Andreu’s Answers: Florida has plenty to clean up

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Missouri quarterback Drew Lock throws a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in front of Florida defensive lineman Jachai Polite (99) during the first half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press]

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 9:

1. Coming off the disappointing loss to Georgia, will the Gators come out flat and get off to a slow start?

It was a bad early sign when the Gators had to settle for a 32-yard field goal on their second possession after starting on the Missouri 31 following a short punt and a 15-yard illegal batting penalty. Things only got worse from there. The players came out flat, the late-arriving crowd came out flat — and the Gators got flattened. Wide receiver Josh Hammond said after the game that some players approached this contest like it was going to be an easy win. How in the world do you do that against a team that kicked your butt the year before 45-16?

2. Can the Gators establish a running game against a Missouri defense that is giving up just 126.5 rushing yards a game?

The Gators got manhandled up front, so no, they had no chance to establish a consistent ground game. UF had only two runs of 10 yards or longer (15 by Jordan Scarlett and 12 by Kadarius Toney) and finished the game with just 113 yards rushing. The line had been showing steady improvement over the course of the season, but took a big step back with this poor performance.

3. Will Missouri quarterback Drew Lock pick apart the depth-shy UF secondary?

UF coach Dan Mullen said after the game that the short-handed secondary has gotten worn down in recent games playing so many plays. The reality is, Lock simply wore the Gators out in the back end. He had time to throw and his receivers were consistently getting separation from the defensive backs, making it a simple game of pitch-and-catch for the Tigers.

4. The Missouri offensive line is giving up just 1.25 sacks a game. Can the Gators put some pressure on Lock?

Just like a year ago, Lock had all the time he needed to find wide-open receivers for explosive plays. Florida’s pass rush has disappeared in these back-to-back losses to Georgia and Missouri. Lock never even got touched in the pocket. He was sacked once, but that came when he was chased out of bounds two yards shy of the line of scrimmage by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson early in the third quarter.

5. Can the UF defensive front shut down the Tigers’ running game like Kentucky did a week ago?

Not even close. The undersized defensive line got pushed back and pushed around for most of the game. Instead of stuffing the run, the Gators got gutted on the ground, giving up 114 yards rushing to Damarea Crockett and 221 overall. The Tigers averaged 5.3 yards a rush, a losing number for sure for the UF defense.

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


Up next

Who: South Carolina (5-3, 4-3 SEC) vs. No. 19 Florida (6-3, 4-3)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

23 COMMENTS

  1. Florida only scored 16 points in their loss to U.K., and has only scored 17 points in each of their last 2 losses: U.G.A., and Mizzou. As bad as the Gator ‘D’ was Saturday against Missouri, the Gator offense is getting shut down in tough games. The Gators average score in this year’s Gator losses is a mere 16.6 points per game. So fighting through adversity appears (from the outside looking in) to NOT be a strength for this year’s Gator football team, unfortunately.
    Gator fans can only hope they fight through the adveristy of a present 2 game losing streak, and post a 9-3 record. But since a 10-2 record didn’t seem to appeal to many of these young men, I don’t see how 9 wins will either. So with only 3 games left, it’s on them now to show us ”if they can handle adversity.” Because as of now, Nov. 5th, the jury is still out. Go Gators!

    • Consider this, GI: When you have an over-confidence induced absence of any sense of urgency at all, get behind, and don’t seem to realize that “three and out” isn’t really working until late in the game — wellsir, it is a special form of insanity to expect any other result.

      I don’t quite know what to make of it, except that I hope they go back to being “that” team again before its too late.

      • Yea right, Gator-6. But it’s not that I doubt Coach Mullen and his staff, I doubt these players ”cleaning it up” this year. I sincerely believed (before Mizzou game) a ”10 win season” would be some kinda’ special for Mullen’s 1st year as H.C. at Florida. And now I hear (or read actually) where some players have said, ”I’m going to shut it down, and stay healthy for the NFL draft.” To them I say, ”What kind of FOOL do you think the talent scouts are for the NFL?!?!” They certainly don’t want any players on their teams that will say, ”Well we’re out of the AFC divisional race, so I am going to ‘shut it down’ until off-season workouts.” That’s some kinda’ insane, too, in my opinion.

        • I first heard the same thing when Sparky mentioned it, and now have heard it from others not on this board too. If so, this is the damnedest absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life, save for the idea that you can save a hole in the ground by making it bigger. Sorry, but somebody better tell me what to think, ’cause I don’t get it.

        • Any ideas on who posted they were shutting it down? Based on recent play it could be a number of players. Maybe, Polite, CeCe and Zuniga based on their lack of pass rush during the last 2 games. Regardless, it is time to start rewarding playing time for effort over perceived talent.

          • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson tweeted something eluding to that, but now he’s on there claiming everyone is crazy for thinking he’s going to shut it down.

  2. I think CDM does adjust the offense before and during the game. What he has to do now adjust is his QB. Yes the O-line is a problem and protection is too, but when the QB does get the time, he has to perform, and Franks does not.

    Go back and watch 2005-6 games with diminutive Chris Leak. We rolled the pocket and did other things to buy time, but Leak put it on the money when he needed to. So maybe Trask will get shell shocked after a while too, but right now, he seems to hear his wide receiver’s footsteps more than the opposing D-line’s. Franks seems haunted by either ghosts of past mistakes, or fear of future sacks.

    CDM needs to either just start Trask, or go with rotating QB’s for the next game. I think the defense would play better overall if they had some rest between series and some hope with the offense producing points.

  3. We are a very immature team. While our team looks like grown men they act more like young teenagers. The people that you expect to provide leadership get suspended, commit silly penalties, and often play poorly. These are supposed to be the leaders and the players younger players look towards. It’s been this way for years and it hasn’t gotten better. This situation is just a big mess and it’s not CDM’s fault. This is what he was handed. It would have been great if he could have jettisoned every player that has been on the team more than 2 years when he arrived without any blow-back as there is just a bad culture here. The only players junior and above were Reese and probably Zuniga and Polite. Jettisoned all the rest. Oline would have been gutted. It would have a tough year but sometimes you have to take your lumps and you’ll be rewarded next season. The only problem now is we’ll be in a rebuilding phase again next year because we started so many upperclassmen.
    You have your leaders and star players getting arrested, smoking pot, committing credit card fraud, and getting suspended for unknown reasons. That’s not how you build a winner.

    Our season is to this point the same season we’ve had for the last 4-5 years.
    i hope CDM can fix this because the last guys couldn’t.

    • David, your comment nailed it. This is still a bad culture at Florida. Lots of showboating, jawing, selfishly breaking team uses right before huge games – all adds up to no fight, and mailing it in for a Homecoming conference game. A nearly-great season has been largely trashed by the poor-character loss to Mizzou. The entire team should feel ashamed.

      That said, I think CDM is great and will fix it over time, but he has a huge task before him. All I really care about now is beating the damn Noles – IF the team feels like it’s worth it.

      • “….poor character loss to Mizzou”. Yes. And that’s the worst step backward of all. I have watched this team’s character grow all season — call it gumption, drive, spunk, pluck, or whatever you deem to call it….we’re all talking about the same thing — but it wasn’t there except for once in a while last Saturday. Get it back, and we win out, go to a decent bowl, and have a great recruiting season for 2019. Ignore it, we still have a winning record but go to a very low tier bowl against an unknown opponent who will likely use it to their advantage, and the recruiting season will probably suffer. We’ve got the coach, we’ve got the staff, we’ve got enough talent — this is not how we want to end the season, Gators!

  4. Gator fans need to relax already. There’s nothing worse than reading about coaches needing to be replaced and how quickly people are turning on Mullen. I mean give me a break, this is a program that was clearly over-achieving and that’s a direct result of what he’s capable of. How quickly people forget this is a team that won 4 games last season. For 3 years a very poor and selfish give up attitude was instilled in them. Look no further than the last 3 seasons and how they ended for all the proof you need of that attitude. Mullen didn’t recruit or develop about 90% of these players and has had less than a year to try to erase the past 3 years from their mentality. Not sure how any of this is all Mullen’s fault. This is a program that was recruited not only for a pro-style offense, but a 4-3 defense, so both Mullen and Grantham are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. They’ve achieved far more than most expected of them before the season started, so they should be praised and not berated. 6-1 was apparently the worst possible start this team could’ve had cause it made too many Gator fans completely lose their minds. This team is still on track to accomplish more than most people expected of them, but now everyone’s angry because Mullen didn’t perform miracles. Yes everyone’s tired of the same results for the last 10 years, me included, but you need to be realistic and understand this wasn’t going to be a quick fix and both Mullen and Grantham need to get the players they need to run their systems effectively before you’re going to see it fixed. Dabo Swinney didn’t win 10 games till his 4th season. He actually went 4-3 (took over 6 games in), 9-5, and 6-7 before winning 10 games. Didn’t win a national title till his 9th year. Saban went 2-6 his first season. Meyer won 9 games his first season, but was handed a far more talented team. You’ll be hard pressed to find too many coaches in history that took over a 4 win program and accomplished much more than Mullen has this season. It’s ok to be upset about the loss and the fact that he didn’t make a switch at QB sooner, that’s natural, but step back into reality and relax on the bashing of the coaches and claiming they need to be replaced, that’s just ridiculous.

    • Joe,

      Good points about the need for patience. But I don’t see a lot of posts calling for Mullen to be fired. It looks to me like fans are blaming the previous regimes for the state of the program. Yes, there is the occasional idiot who wants to blame Mullen, but that is the exception, not the rule. I blame the previous AD and the administration for the lack of facilities and the current state of Florida football.

        • I haven’t lost faith in Mullen, Joe — hell, I wish we could have found a way to get him here when Urban Myer left! I’m sure we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in after the intervening 7 seasons. I think tho, with what seems to be developing late in the season — I said, “seems to be” — that he has more on his hands to deal with than previously met the eye. He WILL get it turned around tho, and we will be a true championship caliber team again within 3 to 4 years. Even LT, who is often misunderstood as his critic and sometimes really is, agrees that we have to give him a chance.

  5. I thought we’d lose but I really didn’t expect a performance this lame. Even though we have a leadership issue at db, I thought the chance to put up a good film against an NFL first rounder would motivate the guys but that didn’t happen.

    Right now other than UCF the whole state of Florida is having trouble in college football. The heat advantage is gone until the bowl season and we’ve got to learn to play without it. Happens every year to some degree. Thought we’d be better this time.

  6. The players are just echoing what the coaches tell them… After each loss, we’ve heard the crap about “we just thought we’d win an easy one”, or “we overlooked so-and-so”… BS! You’re telling me a 2 loss team that went 4-9 last year was “overconfident” that they’d beat a team that destroyed them just last year?… Thehonestly? well just say that “we’re a bunch of jackwagons and we have no idea what we’re doing.

    How about just being honest and saying we weren’t very good, we got our @SNES kicked, we’ll try harder next time… You know, honesty?

  7. Coach Mullen has done a fine job as QB whisperer this year. I supported him fully with Franks.
    It’s very clear now, though, after some big games, that Franks is not the answer immediately or maybe even long term. It’s clear that Trask has the stuff to spark this offense for the rest of the season. In a little more than a quarter, he significantly out threw Franks in passing yards, and Franks played almost three quarters of time. Whats more, the O looked pump when Trask was out there.
    Let’s start Trask for the next three games and give Jones packages plays for two more games and red shirt him. Trask and Jones should share spring and summer camp snaps and wouldn’t it be nice if Kelly Bryant, from Clemson, came on board also this Spring?

    • I too think Trask earned a right for more playing time, but I think expectations need to be tempered a bit. I still firmly believe there’s a reason Mullen hasn’t given him a chance up to this point. It’s not surprising to see a player come in with fresh legs and a lot of energy after everyone else has been playing more than half a game and look much better than he actually is. Especially when that defense has never seen any tape or understands what he does best. Add on the fact that they had a comfortable 25 pt lead and were playing a prevent bend but don’t break defense and he was able to capture a little lightning in a bottle. It’s a much different story when a defense can plan for you and take away what you do best and you can bet for damn sure that Muschamp will be planning for the possibility of facing him. It’s going to be interesting to see if he’s given another chance, how he’ll do when a defense is expecting him to play and he doesn’t have the element of surprise helping him out.

      • What possible reason could Mullen have for not giving Trask the start? His passes were thrown with accuracy and the right trajectory, unlike Franks who consistently overthrew receivers or makes them stop to make a catch instead of hitting them in stride or just plain drills balls that need touch, not speed. I didn’t see anything from Trask that makes me think he doesn’t give the Gators the best chance to win. Franks has topped out and we know what we’ll get with him.