Andreu’s Answers: Gators follow sluggish start with strong finish

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South Carolina running back Tavien Feaster picks up yards on the Florida defense in the second half Saturday in Columbia, S.C. Florida defeated South Carolina 38-27. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 8:

1. Will the Gators come out sluggish, suffering from the same kind of hangover they had going into last year’s game against Missouri following a loss to Georgia?

The players last week vowed that they would come out ready to play and would get off to a fast start. They didn’t. The defense gave up a big play — a 43-yard pass — and a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, putting UF in an early hole. Then the offense came out, blew assignments on the first three plays, and had a quick three-and-out. It was a sluggish start for sure, but the Gators recovered and finished the game strong with a 21-point fourth quarter.

2. Can Florida’s shaky offensive line protect quarterback Kyle Trask?

The line had a winning performance against one of the best defensive lines in the SEC. The big guys gave Trask enough time to throw for 200 yards and four touchdowns, three in the fourth quarter. Trask was sacked twice, but for the most part he had time in the pocket to go through his progressions and find the open receiver.

3. Who wins the battle between the Florida receivers and the South Carolina defensive backs?

The win goes to the Florida receivers, and it starts with Jacob Copeland, who came up big in the first half. His 32-yard reception led to a field goal in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, he won a 50-50 battle for a ball and turned it into a 37-yard touchdown pass play. When the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the receivers stood out. Freddie Swain made a diving catch for a 25-yard TD and Kyle Pitts and Trevon Grimes had touchdown catches to put the game away.

4. Will tight end Kyle Pitts continue to be a major player in the passing game for the Gators?

His numbers weren’t huge, but once again he was a go-to guy in the passing game, catching five passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. He was clutch in the decisive fourth quarter. He caught a nine-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-three from the USC 34. On the next play, Trask threw a 25-yard TD pass to Swain that put the Gators up 24-20. Later in the quarter, Pitts caught a five-yard TD pass to give UF a 31-20 lead with 7:53 to play.

5. How does the Florida defense respond after the awful performance a week ago at LSU?

The short-handed defense gave up some explosive plays on the ground and in the air. But when the game was on the line in the second half, the Gators came up with some key stops, including on a fourth-and-two from the USC 37, and forced a huge turnover — the sack/fumble by end Zachary Carter that was recovered by tackle Kyree Campbell and led to a touchdown that gave UF a 31-20 lead.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.


Up next

Who: No. 7 Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC) vs. No. 10 Georgia (6-1, 3-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 2

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

27 COMMENTS

  1. ”It was a sluggish start for sure, but the Gators recovered and finished the game strong with a 21-point fourth quarter.” -Robbie Andreu.
    I think the biggest difference between Coach Mullen and the last 2 Head Coaches (at U.F.) is that Florida is ”winning the games” the other 2 former Head Coaches would’ve lost. Coach Mullen has them ”believing in winning,” again. Reminds me of another H.B.C. Go Gators! Just win baby!

  2. Pretty fair analysis, altho you didn’t mention the rain factor, soggy turf, and wet balls. Rain like that renders virtually all components of the game unpredictable, but I sure am glad we adjusted and prevailed.

    You might say the dampness put a damper on things — but clearly Muschamp’s antics during and after the game, which now continue “to the highest levels of the SEC”, put more of a damper on things than anything else. The one time Dan Mullen flirted with that behavior, he self corrected, admitted he was wrong, and remained a class act. Letting your ass overload your mouth doesn’t allow one to be referred to as that by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m losing more respect for the man now every time he opens his mouth about how he was “robbed”. Pull up your big girl panties, Champ, and go win some damn football games.

    • True, Dan also said the WR were running the wrong routes. Trask is ballin’#s wise but I think he could throw some balls a little sooner. Other than that and sometimes when it’s a 3rd and 1 and he’s running towards the line he should run for the 1st instead of throwing a potential pick, if the target is wide open throw it but if there is tight coverage just get that 1 yard and let the clock run and keep our D on the sideline.

      • I don’t know for sure, but I think CDM might be putting the brakes on his running, lest he get hurt again. Otherwise, that youngster is built more like Tim Tebow than Tim Tebow was, and could probably make a difference running like an old time fullback when needed to. Of course, there’s often a price associated with that………

  3. Trask just keeps on ticking! He must have not been great in practice for the coaches not to have started him before Franks’ got hurt. I remember The Swamp Fox sayng that Danny was not a great practice player but that he sure was a gamer.
    Well we got a week off to catch our breath and then the biggest game of the year! Go Gators!!!

    • Jack,
      Agreed the arm strength can be a deterrent or a misconception(can’t find the right word, I think you guys know what I mean) but the brain is what matters most. Drew Brees was always a starter but Tom Brady didn’t start right away at Michigan or New England both of which don’t have big arms.

      • You nailed the KEY to top notch QB play Sambizle, especially in college. Your NFL QB examples are perfect! Brady will go down in NFL lore as the greatest QB to ever play the game. And Breeze is right up there among the top 10.

        Sadly, college coaches and NFL scouts fall in love with physical attributes, such as arm strength. IMHO, that’s mainly because physical attributes are easier to see, evaluate and defend than mental attributes.

        Here’s a little known story that illustrates this point: Nick Saban’s only failure as HBC was his 2-year NFL stint at Miami. A major Dolphins problem he inherited and failed to solve was their lack of a top shelf QB after Dan Marino’s retirement. After his 2005 9-7 season, Saban looked at QB options available and settled on signing Daunte Culpepper as a free agent over Drew Breeze. By his own admission, Saban made his choice based almost entirely on Breeze’s arm strength, which he considered marginal when healthy and subject to degradation due to recent shoulder surgery. The mental capabilities of both players as NFL veterans, to the degree they were even evaluated, were discarded. Breeze later signed with the Saints, the Dolphins went 6-10 in 2006 with Culpepper at QB and the rest, as they say, is history.

        Now, based on physical and mental attributes and their bodies of work to date, who is the Gators’ Drew Breeze and who is the Gators’ Daunte Culpepper?

  4. I loved Coach Mullin’s play calling in the red zone. Coach Hevesy has this young OL gelling, just like last year. Nick Buchanan was a rock in the middle and he should be SEC O-lineman of the week. Our OL held off a SC DL that dominated UGA’s vaunted OL just last week! Receivers continue to impress, TE’s still need to work on blocking. Now we have two weeks to get healthy and game plan for the dogs. Just load the box to slow down Swift, get some heat on Fromm, and our DB’s will pick(6) him clean. Safeties need to introduce themselves to UGA’s TE early and often to avoid a repeat of last year. All of that is more easily said than done, but I know we can do it…GET EM GATORS!!!

    • More Burney (especially GA, they love the TE especially against us, most people can see Burney is pretty good against the pass) playing inside although Ventrell Miller had an excellent game (I think Auburn) he has missed some tackles, I don’t remember Burney missing a tackle all season (maybe he is not showing it as much as he should be in practice.)

    • Yeah as good as Pitts has been he stanks at blocking and when LSU pressed him on the line he disappeared. When Kyle threw the pick, Pitts didn’t try hard at all to tackle the defender. I don’t want to spit too much negativity but I do like to spit.

      • You are correct in your assessment Sambizle. When critiques are legitimate, they’re not negativity, at least as applies to a red-shirt freshman!

        Kyle Pitts needs to decide this offseason whether he wants to be a TE, or just a big WR. Both options are open to him, BUT if he wants to be an NFL TE, he MUST bulk up and become a better blocker, period. Savage and his nutritional assistance team are there to make it happen for Pitts, but he has to want it.

        In the meantime, Pitts is a lot of fun to watch as a big WR.

  5. Very nice to see some good conversation here. I don’t think were anywhere near back to normal, but I hope it’s a good start.

    Haven’t seen anybody mention the repeated high snaps from Buchanan in the last two games. They’re causing Trask to have to reach over his head for the ball, and they’re screwing up the timing of plays something fierce. If they don’t fix it soon, I’m afraid it could result in a turnover that just might lose a game.