Florida Gators QB Emory Jones gets his chance after waiting 3 years

Matthew Pearce/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Emory Jones first landed on Dan Mullen‘s recruiting radar seven years ago.

Jones was a high school freshman in LaGrange, Georgia, and Mullen was scouring the country for another spread quarterback at Mississippi State. Ideally, Mullen wanted to find the next Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton or Dak Prescott.

Mullen could see Jones’ raw talent: a big, accurate arm and game-breaking mobility. Everything else, Mullen figured, could be taught. They bonded quickly, and when Mullen took over in Gainesville three years later, he asked Jones to join him.

Jones obliged and became Mullen’s first hand-picked quarterback to sign with the Gators.

Now, after waiting three years behind Feleipe Franks and then Kyle Trask, Jones finally gets his chance when No. 13 Florida opens the season against Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.

“It has been hard, but it’s all been for a reason,” Jones said. “That’s what I’ve realized over the past years. I have been playing a little bit, so that keeps me going. I’ve just been watching the guys in front of me do their best and watching how they move and how they operate and it’s definitely just helping me.”

While Trask set school and Southeastern Conference records and became a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2020, Jones served as a change-of-pace option.

Jones completed 18 of 32 passes for 221 yards last year, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 217 yards and two scores. He was at his best against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, where he threw for 86 yards and ran for 60 more and a score.

But this, no doubt, will be different.

“I think he understands it,” Mullen said Monday. “You look at his playing time and experience throughout the years. Everybody says this will be his first time playing the first play of the game, but to say he hasn’t played in a lot of big moments in a lot of different games, big difference.”

Mullen made it clear that the offense won’t be watered down or scaled back with Jones at the helm. Jones helped create the game plan and will have the freedom to audible or scramble on any play. The sky-high expectation is Jones will be able to improvise like no other quarterback in Florida lore, too.

“We’ll just throw the whole thing at him and let him go,” Mullen said.

Mullen has raised some eyebrows with some of his claims regarding Jones, especially the one about Jones being able to make throws that Trask could only dream about.

“He’s got a cannon for an arm,” Mullen said.

Teammates have delivered equally glowing praise.

“I don’t like to call Emory a dual threat because most people like see Emory break and see him run,” running back Dameon Pierce said. “I call Emory a mobile pocket passer because this guy, he can launch that ball.

“That’s probably the most underrated aspect of his game. He can launch the ball! He wants to throw the ball first. He only runs when there’s absolutely nothing there or pressure comes and he’s got to get out the pocket. I feel like Emory brings a lot to the table this year.”

His best attribute might be patience. After all, Jones never complained or caused a scene during his time on the bench – three years in which the NCAA transfer portal exploded in popularity.

He could have moved on and gotten on the field sooner. He could have already started somewhere else. Instead, he stuck it out. Now, the payoff could be significant.

Even though the Gators lost two first-round draft picks, dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts and elusive receiver Kadarius Toney, they seem to have enough talent to be a title contender in the Eastern Division.

A lot of that will depend on Jones’ development. And his time comes with a twist: Jones waited so long and now might have to share the spotlight with redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson, who’s bigger, faster and quite possibly a better NFL prospect.

“Coach Mullen definitely uses his offense around the quarterback,” Jones said. “Whatever type, style quarterback you are, he’s going to make it happen. For me, just a different skill set. I feel I can do anything on the field.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.