After shattering school offensive records with a methodical passing attack and the precise arm of Kyle Trask last season, the Gators have gone a different route for their offensive production in 2021.
Florida’s first drive, a nearly flawless 75-yard march down the field in just three minutes, showed the incredible potential that Mullen’s new-look offense has.
The Gators started the game with blistering tempo, as everyone from offensive linemen to the quarterback sprinted up the field after every play to shell-shock an overmatched and underprepared FAU defense. The insertion of fleet-footed quarterback Emory Jones elevated the rushing game from an afterthought to the primary mode of attack, as the Gators racked up more than 400 yards on the ground.
“We really want to play with tempo,” Mullen said. “Obviously what goes on in the situations determines that — it depends on where the ball is and what the yardage is — but we would like to do a lot more tempo this season.”
Running back Malik Davis, a fifth-year senior that has struggled to cement his spot amid UF’s quarterback carousel and evolving offensive game plan, embraced Mullen’s quick, run-first offense. Davis earned his first 100 yards rushing game since his breakout freshman season Saturday and averaged an impressive 7.1 yards per carry on the evening.
“I’m definitely excited,” Malik Davis said about Florida’s offensive pivot. “Because I’m a running back but also because it opens up doors for our other guys. If teams know we can run the ball it opens up our receivers downfield.”
The Gators ran nearly 25 plays in the first quarter, and an important factor in Florida’s high-tempo is Mullen’s faith in Jones. Mullen granted Jones a lot of leeway in play calling for Saturday’s opener, allowing the Junior quarterback to adjust the offense and continue moving the unit quickly down the field.
This autonomy occasionally backfired, as seen by a 4th and goal miscommunication between Jones and Mullen, but the Florida coach cited inexperience and maintained an unwavering faith in his quarterback.
“It’s an experience deal,” Mullen said. “But he’s a guy that’s out there to make plays, saying ‘you call this I’ll go out and make a play.’ But in that situation, if it doesn’t seem right, he’s got to take a timeout for us.”
Mullen’s faith in the long-time UF backup, coupled with a dynamic running back unit and an apparent aversion to long throws — Jones’ longest completion Saturday was just 18 yards — suggests that UF will continue its high-tempo, ground-based attack through much of the 2021 season.