The Florida Gators came crashing down to earth in Week 2 of the college football season. They did so many things well against Utah in Week 1 that it was reasonable to think this season could be more special than most people thought in the spring and early summer months.
By Matt Zemek
Anthony Richardson played like a Heisman Trophy candidate in the win over the Utes, who were ranked in the top eight to start the 2022 campaign. There was legitimate reason for optimism, even though the season was only one game old.
A splash of cold water, a reality check, greeted the Gators in Week 2.
Kentucky figured out how to do what Utah could not: contain Anthony Richardson, keep him in the pocket, force him to pass the ball downfield, and shut off big running plays. The result was awful for Florida, a 26-16 loss in which the defense did its job, but the performance was wasted due to a pick-six which represented a decisive blow. The defense made Kentucky’s Will Levis look ordinary. It deserved to win. Yet, if Richardson was a high-ceiling player in Week 1, he looked like a low-floor player in Week 2. With this in mind, let’s look at what Florida needs to focus on against South Florida.
1 – Richardson return to routine
Re-establishing healthy habits, regaining an understanding of how to read a defense, and making the right adjustments before the snap all need to be part of Richardson’s growth process this week. Kentucky contained him, and it confused him. Learning what to do when a defense takes away your foremost strength is something every athlete (not just every quarterback) needs to do. Richardson needs to be conscious of the need to have a Plan B. He also needs to be willing to take a small gain instead of risking an interception if the down and distance situation isn’t especially urgent (first down, second down and medium or shorter, especially in the first half). Developing better decision-making instincts is a really important thing for Richardson to develop in this game, so that he can carry a better thought process into the Tennessee game in Week 4.
2 – Defensive steadiness
The Florida defense looked tired in the second half against Utah. It played a much better and more complete game against Kentucky. Steady, continued growth is all the defense should be focused on. If this unit keeps getting better each week, the Gators could still go places in 2022.
3 – Passing process
Richardson is a gifted runner. He has to establish a passing rhythm, which is most likely going to be enhanced by finding a groove with at least one receiver if not two. Getting continuity as a passer will help Richardson as a runner and as an overall offensive force.