LEXINGTON, Ky. — 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 3:
1. Will the Florida offensive line, which has given up only two sacks in two games, be able to protect quarterback Feleipe Franks?
Franks may have been sacked only once, but he spent a lot of his night scrambling out of the pocket to avoid the rush. And, of course, on the fourth-down try late in the third quarter, the offensive line collapsed around Franks, he was bent backward short of the first down and sustained a dislocated ankle that has ended his season. So, no, the big guys did not protect their quarterback. “They (medical staff) feel pretty certain there was a break or dislocation, so he will be out for the year. That will be a huge loss for us,” UF coach Dan Mullen said.
2. Can the Gators, who got gutted on the ground a year ago by UK, stifle the Wildcats’ running attack?
The goal coming into the game was to shut down the running game and then put steady pressure on quarterback Sawyer Smith, the Troy graduate transfer who was making his first SEC start. That plan, however, was not carried out. The Wildcats rushed for 140 yards, just enough to give the offense some balance and take the pressure off Smith, who had an excellent game, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns. As for putting pressure on him, it just wasn’t there. He was sacked only once and appeared comfortable in the pocket throughout the game.
3. Will UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham bring the house against UK’s new starting quarterback?
After Jon Greenard’s early sack of Smith in the game’s opening minutes, the Gators rarely got a hand on the Kentucky quarterback. Give credit to the ’Cats’ veteran offensive line, they picked up blitzes and protected their first-time starting quarterback. The Gators, who came into the game leading the nation in sacks with 15, sacked Smith only that one time and hurried him just three times. Grantham tried to get to Smith, but the Gators just didn’t make it happen.
4. Can the Gators finally make something happen in the running game?
Let’s put it this way, if you take away Josh Hammond’s 76-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep with 33 seconds left in the game, the Gators would have rushed for just 62 yards on 26 carries. For three-plus quarters, the Gators did nothing on the ground. There was no push from the offensive line, and no holes for the running backs to run through. UF managed to win the game and the final numbers look OK — 138 yards rushing for a 5.1-yard average — but the lack of a ground game continues to be a troubling issue as the Gators move forward with even tougher defensive fronts to contend with.
5. How will the Florida secondary hold up without starting cornerback CJ Henderson?
Henderson is UF’s best defensive back and it was obvious the Gators missed him Saturday night. With Henderson out, a lot of the pressure falls on Marco Wilson, who basically missed the 2018 season and is still in the process of regaining the form he had before he was injured against Kentucky a year ago. His coverage was tight for most of the night, but he continues to give up plays on 50-50 balls. And, once again, he had a pass interference call against him. Overall, the secondary gave up too many big plays and surrendered 267 yards passing and two touchdowns.
— Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Tennessee (1-2, 0-0 SEC) vs. Florida (3-0, 1-0)
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850