Florida vs. Furman: Week in Review

Each week, Gator Country will stop to recap all of the news and notes from the week leading up to the game. Today we recap everything that has happened leading up to Florida’s game Saturday against Furman.

We provide you with an overview of all the Gators news stories we’ve published in the past week with links to each, as well as three key questions, a look inside the enemy camp and more.

Florida vs. Furman – Nov. 19, 2011
Weekly Recap
The Gators suffered another narrow defeat last week against the Gamecocks, and some of the frustration from losing so many close games this season finally spilled over into coaches’ and players’ public comments.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said the Gators must be more consistent in all phases of the game, and that eight to 12 plays per game are killing his team.

In those stretches in games, the Gators have lost their mental focus, resulting in costly penalties and turnovers that have killed Florida. The Gators were able to force a turnover against South Carolina, a positive sign for a team desperate to win the turnover battle more often.

Still, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is frustrated with the offense, which hasn’t been able to score enough points to win more of Florida’s close games. Weis said the blame rests partly on him for that, though the ankle injury to starting quarterback John Brantley also plays a part.

Brantley’s limited mobility has forced the offense to work primarily from the shotgun set the past few weeks. That has really hindered the unit in the red zone, where the Gators have had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns far too often. Weis felt that was the difference against South Carolina and promised that his team would spend a lot of time working on the red zone offense leading up to this week’s game against Furman.

While Weis didn’t want to pin the blame for the offensive miscues on any one group in particular, Florida’s offensive line has struggled mightily in losing five of the last six games. The unit is short on depth and injuries have hit the group hard, but the bottom line is that the Gators have to start playing better up front.

The story is similar on the defensive line, where a lack of depth has weakened competition in practice. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said they would like to have more bodies available on the line to create some healthy competition for starting jobs.

The line has played better in recent weeks, but it had a lot of trouble containing South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. Florida’s defensive ends aren’t doing a good enough job holding the edges on run plays or getting penetration on pass plays.

The linebackers have suffered some from the defensive line’s inconsistent gap control, frequently sealed off from making a play by an offensive lineman who is able to get through to the second level.

However, the linebackers have also done a poor job fighting through blocks to make tackles in the run game, which has put an added burden on Florida’s safeties as evidenced by Josh Evans’ 11-tackle performance against the Gamecocks. The linebackers have got to do a better job making plays near the line of scrimmage.

In the secondary, Florida suffered a huge blow against South Carolina, with cornerback Marcus Roberson out for the rest of the season with a neck injury. Roberson had been Florida’s most reliable man in coverage this season, and replacing him won’t be easy.

Cody Riggs is expected to step in as the starter opposite Jaylen Watkins, and freshman Louchiez Purifoy could also see some playing time at cornerback this week. Purifoy has played mainly on special teams, where he has been excellent as a tackler on coverage teams.

Muschamp also said that freshman safety Pop Saunders could play cornerback in a pinch, and Moses Jenkins may also factor into the rotation.

At safety, Evans and Matt Elam have really come on of late, asserting themselves more and more near the line of scrimmage. While both can improve more in pass coverage, their play has been a bright spot on defense over the past few games.

With a game against a much weaker Furman team on the schedule this weekend, Florida must take advantage with a win at home. The Gators still need one more win for bowl eligibility. While this season has undoubtedly been disappointing for fans, the Gators need the extra practices that come with a bowl appearance.

Three Key Questions
1. Can Florida win the turnover battle against a far inferior opponent? It sounds like a broken record at this point, but the Gators have got to start winning the turnover battle.

If Florida can’t do that against a far-outmatched Furman team, the Gators are going to be in pretty big trouble next week against Florida State. The good news is that the secondary has been much more active making plays on balls the past two weeks.

If that can continue and the Gators can find a way to stop putting the ball on the turf on offense, Florida could be able to generate some positive momentum heading into next week’s rivalry game against the Seminoles.

2. Will the Gators be able to assert their dominance in the trenches? In most years, this question would seem absurd and silly. However, Florida winning in the trenches has been anything but a guarantee this season.

The Gators will have a big edge in size and athleticism against the Paladins, which should help to cover up some of the mental breakdowns the team has had on both lines. Ideally, Florida would also be able to clean up some of those breakdowns.

If Furman is able to hold its own against the Florida lines on boh sides, the Gators are in far worse shape than anyone thought.

3. Can the Gators keep John Brantley from getting nicked up again? Playing into the previous question, one of the biggest concerns for Florida heading into the Florida State game is the health of quarterback John Brantley.

Brantley has been unable to go under center in the past three games, but he said his ankle is getting close to 100 percent. If the line can keep him free from hits against Furman, it should allow him to get fully comfortable and recovered before the FSU game.

The Gators are going to need Brantley at full strength to beat their in-state rivals, so protecting Brantley is vital against a team that should be handled easily.

What We Think
The Gators’ loss last weekend puts huge pressure on the team this weekend if it hopes to make a bowl. Florida needs one win in its final two games to become eligible. Adam Pincus takes an in-depth look at the Furman Paladins to give Florida fans an idea what to expect.

Tricia Johns and I also previewed the Florida vs. Furman game with a video piece, while Andrew Spivey took a look at some of the impact players in the SEC from a week ago.

Sean Crawford previewed the SEC weekend schedule and previewed the Top 25 weekend schedule

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