Abolverdi's Answers: Anthony Richardson, Dameon Pierce usage increases without Dan Mullen
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 12 after the Gators' 24-21 win over Florida State:
Will it be Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson making the start?
Emory Jones started the game, but Anthony Richardson finished it and strengthened his case to be QB1 moving forward. Jones threw a 47-yard touchdown pass on the game’s opening drive, but imploded in the first half with interceptions on three consecutive possessions. That last pick should have gotten him benched, but Jones inexplicably started the second half and was pulled after a terrible pass on his first attempt. Richardson took over after that and led the offense on three scoring drives, including a touchdown pass to Justin Shorter and Florida’s longest run of the day (17 yards) to open the fourth quarter.
How productive is the offense with Garrick McGee calling plays?
With Florida quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee coordinating the offense Saturday, he and interim coach Greg Knox had one objective. “Our plan was to run the ball,” Knox said. The Gators (6-6) matched their season-high with 46 carries against FSU, rushing for 139 yards after being held under 100 in two of their last three games. Dameon Pierce led the way with a team-high 62 yards and received double-digit carries (12) for the first time this season. At one point, McGee force-fed Pierce with four carries in a row. Jones left points and passing yards on the field for McGee, but he did a great job calling plays for him (especially on that opening drive) and Richardson.
How does Florida fare against FSU quarterback Jordan Travis?
The top performance from a quarterback Saturday was by Florida State’s Jordan Travis, who had one of his best starts of the year. He eclipsed 200 yards passing (202) for the third straight week and had his third 100-yard rushing game (102) in 2021, finishing with 304 total yards and two touchdowns. However, Florida still made some plays against him. Cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. picked off Travis in the third quarter and outside linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. sacked him four times, which is the most by any Gator since sacks became an official NCAA statistic in 2000.
Will the Seminoles have success against UF’s run defense?
The Seminoles (5-7) won the rushing battle, 145-139, and it was all Travis. Florida State’s three tailbacks — starter Jashaun Corbin, Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili — had some of their lowest rushing totals of the year. Corbin was held to a season-low 10 yards on six carries, adding three catches for 19 yards. Ward had a 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to two scores, but rushed for just six yards on his other three carries. Toafili added 22 yards on five carries, the most he has received since FSU’s Week 2 loss to Jacksonville State.
Can the Gators get some takeaways and win the turnover battle?
The Gators turned it over three times with Jones’ interceptions, but their defense and punt coverage team was able to match that with a trio of takeaways. Marshall’s pick was Travis’ first interception thrown in six games, and safety Rashad Torrence II made a diving INT on quarterback McKenzie Milton while Travis was briefly in the locker room to check on an injury. Florida’s first touchdown of the second half was set up via a muffed punt by the Seminoles’ Ontaria Wilson, which Xzavier Henderson recovered at the FSU 33. Saturday was the Gators’ second time forcing three takeaways this season, but also their third game with three or more turnovers.
— Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi
•The Gators find out their bowl destination during the college football playoff and bowl selection show starting at noon Dec. 5 on ESPN