Abolverdi's Answers: UGA capitalizes on turnovers, dominates line of scrimmage vs. Gators

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) is pressured by the Georgia defense Saturday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

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 8 after the Gators' 34-7 loss to Georgia:

What’s the rotation with Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson, and who starts? 

There was no quarterback rotation Saturday. Anthony Richardson made his first career start and played the entire first half, with Emory Jones making just one appearance on a trick play. UF coach Dan Mullen didn’t make a change at halftime after Richardson’s three turnovers, which was the wrong decision in hindsight. After Richardson left the game with an injury, the Gators had their most productive quarter in the fourth (141 total yards) with Jones. He outgained Richardson despite playing less (112 passing yards to 82) and scored a late touchdown to extend Florida’s NCAA-record scoring streak to 419 games. 

Florida takeaways: Flurry of turnovers doom Florida Gators against top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs

Which offensive line can allow fewer sacks and protect the quarterback(s)?

Florida safety Trey Dean III was credited with a sack on intentional grounding by Georgia’s Stetson Bennett IV. Georgia’s offensive line didn’t allow any sacks aside from that, while the Bulldogs sacked Richardson twice. Both plays were terrible timing for the Gators. After Richardson converted a fourth-and-2 with a nine-yard run to the UGA 31, he was sacked on first down for a loss of 11 yards and the offense turned it over on downs. Richardson also took a sack in the final 30 seconds of the first half — forcing Mullen to call timeout — and threw a pick-six on the ensuing play. 

More:This one really went to the Dogs

Is Florida able to run the ball against Georgia’s top-ranked defense?

UF had success in the run game with Dameon Pierce and Jones, but no one else. Pierce averaged 7.7 yards per carry, but only received nine for 69 yards. Nay’Quan Wright had a 13-yard run, but gained just 10 yards on his other six carries. Malik Davis got the start at running back and had six touches for 21 yards, along with four catches for 19 yards. The Gators rushed for less than 200 yards for the fourth consecutive game. Davis, Pierce and Wright combined for 300 total yards last season and burned Georgia on wheel routes, but the trio finished with 137 total yards Saturday. 

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Can UF’s rushing defense bounce back after giving up 321 yards at LSU?

UF didn’t get completely gashed on the ground, but UGA ran the ball whenever it needed or wanted to. Zamir White had his second consecutive 100-yard performance against the Gators, rushing for 105 yards on 14 carries. However, 42 of those yards came on his late touchdown run with Florida’s backups in the game. The Bulldogs rushed for 193 yards — the team’s fourth-highest total this season — and James Cook gained 46 yards on 10 carries, including an 11-yard touchdown run that ignited a 21-point scoring spurt. 

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

Do the Gators win the turnover battle like they did last year vs. UGA?

The Gators won the turnover battle 3-1 in 2020, but both teams turned the ball over three times Saturday. Richardson’s two picks and fumble resulted in three Georgia touchdowns over the final 2:11 of the first half. Florida, however, scored just seven points off its three takeaways. Safety Rashad Torrence II picked off Bennett twice — snagging both interceptions inside the 10-yard line — and also recovered the fumble forced by linebacker Jeremiah Moon. However, Richardson gave the ball right back to the Bulldogs after Torrence’s first turnover and UF kicker Jace Christmann missed a 23-yard chip shot following Kenny McIntosh’s fumble. 

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

Up next

Who: Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC) vs. South Carolina (4-4, 1-4)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850