Abolverdi's Answers: Florida defense, Emory Jones bounce back from shaky start vs. Bama

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Emory Jones scrambles as Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) pursues in the second half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Jones completed 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards, with an interception.

Before every Florida game, Sun college football beat writer Zach Abolverdi comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here's Week 3 after the 31-29 loss to top-ranked Alabama:

Can Emory Jones play well and avoid turnovers against Alabama?

The Gators lost the turnover battle with Emory Jones' first-quarter interception, but coach Dan Mullen said his starting QB made the "perfect read" and the hit he took caused his throw to sail on him. But unlike the first two games, Mullen said Jones didn't make any bad errors against Alabama and had a "pretty good darn game." Jones set career highs in pass attempts (28), completions (18) and passing yards (195), eclipsing 1,000 career passing yards. He also rushed for 77 yards on a career-high 19 carries, including his five-yard touchdown run on Florida's 99-yard scoring drive. 

5 takeaways: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Does Anthony Richardson’s hamstring injury hold him back?

It held him out completely. After forcing the Tide to prepare for two quarterbacks all week, Mullen revealed to CBS just before kickoff that backup Anthony Richardson would only play if Jones got hurt. Richardson was medically cleared, but his hamstring still wasn't 100 percent and Mullen said he could have "definitely" made it worse during the course of the game. Mullen added that Richardson is ahead of schedule based on his MRI Friday, and he's hoping to have him back for the Tennessee game. Richardson congratulated Jones on Twitter for his performance against Alabama. "You definitely shocked the world," Richardson tweeted Saturday night. "Continue to strive for greatness & keep playing ball my boy! Let’s keep it going and handle everything one day at a time."

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

Will Florida eclipse 300 yards rushing for the third consecutive game?

Florida couldn't hit the 300-yard mark but eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the third week in a row and produced more total yards than Alabama, 439-331. The Gators are the first team to outgain the Tide since LSU in 2019. UF has opened the season with three-consecutive 200-yard rushing games for the first time since 2009 and just the third time in the last 40 seasons (1995). And with 246 yards against Alabama, Florida’s 1,009 rushing yards mark its highest total through three games of a season since at least 1981. UF ranks No. 2 nationally in rushing offense, now averaging 340.3 yards per game. 

Report card:Whitley grades the Gators

How does Alabama QB Bryce Young perform in his first road start?

Jones accounted for more total yards than Bryce Young, who threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns with no picks on 22-of-35 passing. The majority of that production and all of his scores came in the first quarter, with his team jumping out to a 21-3 lead. Young and the Tide were shut out in the second quarter with three consecutive three-and-outs and just three total yards of offense. The crowd certainly got to Young, but he showed composure in the second half with back-to-back scoring drives and got some help from the refs with pass interference calls. 

Whitley: Florida's loss is Florida's gain

Can UF hold the Tide under 30 points for the first time since 2018?

The Tide's fourth-quarter field goal put them over 30 points and proved to be the difference. Without that, Florida could have won the game with its final touchdown drive. UF snapped the Tide's 22-game streak of gaining at least 400 yards of offense. With just 324 yards allowed, the Gators held Alabama to its lowest total yardage in a game since 2018 vs. Mississippi State (305 yards). Alabama didn't have a play of 30 or more yards Saturday and was held to under 100 yards rushing in a game for just the third time since 2014. 

Zach Abolverdi, the new UF Football Beat Writer at The Gainesville Sun, Dec. 1, 2020.

—  Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at zabolverdi@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi

Up next

Who: Tennessee (2-1) vs. No. 11 Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: AM-850, 103.7-FM