles-Lost               2-2                            0-0

Penalties-Yards                6-25                     9-74

Time of Possession          29:42                 30:18

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING_FAU, Davidson 9-52, J.Ford 9-32, Charles 2-10, McCammon 1-2, Dean 1-0, Posey 3-(minus 1), Perry 11-(minus 16). Florida, Richardson 7-160, Davis 13-97, Jones 10-74, Pierce 6-31, Bowman 4-20, Lingard 2-6, Wright 3-5, Weston 1-1.

PASSING_FAU, Perry 19-34-0-261, (Team) 1-1-0-20. Florida, Jones 17-27-2-119, Richardson 3-8-0-40.

RECEIVING_FAU, B.Robinson 4-60, Mitchell 4-51, Wester 4-29, D.Adams 2-85, J.Ford 2-20, Burton 1-13, Dean 1-11, Chase 1-7, Davidson 1-5. Florida, Wells 5-36, Pierce 5-25, Shorter 4-11, Weston 2-43, Whittemore 1-18, Copeland 1-15, Davis 1-7, Wright 1-4.

MISSED FIELD GOALS_None.

FIRST QUARTER

FAU        0

Florida  14

 Gators score | 7:51 p.m. 

QB Emory Jones marches the offense 75 yards in 11 plays and Dameon Pierce caps it off with a 2-yard TD run. Gators 7, FAU 0. 11:27 1Q

Gators running back Dameon Pierce scores the first touchdown of the season on a pitch from quarterback Emory Jones (5)  on Saturday against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

 Jones throws TD | 8:14 p.m.

Emory Jones connects with receiver Rick Wells for 9-yard TD pass play for a 14-0 lead with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter. Jones sparked the drive with a 23-yard run on third down.

Florida wide receiver Rick Wells (12) runs into the end zone to score a touchdown off a pass from Emory Jones during the first quarter Saturday against Florida Atlantic at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

 Big-play Carter | 8:23 p.m.

Zach Carter blows up play in the FAU backfield, causing a sack fumble. Gervon Dexter recovers and Gators take over on their 49-yard line.

FAU        0

Florida  14

What went right: On the game’s opening possession, quarterback Emory Jones led Florida on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in his first career start. Faced with third-and-9, he completed a 15-yard pass to Jacob Copeland and moved the sticks later in the series with a 7-yard pass to Ja’Markis Weston on third-and-3 from the FAU 11. Two plays later, running back Dameon Pierce scored from two yards out on an option pitch from Jones. On his second series, Jones marched the offense 80 yards in 10 plays, including his 23-yard run on third-and-7, and capped it off with a nine-yard pass to Rick Wells for the sixth-year receiver’s first-career touchdown. 

What went wrong: The start of Florida’s first two defensive possessions. FAU reached Gators territory each time, with the second trip coming via a pass interference penalty on freshman cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. But the Owls opening drive ended on third-and-19 with a QB hurry by Jeremiah Moon and Princely Umanmielen. On their ensuing series, Zach Carter forced a fumble and fellow defensive lineman Gervon Dexter recovered at the UF 49. 

Play of the quarter: Senior Malik Davis got the start at running back and took his first carry 31 yards to put the Gators in FAU territory. 

Trending: Jones, who accounted for 82 yards (56 passing) in the first quarter, completing 7 of 10 pass attempts and carrying the ball three times for 27 yards.

Zach Abolverdi

SECOND QUARTER

FAU        0   0

Florida  14    0

Halftime | 9:09 p.m.

Gators come up empty twice in red zone to settle for 14-0 lead at break.

What went right: Not much, other than Florida making two more defensive stands after the Owls reached UF territory. Moon and Amari Burney stuffed FAU’s Javion Posey for no yards on fourth-and-3, and then Brenton Cox Jr. hurried quarterback N’Kosi Perry into a fourth-down incompletion in the final minute of the half.

What went wrong: Both of Florida’s offensive possessions in the quarter. After recovering a fumble at the end of the first, backup quarterback Anthony Richardson drove the Gators inside the red zone with three straight runs for 28 yards after a 15-yard carry by Clemson transfer Demarkcus Bowman. But after a delay of game on Richardson, Jones was inserted back into the game on third-and-7 from the FAU 12 and threw an interception in the end zone. Jones got the ball back after a turnover on downs and marched the offense back into the red zone, but failed to convert on fourth-and-goal with a QB sneak. 

Play of the quarter: A 21-yard run by Malik Davis on third-and-3. 

Trending: Davis, who leads all ball carriers with 84 yards rushing on eight carries.

Zach Abolverdi

THIRD QUARTER

FAU        0   0   0

Florida  14    0   7

Gators up 21-0 | 9:54 p.m.

Dameon Pierce scored his second touchdown of the game, a 3-yard burst, to put UF up 21-0 and cap an 88-yard, 15-play drive at the 6:47 mark.

Xzavier Henderson with an impressive 33-yard punt return to put the ball on the FAU 41 after the Owls go nowhere on their possession. Drive doesn't amount to much.

What went right: Mostly just Florida’s rushing attack. Led by a stable of backs, the Gators added 71 yards on the ground to their running tally, giving UF 259 rushing yards heading into the fourth quarter of play. That’s already more rushing yards than Florida managed in any game last season. Dameon Pierce’s 3-yard run capped an 88-yard drive and put UF up 21-0 on FAU, while the defense kept Florida on course for a shutout victory. 

What went wrong: Not too much for the Gators, although Emory Jones’ interception – his second of the night – with 46 seconds left in the quarter was certainly the low point. The run game has been a resounding success tonight, but Jones has yet to dazzle. 

Play of the quarter: Xzavier Henderson’s 33-yard punt return gets the nod here. The Gators looked shaky in the return game early, resulting in Henderson getting a look. 

Trending: Florida Atlantic, backed up to their 36-yard line, is still looking to make something happen on offense, and they’ll get another shot after Jones’ interception.

— Graham Hall

 Gators lead 21-0 into 4th | 10:15 p.m.

FOURTH QUARTER

FAU        0   0   0   14 — 14

Florida  14    0   7  14 — 35

UF stopped FAU's drive when Dexter recovered a fumble.

Tonight's attendance: 86,840

A 26-yard run by Richardson.

Richardson finds Ja' Markis Weston open down the sideline for a 36-yard gain to the FAU 5-yard line.

 Gators push lead | 10:36 p.m.

Malik Davis scores from a yard out at the 7:42 mark to cap a seven-play, 73-yard drive.

 Owls score | 10:47 p.m.

Johnny Ford runs in from 2 yards out to score the Owl TD and cap an 8-play, 67-yard drive in 3:08.

 Richardson scores | 10:53 p.m.

Richardson scores on a 73-yard run to put UF up 35-7 with 3:43 remaining.

N'Kosi Perry passes to Brandon Robinson for 13-yard TD.

What went right: Malik Davis’ one-yard run not only gave the Gators a 28-nothing advantage – it marked the Tampa native’s first touchdown run since the 2018 season. And redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson looked impressive in the fourth quarter. The former Eastside High standout orchestrated the drive that set up Davis’ score, completing all three of his passing attempts for 40 yards in the process. But Richardson was only just getting started. On UF’s next offensive series, Richardson sprinted 73 yards down the right sideline and past the Owls’ defense for six. He became the first UF quarterback since Jeff Driskel to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. 

What went wrong: The Gators squandered the shutout and let the Owls score a pair of touchdowns. It would have been nice to see the defense pitch a shutout, although they should get another opportunity next week against a USF team that was blanked in its season-opener. 

Play of the quarter: Richardson’s 73-yard run, though there were options to choose from – and most of them included Richardson. Based on the play of the two signal callers Saturday, Florida may have a quarterback controversy on its hands earlier than many could have anticipated.

— Graham Hall

Gators wide receiver Jacob Copeland arrives to Steve Spurrier-Florida Field during Gator Walk. The Gators performed the Gator Walk after a year hiatus because of COVID-19.

Gators on TV|6:11 p.m.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 on SEC Network tonight. The game will be replayed Monday on SEC Network at 1 a.m. and 11 a.m., as well as on ESPNU Tuesday 9 p.m. and Wednesday at 9 a.m.  

 Injury report | 6:14 p.m.

As has been the case for several years at UF, players will sit out the first game due to suspensions handed out for discipline. Last year players also missed games because of COVID-19 protocols.

UF usually announces who will sit out game just before kickoff.

What is known is the Gators' injury report and the players missing time:  Cornerback Jaydon Hill (knee, out for season) Safety Kamar Wilcoxson (knee surgery) and Offensive lineman Yousef Mugharbil (scooter crash).

Swamp thing |6:36 p.m.

Florida is 15-3 at home since Mullen took over in 2018, losing to Kentucky and Missouri in his first season and LSU last year.

Florida starting quarterback Emory Jones warms up before the season opener Saturday vs. the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee looks on.

 Andrew Chatfield is back | 7:13 p.m.

After redshirt junior Andrew Chatfield entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal, the logical assumption was Chatfield’s tenure with the Gators had come to an end. 

But when the Gators took the field prior to kickoff for the season-opener against Florida Atlantic, Chatfield was present and dressed out, indicating his availability for the contest with the Owls. 

A former four-star prospect out of Plantation, Florida, Chatfield played in all 12 games in 2020, recording 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss, and the expectation this season was he would continue to see minutes, despite UF’s crowded defensive line room. 

Following a brief interruption, the plan for Chatfield to contribute along the defensive line appears to be back on track.

— Graham Hall

Meyer returns | 7:19 p.m.

Former UF coach Urban Meyer is back at The Swamp for his first game since 2010. He is with Steve Spurrier as a spectator. Meyer coaches the Jacksonville Jaguars now.

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