JACKSONVILLE — 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. Midway through the first quarter in last season’s game, the Gators already found themselves down 21-0. Will they get off to a better start this time?
Technically, it was a better start, but still a bad one. The Gators got gutted by the Georgia ground game in the opening possession and that led to a field goal. A few minutes later, running back Jordan Scarlett lost a fumble and the Bulldogs cashed it in with a 16-yard touchdown pass. So, just like that, they found themselves down 10-0. Last year they never recovered from the disastrous start. This time they did, rallying to take a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter before losing 36-17.
2. Can the Gators hit some explosive plays (20 yards or longer) against a UGA defense that rarely gives them up?
The Florida offense had only two — a 20-yard run by Feleipe Franks and the 36-yard touchdown pass from Franks to Freddie Swain. The offense had only five other plays of 10 yards or longer. After the game, Franks said part of the problem on offense was the Gators were trying too hard to make explosive plays happen and assignments were subsequently missed.
3. Will the Gators continue to have success running the football?
They were OK at times, but there was an overall lack of consistency — and chunk plays. The Gators rushed for 170 yards, which is decent, but more than 30 yards below their average from the previous two games. Overall, UF needed to do more in the running game to take some of the pressure off Franks and the passing game.
4. Can Feleipe Franks and the Florida offense take care of the football, something they failed to do in last year’s 42-7 rout?
The Gators dropped the ball (literally) again. They turned the ball over three times, while forcing none. That’s a turnover margin of minus-3, a stat that almost always belongs to the losing team in a big game like this. For the second game in a row, Franks had two turnovers — an interception and a fumble. So, he’s regressed in that aspect of his game. His fumble on his own 1-yard line led to a field goal in the third quarter that made it a two-score game. The biggest turnover belonged to the usually reliable Scarlett, whose fumble (and 32-yard return by UGA safety Richard LeCounte) on UF’s first possession led to a touchdown that gave the Bulldogs an early 10-0 lead.
5. The Bulldogs like to pound the ball in the running game. How does the UF defensive front hold up?
It did not hold up well early and then again late, but the Gators were really strong against the run in between, especially in the six-play goal-line stand from the 1 late in the third quarter. Overall, the run defense wasn’t the problem, it was the porous play of a depleted secondary that led to the eventual meltdown in the second half.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Missouri (4-4, 0-4) vs. No. 13 Florida (6-2, 4-2)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850