Andreu's Answers: Driskel rebounds
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 5:48 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 9:
1. Will Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel rebound from his four-turnover performance against Georgia?
He did. He went from four turnovers last week to none Saturday. He came close a couple of times, throwing at least several passes dangerously into coverage and he lost a ball out of bounds scrambling for yardage in the first half. Other than that, he took care of the football and executed enough plays to help the Gators get out of this one with a victory. The screen pass to Mike Gillislee for a 45-yard touchdown play early in the fourth quarter was beautifully set up. But it would not have ended the way it did had Driskel not been able to sidestep a defender to get the pass off. Overall, it was another solid, but unspectacular performance for the true sophomore. He completed 13-of-23 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown and was not sacked, although he was under pressure for much of the game. It wasn't always pretty, but Driskel and the Gators rebounded from the Georgia turnover fest.
2. Will the UF offensive line continue to struggle opening holes in the running game and protecting Driskel?
The offensive line didn't do much of anything in the first half. Very little in the way of running room for Gillislee and not a lot of time in the pocket for Driskel. But with the game on the line in the second half, and UF losing two starters (guards James Wilson and Jon Halapio) to injuries, the big guys found a way to somehow get it done. The blocking downfield on the screen play let Gillislee cover the 45 yards untouched. And the crease created on the right side on Omarius Hines' 36-yard TD run on a speed sweep was huge. Like Gillislee, Hines was untouched. The biggest concern with the line now is the injuries. Starting left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) did not play Saturday, so in the fourth quarter, the Gators were playing without three starters. Backup center Sam Robey replaced Halapio, and Ian Silberman stepped in for Wilson. There's a good chance the Gators will be without Halapio, Wilson and Nixon this week against Louisiana-Lafayette. If they can't go, depth becomes a huge issue.
3. Can the Gators find a way to make some plays downfield in the passing game?
For the second time in three games, the Gators hit a long touchdown pass that was called back by a penalty. This time it was a holding penalty on Halapio that wiped out a 45-yard TD strike down the middle to Frankie Hammond Jr. Other than that, there were not many attempts by Driskel to launch it downfield. It was pretty much the same story we've seen in the past four weeks. Driskel didn't have much time and his receivers did not appear to be getting open. The big passing plays down the field have simply not been there, and the Gators are rarely trying to force the issue. That's why Driskel is averaging only about 100 yards passing a game for the past five games.
4. Will the Gators be emotionally flat after last week's crushing loss to Georgia?
The Gators came out fired up and seemed ready to play. The question is, were the fans flat. It looked like it about 15 minutes before kickoff, when there were thousands of empty seats in the stands, especially on the student side. But the fans eventually showed up and did their part to give the Gators some energy in the second half. The defense missed some tackles on the Missouri wide receivers and tailback Kendial Lawrence, but other than that, there were no obvious signs the Gators were suffering from a hangover from the loss to the Bulldogs the week before.
5. Can the Florida defense prevent dual-threat Missouri quarterback James Franklin from making big, game-changing plays?
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said before the game that Franklin, who has been nursing an injured knee, was at about 85 percent for the game. The Gators can be thankful he was not 100 percent. Franklin made all kinds of plays with his arm and his legs and really had the UF defense on its heels at times in the second half. But he did not make the game-changing plays. The Florida defense did — at his expense. The Gators intercepted four of his passes, the final pick coming in the end zone in the game's closing seconds to secure the Gator victory. Franklin threw for 236 yards and had a 22-yard run on a scramble, but the defense would not let him beat them.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.