Abolverdi's Answers: Gators lose rushing battle, fail to score red-zone TDs

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Florida quarterback Emory Jones is sacked by Missouri defensive lineman Jatorian Hansford during the fourth quarter Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

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 11 after the Gators' 24-23 loss at Missouri:

How will Emory Jones perform following his record-setting game? 

Florida quarterback Emory Jones had his best performance on the road and played well enough to win at Missouri. He finished with his third-highest passing total of the year (261 yards) and didn’t throw an interceptions after being picked off six times at USF, Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina. However, Jones did lose the ball and had to recover his own fumble on the game’s opening drive. That was one of three possessions where UF had to settle for a field goal after reaching the Tigers' 25-yard line. Jones didn’t have a passing or rushing touchdown for the first time this season, but caught his first-career receiving touchdown in overtime. 

More:Whitley: Mullen needs a miracle to keep his job

Can the Gators exploit Missouri’s struggling rushing defense? 

Not at all. Despite ranking last in the league and 129th nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average 248.9 yards per game, Missouri held Florida under 100 yards rushing for their second consecutive SEC game. After a season-low 82 yards at South Carolina two weeks ago, the Gators gained just 93 yards Saturday against the Tigers. Three of Florida’s four ball carriers averaged less than three yards per rush, including just seven yards for Dameon Pierce on seven carries. Jones led the team with 45 yards on 17 attempts, while Nay’Quan Wright slipped on three of his eight carries (22 yards) and Malik Davis ran the ball six times for 19 yards. 

More:Gators fall in OT at Mizzou, finish winless in SEC road games for first time since 1986

Is Florida able to limit Tyler Badie’s production on the ground? 

The Gators kept Tyler Badie in check for three quarters Saturday, but he killed them in the third and overtime. Florida's defense limited Badie to just 17 yards in the first half as well as 19 yards in the fourth quarter. But the SEC leading rusher gained a whopping 110 yards on his other nine carries, including seven for 85 yards in the third quarter (long of 28). The Gators buckled down defensively in the fourth, but Badie broke free in OT with back-to-back runs of 12 and 13 yards (game-winning touchdown). With 27 carries for 146 yards, Badie became the sixth back this season to rush for 99 yards or more against Florida.

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Can UF intercept Mizzou’s turnover-prone Connor Bazelak? 

Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak had thrown interceptions in three consecutive games and five of his last six, totaling nine picks during that stretch. Bazelak almost committed a turnover Saturday, like Jones, but finished with none. He was picked off on Missouri’s go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam was called for holding on his interception. Bazelak wasn’t threatened again by the Gators, who didn’t have any pass breakups in the game despite a couple opportunities, including a 50-yard reception by Tauskie Dove on a jump ball. 

Will Florida avoid costly mistakes on special teams? 

UF’s Jeremy Crawshaw shanked his first punt, which traveled just 11 yards that set up Missouri’s first field goal. Crawshaw redeemed himself with two booming punts, including a 67-yarder (second longest of his career), but his shanked punt proved pivotal in a game where points were precious. The Gators almost squandered one of their scoring opportunities when a Mizzou punt hit Ja’Markis Weston’s helmet, but fortunately for UF, the ball bounced out of bounds. Chris Howard hit one of his three field goals on the ensuing possession. 

Zach Abolverdi, the new UF Football Beat Writer at The Gainesville Sun, Dec. 1, 2020.

—  Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at zabolverdi@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi

Up next

Who: Florida State (5-6) vs. Florida (5-6)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

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