After a night to ruminate on our 35-14 opener against Lethal Simplicity II, I find myself not quite in the state of funk that I was at the conclusion of a mostly lackluster performance by the Pitts/Trask-less edition of Dan and Todd’s Big Adventure. There were some good things that happened. The most obvious of which was the “debut” of Anthony Richardson, who second-stringed his way to 160 yds rushing on 7 caries and passed for another 40. One would think that this Mullen QB Prototype is now ready to take off and run Dan’s offense a la Dak Prescott, but remember, this is the same Dan Mullen who was reluctant to start Kyle Trask. Color me cautiously optimistic. We ran the ball pretty well. 400 yds for the game with Richardson and Malik Davis eclipsing 100 and scoring 4 times on the ground was a pleasant surprise even if it was against FAU. It might have been even more encouraging had we not suffered those two pesky “4th and Mullens” (thanks to whoever in the box coined this phrase) that left us scoreless on a couple of deep possessions. Dan alluded after the game that this might be who we are, potentially to lead the nation in rushing instead of passing…and I’m good with that, so long as it holds up against the likes of Bama, the Mutts, and assorted other SEC defenses. Color me ambivalent. I can’t say I was unhappy with the D Line and to an extent the LBs, as we held Willie and the Po Boys to 92 yards on the ground, sacked the QB 6 times and generally shortened his clock for most of the evening. However, our secondary is still inconsistent at best, porous and easily exploitable at worst. 261 yards passing and a TD against a quality opponent might not be so bad, but again this was FAU. And no picks. Color me forlorn. Let’s look at a few specifics… *First, and most obvious I’d think, is that EJ is most probably not the man. Yes, it’s early and I am very appreciative and respectful that he has paid his dues and remained loyal, but if we’re going to have to rely on a running QB this year, Richardson has made a strong case. Had Emory not thrown 2 picks and shown little touch on several balls, I could easily say”Heck, it’s his first start as THE guy.” But that’s now a moot point and he’s currently the second-best running QB on the roster and his arm is not awe-inspiring. *400 yards on the ground is encouraging, as is 4 rushing TDs. Makes me want to believe that the OL is improved (we’ll see what Bama has to say about that). If I felt more confident in our defense’s ability to lock down the opposition’s passing and our offense’s ability to strike quickly through the air, then id say we’ve got something. Right now it’s just a handful of hope. *Rick Wells scored our only receiving TD. No offense to this kid intended, but let that sink in. Copeland and Whittemore had 1 catch each. Shorter had 4 for 11 yards. Who’s Weston? *Turnovers were a scratch at 2 each (tip of the cap to Gervon Dexter). Depending on what happens to our passing attack, we’ll need to win this battle to win games this season and the secondary currently doesn’t look up to the mark. But it’s early… *Malik Davis had a big night running the ball with 104 yds and a score on 14 carries. He seems to have added a little power to go along with his speed and quickness. Maybe more importantly he had no fumbles. Pierce looked strong in limited carries, scoring twice, and he also caught 5 balls. Throw in the transfer from Clemson along with Wright and Linguard and we have a pretty good stable of backs. *No disappointments in the Special Teams. The Aussie punter looked pretty good. Don’t know much yet about the kickers other than we poached one from MissSt. Couple of punt returns on low kicks was nice. I’ll take no harm for the time being, but it might get interesting if we ever need a 45 yard FG to win. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this opener, which kept alive our nation’s best opening game win streak, wasn’t altogether encouraging. What I think it has done, at least for me, is to makes us think critically about the holes in Mullen’s recruiting efforts. Our receiving room might be as short of big names and talent as it’s ever been. The secondary still looks more like Jerry’s kids than DBU. The LBs are willing, but hardly spectacular. We are relying far too heavily on the portal. That we played a DT that has only been with us for a week speaks to this. This is not SEC and Nat’l Championship strategy and effort. So the upside will be anticipating the job the staff can do to elevate us above where we currently hover. Color me apprehensive. But always color me Orange and Blue. Let’s get better against USF. Go Gators!