Florida cruised past Florida Atlantic on a stunning September night in The Swamp Saturday night. Florida’s run game led the way in the 35-14 win, with two players (Malik Davis and Anthony Richardson) eclipsing 100 yards rushing as the Gators tallied 396 yards rushing on the evening.

The game marked win number 30 for Dan Mullen as Florida’s head coach and improved Mullen’s record to 4-0 against in-state opposition. Here are three quick thoughts on the Gators big win.

The Emory Jones era began with an up and down performance

Florida ushered in the Emory Jones era in style during Saturday’s first quarter, scoring on long drives (75 and 80 yards, respectively) on their first two possessions. Jones was very sharp in this first quarter, completing 7 of 11 passes with a touchdown and adding 26 yards rushing on 3 attempts, including a wonderful 23 yard run on a 3rd and 7 to keep Florida’s second touchdown drive alive.

And then the rest of the game happened.

Jones gave way to Anthony Richardson for a drive in the second quarter, and when Jones returned to the game, he appeared to lose a bit of his focus and rhythm.

Of particular concern was Jones’ failure to execute in the red zone. Florida ranked 2nd nationally in red zone offense a season ago, but the Gators had two empty trips in the second quarter against FAU Saturday night.

On the first, Jones badly underthrew a corner route and was intercepted by Florida Atlantic’s Diashun Moss. One series later, the Gators were stuffed on a fourth and goal when Jones failed to run the play called by the Florida sideline, instead bizarrely trying to run a quarterback sneak from the 4-yard line.

The second half was more of the same.

Jones led a nice drive to give the Gators a 21-0 lead, but Florida never seemed to threaten Florida Atlantic vertically and needed another three downs to cash in on their fifth red zone trip of the night. In fact, when Florida did try to go deep toward the end of the third quarter, Jones was intercepted by TJ Young on another underthrow.

Anthony Richardson gave the Gators staff something to think about

Jones’ struggles after his strong opening quarter may have opened the door for Anthony Richardson going into next week’s game at USF.

The redshirt freshman from Gainesville was the highest-rated recruit at quarterback in the state of Florida out of high school and had a massive fall camp, but lost the quarterback competition to Jones.

Starter or backup, Richardsson was ready to play Saturday night. The Gators offense received a clear spark with Richardson in the game, including a dazzling 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Gators defensive front has a chance to be nasty

Florida’s defense certainly looked ready to play Saturday night.

It’s hard to judge what that means given the caliber of opponent. But N’Kosi Perry was a highly recruited quarterback and played well for the Owls, for the most part. He just didn’t have time to go through progressions or sit in the pocket, as Florida’s front managed consistent pressure all night.

Florida’s edge rushers were dominant and flashed their depth, with Brenton Cox, Jeremiah Moon, Khris Bogle, Zachary Carter and Mohamoud Diabate all making big time plays.

More encouraging was the progress at defensive tackle. Despite some injuries inside, the rebuilt Gators’ interior line was as advertised, clearly boosted by Florida’s transfer portal additions. Gervon Dexter, the 5 star pegged by many program insiders as the breakout star of the 2021 defense, was also excellent. Dexter recovered two fumbles and was active all night, generating multiple pressures on Perry.

It was a good start for Todd Grantham’s defense, as the Gators allowed just 14 points, all coming in garbage time.