Andreu's Answers: UF running game stuffed

Florida's Chris Rainey spins for a short gain during the first half against Alabama in Gainesville Saturday, October 1, 2011.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.

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

1. Will Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey be able to shake loose for some big plays against a suffocating Tide defense?

Alabama's defense did what slower and less physical defenses have been unable to do this season — and that's take Demps and Rainey completely out of the game. The two little speedsters had nowhere to run. When it looked like they might have a little bit of a crack to dart through, the Tide defense quickly closed it and put Demps and Rainey on the ground at or near the line of scrimmage.

The Tide showed that all the speed in the world is pretty much useless when there's no open space to use it in. The Alabama defense did exactly what it had to do to win the game. It struck out (and struck down) the two home-run hitters in the Florida offense.

2. Can the Florida defense hold Tide tailback Trent Richardson to less than 100 yards rushing?

It became fairly obvious early in the game that the Gators were not going to be able to stop Richardson. The Tide established him on Alabama's first drive of the game and Richardson spent the rest of the night running through holes and running through Gator defenders. He had 60 yards rushing and a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. At the half, he had 77 yards rushing on 15 carries and was averaging 5.1 yards a carry. Richardson also hurt the Gators in the passing game, taking a screen pass on a critical third-down play and running 22 yards to set up a Tide touchdown in the second quarter. Richardson surpassed the 100-yard mark with his 18-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter. He put the exclamation point on his performance with his 36-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. He was the best player on the field Saturday night — and looking very Heisman Trophy worthy.

3. Tide or Gators. … who makes a big play on special teams?

Tide. After Caleb Sturgis kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Gators a 10-3 lead with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter, Marquis Maze returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to the UF 29, breaking about a half dozen tackles along the way. The Tide quickly converted the short field into a touchdown to tie the game and seize momentum that Alabama rode for the remainder of the half in building a commanding 24-10 lead. The Gators had a chance to make a big play when Alabama muffed a punt in the third quarter, but the Tide recovered the loose ball. It was that kind of night for Florida.

4. Will Florida's wide receivers, who have been quiet most of the season, be a factor against a strong Tide secondary?

The play of the wide receivers was perhaps the only bright spot on offense for the Gators. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis established them right away, throwing deep to Andre Debose on the first play of the game. John Brantley threw a strike and Debose made the catch for a 65-yard touchdown play that ignited The Swamp. Debose also caught a 25-yard pass in the first half and Deonte Thompson had a 30-yard reception in the half. For the first time this season, the wide receivers were a featured part of the offense. But with no running game to speak of, the Tide made it tough on all aspects of the UF passing game from midway point of the second quarter to the end of the game.

5. Can the UF offensive line protect quarterback John Brantley?

The big guys did a nice job early in the game and Brantley was able to move the offense through the air and give the Gators the early lead. But once the Tide defense made the Gators one-dimensional (all passing), it became Brantley's worst nightmare. He was pressured into an interception that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown by Courtney Upshaw in the second quarter. Then, after leading the Gators on a late drive inside the Alabama 15 with less than two minutes remaining in the half, he was sacked on consecutive plays. He fumbled the ball, but got it back, on the first sack. The second sack, by Upshaw, knocked Brantley out of the game and basically ended any hope of a UF comeback in the second half. Brantley injured his right knee or ankle, had to be helped to the locker room and did not return. The Gators also had problems protecting No. 2 quarterback Jeff Driskel in the second half.

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