COLUMBIA, S.C. — Before every game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 9:
1. Will the Gators play with more emotion and energy than they did in the lopsided loss to Missouri a week ago?
Even though the game had a less than ideal start for Florida, the Gators were clearly more emotionally ready for this game. They played with energy, they played with passion, but it obviously takes more than that to win on the road in the SEC. To the Gators’ credit, they did not appear to quit in the second half like they did a week ago. They fought to the end and had a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes.
2. How will Malik Zaire do in his second consecutive start at quarterback?
He struggled early, but was putting together a nice drive in the second quarter before going down with a leg injury sustained at the end of a 23-yard run. After sitting out a play, Zaire re-entered the game, but as he tried to roll to his left on the next play, he collapsed with the injured leg and was done for the rest of the day. The question now is: will he return for the final two games of the season?
3. The UF defense has not touched the opposing quarterback in the past two games. Can the Gators get to Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley?
After failing to even get a quarterback pressure in the loss to Missouri a week earlier, the Gators were much more aggressive (and determined) to make Bentley uncomfortable in the pocket, and they did at times. UF got after him from the start, sacking him three times in the first half alone. The Gators got their hands on Bentley in the second half, but did not sack him.
4. Are the Gators going to go the entire season without recovering a fumble?
When a ball glances off the leg of a player on the punt return team, it is technically not a fumble because there was no possession. But when the opposing team recovers it, it goes down in the stats as a recovered fumble (what else would you call it?). So, the Gators have now recovered a fumble this season. It came when reserve linebacker Rayshad Jackson picked up a loose ball after it touched the leg of a Carolina player in the second quarter. As for the Florida defense, it still has yet to recover a fumble this season.
5. Can the Gators get off to a better start than they did against Missouri and Georgia?
They talked all week about how vital it was to get off to a better start, but it didn’t happen. Florida went three-and-out to open the game, then South Carolina quickly drove 74 yards for a touchdown to grab the lead and momentum less than four minutes in. Carolina then went up 14-0 late in the quarter, and UF seemed vulnerable at that point. The difference this time is the Gators did not let the early deficit snowball into an early rout. They hung in there and managed to stay in the game until the end.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.