Andreu's Answers: Gator offense does just enough
Published: Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
TAMPA — Before every game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions, then answers them after the game.
1. The Gators have had more than a month to prepare. Will there be noticeable changes in the offense?
It was a clear case of SOS — same old stuff, for the most part. There did not appear to be any changes whatsoever, at least in the first half. The Gators rotated three quarterbacks and none of the three had a chance to establish anything close to a rhythm. When John Brantley was in the game, the Gators threw the ball (ineffectively). When Jordan Reed was in the game, the Gators ran the ball (sometimes effectively). When Trey Burton was in the game ... well, he lost a fumble in the end zone. But with Reed getting the bulk of the snaps in the second half, the Florida offense finally started to make some things happen. The only real difference in the offense was the way the Gators used Reed in the second half. They let him throw the ball, they let him run more of the offense than he has in the past. It gave the offense enough of a boost for the Gators to pull this victory out.
2. Can the injury-depleted UF defensive front slow down Penn State tailback Evan Royster, the school's all-time leading rusher?
Royster finished with 98 yards on 20 carries, but a large chunk of that yardage came in Penn State's potential winning drive late in the game that ended with Ahmad Black's interception return for a touchdown. For most of the game, the Gators stuffed Royster like he has rarely been stuffed this season. UF shut him down and forced quarterback Matt McGloin to throw the ball more than the Nittany Lions probably would have liked. The results were good for Florida. The Gators intercepted McGloin five times. It all started with UF's ability up front to stymie Royster.
3. Jeff Demps has practiced some this week. Will the UF tailback play enough to make a difference?
Demps practiced some during the week and Meyer proclaimed him good to go Friday. Clearly, though, Demps is still nowhere close to being full speed — and being the dynamic player he is in the offense when he's healthy. Demps had a 13-yard run in the first half, and had only three carries for 20 yards. Like he's done since early in the season, Demps played only a handful of plays. His injured foot had a huge negative impact on the offense for most of the season.
4. How will the Florida secondary play without its best player — cornerback Janoris Jenkins?
It looked like a disaster for the secondary early in the game, with the Gators giving up play after play in the passing game. And it looked like things were only going to get worse. Starting cornerback Jeremy Brown left with an injury and did not return. Strong safety Matt Elam was injured and could not return. Cornerback Cody Riggs was injured but managed to come back. Despite all this, the secondary somehow came up with perhaps its best performance of the season. The Gators covered, they made huge plays, including Ahmad Black's game-clinching 80-yard interception return for a touchdown with 55 seconds left in the game. UF intercepted a season-high five passes and, of course, produced the biggest play of the game with less than a minute to go.
5. Will the Gators block a punt for Urban Meyer, who coordinates the punt block team?
The punt-block team sent Meyer out the right way — blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. True freshman Solomon Patton, who nearly blocked one earlier in the game, came through clean and blocked the kick. Lerentee McCray scooped up the ball and ran 27 yards for the score. It was a huge momentum change in the game, giving the Gators a 14-7 lead. Maybe it even guaranteed a victory. Under Meyer the Gators have never lost a game in which they've blocked a punt. UF is now 15-0 in that category. It was the 21st punt the Gators have blocked in the Meyer era. Meyer had a lot to smile about after the victory. That blocked punt probably drew the biggest smile of all, because the punt-block team is his baby.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.