Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson entered the game on Florida’s third drive, just like last week against Florida Atlantic. And just like last week versus FAU, Richardson didn’t disappoint.
The second-year signal-caller dropped back two yards from the shotgun formation and rolled a few steps to his right. He locked onto his target deep downfield and unloaded a perfect 33-yard bomb to hit redshirt junior wide receiver Jacob Copeland in stride. The wideout outraced South Florida safety Matthew Hill 40 more yards for a touchdown to make it 14-3.
The Gators poured on four more scores on the way to a 42-20 victory over the Bulls Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Florida, at Raymond James Stadium.
Florida used three chunk plays of 15 yards or more to enter the red zone on its second drive Saturday after an opening three and out. Senior running back Dameon Pierce took a handoff and sprinted down the left sideline on back-to-back plays, gashing South Florida for 16 and 20 yards apiece to give Florida first and goal.
The Gators’ starting quarterback, redshirt junior Emory Jones, fed Pierce one more time as he sprinted toward the line of scrimmage. The Bainbridge, Georgia, native was hit immediately but kept his legs churning and plunged into the endzone to give Florida a 7-0 lead.
The Bulls methodically marched down the field on 17 plays for 75 yards deep into the Florida red zone. Their largest gains came through the air when quarterback Cade Fortin hit receivers Omarion Dollison and Latrell Williams for 16 and 11 yards, respectively. USF’s drive stalled once it reached Florida’s 8-yard line where it settled for a field goal.
The Gators then scored on back-to-back drives. Richardson found Copeland on a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Jones matched Richardson tit-for-tat on the next drive. He surveyed the right side of the field to look off the safety and then scanned left, locating sophomore wideout Xzavier Henderson streaking down the sideline. He dropped a 35-yard dime to make it 21-3 Florida, turning a game into a rout.
Richardson commanded the Florida huddle for its fifth drive. On the sixth play, Richardson lofted a pass to Copeland for 41 yards and a touchdown to make it 28-3, his and Copeland’s second touchdown connection of the day.
After an interception by junior cornerback Kaiir Elam where Fortin was hit as he threw, Jones kept the ball on a quarterback keeper two plays in and earned his first rushing score of the afternoon. He cruised 33 yards to the end zone, which increased his team’s lead to 35-7 with about seven minutes until halftime.
Jones unraveled after halftime and tossed picks on back-to-back drives that led to USF scoring drives, trimming Florida’s lead to 35-13.
On the first one, he stared down redshirt junior wideout Justin Shorter on an out route that allowed the Bulls’ Mekhi LaPointe to snag the easy interception. He then targeted redshirt sophomore Trent Whittemore, but the pass was late and behind to permit USF safety Brock Nichols to make the easy pick.
Mullen reaffirmed that Jones would remain the starter following the game.
“As I said, we have two really good quarterbacks,” he said. “You’ll see both of them play every single game.”
With a little over 10 minutes left in the game, Richardson came back in and offered one final exclamation point. He shook off one wimpy tackler and outran a herd of Bulls for 80 yards, his first rushing touchdown of the game. Richardson finished with 267 total yards, 152 passing and 112 rushing, and a trio of touchdowns.
USF tailback Jaren Mangham tacked on its second touchdown of the game when he scored from a yard out to trim Florida’s lead 42-20, but the clock ran dry from there.
“We made a bunch of explosive plays and kind of did really well in the first half,” Mullen said about the overall performance of his team. “Even though we weren’t as clean as efficient as I wanted to be in the second half.”
Florida returns to Gainesville, where it’ll host No. 1 Alabama in The Swamp next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Zachary Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.