Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 1:48 a.m.
Before every game this season, veteran football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions, then answers them after the game. Here is week 14:
1. Can the Gators generate a pass rush and get to Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford?
Earlier in the week, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said if the Gators couldn't put some heat on Bradford and make him feel uncomfortable, the Sooners likely would score a bunch of points. Well, the Gators got after Bradford from the start, sacking him for a big loss on the opening drive of the game. The defense put a pretty steady rush on Bradford for the rest of the game. They forced him to throw passes much quicker than he's accustomed to, and it knocked the fast-break OU offense right out of its rhythm, which no defense has been able to do this season. Strong and the defensive coaches mixed it up on Bradford, throwing a variety of blitzes and stunts at him that kept him off balance for much of the night.
2. The Gators' No. 1 defensive goal is to stop the run. Can they?
The Gators gave up some runs, but for the most part, they slowed down the running game enough to put the Sooners is many obvious passing situations. OU's ground game, which has been almost as effective the passing game, produced only 107 yards on nine carries. The biggest stop of the night came when sophomore defensive tackle Torrey Davis nailed tailback Chris Brown for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1 midway through the second quarter. In the second half, the Sooners could not put together enough of a running game to keep the offense out of obvious passing situations.
3. Will UF's offense be able to control the ball and the clock with sustained drives?
It did when it had to. Holding a 17-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Gators went on an 11-play touchdown drive that burned 6:52 on the clock. It gave the Gators a 10-point lead with only 3:07 remaining in the game. The defense then came up with a four-and-out, and it was game over for the Sooners. For the game, the Gators held the ball almost 10 minutes longer than the Sooners, a key victory in a vital phase of the game. With Bradford and the OU offense on the sideline for long periods of time, it gave the Sooners no chance to roll up the incredible numbers they did in the regular season.
4. Can UF cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden cover OU's fast and talented receivers?
Jenkins and Haden gave up some plays, but they never had the ball thrown over their heads and they prevented the OU receivers from making big plays that could have quickly turned the game in the Sooners' favor at times in the game. Coverage was sound all night, the defensive front brought some heat on Bradford, and it added up to a winning combination for the Florida defense. Haden is a true sophomore and Jenkins is a true freshmen, so these guys figure to only get better — and become even tougher to beat.
5. Will Bradford suffer a Heisman hangover, or will he have a big game?
He didn't suffer a hangover in terms of poor, inconsistent play and some blatantly bad passes. But he had a so-so night compared to what he's done all season. He threw two interceptions that really weren't his fault. The first came in the closing seconds of the first half when safety Major Wright picked a tipped ball inside the 5. The second came on an incredible individual play by strong safety Ahmad Black in the fourth quarter, which led to the Gators' clinching drive. Bradford was on at times, but the Gators put some heat on him and he could get his team in the end zone only twice.
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