Saturday night’s win against the Bulls wasn’t the outcome Gator fans expected after dropping to Kentucky to kick-off SEC play last weekend. Early in the fourth quarter, thousands of fans were seen exiting Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after USF took their second lead of the night with 11:16 left to play in the game.
Regardless of the opponent, the Gators didn’t play their brand of football for the second straight week, despite a win. Jeff Scott’s Bulls on the other hand, played a fantastic game as they outgained the Gators with 286 total yards on the ground, while Florida finished with 217 total yards.
USF played some of the best football they’ve played in a while, and they whole-heartedly deserved to win that football game.
With that being said, it was not Anthony Richardson’s night. You could argue the Gators almost beat themselves yet again. The passing game was extremely reminiscent of last weekend, very inefficient as there weren’t any improvements in that area over the week.
“It is how he threw it, to try and throw a back shoulder fade when that wasn’t what was required,” Napier said on Richardson’s end zone interception. “Simple plays that we execute. It’s certainly part of his growth as a player. You play that position, we put the ball in his hands. He’s going to make some mistakes and certainly can throw that one better.”
The play was a run/pass option call that Richardson took to the air and trusted Justin Shorter to come down with. Unfortunately, the throw just wasn’t on target. Richardson had a one-on-one match-up, and USF loaded up the box. “I had no issue with the decision that he [Anthony Richardson] made to throw it,” Napier said. Richardson was later asked what was exchanged between Napier and himself [Richardson] on the sideline.
“First, we got to process and understand what happened and why it was an interception. I talked to Coach Napier for like two minutes about that. He said it was a good read, but he didn’t like the throw. I didn’t like the throw myself. We just talk about why it happened. Understand why and just try to move on to the next play,” Richardson said.
The defense did what they needed to in critical moments Saturday evening. Finishing with two interceptions and a fumble recovery from true freshman Shemar James. You could argue those plays saved the game.
“It’s the difference in the game, ultimately. You talk about the pick six. You talk about an interception on the short field there where they potentially take the lead. Turnovers are going to be critical every week. They’re critical week one. They’re critical week two. They were critical tonight,” Napier said on creating turnovers.
Richardson made a check early in the second quarter that led to Montrell Johnson’s 62-yard house call. The sophomore quarterback is growing and will continue to do so no matter the outcome of the football game or his play. It’s all a part of the game.
“I feel like I’m growing,” Richardson said on his confidence level when making checks at the line. “Honestly, it’s just knowing even what to do and knowing what we want to do. Of course, that defense. We were talking about that all week and talked about it earlier today. If they did this, we were going to check this. I was talking to Montrell. He said I was happy I checked into it because he saw it himself. So, just being able to learn the offense a little bit and just recognize the coverage a little bit, it helps when you’re trying to make plays.”
The running backs and offensive line performed exceptionally well once again and have been very efficient given USF outgained the Gators Saturday night. You could even argue Florida’s backs were more productive given Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne, and Nay’Quan Wright each recorded a touchdown against the Bulls.
“I feel like it definitely saved us. I couldn’t do much in there. It falls back on me, not giving my guys a chance to get the ball. But the O-line and the running backs, they’re saving us. I’m glad that we can count on them when times get tough,” Richardson said on the running backs and offensive line.
Although Richardson didn’t tuck it and run much tonight, when he did it was effective at times.
“I think he made a few plays, a few first downs with his feet in this game. There’s a couple, two in particular, early where he made first downs with his feet. So, I think I’ll be able to give you a little bit better information when I watch the tape,” Napier said on Richardson in terms of running. “When a guy’s going through his progressions, at time there’s a place for pulling it down and running. Sometimes they give you that opportunity and sometimes they keep you in the pocket. I think they did a little bit of both at times. They gave him opportunities and he made some plays with his feet and then there were times that he couldn’t.”
There’s going to be lots of growing pains these first couple years while this staff continues to bring in their brand of football players. I’ll continue to say that and stand on it. It’s hard to be successful and call plays when your players aren’t executing in certain aspects.
This team could easily be undefeated. Undisciplined football has been a killer for this team so far and that’s the least of my worries as Napier continues to bring in his type of football players.
This football program has been through the rebuilding phase many times before, and so far, Billy Napier has done all the things he’s needed to do as the Head Coach of the Florida Gators. Napier has done far better than his predecessors. There’s been lots of good so far and lots of bad, but that comes with every new football staff.
It’s vital for Gator Nation to put their trust in Billy Napier, and to have patience when he calls on them to do so. This team will get better.