Whitley At The Half: The Volunteers came to play

David Whitley
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Emory Jones runs for a first down Saturday against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Well, well. What do we have here?

It’s a competitive game!

Everybody questioned whether the Gators would come out flat after last week’s near-miss thriller against Alabama. Apparently, it was the wrong question.

The Gators came out strong, stuffing Tennessee on its first possession and then going 66 yards for a TD on their first drive. Then the question became, “Would they stay non-flat?”

Not exactly. Remember that defense that looked good in the final three quarters against Alabama? It looked more like the first-quarter defense against the Crimson Tide — missed tackles, blown assignments, big mistakes. Jeepers, Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker is looking like Peyton Manning.

After some fits and starts, Emory Jones has UF’s offense going. But if UF’s defense doesn’t rediscover its ‘Bama groove, the second half could be a lot more interesting that anyone predicted.

The other big question going in was whether Anthony Richardson would play after sitting out last week with a tender hamstring.

He warmed up and did his now-traditional gymnastics flip. In the first two games, Richardson went in on third possession. When that moment of truth arrived tonight, Jones went back in.

The Gators are apparently going to give Richardson’s hamstring as much recovery time as possible. Unless Jones gets hurt, don’t expect to see AR-15 until next week at Kentucky. If he doesn’t play then, we’ll know the hamstring injury is more severe than anyone’s been letting on.

The mystery surrounding Florida’s kicking game has lifted a bit. Chris Howard and Jace Christmann split duties the first three games, though that duty was mostly extra points. The Gators attempted only one field goal, a 25-yarder Howard made last week against Alabama. Howard also missed an extra point in the first half that really came back to haunt UF in the 31-29 loss.

Christmann, a transfer from Mississippi State, kicked both in the first half. He also got the call when Florida attempted its first non-chip-shot field goal of the year, a 47-yarder on the second possession. He drilled it, and you have to wonder when/if we’ll see Howard again.