Whitley At The Half: Gators 14, Owls 0

David Whitley
Gator Sports
Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) throws the ball during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021.   [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Sun sports columnist David Whitley looks at the first half of the Florida-FAU game:

First-half Offensive MVP — Malik Davis, who gained 77 yards on seven carries. If Emory Jones can become enough of a passing threat to keep defenses from stacking the line, Davis and the other backs are going to roll up some yards this season.

•First-half Defensive MVP — UF’s defensive front, which clogged up FAU’s running game and consistently pressured N’Kosi Perry. Yeah, FAU isn’t the K.C. Chiefs. But the Gators’ defense doesn’t look much like last year’s fire drill.

• Jones’ first half as the starting quarterback was both tantalizing and troubling for fans. He can definitely zip the ball, but he zipped one pass right to FAU cornerback Diashun Moss when the Gators had driven to FAU’s 8-yard-line. Jones never took his eyes off the receiver on the play. That’s got to improve.

Conversely, Jones showed how dangerous he can be running the ball when he scrambled 23 yards on a 3rd-and-7 to keep UF’s second scoring drive alive. That was still three yards short of Kyle Trask’s longest run last season, but you get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more 20-yard-plus bursts out of Jones.

• The mystery over who will replace Evan McPherson as UF’s kicker is still something of a mystery. Jace Christmann and Chris Howard were listed at the top of the depth chart. Howard kicked the extra points and Christmann handled the kickoffs.

UF had one potential field goal situation, but Dan Mullen decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Jones gained two yards on an up-the-gut play. Makes you wonder if A) Mullen thinks Jones is a fullback, or B) he doesn’t have faith either kicker can nail a 20-yard field goal.

Apropos of nothing: The UF band formed an outline of the state for when it performed the National Anthem. To fit all the members on the playing surface, the panhandle was about 150% as long as the peninsula. Geography can be hard on a football field.