Andreu's answers: UF offense does defense no favors
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 2:
1. How strange is it going to seem in The Swamp with so few fans? What will the atmosphere be like?
It didn't seem all that strange once you entered The Swamp, but it sure felt surreal outside the stadium just an hour before kickoff, because there were so few fans and absolutely no game-day feel about it. Once inside, the atmosphere was really good. It certainly felt like a game, and the fans that did show up created plenty of noise and provided the home team with a home-field advantage. Once the Gators and Gamecocks started playing ball, everything kind of felt normal again, which is a good thing.
2. Will the Florida defense rebound from last week's poor performance, or will it be more of the same Saturday?
The way the game started, it looked like the defense was going to be in for another long, futile day. The Gamecocks went right down the field, getting almost no resistance during a 75-yard TD drive that ate up almost half the quarter. After that, the defense settled in and played at a much higher and efficient level. The problem turned out to be the Florida offense, which turned the ball over twice — both by quarterback Kyle Trask — and failed to do anything in a frustrating fourth quarter that left the defense on the field almost the whole time. Overall, though, there were signs of progress made between week one and week two, although concerns remain.
3. With the South Carolina defense likely focusing on trying to contain tight end Kyle Pitts, which other receiver has a big game?
Pitts had a big first half, catching two touchdown passes and being the go-to guy in the passing game. But the Gamecocks shut him out in the second half, sometimes surrounding him with as many as three defenders. But that was OK. It opened things up for some other receivers and they delivered, especially senior slot receiver Kadarius Toney, who had a 57-yard TD reception in the third quarter and finished the game as UF's leading receiver with six catches for 86 yards. Redshirt freshman Trent Whittemore also showed up and showed out, catching two passes for 30 yards, including a 4-yard TD reception in the third quarter. It's become apparent that Pitts is the biggest weapon in the passing game, but not the only one.
4. The running game appears to be coming around for the Gators. Will they show more progress on that front?
The running game is always noticeably more effective when No. 2 quarterback Emory Jones is in the game. He was held out of Saturday's game for unspecified reasons (he appeared to have an injured hand) and the running game was just barely OK and not much of a factor. Dameon Pierce ran hard, broke a bunch of tackles and led the Gators in rushing with 51 yards, averaging 5.7 yards a carry. But take away a 19-yard run by Trask on an option play, and the ground game produced just 61 yards on 23 carries. There's just no consistency yet in the ground game.
5. Evan McPherson has become a consistent weapon. Will he be perfect again on his field goal and extra-point attempts?
Of course he was. Because that's what he does. He's become probably the most reliable kicker in school history, and he was perfect again Saturday — one-of-one on field goal attempts and five-of-five in extra point attempts. Mr. Sure Thing has made all four of his field goal attempts this season and is now 38-of-42 for his career.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: No. 3 Florida (2-0) at No. 20 Texas A&M (1-1)
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850