STARKVILLE, Miss. — 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 5:
1. What kind of reception will Dan Mullen receive in his return to Davis Wade Stadium? Hostile? Friendly? Somewhere in between?
It was somewhere in between, although leaning toward hostile by some, especially those in the student section. Other than that it was pretty tame. Many fans wore “Dan Who?” T-shirts and there were some signs taking shots at Mullen, but many of his former players seemed gracious in defeat, coming up and hugging Mullen after the game.
2. How much will the Florida offensive line struggle against one of the best defensive lines in the country?
It probably would have been a titanic struggle had the game plan been to throw a bunch of passes down the field. Had that been the case, the Bulldogs would have been coming hard after quarterback Feleipe Franks in the pocket. But Mullen came up with a winning game plan — wide receiver screens, quick passes and an occasional throw down the field — that effectively neutralized the MSU pass rush, minimizing the damage inflicted by defensive end Montez Sweat and nose tackle Jeffery Simmons. So, the line held up OK.
3. Will the Gators get hurt by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s ability to make plays with his legs?
He caused some damage in the first half, but the Gators shut him down in the second. They took away the run from Fitzgerald and everyone else with the ball in their hands (43 yards allowed in second half), forcing Fitzgerald to try and beat the Gators by standing in the pocket and making downfield throws. That didn’t work at all. The Gators pressured him, sacked him and made him almost totally ineffective in the second half.
4. Can the Gators produce some critical turnovers again after forcing six against Tennessee?
This was a totally different style of game than the one the Gators were involved in at Neyland Stadium — a grind-it-out kind of night on both sides of the ball. The Gators forced no turnovers this time, but they played fast and physical and forced the Bulldogs into a lot of negative plays. The six sacks were the biggest thing close to a turnover in terms of impact.
5. Will the Gators hit any big plays in the passing game?
They hit one, and the pass was not delivered by Franks, but by slot receiver Kadarius Toney, who took a lateral pass from Franks and then launched a 20-yard TD strike to tight end Moral Stephens midway through the third quarter. Franks completed a deep pass to Trevon Grimes inside the 10-yard line, but the play was negated by a holding penalty on offensive tackle Martez Ivey. In this case, one big play was enough.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.