Andreu's Answers: Florida defense comes up big in win over Missouri
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 4:
Kentucky ran only 36 offensive plays in a 20-10 loss to Missouri last Saturday. Will the Tigers be able to control the game and the clock with similar keep away this week?
The Gators set the tone early, with the defense getting a three-and-out on Missouri's first possession of the game. After that, the Tigers had some success moving the ball, but not for extended drives where they ran a bunch of plays and ate a lot of the clock. The defense got off the field on third down most of the night, and that contributed to the Gators actually winning the battle for time of possession 33:00 to 27:00. The Tigers wanted to keep UF's high-powered offense on the sideline for long periods of time, but that did not happen. The Gators had 71 plays, enough to pile up 514 yards and 41 points, while the Tigers ran 63 and were shut down through three-plus quarters.
Will the Florida defense show some improvement, or will it be more of the same from this struggling unit?
Even with three starters out in the secondary, the defense showed improvement across the board. The Gators did the things they failed to do in the first three games. They shut down the run, put pressure on the quarterback, produced turnovers and sacks and, most important of all, they got off the field on third down, holding the Tigers to 3 of 15 on third-down conversions. UF limited Missouri to just 16 first downs, 248 total yards and only 3.9 yards per play — a complete and winning performance, for sure.
Will a stout Missouri defense have an answer for the Kyle-to-Kyle connection of Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts?
The connection did not produce any touchdowns, but, no, like every other team the Gators have faced, the Tigers had no answer for Kyle-to-Kyle. Pitts led the Gators in receptions with five for 81 yards. And, with the Tigers focusing on Pitts, it created opportunities for UF's other receivers, and they came through with big plays and touchdowns, led by slot receiver Kadarius Toney, who caught four passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Can the Gators create some takeaways?
The defense flew around, played with confidence and produced two turnovers — two second-half fumbles. The fumble defensive end Brenton Cox Jr. recovered in the third quarter led to a touchdown that provided momentum and helped the Gators pull away in the second half.
Will UF’s running game get stuffed? Or will it produce?
With the ground game, it truly is a team effort for the Gators. UF produced 169 yards rushing and averaged 4.8 per rush, and the leading rusher wasn't a running back, it was Trask, who ran for 47 yards and averaged 7.8 yards a carry. Toney also played a significant role, running for a touchdown on a jet sweep in the second half. Trask, Toney and the running game produced enough in the running game to take pressure off the passing game. As we saw Saturday night, when that happens, this offense is at its best.
— Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: No. 8 Florida (3-1) vs. No. 5 Georgia (4-1)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850