This one is sweet. It's sweet because the last two years Florida has ended our undefeated seasons. It's sweet because we haven't won in the Swamp since 2004. It's sweet because after a week where Les Miles endured ruthless media criticism, he beat a media darling. It's sweet because not only did he beat a media darling, he outsmarted him on a wacky fake FG attempt. It's sweet because watching Urban prance around and gesticulate the first down sign after he thought the fake FG was a botched forward pass gets better and better each watch. It's sweet because Terrance Toliver gets to laugh at the coach who told him LSU wouldn't graduate him. It's sweet because it took a divided fanbase and made them believe, again. Here's to hoping it continues.
Allow me to throw it to my cohorts to describe it:
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For the second straight week, LSU exploded to 350+ yards of offense. Yes, those numbers makes Mike Leach blush, but after and season and a half of impotence, ignore us while we pat ourselves on the back. I've seen (and engaged in some) debate regarding the future of this offense. Many are rushing to proclaim that Lee should be the unquestioned starter with JJ unquestionably on the bench. I can get on board with the first part, but we don't need JJ on the bench. To me, the offense seems to be clicking well with both guys playing. I hate two-QB systems, but these two seem to be thriving within it. Lee played well against Tennessee and excellent against Florida. And JJ has raised the level of his game as well.
I would like to see Lee slowly taking the reigns of this offense as he seems to give us the best opportunity to open up the air game. But I caution any of you thinking he's a shoe-in to be dominant the rest of the way. Lee and JJ complement and benefit one another in the game, which is one reason this works so well. We've seen both trying to fly solo, and it wasn't pretty. Could Lee have progressed from 2008 form? Absolutely. But we still have yet to really see what he'd be like shouldering an entire offensive load. What happens when he hits rock bottom? I just want this offense to continue to grow.
Defensively, we were dominant. Our DL pushed around their OL most of the night. They responded stronger in the second half and started slowing us up some (we looked a little more tired and flat-footed 2nd half), but we still held them to just 243 yards. 57 of those yards came on a drive that we extended through a roughing the passer penalty. 51 of them came on one passing play mostly the result of a missed tackle (also, Mingo and Pep were held on that play). To say Florida was stagnant offensively would be an understatement. They only had a few more yards than points on their two scoring "drives" in the first half. We struggled a bit to contain the zone/read (not a great sign for next week). Surprised they didn't give us a heavier dose of Burton because of that. I think Haley or Chavis really emphasized the DL getting their hands up this week, because there were more batted balls at the LoS than in recent weeks.
Statistically, we dominated this game. There's really no two ways about it. Unfortunately, the score board didn't back that up. We still have yet to play a complete game. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot. We have to eliminate those careless errors if we are to take the next step.
During the game, I was incensed that Miles didn't go for the throat at the end of the 1st half. Re-watching, I can understand his thinking. We're on the road. We're up three. Let's add a field goal and take it to the half, not risking a bad turnover. However, I still think we should have taken a shot after JJ scrambled to get it so close. Sub in Lee and give him a chance to get a TD pass. A TD there rips their hearts out in my estimation, and they may never recover.
I've seen a lot of Gator whining about bad reffing. They are right, it was bad. In their favor. A bogus Jai Eugene PI call that was a) Not even PI and b) Not a catchable ball, allowed them to score their 2nd TD, otherwise it would have been a FG try. I still question when the whistle comes out for forward progress on that Jordan Reed TD. The Debose KO return was an excellent display of holding and blocking in the back on the same player... right in the lane Debose ran through. Superb. Ironically, all of our questionable calls, the refs got right.
For the most part, I thought the game was called and managed well. Crowton is playing to the QBs strengths pretty well. There were a couple play calls I hated. The 3rd and 1 stretch run to Ridley right before the fake FG try was so telegraphed and awful. Murphy plays the previous 3-4 plays, then gets subbed on a 3rd and short. And why would we run a stretch with Ridley anyway? Not a good call. We tried to run a rollout throwback WR screen with Lee. Ehh, not a good play. Not his forte. Let JJ handle something like that.
I'm not sure if it was Gary or Billy or who, but our coaches saw something in that Gator defense this week, because both QBs threw behind the blitz routinely. Both did an excellent job of reading the blitz and throwing right into the vacated area. Very nice to see.
1) I don't know what the hell happened on this play, but luckily JJ gathered his wits and scored. He had actually scored two plays before, and we probably could have gotten a review if they waited it out.
2) Lee's first TD pass was a really nice design that we came back to later and hit Toliver on again for his other big gainer to the two. TT gets one-on-one coverage at the top. Ridley runs a swing pattern to suck the linebacker out, vacating a hole in the defense. Florida brings a blitzer off the edge, Lee throws behind the blitz and hits TT in stride, he makes a beautiful spin move in the open field and 38 yards later we're up 17-14.
3) Looked like either a read play or a designed JJ run, but the only camera angle I got made it hard to tell.
4) The beautiful fade to TT. Savor it.
JJ: The glaring error was the interception. The throw was certainly rushed by pressure, but it was still a miserable decision. Very reminiscent of 2008 Jarrett Lee. Other than that, he was quietly productive. Made two nice runs to get us into FG range at the end of the 1st half. Made a nice play on the fly to scamper in our first TD. Made a really nice throw to Randle while rolling right for a big gain. Found a wide open Clement as well. He's making strides as a passer, believe it or not. He also forced one deep to Randle who was well covered and was fortunate not to have it intercepted. He just missed DeAngelo Peterson down the sideline on a big play. On that same play, he actually did a good job of going through his progression, unfortunately he turned his body and got set to throw just a second too early, as Randle came completely free on the other side of the formation and could have had 10-15 yards easily, if not six. Also misread on a few of the zone/read plays... unfortunate, as he had been running it so well. A solid game for JJ.
Lee: There's been a lot of gushing over Lee's performance, and rightfully so. He threw only one true incompletion all night. I still see habits I don't like (throwing off the back foot). But his arm strength in those situations is key, so long as he limits it to the right times (he did it once when pressure was coming right at him up the middle and hit Spencer Ware for a six-yard gain). On one play he hit DLO on the out and it turned into a 1st down. It was a perfect throw, but if you look carefully you see TT come free off the rub in the middle of the field. Could have been a HUGE gain. Hit TT for two big gains on the same play. Threw two perfect fade routes, including the game winner. Lee was on target all night. My only major criticism is that he needs to quit tugging on his pads so damn much.
Ridley: Toughest game to date for him. He ran tough all night, though Florida did a great job of stuffing him up. That was obviously their major goal. Most of his good runs were what we've seen the past few weeks: great cutbacks off zone blocking schemes. Even though it may not have been Ridley's most efficient outing, he was still effective, as Florida was forced to bring men up to the box to honor him.
Ford: Made an excellent run early. Showed vision and explosiveness. His only other carry he didn't have a chance as two men came unblocked. Blackledge said he was tip toeing... I didn't see that. He was trying to wait for it to develop to cut it up field, but the blocks just didn't come.
Murph: His best game to date. Made two very nice runs to get us into a makeable 3rd and 1 on the game-winning drive. He's far and away our best pass blocker and for that reason, remains an asset to this team.
Ware: Still has yet to get a carry, but pulled down three catches for 14 yards. The kid has some sticky hands... catches the ball very, very well. Also laid a few nice blocks from the FB position. I expect to see him more and more involved as the season wears on. His role has gradually increased each week.
Blue: Got one carry for four yards. Didn't notice much else.
Stamp: Laid one very nice block to spring Ridley for a four yard gain. Absolutely destroyed his man. Stamp hits like a ton of bricks when he hits, unfortunately, he seems to miss a good bit.
TT: Best game of his LSU career. Finished with six catches for 111 yards, two TDs.. I think Toliver sometimes loses focus, but this week, he did not. Routinely made the first tackler miss. At 6'5, 205, he was often just too much for Florida's tiny corners. I think Florida should get yards for all the time Janoris Jenkins spent piggybacking TT. He played like he wouldn't be denied.
Randle: Bobbled but came up with a throw from JJ for a 29-yard gain. His only catch of the night. Rueb broke a finger against Tennessee, and apparently it affected his blocking more than anything. It showed, he struggled to lock up defenders all night, and he's typically a very good blocker. We ran a couple of screen plays that could have gone for more if Rueben was able to get his blocks.
Shep: Two carries for -6 and three catches for 11, most of which came on Lee's first throw, where Shep took a pop and stayed on his feet. He's tough. I think this is two weeks in a row with no drops for Shep, that's good. He's improving as a blocker as well. We haven't seen him make the big plays in recent weeks, but I think that's something the staff will work on. He had no chance on his runs, they were both misreads from JJ.
DLO: Made a nice catch on a tipped pass from JJ, good focus. Also a nice catch and run on a perfectly thrown ball from Lee on the out route.
Clement: Got a catch (I think the first of his career?) and rumbled 21 yards. Made a nice, athletic leap for an extra five yards. Got a holding call. I liked his aggression on the play, but he needs to get his hands inside. Otherwise, his blocking was very good.
T. Edwards: Saw him in blocking a few times... nothing of note.
Bark: Bark is a very solid LT. Played mostly a flawless game (can't remember any missed blocks and no penalties). The thing I would like to see more is finishing blocks. Barksdale has prototypical LT athleticism, size, arm length... you name it. But he's not overly powerful. I rarely see him just punish a defender. Making a good block is sometimes just getting in the way enough, but I'd really like to see Barksdale put someone's ass in the dirt. I haven't seen that mean streak from him.
Josh D.: Made a few nice blocks. His length and athleticism allows him to get reach blocks that a bigger, slower guy couldn't get. He's not a dominant drive blocker, but he can get to the 2nd level.
PJ: I continue to be impressed with him. Honestly, for all the hype of Pouncey, PJ completely outplayed the guy (and maybe that's because he didn't have to worry about Nevis on the other side). Consistently won at the point of attack and routinely put Hunter into the dirt. Kleinpeter says he finished with 10 knockdown blocks. PJ shows that mean streak I don't see from Barksdale. I LOVE watching him play.
T-Bob: Here to eat crow. A couple weeks ago I said T-Bob didn't belong. But the fact is, his play continues to improve. He's not always the strongest, and he got beat by blitzing linebacker Jon Bostic, but T-Bob plays so hard. Credited with seven knockdown blocks. He drove a lot of people off the ball Saturday night... very good to see from a guy who got blown up a lot last year.
Hurst: Was never really challenged all night. Consistently beat his man all night long. Finished with seven knockdown blocks. No issues in pass pro. this week. Had false start, but I thought it was induced and a bad call.
Faulk: With all due respect to Barksdale, Chris Faulk is going to be the best LT LSU has had since Whitworth. This guy is absolute mauler. Two knockdown blocks in five plays. He looks like he's wearing three sets of shoulder pads out there. Very excited to see him play next season.
Nevis: It's amazing to say this, but this was his best game to date. His stat line was mind blowing: seven tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, one FF. Florida couldn't handle him all night. He was routinely shooting into the backfield, beating double teams... just dominating. It was funny to see them try to single him up... and it never ended well for them. Got into Brantley's feet and altered a pass once, though there's no stat for that. Had the unfortunate facemask that would have resulted in a safety, but that happens.
Pep: Recorded one very nice TFL where he shot by the guard. He handled his man at the point of attack all night long, and that's what you want to get from Pep. Without Demps to break it outside, and our DTs manning the middle, Florida had no rushing attack to speak of really.
L. Edwards: Finished with three tackles and .5 sack. Lavar is typically very disciplined, but he was out of position often Saturday, mostly on the Trey Burton read/option plays. He repeatedly crashed down, allowing Burton to get outside. I would have much rather allowed Gillislee or Moody take it up the middle than allowing Burton get on the edge.
Ag: Continues to impress me. Finished with four tackles. Anchors really well in the run game. Won't get bulldozed. He's not an explosive pass rusher, but he shows some quickness. I love his toughness and pursuit.
Brockers: This guy is such a load. Plowed into Pouncey and drew a holding penalty. Blackledge referred to it as a "good play by Pouncey," but I beg to differ. Pouncey was beaten and had to revert to holding to try and get Brockers out of the play.
Mingo: Quiet night, but did record a nice pass break-up (which was also tipped by Nevis). Always pursues hard. Florida blocked him up pretty good. Got held on Brantley's 51-yarder to Moore. Blown off the ball on one running play. He still needs to add strength, but he brings a ton to the table as a rusher.
Adams: Batted the ball that ended up with an INT for Claiborne. Otherwise, nothing notable.
KShepp: Up and down game. Finished with eight tackles, two TFLs and one sack. That's the good. Made a great play on screen to Burton where he read it perfectly, screamed down on it and tackled him for minimal gain. Also made a nice play out in space to tackle Moody. Shepp really struggles to get off blocks though. If he wants to have a future at the next level, he'll need to improve here. He lets linemen get into him far too often and then he's taken out of the play. He initially stood up Reed at the goal line, and I feel like he lost the tackle by trying to go for a strip. Just get him to the ground Shepp.
Baker: Quiet game. Moore was his man on a 24-yard catch in the 1st half, but apparently he was picked a bit by the ref. Finished with six tackles. Missed a HUGE sack by trying to strip the ball from Brantley. Nevis ended up with the sack anyways. But you'd love to see Baker go for the KO there... he literally had a free shot at Brantley's back. Hit him hard, and the ball probably comes out anyways, instead, Brantley slid by him. Six tackles.
Francois: Missed a chance to tackle Burton for short gain because he didn't breakdown and square up on his man. One tackle recorded.
Zod: Made an uncharacteristic fumble on punt return. Only had one pass completed on him and it went for all of about six yards... he tackled it immediately. Teams are terrified of him. Honestly. But there's a big issue here, and one we need to figure out immediately: the cramping. I love Zod, but he's of no use if he's not on the field. Jai Eugene held his own filling it at corner, but he's not Zod. I'm not sure what needs to be done, but it needs to be remedied and fast. He hardly played in the 4th quarter, and not at all on the drive they made to take the lead. Coincidental? I think not. It was their only big drive of the night...
Claiborne: Right place, right time for the INT. Good, athletic break on the ball to get it though. Made an excellent read on a short pass to Burton to tackle it for minimal gain. Got beat on the 51-yarder to Moore. Bit of an undisciplined play for Claiborne. He dove to knock the pass down, but it was well out of reach. Brantley threw it nice and in front of Moore. If Claiborne stays on his feet and tackles, that's a 10-15 yard gain. Instead, it goes 51. Knockdowns are nice, but if you don't have help, be careful Mo. Otherwise, he was great. Florida struggled to get stuff going in the air all night. None of their receivers could get open. A large chunk of their passing yards were on dump plays. Also, had a very good return that set up the game-winning drive.
Mathieu: Knowing you have this guy out there must be delightful. This kid is one tough cookie. Batted an early pass from Brantley and took a bodyslam like a champ without losing his cool. Made a heady play to strip Moody and then pounced on it to recover. I'm telling you, the ball has a magnetic attraction to him. The best part of the play though? He was blocked! Burton chop blocked him to the ground, he got up, chased down Moody and forced a fumble. Also, UF got a first down on the play, but on a screen pass he absolutely destroyed Carl Moore, who was trying to block. Moore goes about 6'4, 225 lbs. Mathieu is maybe 5'9, maybe 185. He plays with a mean streak.
BT15: Made a great ST tackle on Debose on one kick return. Over ran an option play and missed the tackle... has to keep his head up and find the ball carrier there. Finished with five tackles and a TFL. I've said it a dozen times, but you may not see the impact of Taylor always, but it's there. You wanna know why we've rarely been beaten deep this year? BT15 is one of the main reasons.
Hatcher: Absolutely destroyed Moody after a short gain. Finished with five tackles. Nothing really notable besides the fact that he was held and blocked in the back on the Debose KO return.
Reid: Played few snaps. Put a hit on Hines (I believe) as he was juggling a pass heading out of bounds. Showed nice instincts there.
Vinson: Played a few reps. Recorded one tackle. Missed a chance at a sack by over running it. Has to breakdown. Same mistake Baker made just two plays earlier.
Loston: Didn't see him out there.
Jasper: Uber-clutch scoop of the misfired pitch from Helton to scramble it up for a 1st down. He would have scored if the pitch was right. Perfect on the night. 1 punt for 44 yards to boot.
Helton: Punted it pretty well. Had an ugly one that only went 30 yards and out of bounds in the 3rd. Killed two inside the 20 though.
Graff: Special Teams Maven! This guy does it each and every week. Tackled Debose three times man up. Very, very impressive. Also nearly ran Debose down on that KO return.