In loss to LSU, Gators find hope and possibly a new starting QB in Anthony Richardson

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Anthony Richardson era was put on hold by injury in September, but born of necessity during Florida’s wild 49-42 loss at LSU on Saturday.

Richardson’s heroics off the bench could not overcome two 15-point deficits, a porous run defense or 4 interceptions, including one by Richardson with 1:59 left to seal Florida’s fate in front of 96,012 at Tiger Stadium.

Richardson did seem to put to rest questions at quarterback for coach Dan Mullen’s squad, though the 19-year-old from Gainesville, Florida, was not ready to seize the reins or pat himself on the back.

“In that time, that place, you’re supposed to make a play,” said Richardson, who replaced starter Emory Jones after a pick-6 put the Tigers up 28-13 just 48 seconds into the third quarter. “Everybody’s trusting me to go out there and win the game. But I didn’t fulfill that. That interception is going to humble you, but just got to keep fighting.”

The Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) have little left to fight for following their sixth loss in eight against Power 5 competition and third straight to LSU.

The Tigers (4-3, 2-2) were 11-point underdogs at home likely playing for a lame-duck coach, Ed Orgeron, and without their top two receivers, and minus both starting cornerbacks and defensive ends. Yet the SEC’s best crossover rivalry delivered once again, with one possession the difference for the seventh time in eight years.

“We’re all frustrated,” Mullen said. “We’re still grinding away. Look at LSU. They were facing a bunch of adversity last week. They came out and played really well.

“This is the SEC, you have to bring your A-game every single week.”

After taking a 6-0 lead on Dameon Pierce’s 7-yard touchdown run, the Gators allowed 3 unanswered touchdowns as the Tigers gashed Todd Grantham’s defense.

A 42-yard Hail Mary from Jones to Justin Shorter ended the half with Florida trailing 21-13. Dwight McGlothern answered with a 37-yard interception return for LSU, leading Mullen to switch from Jones to Richardson which ignited the Gators.

The athletic 6-foot-4, 236-pound backup led the Gators to four straight touchdowns, including a 33-yard completion to Jacob Copeland with 9:14 remaining tied the score at 42.

“It was a good lift, a good energizing lift,” linebacker Mohamoud Diabate said. “I like what he did when he got in there. I saw the offense kind of jolt up.

“So that was a good look.”

Yet, the Gators failed time and again to contain LSU’s rushing attack on the same power and counter plays. The Tigers entered averaging just 83.3 yards on the ground but finished with 321, including a single-game school record 287 by tailback Tyrion Davis-Price who scored three times.

The performance once again turned up the heat on Grantham after a historically bad 2020 season on defense.

A 1-yard pass from Max Johnson to Jaray Jenkins capped the game-winning drive that featured 48 rushing yards by the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Davis-Price.

“We’ve got to evaluate that,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get better up front. We’ll look at the scheme part. We got to look at the personnel.

“Get better.”

The worst could lie ahead for the Gators.

Up next is an Oct. 30 matchup with top-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida.

Everyone in Gator Nation is bracing for the rival Bulldogs to deliver a beatdown, but Richardson’s big day gives Mullen’s squad hope for the future if not a puncher’s chance.

Richardson finished with four touchdowns, including three passing. He started by missing his first three throws and tossing an interception. But he finished 10 of 19 for 167 yards. He also rushed for 37 yards and a 5-yard touchdown.

Jones was 12 of 19 for 161 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 2 interceptions. Jones showed some grit completing an 18-yard pass to Shorter on third-and-13 after replacing Richardson for several plays because he injured his left pinkie.

“That was probably the play of the game, for us offensively,” Mullen said. “The ability to come in and do that, I thought was pretty special.”

Mullen’s support of Jones is understandable. The 21-year-old redshirt junior is in his first season as a starter after waiting his turn.

Richardson, though, made several pivotal and spectacular plays during a failed comeback attempt. Bespectacled, soft-spoken and humble during a postgame videoconference, Richardson declined to speculate on the Gators’ quarterback situation while emphasizing how much he still has to learn.

“Sometimes, I still think it’s like, it’s just high school, I can still make this play,” he said. “But obviously we see that’s not the case. Managing the game, that’s still a major thing I can work on. Also, keeping my emotions in check. I’m a very emotional guy. I’m very competitive. I love to win.

“When things don’t go my way, I get down on myself, I’m too hard on myself. I feel like I can further work on that.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting