Today's storylines: UF at Miami
Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Jones is off and running
Actually, Matt Jones figures to be doing more than just toting the rock for the first time this season. He'll also likely be catching it. When Jones distanced himself from the competition at tailback last spring, one of the big things in his favor was his ability to catch the ball with his big, soft hands. UF realized after last season that the backs were underutilized in the passing game. In Jones, the Gators have a real threat coming out of the backfield in passing situations. The big question today is how much he'll be able to play. He's been out since before the start of camp with a viral infection and has not really been hit yet this season. And, the heat and humidity could be a factor in how long he stays in the game and how many carries and catches he gets.
'Canes are running hot
The Hurricanes have some nice little streaks going headed into today's game. Perhaps the most impressive one is on offense, where UM has been flying up and down the field in its last three games, dating back to last season. During that three-game run, the 'Canes have piled up 126 points (42 a game) and 1,697 yards (565.6 a game), while winning by an average of 22 points. The defense also has an impressive streak going. The 'Canes have not given up a touchdown at home since Nov. 1 against Virginia Tech, a span of almost 161 minutes. All those offensive and defensive numbers may look and sound awesome, but consider this: that three-game offensive run came against South Florida, Duke and Florida Atlantic, while the TD streak was against South Florida and Florida Atlantic.
Secondary looking to atone
The last time the Gators faced a top drop-back quarterback, the results were not good. In the Sugar Bowl in January, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater blew up a Florida secondary that had been sound and strong all season. It was probably the most shocking aspect of that loss from the Gators' perspective. Cornerback Jaylen Watkins said the defensive backs have not forgotten that humbling experience in the Sugar Bowl and are looking to atone, not just today (which, of course, could be vital in the outcome of today's game) but over the course of the season. The secondary will be facing one of its toughest tests today. Stephen Morris is one of the best passing QBs the Gators will see this season and the Hurricanes have speed and skill at the wideout positions.
Will Gators try to grind it out?
Miami's biggest defensive deficiency last season was its inability to stop the run. That certainly sounds good to the Gators, whose offensive strength is on the ground. The 'Canes think they've improved their run defense since last season, but the reality is the UM front was not really tested in an opening-night breather over offensively challenged Florida Atlantic. The 'Canes will find out today if, in fact, they are stronger against the run, because the Gators will try to pound the ball.
Miami sophomore star back Duke Johnson is off and running to start his 2013 campaign. Coming off a career-high 19 carries for 186 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter of the Hurricanes' opener against Florida Atlantic, Johnson will again be the focal point of the offense. Johnson faces a much tougher challenge today in a Florida defense that only surrendered 50 rushing yards in its opener.
Turning a corner
The Gators' stacked secondary didn't seem to miss a beat without Loucheiz Purifoy in the opener, but they will be happy to have him back against a passing attack led by Miami quarterback Stephen Morris. With Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins in the mix, it will be interesting to see how much action touted freshman Vernon Hargreaves III will get.
Both UF and Miami are coming off debut games that saw flags flying liberally throughout. The Gators were penalized 10 times for a total of 70 yards while the Hurricanes saw eight flags for 67 yards. In a game where many in-state players have history with each other, maintaining discipline when tempers are flaring could be vital to a team's chances of winning.
With a strategy of stingy defense, tough running and strong special teams, UF earned 11 wins last season. The defense and running game again got it done in Florida's opener, but the special teams were not exactly special. Filling the shoes of new Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis is Austin Hardin, who missed a 39-yard try last week. Inconsistent kicking could be an issue in what might turn out to be a close game.
Today's game questions
1. What kind of impact will Florida tailback Matt Jones have in his first game back from a viral infection?
2. Will the Gators be able to hold Miami's Duke Johnson to less than 100 yards rushing?
3. Can the Gators hit some plays in the downfield passing game?
4. UF will be facing more of a classic drop-back passer today. Can the Gators bring some steady heat against Stephen Morris?
5. Will the Gators continue to hurt themselves with penalties?
Click back to Gatorsports.com for Andreu's Answers