Chomp: Gators survive Bulls; road test against Vols looms

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, center, looks for a receiver as South Florida defensive end Tramel Logan (13) and defensive back Jayden Curry (15) rush during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

Hi, Florida fans.

The questions about the Gators offense and Anthony Richardson are back after another off game for the quarterback.

😬 Florida has too-close of a game

In what was supposed to be a “get right” game for Florida was anything but as South Florida gave the Gators almost more than they could handle.

In the end, Florida survived with a 31-28 victory over the Bulls under the lights in the Swamp. USF kicker Spencer Shrader missed a 49-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.

“We got a lot of work to do. That’s very obvious,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “But credit to our team for sticking together and finding a way to win.”

GAME RECAP: USF botches late FG, Florida gets 31-28 win in Swamp

Nonetheless, the back-and-forth game will be remembered mostly for Richardson’s miscues and his team’s inability to stop the run against a 24 1/2-point underdog.

Richardson was off most of the night for the second straight week. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 112 yards and two interceptions — just like he did against Kentucky.

In an episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters breaks down the close game and where the concern lies for this Gators squad.

🐊 Gators seek 1st TD pass of season going into SEC road opener

The Florida passing attack, led by Richardson, has certainly lost its way in the last two games. Napier said it’s one of the points of emphasis this week heading into the Gators’ Southeastern conference road opener against Tennessee.

Florida has failed to throw a touchdown through three games.

“At first it was definitely getting to me because you’re like, ‘Bro, you’re a quarterback. How come you don’t have any passing touchdowns? You have four interceptions,’” Richardson said. “I mean, I’m throwing the ball but just not getting in the end zone.

“So it was affecting me a little bit, but now I’m just like, ‘OK it’s football. It’s going to come.’ I’ve got to let it come to me. I can’t try to force it. I’ve got to let the game be the game.”

It’s the first time the Gators have gone three games to begin a season without a TD pass since at least the 1970s.

“I think that we need to improve in the throw game, and that’s one of the points of emphasis with the offensive players yesterday is precision in the throw game. I think settling into some lineups. Obviously figuring out what we do well, what can we do well, what’s the quarterback comfortable with, all those things that go into that,” Napier said. “When I say that, I’m talking about protection. I’m talking about detail and the steps and depths of the route, the aiming points, and the quarterback progression and decision-making. So all 11 players contribute, and I think we need to be more precise and more detailed in that part of our football team.”

FULL STORY: Richardson’s woes have Florida seeking 1st TD pass of season

David is joined by Will Miles, with Read and Reaction, in the latest Gators Breakdown episode to review Florida’s lack of a pass game so far. Also, Dave and Will discuss the limitation of Richardson on the ground, third-quarter woes and more.

Meanwhile, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel, whose offense has elements of the air raid, and the Volunteers (3-0, 0-0 SEC) are coming off a 63-6 home win over Akron.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be on CBS.

The Gators have won 16 of the last 17 in the series, including five straight, but according to FanDuel Sports, the Gators (2-1, 0-1 SEC) are a 10.5-point underdog against the Vols.

📉 Florida falls in poll rankings again

Despite the win, it was clear the Gators didn’t do enough in their narrow victory Saturday over the Bulls to impress the national college football poll voters.

WEEK 4 RANKINGS: AP Top 25 college football poll | USA Today Sports AFCA football coaches poll

After shooting up from unranked to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 college football poll following their upset of ranked Utah, the Gators then fell six spots to No. 18 after being defeated by ranked Kentucky. This past Sunday, they fell two more spots to No. 20.

USA Today Sports AFCA football coaches poll placed the Gators at No. 19, from unranked, after their win over Utah. Following the loss to Kentucky, they only fell two spots to No. 21. Then they fell one more spot to No. 22 after the USF win.

🏈 Doering a believer in Napier

Ahead of last weekend’s game, Gator Great and SEC Network analyst Chris Doering joined David to discuss Florida’s start to the season.

In the episode, the former Florida wide receiver explains why he is a believer in Napier and the process put forth by the new head coach.

Listen to the entire conversation here.

🏆 Burton, Caldwell to be inducted into Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame

As for two other former Florida standouts, Trey Burton and Andre Caldwell will be inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame on Oct. 28, the Friday before this year’s rivalry game between the Gators and the Bulldogs.

“Jacksonville has served as the stage for the Georgia-Florida rivalry for nearly a century,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “We are proud of this tradition and as we gear up for this year’s Georgia-Florida game, we look forward to honoring players who have contributed to this legacy.”

Burton was initially recruited as a quarterback for the Gators in 2010 but played all over the field during his college career, including at wide receiver, tight end, fullback and running back. Burton holds the school record for most touchdowns in a single game with six (five rushing and one receiving), becoming only the fourth player in SEC history to score 36 or more points in a single game. In 50 career games with Florida, he had 720 rushing yards, 976 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns.

Caldwell was a four-year letterwinner at wide receiver who finished his career with a school-record 185 receptions and 2,349 yards, the third-highest total in Florida history. As a junior in 2006, Caldwell helped the Gators win the SEC and National Championship. As a senior team captain in 2007, Caldwell recorded a career-high 761 yards and seven touchdowns on 56 receptions and was the recipient of the Gators’ Fergie Ferguson Award.

The duo will join Georgia’s Champ Bailey and John Little as this year’s inductees to the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame, which honors and recognizes the memorable players, coaches and administrators involved in the long-standing rivalry. Over the 26-year history of the Hall of Fame, more than 100 people have been inducted, including legendary Gators Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow and Fred Taylor.

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.