The Florida Gators fell to the LSU Tigers in a hard-fought SEC matchup, losing in a thriller at Death Valley by the score of 42-28. As predicted, the game was an offensive showdown, but LSU played better than I expected.
The LSU offense is as advertised, putting up 511 yards on the Gators with no turnovers. Joe Burrow left the UF secondary dazed and confused by slinging it all over the field. Jamarr Chase and Justin Jefferson owned the Gator secondary, and UF could never get a pass rush going. The Gators ended the night with no sacks as Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga were both unable to play due to lingering ankle injuries.
Todd Grantham struggled without his playmakers up front and wasn’t aggressive in his playcalling, allowing LSU to own the trench. Marco Wilson summed it up best – “Not having Jon, it killed our vibe”. When Grantham did dial up elaborate blitz schemes, they were ineffective, thanks to Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger. Florida’s tackling struggles have reappeared and burnt the Gators all night, as LSU racked up multiple big gains after the first contact.
Offensively, Dan Mullen called a great game overall and Kyle Trask played admirably in front of a classic LSU crowd. Trask was calm, cool, and collected in the pocket, but one got away – an interception by Derek Stingley. Trask ended the night with 310 yards on 58.9% passing and a 3/1 TD/INT ratio. Kyle Pitts had an excellent first half but only caught one ball after halftime – partially due to more targets to Van Jefferson. LSU also adjusted in the second half, doubling the tight end and taking him out of the picture.
It is painfully obvious that the offensive line does the Gators no favors, especially in the run game. Emory Jones offered a change of pace, but the Gators only rushed for 146 yards on 40 attempts, good for 3.7 YPC. On the other hand, LSU ran for 218 yards on 24 attempts, averaging 9.1 YPC and three touchdowns.
The Gators’ offensive line is what it is – not very good. Mullen and Hevesy have tried seemingly everything, but nothing has kick-started the run game. Pass Protection was still above average. The offensive line has no mean streak – no urgency to hit someone or make a play. The play-side guard failed to make contact with – anyone – multiple times while pulling, which led to Perine getting eaten alive in the backfield. LSU won this game in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Florida couldn’t bounce back in a hostile environment.
Looking ahead –
Moving forward, the Gators go see the South Carolina Gamecocks, who are fresh off an upset of Georgia. South Carolina is in a prime position for a classic letdown game, especially when you factor in the Gamecocks’ injuries. Florida controls its destiny to get to Atlanta, but a win Saturday is key. Dan Mullen will take this week to heal up Zuniga and Greenard, and I doubt either will play significant snaps against South Carolina. UF will have a bye after USCe to prepare for Georgia on November 2nd – a game that will decide the SEC East.