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LSU 30, Florida 27: Viewer's Guide to the Replay

Even a small step is still forward.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As I watched football on Saturday and saw things like Mississippi State catching turnovers on Auburn's first two offensive snaps, or Arkansas fumbling a touchdown out the back of the endzone untouched -- or later recovering a punt that bounced off an Alabama player's leg -- all I kept thinking was "God...does LSU need a play like that."

Just a break. A bounce of the ball. Anything that can jump-start some momentum.

Saturday night, there were plenty of those plays to go around, but in the end, LSU managed to catch the timeliest one and get out of Gainesville with its first conference win. The football was ugly as all hell, and the swings of the game made as little sense as anything else about this season. Seriously, at different times I didn't think either team had any business winning. But it was a win the Tigers needed. Now it's time for this young group to keep moving forward, secure those extra 10 bowl practices and continue to learn how to get better.

  • How little sense did this game make? LSU won the turnover battle 3-0, gained eight more first downs than Florida and converted more than three times as many third-down situations. And needed a last-second, 50-yard field goal to win. A field goal that wouldn't have been needed had the very same kicker not missed an extra point earlier. Florida out-gained LSU 5.4 yards per play to 4.2, held LSU to a sub-50 completion percentage, had a pair of punt returns longer than 50 yards, including a touchdown, and still lost.

  • And that's not to mention Leonard Fournette's breakout performance, the 41-yard completion to Travin Dural to convert a third-and-25, OR Dural's completely ridiculous one-handed touchdown catch. No sense. None.

  • We saw it on Florida's first drive, and it resurfaced again later. When teams motion out of the backfield in spread looks, LSU's linebackers leave the middle of the field open. There's some kind of adjustment there that players probably aren't picking up or making correctly -- either the nickelbacks/corners need to pick that up with a safety helping on the receivers, or a safety has to come down to take the back. Can't just keep leaving the middle open like that against spread teams.

  • When LSU converted that first third down, it felt like a weight had been lifted to a degree. Of course, Dillon Gordon committed a very stupid personal foul on Dante Fowler Jr. on the ensuing first down, short-circuiting a very nice run by Terrence Magee.

  • No idea what Elliot Porter was doing on the early snap. As Jesse Palmer pointed out, he usually gets a signal from one of the guards when LSU goes silent. Anthony Jennings was resetting Magee in the backfield. With the other issues this offense has been battling, they just can't afford these mistakes and penalties. The first offensive drive went from first-and-10 to third-and-25 without Florida's defense having to make a single play.

  • On Debose's touchdown, it looks like Lamar Louis and Jamal Adams got too flat and failed to slow down and get in position to make the tackle. Once Debose got outside of them he only had to shake Reid Ferguson to get to the sideline where his blockers were. Kendell Beckwith did a good job of getting in position to make a play, but with two blockers there was just enough traffic for Debose to make a move and get around him.

  • For most of the game Florida really didn't commit extra men to the line of scrimmage, and despite some hiccups, the LSU offensive line managed to wear them down somewhat. 195 yards rushing against this defense is nothing to sneeze at, but only time will tell if that's progress or not.

  • LSU finally caught the break it has needed badly to set up the first touchdown. Florida crossed up the linebackers with some motion on a designed run by Jeff Driskel, but Kwon Alexander was able to beat the pulling lineman to the point of attack and get his hat on the ball. And once it went up, Jermauria Rasco was johnny-on-the-spot to get it.

  • Zone runs with Fournette really are going to be this team's best play from here on out. He has the vision to find the room that's there, and if there's a cutback option he's deadly. He just has moves that other backs that big don't have.

  • The right side of LSU's offensive line just absolutely caved in the Gators on Fournette's first touchdown. Guard play came through with Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic creating a huge hole, with Pocic and Jerald Hawkins controlling two defenders on a combo. It was a good 5-7 yards before Fournette was even touched, and once he saw the endzone he just kept those legs churning. La'El Collins had a nice cut on the backside as well that helped to slow up two Gators.

  • A false step from Louis contributed to Debose's other big play on offense. From his strongside position he took a couple steps forward and was too flat to the C-gap to contain the jet sweep.

  • Beckwith got the start at middle linebacker and played just about every snap. His athleticism still jumps off the page but he had some issues at the point of attack. On Florida's first fourth-down attempt he diagnoses the run perfectly but just drops his eyes and takes a wild leap at Driskel that misses. On a later play he similarly left his feet but slid off Driskel in the hole. Eyes up, wrap up and drive kid.

  • Rough day for Jalen Mills, who had issues with his footing and was out of position on a handful of passes, and was dragged a good seven yards on Driskel's touchdown run. Down the stretch he gave way to more snaps for Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams. Wonder if we'll see that continue.

  • Florida's first real scoring drive really perfectly illustrated the biggest issue this defense is having right now: making tackles at the point of attack. Three separate times on that drive, Beckwith, Mills, Kwon Alexander and Christian LaCouture had the ball carrier dead to rights and just couldn't make the play up close. That's something only the players can change.

  • With 10 tackles, 1.5 for loss and the forced fumble, imagine how good Alexander could be if he would just make that extra play when he had the chance?

  • On the offensive side of the ball, the approach was predictably conservative, but after last week's inept passing day that was probably the best strategy. The bigger issue is less the amount of passing as it is the type of throws. Other than a few poorly-run slants, the Tigers are trying to live on intermediate and deep throws off of play-action, rather than trying to use higher-percentage throws. Florida's use of the swing pass out of the backfield is a great example of that.

  • You could see that it was an emotional start for Anthony Jennings. He did a lot of jawing with Florida defenders, and it looked like he tried to do a bit too much on some of his zone-read plays. It is what it is for LSU here -- they're going to have to continue to have Brandon Harris ready at some point. He's just capable of so much more throwing the ball, especially in this offense.

  • In general, LSU probably could attack the edge more with bootlegs, bubble screens and some speed option plays. Florida gave Trey Quinn a ridiculously large amount of space when he was lined up in the slot. Stretches and play-action passes to the fullback are a nice start, but there's more meat on the bone there.

  • Speaking of fullbacks, Melvin Jones did a nice job overall. Given Connor Neighbors' struggles this season, a Wally Pipp-ing might be coming there.

  • Fantastic vision and cutback by Fournette on the 20-yard on LSU's second touchdown drive. That's the benefit of zone blocking...defense over-pursues in the direction of the play, Fournette makes a fantastic cut and runs right out the backdoor. Plays like that are the future of this offense.


  • I don't know what LSU was trying with that motioned wildcat look on the fourth-down play, but I'm glad somebody called that timeout to think about it.

  • As for the run itself, holy hell Jerald Hawkins. After he all but told the defense where the play was coming before the huddle, he did a fantastic job of pinning the defensive tackle down inside. Dillon Gordon did the same with Fowler, and Travis Dickson and Jones escorted Kenny Hilliard into the endzone.

  • Tre'davious White better thank his lucky stars Driskel just doesn't have much of an arm. He was beaten badly by DeMarcus Robinson, but Driskel hung the ball up enough for him to make up the ground and get the pick. He bailed out White later on with an uncatchable throw on a play where White was mugging Robinson.

  • As for this whole thing:

    Yeah, Adams flopped like an Italian soccer player, but it's Debose throwing the hand in his face that should have drawn the flag.    

  • Adams should have more respect for his elders though.

  • Thirteen yards passing in the first half, and when LSU comes out and calls its first pass play, Trey Quinn drops a very wide open crossing route. Because when it rains, it pours.

  • It really started to look like LSU was taking this game over in the third quarter on its second drive. Collins made a fantastic block to spring Fournette for a nice run. Florida appears to be running out of gas. A nice third-down conversion by Jennings to Jones. And then BOOM. Florida gets a huge sack by Jalen Tabor on a corner blitz -- something Jennings has really struggled to identify -- and the drive looks stalled.

  • Two huge third-down plays -- a called hold on Byron Poole that bailed out a third-and-long throw, and a big catch by Quinn on third-and-10, helped get the Tigers inside the 10. Another defensive PI call helped to set up the go-ahead score.

  • No. 7 cleared some pretty big air diving over the pile for that touchdown too.

  • It looked like Brad Kragthorpe had some issues getting the ball down on Delahousaye's missed PAT. Sadly, ESPN didn't give us a replay to confirm.

  • In general, plays were coming in pretty late in this one. Led to some harried and hurried adjustments at the line for Jennings, and cost LSU at least one delay of game penalty.

  • LSU catches another break: Jefferson and LeTroy Pittman's feet get tangled on a third-and-nine pass. No flag. There shouldn't have been a flag mind you, the contact was totally incidental. But anybody want to count on that happening again next time?

  • Hey, a positive defensive tackle play! Maquedius Bain did a great job of standing up his guy at the point of attack to keep Beckwith clean on a Driskel third-down run in the fourth quarter. Beckwith closed and Tashawn Bower got off a block to stonewall the Gator QB and force the punt.

  • But on the next series, Florida's nose guard was able to ride Elliot Porter down the line of scrimmage on a stretch play and help free up the defensive pursuit. Once LSU was behind the chains and in the shadow of its own endzone, that drive was done.

  • And then Keehn drives a really low line drive that was in Debose's hands before the punt coverage could even get set up. Luckily LSU was able to pin him along the sidelines before he could get in the endzone.

  • On the next play, LSU finally handles a power-read play correctly. Great push from the tackles, Alexander wrong-arms the pulling guard, and Rasco stacks the offensive lineman and sheds to make the play.

  • Unfortunately, on second down the Gators turned around and out-executed the Tigers. Textbook out route from Robinson, Jalen Collins stumbled slightly on the break, but was still right in his hip pocket and made a clean play for the ball, but just didn't get his hands on it. Touchdown.

  • A delayed blitz catches Jennings in the pocket, he does a fine job of getting away from it but Fowler was right there to set the offense back and set up that infamous third-and-25.

  • So who here saw that conversion coming? See, nice of all the liars in the audience to raise their hands like that. So what happened? The call was your basic four-verticals play with DeSean Smith (Hey! Remember him?) aligned far inside in a trips set with Dural on the sideline. Smith and did a fantastic job of really pushing down the middle of the field on a post route to hold the safety. Per Nick de la Torre of Gator Country, Florida had checked it's coverage into man-to-man across the board, but Poole, the cornerback missed the call. He gives Dural a free release expecting help over the top and Dural could see he was open instantly. Honestly in real time I was scared Jennings was going to throw the ball out of bounds.

  • And then, finally, the fade route -- the exact kind of easy read I've been hoping to see from this passing game. Poole had a handful of Dural's jersey and his left arm pinned. Somehow he still pulled the ball in with his right. Great job of tracking the ball and a nice, high throw with just the right amount of loft from Jennings.

  • Dural is still one hell of a deep threat but one thing I noticed is that he still struggles in tight quarters. Never really got good separation on any of the slant attempts LSU ran. Not that Jennings threw a great ball on any of them either, but Jennings was too flat and did a poor job of driving the corner off to create some room on the cut. 

  • But because this game wasn't done being horrible, on the next offensive snap Driskel, who had thrown for all of 97 yards at this point, finds Robinson down the field. The TV angle never really shows how he did it, but Robinson managed to get separation on Rashard Robinson in man-to-man coverage. Luckily, Rashard recovered well enough to hold him up inside the 10, with some help from a great hustle play by Ronald Martin.

  • Yes I did get up and make a drink at that moment.

  • But the defense did its job on the goal line, particularly inside. Bain and LaCouture were tremendously stout at the point of attack and kept the pursuit free on first down -- LaCouture very nearly made the play in the backfield. On second down they did a great job of submarining the offensive front and creating a pile up for Driskel on the keeper. On third down, it was all going the Gators way until Tevin Westbrook missed that catch. Caught LSU thinking run, tight end got open. But if it wasn't for bad luck, Will Muschamp wouldn't have any.

  • On LSU's ensuing possession all I could think is "whatever you do, take up the remaining minute-40. Don't give them the ball back and we'll take our chances in OT." The one thing Florida was playing for was to not give up the big play. Should have been almost nothing but called runs. And then Elliot Porter gives up pressure leading to a sack to force the punt.

  • All I could see was Florida running that motion swing pass down the field to set up the field goal. Exactly what they did on the first two snaps. And then Driskel stares down a slant to LaTroy Pittman. Jefferson and Alexander make a great break on the ball and collide with the receiver, balls in the air, Jefferson makes the heads up catch. He didn't fill up the stat sheet, but both of Jefferson's two plays were huge. He forced a punt by blowing up a tunnel screen on third-down, and then the big interception and return.

  • Pittman took a nasty shot on the play, but will reportedly be okay. Scary moment for the young man.

  • LSU runs the ball to the right hash, Florida tries the ol' "hold down the pile and run the clock" and Matt Austin was on the spot to call defensive delay of game. Jennings might have been able to get the spike off and stop the clock anyway, but it was nice to see the rule enforced. A similar situation happened in the Capital One Bowl a few years ago, only an LSU lineman lost his cool and threw the Penn State player off the pile.

  • It was a scary three seconds after the kick, but LSU wisely did not give Debose another shot at the the ball with a high, short kick.

So what are the big takeaways from this one? No clue. The line play was encouraging, and hopefully Cameron will learn from what we saw out of Fournette going forward. But there's just no way of knowing any of these things right now. The important thing is that this team didn't quit, and on top of the luck they had, created some of their own at the right moments. This team is what it is right now -- young and mistake prone. There's no choice but to ride the wave of that, but if everybody involved can keep learning and taking small steps forward, this season might not be as doomed as we all think.