Abolverdi's Answers: Gators commit costly turnovers, held to season-low 138 rushing yards
Before every Florida game, Sun college football beat writer Zach Abolverdi comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here's Week 7 after the Gators' 49-42 loss at LSU:
With both starting corners out, can the Gators exploit LSU’s secondary?
Florida emphasized the passing game more than usual with LSU starting cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks sidelined. UF had more passing plays (40) than running plays (35) for the first time in 2021 and posted a season-high 350 passing yards, the team’s second 300-yard game of the year. Anthony Richardson led the Gators with 167 yards on 10 of 19 passing, coming off the bench and scoring touchdowns on four consecutive drives. Emory Jones was benched after his pick-six and finished with 161 passing yards (12 of 19), including a 42-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary. However, Jones and Richardson threw two interceptions apiece and the Tigers scored 21 points off those turnovers, which killed Florida.
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Can UF rush for 200 yards for the first time since the Tennessee game?
The Gators got away from their rushing attack Saturday — especially once they fell behind by two scores — and didn’t eclipse 200 yards for the third consecutive game. After averaging 263.5 rushing yards per game in the first two SEC contests, UF’s last three rushing totals have been 171 yards (Kentucky), 181 yards (Vanderbilt) and a season-low 138 yards (LSU). Running backs Dameon Pierce (five carries) and Malik Davis (four carries) received their fewest touches of the year, while Nay’Quan Wright had a season-high eight carries for 34 yards. Pierce also caught four balls for 55 yards and a touchdown, while Davis had two receptions for nine yards but dropped a pass on a wide-open wheel route right before Jones’ pick-six.
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How many penalties — and false starts — are Florida flagged for?
One of the few positives from the game was UF fixing its penalty woes. After being flagged 15 times in their first SEC road game at Kentucky, the Gators didn’t commit a penalty in Death Valley. The announced attendance Saturday was 96,012, nearly 35K more fans than the Wildcats had (61,632). Florida committed eight false starts at Kroger Field and appeared to have issues with the clap snap count. The offensive line debuted a different cadence in Baton Rouge and handled the crowd noise with no problems. Unfortunately for the Gators, the miscues and turnovers on offense overshadowed their elimination of penalties.
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Will Kaiir Elam return, and how well does UF defend Max Johnson?
After missing the last three games with a knee sprain, preseason All-America cornerback Kaiir Elam was back in action at LSU. Florida’s secondary fared much better Saturday against quarterback Max Johnson than last year’s unit, which gave up 239 passing yards and three touchdowns to Johnson in his first career start. UF held Johnson to a season-low 133 passing yards on 14 of 24 passing, his fewest completions and attempts this year. However, Johnson threw three critical touchdowns to Jaray Jenkins, and the Tigers didn't pass the ball a lot because of Tyrion Davis-Price running all over Florida’s defense for a school record 287 yards.
Which defense finishes with the most sacks?
In a battle between two of the nation’s sacks leaders, LSU edged the Gators. The Tigers sacked Jones twice, including a third-and-5 on their first defensive possession to force a three-and-out. Florida’s offensive line had previously allowed just three sacks all season, which ranked No. 4 nationally. LSU was 89th nationally in sacks allowed (15.0) entering the game, but the offensive line held its own against Florida’s pass rush. After Zach Carter and Ty’Ron Hopper combined for a first-quarter sack, the Tigers didn’t give up another one. Brenton Cox Jr. and other UF defenders whiffed on a few opportunities to sack Johnson, who did a good job of evading pressure.
— Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi
Who: Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) vs. No. 1 Georgia (7-0, 5-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville