Storylines for Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 1:19 a.m.
Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Jon McDonald take a closer look at today's game at The Swamp.
Time to drop the Lafayette
If you haven't looked at a recent Florida schedule, you might think the Gators are playing Louisiana-Lafayette today. Not true. At least technically. The school let UF officials (and everyone else) know this summer that the Ragin' Cajuns now want to simply be called Louisiana. Or the University of Louisiana. Or UL or the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Take your pick. There's been no official explanation for the switch. The school is in Lafayette, but it's apparent the Ragin' Cajuns want to broaden their scope (and recruiting base).
Right down Broadway
For the second week in a row, the Florida defense will be facing a dual-threat quarterback in UL's Terrance Broadway, who has rushed for 320 yards and five touchdowns and thrown for 1,624 yards and 12 touchdowns. A week ago, Missouri quarterback James Franklin hurt the Gators with his legs in the first half, and UF adjusted by going to a four-man rush and zone coverage in the secondary. The Gators have played press man coverage most of the season, but that style can lead to some big runs when the defensive backs are chasing receivers instead of looking back at the quarterback. So, look for more zone coverage today. Although the Gators gave up some passing yards in the zone last week, the defense came up with four interceptions to preserve the win.
Florida ‘D' getting it done
While it has been a season-long struggle for the UF offense, the Gator defense has consistently been strong. That is reflected in the numbers. Statistically, the Gators are a much better defensive team than a year ago. UF is giving up only 11.9 points and 281.9 yards a game, compared to 23.9 points and 338.1 yards last season. Here's another telling number: the Gators are plus-11 in turnover margin, thanks to 15 interceptions made by the defense (compared to only six all of last season). Last season, the 7-6 Gators were minus-12 in turnover margin. Big, big difference.
The big easier?
This will be the second game this season against an opponent from the state of Louisiana for the Gators. The first, of course, was a hard-fought 14-6 win over LSU at the beginning of October. While the Ragin' Cajuns, talent wise, are not in the same league as the Tigers, the Gators can't get caught looking past a team from the Bayou State. The team the Cajuns beat last week, Louisiana-Monroe, upset Arkansas in Little Rock, beginning the Razorbacks' downward spiral. The Warhawks then nearly beat Auburn on the road the very next weekend.
The last time
Florida opened its 1996 season with a 55-21 win over the Ragin' Cajuns (then Southwestern Louisiana) and quarterback Jake Delhomme. The story of that day was the Gator defense, which scored a record four touchdowns off of six Cajun turnovers, including four interceptions of Delhomme. Florida's defense will likely be the story of today's game, too, with the unit coming off of a stout performance against Missouri in which it intercepted four passes.
Need to stay grounded
After getting 233.3 rushing yards per game against their first six opponents, the Gators have averaged less than half that (111.3) over the last three. Is that a sign of a slowdown? Probably not, because that average includes under 100-yard games against two of the best defenses in the SEC (South Carolina and Georgia.) The Gators got back on track last week with a 170-yard effort on the ground against Missouri, but there is no doubt UF needs to get its legs back under it today against a non-SEC defense. Look for a 200-plus-yard effort from the Gators today, even as offensive coordinator Brent Pease tries to get Florida's stagnant passing game going. The offensive line needs to show itself that it can manhandle an opponent in the trenches like it did against LSU.
The other orange & blue
While the Gators play early in the day, their ultimate SEC fate will be decided on The Plains starting at 7 p.m. when Auburn hosts Georgia. The Bulldogs come in with SEC and national title hopes, while this is likely the Tigers' last hope of winning an SEC game (all that will be left is at Alabama.) Florida will be pulling for Auburn to pull off the huge upset because the SEC East title and a spot in Atlanta would be granted to the Gators. The Tigers would need to put together their best game of the season and have Georgia make a ton of mistakes, much like LSU did when it came to Jordan-Hare ranked No. 2 earlier this year, but left with a too-close-for-comfort 12-10 win.