Andreu’s Answers: Gators playing to their strengths

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks sets up to pass against Mississippi State during the first half Saturday in Starkville, Miss. Florida won 13-6. [Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press]

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 5:

1. What kind of reception will Dan Mullen receive in his return to Davis Wade Stadium? Hostile? Friendly? Somewhere in between?

It was somewhere in between, although leaning toward hostile by some, especially those in the student section. Other than that it was pretty tame. Many fans wore “Dan Who?” T-shirts and there were some signs taking shots at Mullen, but many of his former players seemed gracious in defeat, coming up and hugging Mullen after the game.

2. How much will the Florida offensive line struggle against one of the best defensive lines in the country?

It probably would have been a titanic struggle had the game plan been to throw a bunch of passes down the field. Had that been the case, the Bulldogs would have been coming hard after quarterback Feleipe Franks in the pocket. But Mullen came up with a winning game plan — wide receiver screens, quick passes and an occasional throw down the field — that effectively neutralized the MSU pass rush, minimizing the damage inflicted by defensive end Montez Sweat and nose tackle Jeffery Simmons. So, the line held up OK.

3. Will the Gators get hurt by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s ability to make plays with his legs?

He caused some damage in the first half, but the Gators shut him down in the second. They took away the run from Fitzgerald and everyone else with the ball in their hands (43 yards allowed in second half), forcing Fitzgerald to try and beat the Gators by standing in the pocket and making downfield throws. That didn’t work at all. The Gators pressured him, sacked him and made him almost totally ineffective in the second half.

4. Can the Gators produce some critical turnovers again after forcing six against Tennessee?

This was a totally different style of game than the one the Gators were involved in at Neyland Stadium — a grind-it-out kind of night on both sides of the ball. The Gators forced no turnovers this time, but they played fast and physical and forced the Bulldogs into a lot of negative plays. The six sacks were the biggest thing close to a turnover in terms of impact.

5. Will the Gators hit any big plays in the passing game?

They hit one, and the pass was not delivered by Franks, but by slot receiver Kadarius Toney, who took a lateral pass from Franks and then launched a 20-yard TD strike to tight end Moral Stephens midway through the third quarter. Franks completed a deep pass to Trevon Grimes inside the 10-yard line, but the play was negated by a holding penalty on offensive tackle Martez Ivey. In this case, one big play was enough.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

70 COMMENTS

      • tuna. Right now, if you are a FSU fan or troll, you have to be very worried about what this Florida defensive front seven is going to do to the FSU offensive line in November. Actually, nightmare worries right now.

    • Or Blough…..a game plan that took advantage of the MSU defensive line, as the announcers of the game and the folks on SECNow repeatedly remarked about during and after the game, which was to move them from sideline to sideline with quick sideline passes to wear them down (because they are really good). And the plan worked. And if you review the game, as I have, the OL blocked very well during the game, and especially Ivey and Jordan on the left side of the line. And after a slow start, Fred Johnson and Taylor played very well at RG and RT. And it seems Buchannan is developing into a fairly reliable center as well. And to inform you, with highly nationally ranked stats for tackles for loss had very few of those, and only one sack the entire game. So go BLOUGH somewhere else this week.

  1. It’s a great feeling to have a experienced and proven SEC head coach on our sidelines that we can put some trust in. Mullen clearly knows what he’s doing and while there will be some things that go wrong he will have a plan for what to do about it. Mac, Nuss and Nord were just incompetent – and those days are OVER!

  2. MSU had a stout defense but our O-line finally delivered. They don’t get much credit so have to give them props when called for. Mullen’s plan was right on target. Quick passes and screens kept MSU off balance all night. Franks is making strides but still wants to hold on to the ball too long on longer passes. Still showed a tendency to force some of his passes into tight spots and double/triple coverage especially on the interception. This team is different from more recent teams. Besides coaching the D can now at least count on some production from the O when they get turnovers or 3 and outs. Unlike the Muschump/Mac teams that were all defense these guys seems to balance out pretty well. Helps to have an actual SEC caliber OC/HBC calling the plays. Also an SEC caliber DC that recognizes the speed and talent of the opposition. Obviously we’ll know a lot more after this Saturday’s test. Till then kudos to the Gators on passing the test last Saturday night!

    • We got 20 1st downs to MSU’s 15; 347 yds to MSU’s 163. Our D was on the sidelines for most of the 2nd half, and when they went on the field they absolutely stoned the Bulldog O for 3-and-outs. The way we controlled the game in the 2nd half we really should have racked up more points. Into the 4th qtr the MSU fans knew that trailing by 7 points they were in big trouble.

      • Both comments are accurate. Offense still needs to improve. IMO that is abundantly clear. But…they did enough on Saturday, and outplayed the MSU offense. Completely happy with it. But they do need to continue to progress if the team is going to have a legitimate chance against LSU and the tougher opponents coming up. I think there is a very good chance we are going to see that progress based on the current trajectory and the confidence and togetherness it creates.

        • We had alot of yards but little scoring because the offense isnt very good. If you cant score in the red zone consistently you arent very good. Mullen’s game plan was to neutralize their pass rush with screen passes which are short and allowed franks to maintain drives, but he isnt good enough to score consistently in the red zone. He needed deep passes, which he is so good at and they didnt have them. It was the big plays that allowed them to score more in earlier games. Against a real Defense like LSU’s we will see more of that and they cant win scoring just 13 points. I hope he can fit in more deep passes to give the offense a chance.

        • Hey Gator1 — I know you said the other day that you were just feeling this site out, but I hope you’ve decided to stay around since your input is obviously first class.

          And daz, you are as customary spot on IMO. Franks has got to start seeing those receivers who have gotten separation and are open, because when he does, there is no doubt that he can put the ball in their hands. The Red Zone has to improve — maybe Pierce is an answer there — because we’re going into a stretch where field goals are not probably really going to cut it.

    • jpohn. The Florida offense did a lot with the ball outside the red zone. They certainly did a good job of moving the chains and working the clock, especially in the second half. The defense remained fresh and aggressive as a result. But the offense definitely needs to improve its effectiveness in the red zone. I would love to see more of Grimes, Krull, Pitts, and Toney (or Jefferson) in receiver formations in the red zone. Three big and tall receivers and one quicker or darter type in between. That set of receivers would be a challenge for a lot of defenses in the red zone, and I would design multiple red zone plays for those players for this coming weekend.

  3. Gators offense ran clock as needed giving defense rest, that was a crucial development in the team approach. Good show Gators nothing to complain about here. You can beat a talented LSU team in the swamp. Believe and play with relentless effort and determination and you will.

    • If Toney is the best QB and Pierce is the best RB, wouldn’t “a great Game Day Coach” be starting those players? I agree that Toney is a weapon, especially on the trick plays, but he’s not an every down QB, and you can’t run trick plays every down.

    • Ludimeister. Toney is not a SEC QB, and he is not even the best slot receiver right now on the team (and Copeland is on his way back now, too). But he is a very good specialty wide receiver and wild cat runner. And I think Stanford is one of the very few college football programs that still utilize the tailback position in an offense. And did you see Scarlett in pass protection vs. MSU. He saved Franks’ back multiple times by picking up blitzes very well, which allowed Franks to get passes off and not be sacked. There is much more to playing running back than just running the ball.

  4. I got to go to the game and enjoyed it very much. I was really impressed with how many Gators were at the game. There was a lot of orange and blue in the stands. I have gone to several MSU games because of my daughter going to school there and normally, I pull for them, but I could never pull against my Gators and my daughter understood that. I think Florida traveled as well as any school I have seen at MSU. I also believe that most Gator fans that attended would tell you that the MSU fans were very hospitable and welcoming. Tailgating was a very fun experience there even decked out in Florida gear. The cowbells are loud, but I fully expected that. I was impressed with how well they tried to follow the rule that once the center was over the ball they stopped ringing, but as soon as it was snapped they were back at it. It was a great experience and my team winning was icing on the cake. Glad to see Gators already matched last year win total. I still think this could be a very good year and I’m looking forward to the future. GO GATORS!!

    • I didn’t really pay much attention to when they were stopping and starting the bells as it’s hard to tell on TV, but if they were ringing them as soon as the ball was snapped, then they were breaking the rules. The Rule is they have to stop from the moment the center gets over the ball to the moment the refs blow the whistle ending the play.

      • The SEC office fines MSU after almost every game for the fans not abiding by the rule concerning the cow bells. They just pay the fine. The refs cannot stop the game for it. But the MSU fans mostly do stop for the snap at least. That sound is almost as annoying as the Nole chant. Almost.

    • Wetumpka Gator. Looking forward to some friendly tailgating with friends at The Swamp this weekend, and we will likely invite some LSU fans in for a beer or two. Maybe more to get them too drunk to even make it to the game…lol.

  5. It’s time imo to see this team in a different light…a team that can beat lsu and Georgia. If they get lucky and win the sec east they can beat bama. Now it’s not 50 50 for that but I think we can beat at least one of those 3. These games are played to win….not to showcase things. We have flaws but so do the top teams. I don’t think we should lament things from the past or get too charged up about blowing teams out. Expect tough games and different things being featured as we go. I like this new day…

    .

    • I agree with everything you said except for the beating Bama part. I don’t think anyone beats Bama this year. They’ve had some areas of concern the last few years where you thought they were beatable, especially at the QB position. I don’t see any weaknesses this season. This might be their most dominant team in a while. LSU I think is very beatable, especially at home, and I don’t think UGA is nearly as dominant as everyone is making them out to be. I wasn’t impressed at all by their game against UT. I thought for sure after watching the Gators get so many turnovers and scoring the most points in Neyland ever, that it would get embarrassing against UGA and they would drop at least 60 on them at home. They could only manage 1 turnover and Tenn was in that game for a while despite what the final score says. As soon as they face a decent defense that can stop the run and get pressure on Fromm, then you’re going to see that team struggle.

      • Joe, I totally agree ! I have heard the talking heads all year referring to UGA as Bama east and acting like they are on par with them and I just don’t see it. I will admit that their defense is good, but as you pointed out, their run game has just been ok, and their pass protect has been downright bad ! in fact it looked like they were going to get Fromm killed against Tenn, and even struggled against Mizzu, neither of which has nearly the pass rush that we can produce AND they only have one really quality receiver. I have confidence that CDM can and will come up with a game plan that will score points against them and expect our defense to do very well also. I don’t think they make it through their schedule unbeaten, if not by us, then Kentucky, Auburn and LSU back to back? they will fall somewhere along they way I predict. As far as LSU this weekend, they are a very good team with a LOT of talent, but I think once again we are going to see the difference that a REAL coach that can expose and exploit the weakness’s of another team can make when he has gotten his players to buy in and believe in his game plans. And I think this team is there now that they have seen what can happen when you play as a team and believe.. FLA 21 – LSU 17 book it !

      • This is spot on, Joe. As frightening as it is to admit, this is the best Bama team I’ve ever laid eyes on. Period. And that’s saying a LOT. I don’t think anyone beats them this year, and certainly not this Gator team. I like our chances to pull an upset against LSU, though. The Swamp is going to be rocking on Saturday.

    • 1. There is no way to beat Bama in 18. We need a couple of more years.
      2. There is no way to beat UGA in 18. Just like there was no way to beat them in 14, 15, or 16.
      3. If we play well, there is no reason to lose to LSU. Should have beat them last year.
      4. Of course – any week we show up like this year’s US Ryder Cup team, an embarrassment, we can be crushed. See Kentucky.

    • McVeal, If wishes were horses then all men would ride! ON this site some have gone from, its the 1st year so dont expect much to, they can win it all to, they cant beat anybody to, back to winning out! Why do I feel like Im in a psych ward with alot of manic depressives? This is the same team that lost to UK, remember? Just be happy that we have a road now, to 8 or 9 wins because thats what it is going to be! Do I hope they win out, sure as a fan i have that wish but I know it aint going to happen, so I keep it real!

      • Keep our expectations realistic during the transition year(s), win those that we should win and a few that we shouldn’t…..keep winning……don’t give up over losses and stay steady…..start picking up recruits that wouldn’t look at us before…..this part will be over before you know it and we’ll be back as good or better than we were during our best years. That’s what we all said when this great journey started, wasn’t it? Still sounds like a plan to me.

  6. What a difference, too, in the execution of the wide receiver screens. All that emphasis on how the receivers need to block has clearly paid off . I couldn’t always see the numbers on TV, but the announcer said that we consistently had them outnumbered, with MSU keeping players in the box rather than moving guys out to try and shut down those screen passes. It was basically just an intelligent coach looking at what the defense was doing and calling plays designed to beat them, then calling plays off those plays once the defense started biting.

    Basic common sense, but we saw none of that from Suckmiser, who reminded me of an 8 year old playing Madden. just calling random plays with no awareness at all of what the defense was doing.

    Meanwhile, I am sure MSU fans are irate. How did Moorehead destroy their team so quickly?

  7. Hey, Robbie, I need to apologize, as I previously stated I would if the Gators were held to 13 points or less. The Gators did only score 13 points as you predicted they would. Unfortunately for you, the Gators defense did not allow MSU to score the amount of points you predicted for them to easily win the game. So, I kind of want to take my apology back. But I won’t. But I do want to know by how many points are you going to favor LSU over the Gators this weekend. But this time, please present some solid reasoning to back up your prediction of the Gators being dominated by LSU in the coming game, as you predicted Tennessee and Mississippi State would. Here is fingers crossed that you WILL predict a blow out by LSU of the Gators again.

    • As you may have noted I dont make score predictions but careful analysis of both offenses and defenses and how they played and against opponents it looks to me like LSU will score around 20 and the gators in the low teens. Thats assuming we have a similar game plan as at MSU and the D and SP dont score, or set up short field positions. Since LSU has a great D I have to assume our gameplan is similar and that the D and SP will perform the same. we put 16 against UK but it wasnt all offense and 13 against MSU. LSU’s D is better then both of those but they were the best D’s weve played. LSU put 22 on Auburn and averaged over 30 otherwise. I believe our D is as good as Auburn’s and maybe better.

  8. ”The offense still needs to improve.” -some commenters here.
    That is so insightful! Man, EVERY TEAM, regardless of the sport, ”needs to improve.”
    As someone who grew up watching the 70’s Gator Football and onward, this team has offensive talent. And this team will improve, weekly in fact. As it’s Coach Mullen’s goal for this team.
    But I remember some people complaining that ‘”Coach Spurrier gave up on the run too early.”
    Insatiable fan base.
    When will those commenters say, ”This offense is great. It’s perfect. No need to improve anymore.” ?!?!
    Never! And nobody has ever said this team would even ”win the SEC East”, so I for ‘1’ am ”enjoying the journey.”

    • Thanks for setting me straight gi. I will try to do better from now on, but highly unlikely I can meet your standard. Btw, the point wasn’t that continuous improvement isn’t a constant, it was that their are a lot of positives already occurring for the offense (see the 2 posts it is in response to). But again thanks for your snarky reply, I’m sure I deserve it and more.

      • Aside from my sarcastic jest about ”insight,” (apparently only few commenters can practice ”sarcasm” here), my comment was historical truth, laced with Orange & Blue hope. And that’s the God’s honest truth!
        More truth, these Gators have ”improved”, they’re at 4 wins outta’ 5 games, and they’re being ”coached-up” finally on offense. This offense needs all the support they can get, as they neared O.D.’ing on ”criticism” (constructive or otherwise) last season. And oh, this is still Coach Mullen’s ”1st year here as Head Coach.”
        Lastly, the Gators, as of today, are in the ”Top 6 of the 14 team SEC,” and ranked 22 in the polls.
        GO GATORS! BEAT L.S.U.!
        GO GATORS! BEAT L.S.U.!

    • Good points, gi. Back in the day, I was guilty of saying SOS should run the ball more. Now, I just wish for the days of the Fun-n-Gun, but I know that CDM and this team are different and have their own identities. “Enjoy the journey” is good advice. Did you borrow that from Mark Wise?

    • You’re right gi, never. This is the same fan base that was harassing Mullen’s wife in the grocery store for not scoring more points while they were winning national championships. I’ve said it many times before that it wouldn’t matter if they were scoring 50 pts and putting up 500 yards of offense a game, some fans will find something to complain about no matter what. It’s the pessimistic mentality and sadly this fan base is littered with people that can’t break away from it. Unfortunately I think the 8 years of mediocrity has only strengthened it.

  9. How does Alabama get away with playing crappy teams for half the year? They haven’t played anyone yet.. They are playing teams that pretty much amount to the gators playing Colorado St every weekend. I’m not buying into them being good this year until they play a good team like Lsu or someone at least in the top 20 and put 50 on them.. Arkansas isn’t gonna do it.

    • Winning 5 of the last 9 championships pretty much allows them to do anything they want in the eyes of the voters. Other programs need to knock them off their pedestal on a consistent basis before their weak schedule will start affecting them.

    • Gator Mike. Bama played Texas A&M, which was in the top 25 at the time and it was expected to be a challenge for The Tide. It was not. A total blowout. And Bama has blown out every team they have played, including SEC opponent, Ole Miss. Bama has been so dominate that Tua has been averaging 1-1/2 quarters of play so far this year. Enough said. Bama is clearly the number one team in the country, and their second nd third teams probably would compete for the playoffs and national title.

  10. Coach “O” is a good motivator and a very good recruiter, and LSU has been winning games in a pretty convincing fashion including against a decent Miami squad. But I see two pretty evenly matched teams talent wise as it has been every time we have played them for years, in fact our teams were mirror images of each other more often than not with dominant defenses and inept ground and pound offenses devoid of any quality QB play. This year will be totally different! While both teams will still have top notch defense’s, they both will have pretty good offense as well. Boroughs has proven to be a more than capable game manager and their OC has done a nice job with the play calling ( his name escapes me at this senior moment ). This game will likely become a chess match like several of the close ones that we lost to them because the ” mad hatter” or “grass grazer” knew just when to pull the rabbit out of the hat much as CDM did Saturday night and that became the difference in a nail biter. What coach “O” is not, is a brilliant strategist or game planner. In a battle of wits between CDM and the ” ragin Cajun corn dog eater” I will take my chances with Dan the Man every time. Gators win and I think it will be close cause it usually is, but if we jump out on them early we may roll..

    • Right again, BC…..Ogeron gets his players to play hard, and nobody should ever doubt that, much less “misunderestimate” him (that was a nod to W). CDM definitely has the edge in the coaching arena, and there is not a huge delta in the talent department as some have suggested. They are ranked #5 because of who they beat, make no mistake about that. But we can beat them, and I think we will in a close game too.

      • All True ! I do believe that they have the edge in the trenches at least on the offensive side, but I think we do in skill positions. ( I’d rather have it the other way around ) Even if that is the case I have a feeling that Dano has a few more tricks up his sleeve that we are about to see come Sardey. Getting them in the swamp again is huge and I have a feeling that our D is going to have a good game after the last two confidence builders. It aught to be a barn burner !! If we can pull out the dub, all bets are off with the gatorbowl. I married a peach and need to get my bragging rights back again. Even with the whoopin they put on us last year I have yet to have any try to talk Shiite to me yet all year..

  11. Said it all week…. attack the perimeter and neutralize their main strength on defense… their DL. Use a bigger Toney package as well. It’s the same game plan we need to use against LSU imo.

    But I also think we can exploit LSU’s secondary at times with Jefferson, Cleveland, and Grimes. Use Toney more and make LSU’s defense chase us sideline to sideline.