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Florida Gators showing trust in Emory Jones

Journal: The blue-chip redshirt freshman sees some important red-zone action Saturday at LSU.
Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) pulls in a catch for a touchdown from Emory Jones during the first half against LSU.
Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) pulls in a catch for a touchdown from Emory Jones during the first half against LSU. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]
Published Oct. 13, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. — Even before Florida coach Dan Mullen knew all the full medical details of starting quarterback Feleipe Franks’ ankle injury at Kentucky, he knew two things:

Kyle Trask would be his starting quarterback, and blue-chip redshirt freshman Emory Jones would be playing, too.

A month later, it’s starting to become clear the extent to which Mullen trusts his presumptive quarterback of the future.

Trask, as expected, started Saturday at No. 5 LSU, but Jones came in early, not long after the No. 7 Gators crossed the LSU 40. He had a couple of nice runs near the red zone the first time before Mullen put Trask back in; Trask answered with a touchdown pass to Trevon Grimes in the back of the end zone.

But later in the second quarter, Mullen called on Jones in the biggest spot of the game.

LSU had just scored to take a 14-7 lead, and Florida was driving deep. The Gators needed a score.

Mullen trusted Jones to rush for it on third and goal from the 1, but he was stuffed. Mullen and his staff called a timeout to think over their fourth-down plan, and again the Gators called on Jones. He rolled right and, with a defender in his face, jumped into the air and lobbed a pass in the end zone.

Jones got lucky; LSU linebacker Patrick Queen deflected the ball to running back Lamical Perine, who came down with the circus catch. But the fact that Jones was in the game in that situation is a testament to how strongly the Gators believe in him.

Eye on the NFL

LSU safety Grant Delpit has, statistically, put up an underwhelming season, but he showed flashes early in the game of why scouts view him as a potential top-10 pick.

His first big play came in the first half, when he upended Trask as the QB tried to scramble for a third-down conversion. Delpit stopped him just short of the marker.

Midway through the second quarter, Florida looked ready to score when Jones threw a nice pass over the middle to Kyle Pitts near the end zone. But Delpit flew in with a hard hit to knock the ball loose.

Later in the drive, Delpit helped bring down Jones on a third-and-goal run for another pivotal stop. Delpit has drawn comparisons to former Florida State standout Derwin James for his ability to move around the field and play multiple positions — an important trait in the changing NFL.

Injury updates

Defensive end Jonathan Greenard left in the first half with an apparent, unspecified injury. The standout grad transfer from Louisville was not dressed out for the second half, and an update on his condition was not immediately available.

Defensive end Jabari Zuniga (ankle) helped mitigate some of Greenard’s loss by returning from a month-long absence. He had been out since injuring himself at Kentucky. Mullen said Zuniga could have played last week against Auburn, but the Gators saved him, hoping he’d be 100 percent for LSU.

Takeaways from the game

Nice touch by LSU to have the quarterbacks from its 2007 team serve as honorary captains. Those No. 1 Tigers used five fourth-down conversions to defeat No. 9 Florida in a classic at Tiger Stadium.

Don’t overlook running back Lamical Perine this season. His numbers haven’t been great, mostly because of a shaky offensive line. But a week after scoring the clinching touchdown against Auburn, he came up with a circus touchdown catch at LSU.

A night game at Tiger Stadium is a raucous, bucket-list experience. But from a noise-only perspective? The Swamp was louder last week.

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.