Gators notebook: Florida playing it safe with Richardson's status

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) looks into the stands Saturday after the game against Alabama at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was dressed out and listed as available for UF’s 31-29 loss to Alabama, but the redshirt freshman ultimately didn’t see the field Saturday. 

Considering UF coach Dan Mullen’s pre-game comments, however, Richardson’s inactivity shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. 

During CBS’ pre-game broadcast, Mullen was asked about the availability of Richardson, and he admitted the signee out of Eastside High in Gainesville wouldn’t see the field unless starting quarterback Emory Jones were suddenly unable to continue against the Crimson Tide. 

Following the conclusion of the game, Mullen elaborated on Richardson’s situation, saying his ailment was at risk of getting worse, which led to the decision to only play Richardson in the event of an emergency at QB.

“It’s one of those deals, when you have a hamstring, it’s not like a sprained ankle. When you look at injuries that, ‘hey he can go on, it’s not going to get worse, he might not be 100 percent but he’s not going to make it worse during the course of the game’,” Mullen said. “His is, he’s not going to be 100 percent, and if he plays he definitely can make it worse." 

Though Mullen did note Richardson was ahead of his expected recovery timeline, which bodes well for his availability for next weekend’s 7 p.m. match-up with Tennessee.

“We did an MRI yesterday. He was actually ahead of where we thought he would be, which was really positive for next week with him,” Mullen said of Richardson. “He knew (if) he was going to go in, back-up mode only and be a drop-back passer, stand in the pocket only, not running around, hand the ball off.”

With the way Mullen thought Jones performed on Saturday, Richardson was allowed to focus on his continued recuperation.

“Fortunately, Emory stayed healthy,” Mullen said. “I thought Emory stepped up his game this week, had a pretty good darn game. It will be great, hopefully, as this week goes, get Anthony back 100 percent as well.”

Gator Nation shows out in force

Florida’s 31-29 loss to Alabama on Saturday had an announced crowd of 90,887, making it the fifth-largest crowd in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium history, and the impact of the fans clad in orange and blue was readily apparent to the Gators throughout the contest.

"I want to thank all the Gator Nation,” said Mullen. “To see The Swamp alive, unbelievable atmosphere. The fans, they certainly did their part. The margin for error in this game is so small. The Gator Nation certainly showed up today and did their part. I thank them for what they did today.”

Alabama was called for several delay of game penalties.

Florida fans cheer during the football game Saturday against Alabama at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Gators avoid serious injuries

It wasn’t just Richardson whose injury status was a key focus of Saturday’s contest, as circumventing significant injuries throughout the game was a notable positive for the Florida football program. 

The Gators’ starting right tackle, Jean Delance, suffered an undisclosed injury to his left knee with 11:23 remaining in the second quarter of UF’s 31-29 loss to the Crimson Tide. Delance, a former Texas transfer, appeared to be in significant pain as he was tended to on the field by Florida’s training staff. In Delance’s place, UF reserve offensive linemen Michael Tarquin and Josh Braun saw the field, and the belief was the duo could be in line for more playing time when the third quarter rolled around. But when the second half resumed, Delance was back in his regular spot along the offensive line, a promising sign for UF’s offense, which entered the game leading the nation in rushing yards. 

Florida offensive lineman Stewart Reese also suffered an injury scare in the second half, as did tight end Kemore Gamble and defensive back Kaiir Elam, but all three players would later return to the game. 

Gators tight end Kemore Gamble wears a bandage under his left eye Saturday after Florida's loss to Alabama, 31-29, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

A drive for the record books

99-yard drives are typically few and far between — especially if you’re the Crimson Tide’s defense. 

Before Alabama allowed the Gators to cap a 99-yard drive in the third quarter, it had been nearly three years since Nick Saban’s team had allowed a 99-yard drive. 

Alabama last allowed an opponent to rattle off a 99-yard scoring drive on Sept. 22, 2018, when the Crimson Tide downed Texas A&M, 45-23. 

Florida running back Nay'Quan Wright picks up yardage Saturday  against the Crimson Tide at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida running back Nay’Quan Wright, who accounted for 61 yards on the drive on four consecutive rushes, credited the coaching staff, as well as his fellow teammates, for UF’s success at a critical juncture. 

“It wasn’t necessarily me,” Wright said. “It was – coach called the play and the O-line held up, and the quarterback just delivered the ball, and we just moved the chains.”