Backup quarterback Anthony Richardson pulled the football from redshirt junior Lorenzo Lingard’s stomach, his eyes trained on South Florida defensive tackle Thad Magnum crashing toward his running back.
Richardson exploded through the crease and reached the second level, where he lowered his helmet and bulldozed a USF defender. He seemed to be in the clear, but Bulls safety Matthew Hill dove from behind in one last effort to stop Richardson. He merely served as a speed bump.
The local Gainesville native jogged the last 20 yards to cement his 80-yard touchdown against USF last Saturday, but he quickly grabbed the back of his right leg after he crossed the sticks before lowering himself to the turf. Gators fans everywhere held their breath.
Now, they can exhale again. Coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday that Richardson hasn’t been limited at practice this week, meaning he’ll likely be available when No. 11 Florida plays No. 1 Alabama at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.
Richardson may be available to play, but Mullen still insists redshirt junior Emory Jones will remain the starter.
“As I said, we have two really good quarterbacks,” Mullen said Saturday after beating USF 42-20. “You’ll see both of them play every single game.”
In two starts, Jones compiled a passing efficiency of 63.46, good enough for 117th in the country, while Richardson has thrown no interceptions and equaled Jones’ two passing touchdowns.
Mullen said that Richardson makes special plays, but the redshirt freshman doesn’t always make the right read pre-snap and is prone to miss protection checks or not audible out of bad plays, something the coach said Jones does well.
However, it’s not all good news on the injury front for the Gators. Redshirt senior linebacker Ventrell Miller underwent surgery for a torn biceps tendon on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season. He led the team with 88 total tackles in 2020.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the Gators will rely on senior Amari Burney, junior Mohamoud Diabate, redshirt senior Jeremiah Moon and redshirt sophomore Ty’Ron Hopper.
Diabate said on Monday the loss of Miller won’t sting that much because he’ll still be around to coach them up.
“All the snaps that I play, all the snaps that Burney will play, that Moon will play, we feel confident in what we’re doing,” he said. “We exchange, we rotate so much that it’s like what, like our coaches always say, we don’t really have any starters because we’re just all older, we’ve all played a lot.”
Diabate and Florida have had this game circled since the schedule came out, their minds set on avenging last season’s 52-46 defeat in the SEC Championship game.
“All of us got a chip on our shoulder,” Diabate said on Aug. 6. “So, it’s like how can you not have a chip? How can you not remember that when you’re working out, watching film? It makes you hungry. We wanna go back… that’s all we want.”
Coach Nick Saban and defending national champion Alabama enter Saturday’s contest both undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country after beating then No. 14 Miami 44-13 in Week 1.
Grantham and his defensive players said they’ve prioritized rattling sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who hasn’t played in an SEC road game with full fan capacity. Young passed for 571 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games.
“I think any time you can affect the quarterback, you’re going to be successful,” Grantham said. “Obviously, you've got to be able to, first of all, stop the run...but anytime you can affect the quarterback and get after him a little bit, and make him a little nerve-wracked, that's got a chance to be in your favor.”
If it wants a chance to knock off Alabama, Florida’s front four must become a living nightmare for Young.
Find out Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS if the Gators can topple Goliath on their home field.
Contact Zachary Huber at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.