Gators Gameday: Three questions for Florida football facing the Missouri Tigers
Three questions for Florida football (3-2, 0-2 SEC) in its matchup Saturday against the Missouri Tigers (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at The Swamp (noon, ESPNU):
Can Anthony Richardson build off his last two performances and take care of the football?
Richardson has turned the ball over seven times in his last four games. He's been more accurate the last two games (32 of 54) but will need to make sound decisions. Missouri will bring pressure to try to throw Richardson off of his game, but there should be opportunities to scramble. An athletic quarterback similar to Richardson, Kansas State's Adrian Martinez, rushed 13 times for 52 yards with a TD in K-State's 40-12 win over Missouri earlier this season.
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Can Florida's defense rise to the occasion and get stops?
The Gators rank last in the SEC in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent on the season. Missouri quarterback Brady Cook (204 yards, 2 TDs) can make plays with his legs when the pocket breaks down, so it will be important for Florida to stay in its rush lanes and keep Cook from springing free and finding the open field.
Can Florida's special teams play a clean game and impact the outcome?
Florida has amassed a handful of penalties in kick coverage and has been unable to break any big kickoff returns so far this season. The Gators are averaging 16.8 yards per kickoff return, with a long of 24 yards. from freshman running back Trevor Etienne.
"That's an area on our team where we need to improve, right? It's a combination of personnel. It's a combination of decision making," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "Ultimately one-on-one matchups. When I think about game changers, I think about ultimately at the end of the day, if you can do those things we talked about, it's because you got good specialists and you're winning one on ones."
In the kicking game, Florida has been solid, with Adam Mihalek making 4 of 6 field goals with a long of 51 yards. Trey Smack replaced Mihalek handing kickoffs last week against Eastern Washington. Punter Jeremy Crawshaw is averaging 44.7 yards on 11 punts, with a long of 54 yards.
FLORIDA OFFENSIVE LINE VS. MISSOURI DEFENSIVE LINE: Missouri's physical defensive front has been strong both in pass rush (10 sacks) and stopping the run behind the line of scrimmage (32.5 tackles for loss). Napier has made the offensive line a priority in rebuilding the Gators and it will be put to the test on Saturday in another line of scrimmage game.