Andreu's Answers: UF's power ball
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
Before every 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. Can the Gators prevent the Tigers from controlling the game and the clock with their potent running game?
The Florida defensive front consistently beat the LSU offensive line and completely stuffed the Tigers' running game. The Gators held LSU to only 42 rushing yards on 25 carries. The longest LSU run went for only 13 yards. Like Will Muschamp is always saying, this is a line of scrimmage league, and the Gators won this battle in a big way. And they did it with a bunch of different players, alternating linemen and linebackers throughout the game to stay fresh, and it made a difference. Buck linebacker/defensive end Lerentee McCray and tackle Omar Hunter seemed to stand out. Whether it was in passing situations or short-yardage situations, the Gators stayed in their gaps and shut down the run. That allowed the Gators to get after quarterback Zach Mettenberger with steady pressure.
2. Will Florida's offensive line be able to protect QB Jeff Driskel against a strong LSU pass rush?
The Gators found out in the first half that they could not consistently keep LSU's speedy rush off their sophomore quarterback. He was sacked five times in the game and rarely had time to check down to a secondary receiver. If the first guy was covered, usually the play was over, with Driskel either getting sacked or trying to scramble out of the pocket. The best way to negate a great pass rush is to get physical and run right at it, and that's exactly what the Gators did in the second half. They took the game out of Driskel's hands and handed it over to senior tailback Mike Gillislee and the offensive line. The result was a punishing ground game that changed momentum and led to the victory.
3. The Tigers have had problems with penalties and turnovers. Will that trend continue today?
It did. The Tigers turned the ball over three times (two fumbles and an interception) and again hurt their effort with some big penalties, perhaps the biggest being a 15-yard facemask penalty on UF's final drive of the game that allowed the Gators to burn off all but a few seconds to preserve the victory. The game-changing turnover, of course, came when junior safety Matt Elam stripped the ball from LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at the end of a 56-yard pass play late in the third quarter. De'Ante Saunders recovered the ball, and the offense came on the field and continued the UF momentum, driving 77 yards in 11 plays to give the Gators a 14-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
4. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has struggled with consistency. How will he hold up in a loud and hostile environment?
Mettenberger was sharp and very much in control in LSU's opening drive of the game, which ended in a field goal. But once it was apparent the Gators had control of the LSU running game, Mettenberger could not produce the plays that might have led to a Tigers' victory. He threw an interception, was sacked four times and was pressured just about every time he dropped into the pocket. He was hurried and harried into making some wild throws in both halves. He completed only 11 of 25 passes for 158 yards and was a big reason the Tigers converted only one of 13 third-down plays.
5. Who wins the battle of special teams?
On paper, you might want to give a little bit of an edge to LSU because Drew Alleman converted both of his field-goal attempts for the Tigers' only points, and Brad Wing averaged 45.6 yards per punt. Then again, you could be justified in giving the edge to the Gators because of the performance of much-improved punter Kyle Christy. He averaged 49.1 yards a punt, with a long of 61 yards, and helped the Gators flip field position during some crucial moments in the game. So, yes, because the Gators won the game, the edge goes to Christy and the UF special teams.