Abolverdi's Answers: Jones avoids turnovers, Florida defense avoids third-down penalties
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 4 after the Gators' 38-14 win over Tennessee:
Can Emory Jones build on last week and have his first turnover-free start?
Emory Jones not only built on his performance against Alabama, but had the best game of his career Saturday. Jones set single-game career highs for passing yards (209), completions (21) and rushing yards (144), while also putting himself in a category with Tim Tebow. Jones became the first Gators quarterback to pass for 200-plus yards and rush for 100-plus yards in the same game since Tebow in 2009, and they are the only two players in program history to accomplish that feat over the last 25 years. Most importantly, Jones didn’t turn the ball over and was accurate with his passes, completing 77.8 percent of his attempts.
Does Anthony Richardson return, and who starts for the Vols at QB?
Florida backup quarterback Anthony Richardson missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. It still tightens up on him when he accelerates and decelerates, according to head coach Dan Mullen, but he’s been cleared to play and will not need an MRI this week. Tennessee’s opening-day starter, Joe Milton III, has recovered from his leg injury and played late against UF, but Hendon Hooker got the nod at quarterback for the second consecutive game. The Vols found their QB1 in Hooker, who threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 13 of 23 passing. Hooker was sacked three times and knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Can Florida run the ball against Tennessee’s top-five rushing defense?
Tennessee, which hadn’t allowed 100 yards rushing through three games, gave up 283 yards on the ground to Florida. Jones had the fourth-most rushing yards by a Gators QB in a single game in the last 25 years, while the tailbacks combined for 139 yards. Entering the game, the Vols had surrendered just three runs of 10-plus yards all season long. UF racked up 10 rushes of 10-plus yards Saturday. Florida’s 1,290 total rushing yards through four games is its highest total dating back to at least 1965.
How does UF handle the Vols’ up-tempo offense under Josh Heupel?
The Vols didn’t go hurry-up the entire game, but their up-tempo attack was effective when they went with it. UF’s secondary had trouble at times getting lined up before the snap and communicating coverage assignments. The Gators had a blown coverage on Tennessee’s 75-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. And right before the half, the Vols ran their hurry-up offense and drove 55 yards in seven plays. Fortunately for Florida, it caught a break when kicker Chase McGrath missed wide right from 47 yards.
Are the Gators able to avoid third-down penalties and missed tackles?
The Gators avoided the former, not allowing Tennessee to keep drives alive with third-down penalties. Florida was flagged six times for 45 yards, but just once on defense — a 15-yard facemask by Princely Umanmielen on second-and-10. Missed tackles, however, reared their ugly head in the first half. On Tennessee’s first touchdown, linebacker Amari Burney missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage and defensive backs Tre’Vez Johnson and Rashad Torrance also failed to bring down Tiyon Evans.
— Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi
Who: No. 9 Florida (3-1, 1-1) vs. No. 23 Kentucky (4-0, 2-0)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Ky.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850