Whitley: Jones has quickly morphed into Tebow Lite
Emory Jones completed an 11-yard pass with about four minutes left in Saturday night’s game. There wasn’t much remarkable about that particular play, other than what club it allowed Jones to join.
It’s the 100-200 Club. One hundred or more yards rushing and 200 or more yards passing in a game.
The club is harder to join than Augusta National. Only two quarterbacks have done it in modern football history at Florida.
You can probably guess who the first one was. Two weeks ago, you’d have never guessed Jones would be the second.
Yet there he was Saturday night against Tennessee, running for 144 yards and passing for 209. What’s more, Jones did it by completing 21 of 27 passes and throwing zero interceptions.
The smart alecks will note it was his first no-interception game as a starter. Though it might be time to turn in all Smart Aleck cards when it comes to Jones.
“I’m just trying to get better week-by-week,” he said.
The approach seems to be working. It’s still hard to comprehend how he sputtered against Florida Atlantic and USF, snapped out of it against Alabama and looked positively Tebow-like against the Volunteers.
Maybe he just needed to play against SEC defenses. Whatever, after the 38-14 win over Tennessee, we can pretty much declare that the Gators’ offense has arrived.
As for the Gators’ defense, it’s still out there somewhere. You had to wonder where after the Volunteers took a 14-10 lead.
That was an eye-popping score when it flashed across TV screens around America. It was built on a 47-yard screen pass that featured a handful of missed tackles, and a 75-yard bomb that featured Vols receiver JaVonta Payton getting about 15 yards behind UF safety Mordecai McDaniel.
Other than that, Dan Mullen said he thought the defense played “excellent.” That might remind you of, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”
The defense did shut out the Volunteers after those two breakdowns, but Tennessee finished with 423 total yards. If an offense led by Hendon Hooker can do that, you have to wonder what Matt Corral or JT Daniels might do.
We’ll get a pretty good gauge next week at Kentucky. We might also see Anthony Richardson.
Remember him? Was it really just two weeks ago that Gator Nation was in the throes of a quarterback controversy, and fans and sportswriters (ahem) were calling on AR-15 to become the starter?
Richardson’s stock hasn’t dropped, it’s just been put on hold pending the return of his right hamstring. But Jones’ stock has gone from AOL to Apple.
He’s making the right reads, going through progressions and all the other QB lingo. When he chooses a receiver, the throw is usually on the money.
When he can’t find a receiver and takes off running, he looks as good as any back the Gators have. And as we saw again Saturday night, they have some pretty good backs. Nay’Quan Wright, Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis combined for 143 yards.
“If we didn’t rotate them so much, that’d be a pretty good day for a running back,” Mullen said.
They didn’t rotate quarterbacks, and Jones had 147 yards. That’s a pretty good day for a running back and a great one for a quarterback.
“That’s my dawg,” Pierce said. “My dawg ball. Quote me on that.”
Jones is balling so well we can shelve any notion Richardson should become the starter.
“You’re starting to see his confidence play in, which gives us more confidence to throw things in and how we want to attack things,” Mullen said.
Jones always had a better command of the playbook than Richardson. He just wasn’t playing in games the way he performed in practice.
Now he is, and Richardson can settle into his role as the budding apprentice. Mullen said Richardson should definitely be ready for the Kentucky game.
The key development is that AR-15 no longer is seen as the savior because Florida’s offense no longer needs saving.
“You’ve got more to come,” Pierce said. “You’re just scratching the surface with Emory.”
Two weeks ago, we were wondering how much Jones deserved to be on the field. Now he’s in a club whose only other member won a Heisman Trophy.
Nobody’s saying Jones is headed for that. But it’s become pretty obvious that dawg can ball.
— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley