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. Going against a defense that surrenders 201.5 rushing yards a game, can the Gators finally get their running game going?
The Gators ended up with 160 yards rushing for the game, which doesn’t seem that bad. But when the game was still competitive in the first half, it was a real struggle against an FCS defense that is not good against the run. The offensive line was getting no push and there basically were no holes to run through. The one bright spot was a 31-yard run by Dameon Pierce on a nice cutback that led to a touchdown late in the half. He also had a 37-yard scoring run in the second half. Other than those two runs, the Gators didn’t get much done on the ground, a real concern.
2. Will UF’s fast and aggressive defense be able to contain dual-threat quarterback Tom Flacco?
If you go by Flacco’s final numbers, it would appear that the Gators contained him. But the reality is he hurt them with his legs and his arm, especially in the first half. Flacco finished with only 15 yards rushing because he was sacked four times totaling 37 yards. He threw for 157 yards, but was intercepted twice. His final stats were the most misleading of the game.
3. After turning the ball over three times against Tennessee, will the Gators take care of the football against a team that is plus-nine in turnover margin?
The Gators took care of the ball. No fumbles. No interceptions. Quarterback Kyle Trask almost threw an interception in the end zone in the second half because both of his receivers ran the wrong route. But other than that, the Gators never came close to turning the ball over. At the same time, the defense was forcing three turnovers.
4. The Swamp was loud and alive for last week’s game against Tennessee. What will the crowd be like? And will the Gators come out flat or fired up?
UF coach Dan Mullen said after the game that the Gators and the crowd had similar performances Saturday. They were both OK, solid, but both will have to improve their game with Auburn coming to The Swamp on Saturday. As for being flat or fired up, the offense came out fired up and went right down the field to score a touchdown on the opening possession. The defense seemed almost disinterested on Towson’s first possession. The Gators gave up a 22-yard run by Flacco on the first play and a few plays later were hit with a 20-yard pass play on a third-and-eight. The defense was bailed out when a Flacco fumble was recovered by linebacker David Reese on the UF 25.
5. How many true freshmen will see playing time for the Gators?
One freshman, cornerback Kaiir Elam, started the game. Another, cornerback Jaydon Hill, got into the game early and saw extensive playing time. In the second half, 12 more true freshmen got on the field. Of the 14 who played, several stood out. Tight end Keon Zipperer had a 2-yard touchdown catch and two other receptions. Elam and Hill both had three tackles and two pass break-ups. Defensive end Khris Bogle had four tackles. Defensive end Mohamoud Diabate had two tackles, including half of a tackle for a loss. Here are the other true freshmen who played: running back Nay’Quan Wright, wide receiver Dionte Marks, cornerback Chester Kimbrough, linebacker Jesiah Pierre, offensive lineman Riley Simonds, offensive lineman Kingsley Eguakun, offensive lineman Michael Tarquin, offensive lineman Ethan While and wide receiver Trent Whittemore.
— Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: No. 7 Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) vs. No. 10 Florida (5-0, 2-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Note: ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town for the game