Wow. So I did not see that one coming.
Poseur talked about it during the week, and I re-iterated it on Friday. Florida is a team that, for the last 19 games or so, has lived on taking opponents to the mat and grappling until they find some sort of way to choke the game out. If you would have told me then, that on Saturday, the Gators would hold LSU to just 25 minutes of possession, 327 yards and 17 points while Zach Mettenberger completed just nine passes, I would have assumed the visiting team got out of there with a win.
Instead, LSU beat Florida at its own game.
When faced with the SEC's best defensive front and a physical offense based on power running, the Tigers won the battle at the line of scrimmage on defense, forced Florida to punt five times and successfully executed a low-risk, yet incredibly efficient game plan that moved the ball, got points when it needed and closed the game out in the fourth quarter. The 5.84 yards per play LSU averaged on Saturday wasn't just the highest Florida has allowed this season, it was more than a yard and a half better than the next highest (4.00 ypp allowed to Miami). Likewise, LSU held the Gators to just 3.53 yards per play, the first time this season the Tigers have held an opponent under 4.
It was a huge win, one that could prove to be a major building block for the second half of this schedule that will face offensive teams like Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M.
- I'm actually watching most of the first two drives of this game for the first time via DVR, thanks to the clusterfuck that was gates 8/9 of the stadium. Just two ticket-scanners for each gate resulted in a very long, very slow-moving line. They didn't even use all of the ticket lanes. We arrived at the stadium a good 20 minutes before kickoff, and didn't make it in until nearly halfway through the first quarter.
- And while I'm complaining, concession stands on the north side of the stadium also ran out of water at halftime. On a very hot day.
- You know, in a game like this, announcing your presence with authority isn't about coming out and letting your star quarterback show off that big right arm. It's about blowing the ultra-physical defense right off the ball on the first play, and LSU did that on Jeremy Hill's 16-yard run. Zone play to the right, Jerald Hawkins blows up Ronald Powell, Connor Neighbors takes out the extra safety in the box and the rest are caught in the wash.
- Florida's defense adjusted quickly, and managed to make enough negative plays to force a third-and-long and a punt, but I still think it was huge for LSU to establish tone.
- Really chippy game in the trenches. Methinks the LSU line read a lot of the talk from Florida's d-line about them being soft last year. The pushing and shoving started on the first drive and went all the way through to the last one. Luckily, it was the Gators making all the dumb moves to the tune of 8 penalties for 72 yards.
- Something that really stood out early on -- the defensive front was really just flying to the ball and hitting people from snap one. That, maybe more than anything else about this game, is something this unit can build on. Look, mistakes happen. Make them happen at full speed. Just hustling to the ball, wherever it is, beats the hell out of looking around and wondering where your help is.
- Bounce-back day for Lamin Barrow, a guy I've dogged all year for some incredibly rough play. Thirteen tackles and one for loss. But he's going to kick himself for missing that interception on Florida's first drive. Easiest one he'd ever get too, Murphy just missed his target and threw it right to Barrow.
- He probably still was, because Barrow lost track of Trey Burton on the next play for a long completion on the very next play.
- Fantastic job of helping Mettenberger by continuing to come back to the ball on Odell Beckham Jr.'s 25-yard completion. That's a little thing that is a big reason as to why the passing game has been so efficient. Beckham and Landry have known what to do in almost every situation.
- Yeah...Trai Turner went waaaay early on LSU's first touchdown. How the referees missed that I have no idea.
- And for the record, I love Mettenberger talking trash to Dante Fowler after the play. Fowler started it by walking up to him. A bit too slow on the shoving draw though.
- It's hard to pick one guy out on the defensive line for this week, but I think I might have to go with Danielle Hunter. Just active and pesky as all hell. Flying off the ball, pursuing like a mad man when the play was away from him and keeping those frying-pan-sized hands of him up at all times. Neither he nor Jermauria Rasco grabbed a sack (Rasco did have 4 hurries, however) but they were a big reason why Tyler Murphy never seemed to be able to put his eyes down the field. He was always watching the rush.
- Overall, eight tackles-for-loss out of the defense. A season high, and more than in the last two weeks combined.
- Gary Danielson pointed something out that I thought about in the game preview: that Arkansas was able to rush for 80 yards in the first quarter against the Gators, but abandoned things as Florida settled in and built a lead. That's a similar rushing style to LSU. Lot of power and zone, with a baddass blocking fullback. LSU's offensive staff probably had a good feeling that they could have some success with a similar plan if things stayed close, and they stuck with it. What's more, the entire offense bought in, from line to receivers, who did some great work on the perimeter blocking.
- Such a weird sequence in the second quarter: Mettenberger hits Juice for a big play -- 29 yards, on a pass that Vernon Hargreaves III played near-perfect, only to get beat out for the back-shoulder throw by Jarvis Landry. And then on the next play in a hurry up, Mettenberger loses the ball trying to throw a quick smoke-screen. It just felt like such a huge blow, but the defense rose to the challenge on that next drive.
- Such a huge swat by Hunter on Florida's next drive. Screen pass attempt by Florida that was about to be very open.
- On the next play, Florida went to an empty set and John Chavis switched things up a bit. After using a nickel look for most of the game he went to Mustang. The change clearly confused Florida's blocking assignments, and when Micah Eugene looped inside of Hunter the guard missed him and he had an easy lane to the quarterback.
- Another point that came to pass: officiating in the defensive backfield. Florida's receivers jammed and clutched where they could, but they couldn't get away with it. The big call on Marcus Roberson was just too obvious. He grabbed Travin Dural the second he slowed his route to turn.
- I'm all for trick plays, but the double-pass attempt felt a little forced and unnecessary, when the offense was moving the ball relatively well on its own. Still, points for creativity.
- The fullback dive play won't win a lot of beauty contests (because people are dumb and do not appreciate true beauty) but you really saw the value of it as a constraint play in this game. LSU was a dedicated two-back team for just about all of Saturday, and fed Hill on a ton of inside zone plays. Giving the defense that same look but with the ball in a different place was the perfect kind of misdirection for a speedy front like Florida's. It doesn't give them the time to read what's going on and pursue the way they would on a reverse or a counter. It's a quick-hitter that can really find a lot of room if you catch a defense napping.
- I absolutely love using Kenny Hilliard in that spot, and J.C. Copeland is just athletic enough to do some damage on the play as well in more than just short-yardage situations. His 10-yard run to set up the second touchdown plunge by Anthony Jennings was damn near the sexiest thing I've ever seen.
- Ego Ferguson's big stop on Florida's 2nd-and-1 play before the half was so damn athletic. He was stood up at the line, but managed to ride his guy laterally and then just exploded once he saw the back, along with Hunter. Yeah, Florida picked up the third down, but those hits helped keep the tone going in this game.
- Speaking of that third-and-short, LSU again did a great job of getting off the ball, and Barrow had that play in the hole. He just couldn't wrap up on Mack Brown and drive him back.
- Murphy had some success finding secondary and third receivers, but Tre'davious White and Rashard Robinson did a solid job of locking down Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton outside. White also had another near-interception. Soon he's going to start catching those balls.
- Honestly, when Mettenberger connected with Hill on that little waggle pass, I honestly thought LSU was about to just go right down the field and put this game away. Great playcall to get the ball to a fast back in space. Something to save for later, too.
- And on the very next play, Mettenberger is too locked in on Landry and ignored a wide, wide, WIDE open Dillon Gordon down the field. He's going to be picturing that play in his sleep.
- The next LSU possession, he also missed a first-down throw to Juice on third-and-12, trying to find Travin Dural farther down the field. He would later do the same thing, trying to find Landry in the corner of the endzone when he could have hit Boone for the first on the drive that resulted in the last field goal.
- Mettenberger just wasn't as on today. He had some nice throws, but missed a couple of easy ones as well. It's important to note, though, that all of the previously mentioned throws were still relatively low-risk situations. It's not like he was trying to squeeze it into double coverage, just trying to take a safe, but low-percentage, shot down the field. And when an off day equals 9-17 for 152 yards and no turnovers, that's a bad quarterbacking day you can still win with. Especially against this secondary.
- What a random third quarter. Florida held the ball for about 13 of the 15 minutes, and ran 21 plays to LSU's eight. Outgained the Tigers 89 yards to 34. But came away with no points. I won't lie though, as the quarter ended, with Kelvin Taylor coming off a couple of successful runs, I began to fear that momentum was shifting back to the Gators.
- Especially after Rasco's very, very stupid facemask call on Murphy's third-down quarterback sneak to open the fourth. Just completely unnecessary. Although he helped to make up for that by torpedoing the pulling guard AND lead blocker on a counter play for Barrow to stuff a counter play.
- You know, Brent Pease almost seemed to overthink his play calls at times. Florida was doing a good job of muscling the ball on LSU, then they'd either pass or try something outside that would get blown up and put them behind the chains. The attempted fumblerooski-esque play to Patton in the red zone being case and point. The Gators were moving the ball well through conventional means. No need to try anything cute there.
- And LSU's back seven did a great job of swarming on third-and-longs when Murphy was forced to throw underneath.
- That last point, the better tackling, may be the biggest takeaway from this game. Yeah, more and more young guys got on the field on the D-line and at defensive back, but strategically, Chavis hasn't changed what he's doing all that much. The players are just playing more aggressively when the offense throws a short pass. That's going to be huge against Ole Miss next week.
- Hill played absolute man ball once the offense got the ball back in the fourth quarter. Running hard, and more importantly running smart. Notice how many times he came to the sideline and dove to the ground on contact, rather than letting the defense ride him out of bounds. Workman like 121 yards that did exactly what the offense needed and kept the chains moving.
- On Hill's 26-yarder to set up the game-icing field goal: La'El Collins absolutely hammers his man off the ball and rides him seven yards down the field. Trai Turner cut off the linebacker in pursuit and Copeland had an open ride all the way to the safety. From there, Hill turned on the jets. Hargreaves, the backside corner, just barely saved the touchdown.
- By this point in the game, you could see the life getting sucked out of the Florida defense. Even with it just being a field goal, there was a sense that the Gators knew that would be enough.
- For as good of a game as Hunter played, he won't have fun in the film room watching that fake punt. He has to know that if it's a throw, the guy he was "covering" isn't an eligible receiver anyway. Got back too late and gave up the pass. Still can barely believe that play worked.
- Murphy had Dunbar in the endzone on Florida's last drive. Loston read the route late and let the receiver get behind him. Not going to be able to afford that against other offenses.
- Very confusing final sequence for Florida. Down 11, plenty of time left, you absolutely have to try and preserve the field goal, at all costs. Once the D.J. Humphries false start put you in the long yardage situation, when reading a blitz you have to have a quick read in your quarterback's back pocket. Once it was 4th-and-27, it was all but academic.
- Speaking of the last play, Jordan Allen collapsed trying to turn to reach the ball and limped off the field during the next drive. Hopefully not too serious.
- Overall, not a great day for the defense, but another day they can build on. There were still some problems at times, but the approach was so much better. Tacklers swarmed to the ball and tackled so much better. Play like this the rest of the way, good offenses will still move the ball, but LSU will make enough big plays to give the offense some opportunities to do the big things we've seen through the first half of this year.
- Postgame stadium gripe. Every time they play Seven Nation Army over the Tiger Stadium speakers, a part of my soul dies.
- Seriously. Stop it. Never again. Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever.
- I'm going to have a "get off my lawn" moment, but Student Section, it's just not cute anymore. It really never was that funny to begin with. Look, anybody that reads this site regularly knows that neither I, nor anybody else here is particularly squeamish about curse words or bad language. But this whole "suck that Tiger dick" business has done nothing but led to the end of one of the Tiger Band's best songs (Neck), and it's probably going to lead to the end of "All of the Lights." It's not offensive -- it's just annoying.
Yeah, you're in college, and when the administration asks you to stop doing something you're honor-bound to do the exact opposite because 40 years ago a bunch of useless stoners made that seem cool for five minutes. But it's not about doing what you're told or "sticking it to the man" or whatever hack-kneed cliché y'all have built up in those still-forming minds. Yelling at a camera to suck a dick doesn't make you more grown up, or rebellious, or defiant. It makes you sound like a 12-year-old boy. And 12-year-old boys are horrible little assholes.
One of the things that makes the Golden Band from Tiger Land so great is that they're willing break from the usual set list that almost every other band in the SEC clings to. There's never any Iron Man, or Imperial March, or any of that. We have a band that's willing to try anything from P-Funk to Green Day to Kanye West. But it's not going to stay that way if they have to stop playing a song every year because the student section can't stop shouting something obscene for the network cameras to pick up. Pretty soon, there will be nothing left but that typical dreck and piped-in music.
Or worse, more Seven Nation Army.