The LSU offense gave us even more big-time moments to remember on this spectacular 2019 ride, ripping off big play after big play to take down the seventh-ranked Florida Gators.
It was a spectacular night in Tiger Stadium that followed up one of those perfect tailgating days we only get every so often. The perfect confluence of weather and a packed campus, with a beautiful night and a raucous crowd.
The kind of Saturday we spend all summer jonesing for, and the game delivered. Florida got almost everything they wanted; they found ways to string out long drives and frustrate the Tiger defense, maintain third-and-short situations and dominate time of possession nearly two to one. If you would have asked me what a Florida upset looked like, that would’ve described it.
And it just didn’t matter.
The Tiger offense ripped off 511 yards on just 48 plays — that’s an astounding 10.6 yards per play against what had been a top-10 Gator defense in SP+. Big play after big play out of Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Tyrion Davis-Price. And once again, Joe Burrow was able to keep pace and raise his game at the big moment, throwing a dime of a 54-yard touchdown pass to Chase to put LSU up 14 and effectively put the game away after the defense had come through with a big interception.
With the win LSU crosses the bowl-eligibility threshold and moves to 7-3 versus top-10 opponents under Ed Orgeron, including 5-1 since the start of the 2018 season. Big Game Bebe.
- Looking at the box score for this one, a few things jump off the page: LSU only converted one third down on the night, but it was one third down out of just FOUR opportunities. Four third downs. Period. Likewise, the LSU offensive line completely shut out the Gators’ potent pass rush and held them to all of two tackles for loss on the day.
- Per The Athletic’s Jason Starrett, the Tigers’ 10.6 yards per play constituted a program-high versus a ranked opponent or conference opponent, and the third-highest figure ever.
- The defense’s performance was a source of frustration for many, as it should be, but it is worth noting that following the Gators’ go-ahead touchdown, Florida’s next four drives ended in two punts, an interception, and the turnover on downs. It’s not what LSU’s going to need in the future, and it’s not what we expect from this group, but it was a big step up when it was needed. The question is will that even out?
- True to the form he’s shown this year, Todd Grantham didn’t call a ton of pressure this week, but a well-designed pressure from the right side was able to get off the field on the first drive. Florida was able to overload LSU’s blockers despite bringing just four men and flush Burrow. Does a nice job of scrambling and getting a few, but not enough to convert. Then Cade York pulls a field goal left. Not the easiest of kicks, but still not something you want to see carry over.
- K’Lavon Chaisson hasn’t been the pass-rusher many expected, but he continues to make big strides as a run defender. Sets the edge and gets off the block to stuff Lamical Perine on Florida’s first drive.
- Aranda breaks out the “green team” pass rush look early on Florida’s first third down, with freshman Marcel Brooks in a three-point stance as an end and Michael Divinity lined up inside over the guard. They run a T-E stunt, and Jacoby Stevens breaks up a nice throw from Kyle Trask to Kyle Pitts — and Grant Delpit very nearly picks it off off the carom.
- Offense strikes almost immediately with a 57-yard run from Edwards-Helaire on a split-zone type of concept:
- Play was zone blocked to the left with Thad Moss scraping across the formation, but cutting up inside of the A-gap instead of going all the way across. Fantastic seals by by the guards and tackles, Lloyd Cushenberry and Moss get up to the linebackers and Edwards-Helaire has about 10-12 free yards before he just dead-legs Shawn Davis to break the run the rest of the way. And Steve Ensminger follows it up perfectly with a slant-RPO for the easy touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase.
- But to their credit, Florida responded well on the next drive. The defense’s issues in the 35 minutes were kind of a confluence of events at different times. A sprinkling of bad tackling, but at times Florida’s players just won individual match-ups at receiver. Along with some on-target throws into coverage by Trask, and the well-timed calls you’d expect from Dan Mullen.
- For example, the first big run by Perine, the Tigers set the edge and have a power play well defended, but Patrick Queen slips off of the back, he bounces outside and picks up 17.
- On the Gators’ first touchdown, it looks like Delpit should have been aligned more to the middle of the field, where he could’ve been in the throwing lane from Trask to Trevon Grimes. Kristian Fulton was shook on the over route, but he’d also just gotten back on the field after leaving with injury.
- Things start looking dicey when the offense goes three-and-out, but Dan Mullen probably commits a strategic blunder by electing to punt on a fourth and short. Even with the quarter break to think about it.
- Another example of the defensive miscues: third-and-nine, LSU brings a five-man rush versus Trask with Justin Thomas looping around Patrick Queen. The rush gets to Trask but he’s able to side-step Queen while Thomas wasn’t in position to change direction. Scrambles but ultimately comes up short.
- Not a great start to the second quarter by John Emery — completely misses an assignment on a screen pass and never gets out in the route. Burrow is able to scramble out of it, but that’s a miscue that can’t happen.
- He-man play for Jefferson on a dig. Thrown on time by Burrow, gets a stiff-arm on the sideline and is able to turn it up for 36 yards. The biggest compliment I can give him is that he reminded me of the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas. He posted up corners, had some fantastic moves to make guys miss and never let the physicality of the Florida secondary get to him. Nice scramble play with Burrow for the touchdown.
- Minor in-stadium complaint: your boy missed most of the second quarter thanks to an insanely long and insanely slow-moving line for the concession stand. It wasn’t for me, but my 69-year-old mother asked me to get her some popcorn and a bottle of water, and I wasn’t going to tell her no. At the time, you’d think the start of the second quarter would be good timing, before the halftime rush. It took at least 30 minutes, and nearest I can tell it was just a matter of personnel not working quickly. Just ridiculous, and the kind of thing that in-stadium staff need to be aware of working to fix.
- Florida responded quickly on their next drive. Trask makes a dime of a throw to Pitts over solid Delpit coverage, and then Divinity gets washed inside to give Perine a nice cut for 10 yards.
- Mullen comes up with a great call for Emery Jones to fake a run (complete with pulling guard) and throw it to Pitts right behind Damone Clark. Luckily, Delpit was able to dislodge the ball.
- Two near interceptions in the endzone on Florida’s second TD. Jacoby Stevens knocks a ball up that Cameron Lewis just misses, and of course on the fourth-down TD. Good call by Florida on the play-action leak play with Jones, and he holds Stevens and Divinity putting Queen in a two-on-one bind. But he still high points the ball perfectly. All he had to do was catch it, but instead it bounced to Perine.
- Florida spent most of the night with two deep safeties really inviting LSU’s running game, and the Tigers more than obliged. Edwards-Helaire’s 39-yard score showed some of the perils of the Gator approach.
- Middle linebacker Ventrell Miller and safety Brad Stewart hesitate, looking to see if Burrow pulled the ball back, and as a result couldn’t fill the nice big crease Saahdiq Charles and Adrian Magee create. Chase was able to run the cornerback into Wilson’s path so he couldn’t take a quick angle. Edwards-Helaire hit the sideline and doesn’t he look a lot like Kevin Faulk in those dark cleats?
- But Florida was able to come back with a score right before the half that really could have turned the game, given that they were getting the ball to start the third. That 14-point swing is always dangerous, and they were able to make good. They converted a third and six on a dicey defensive pass interference call on Stevens — he definitely contacted Pitts on his break but the ball was pretty off-line.
- And of course, Delpit dropped an interception on the next play. Trask took a lick from Jacob Phillips on the pass.
- Two great throws into tight windows by Trask, to Pitts and then on the touchdown to Van Jefferson.
- The senior Ole Miss transfer would go on to vex Derek Stingley coming out of the half for four completions on Florida’s final touchdown drive. Set up the freshman well on a couple of back-shoulder throws down the sideline. Good throws by Trask as well. The vet then sets up the rookie outside for a pair of slants, including the touchdown.
- Stingley was treated for a possible concussion following the drive. The kid is mortal, it turns out.
- But the offense responds — even with a big negative on the first play of the drive, Burrow picks up a nice gain on a scramble, then has Chase and Jefferson turn some short passes into nice gains with great cuts. Jefferson just absolutely dead-legs CJ Henderson after working his way back to Burrow on a scramble play, picking up six extra yards.
- Edwards-Helaire’s second touchdown featured a really great block from Austin Deculus. Just drove his man off the ball, which allowed Edwards-Helaire to make a jump cut outside and pick up about five yards before contact, then drive his feet to the goal line.
- Per Cody Worsham, 104 of Edwards-Helaire’s 134 yards on the night came before contact. Just a huge performance from the Tiger offensive line.
- Once LSU knotted things up, we saw the Tiger defensive line really start to pick things up. Chaisson draws an obvious holding penalty on the next possession, and Tyler Shelvin and Rashard Lawrence really started to gum things up in the running game. Shelvin had one of his most active games in purple and gold, and narrowly missed about three tackles for loss, in addition to the one he picked up.
- Marcel Brooks makes it home finally in the green package on third and long. T-E stunt works perfectly:
- We haven’t really gotten to see the oft-discussed green unit this year because of injuries. I’m curious to see if it stays a true line like this or if we see them move around a little bit, or come in stand-up groupings.
- And on the next drive, Tyrion Davis-Price busts loose for 33 yards to give LSU the lead. It looks like LSU’s tempo caught Florida out of position, and before they can get set the zone run hits perfectly. Great down-field work from Jefferson and Stephen Sullivan as well. Davis-Price doesn’t look like he’s moving all that fast but good luck trying to get him down with a head of steam.
- Great seal by Deculus and Moss here.
- Mullen had some great calls in the first half and on some of Florida’s scoring drive, but he maybe out-thought himself a little in the second half. Taking Trask out for Jones for a full drive after LSU’s go-ahead was particularly head-scratching. The three-and-out appeared to put the Tigers in position to really take things over, but the offense couldn’t find pay dirt as the fourth quarter opened.
- I did love Orgeron looking to go for it before the penalty took it off the table. Of course, Mullen managed to stall things out with officials by complaining about substituting — even though LSU hadn’t. But that’s on the referees to manage the situation.
- Shelvin very nearly ends Florida’s next drive in the north endzone. Just great get-off and blows right through an offensive linemen. Trask just got the ball out.
- Great call by Florida on the next drive with the flanker screen into the boundary. Took advantage of the man-coverage with LSU’s safeties rolled up.
- Florida starts having more success with the speed option. Seems like that might be relevant later.
- What did I say about Stingley and mortality? He does a fantastic job of playing his responsibilities on his endzone interception. Follows his man on a rub release inside of another receiver, keeps his hips turned towards his help inside, with an eye on the QB. Trask doesn’t really have a short option so he kind of puts the ball up for grabs and Stingley makes the play.
- And then the dagger:
- Florida tips the man coverage by lining the middle linebacker out wide on Edwards-Helaire. He and Chase run a simple switch, the two defenders are slowed down getting around one another, and Burrow hits his man in stride. Perfect.
- With a 14-point lead and 5-and-a-half minutes left, time is now on LSU’s side. Florida can move the ball, so long as they have to take up time to do it. Aranda definitely trusts his DBs and turns things loose a bit here. And Chaisson, who was able to get low under Florida’s left tackle a couple of time but not quite get home, manages to get to Trask.
- On the should-have-been penultimate interception: Florida’s formation screamed quarterback run and they tried a quick pivot route at the sticks. Trask stared his man down, and Fulton had an easy play. And an atrocious officiating situation. For one, hitting a quarterback in the hip is not low. On top of that, Chaisson had a clear hand in his facemask from the left tackle. The officials involved should receive discipline from the league office.
- And ESPN’s rules expert that discussed the call is full of shit.
- Such a great job by the Tiger defensive line on this goal-line stand. And after Florida had a couple of strong runs off that speed option look, the linebackers were ready.
- According to post-game interviews, Queen called out the play before the snap and immediately got wide for the pitch. Breiden Fehoko sets the edge and Chaisson bee-lines for Trask. And even if he had missed, Phillips was right behind. Chaisson plays it perfectly. Doesn’t go for the fake pitch and mobs Trask.
These are the kinds of wins you remember for a long time. If I seem remiss in discussing Burrow, its because words kind of fail me right now. This marks his second game of having as many (or more) touchdowns as incompletions, and his third with a completion rate of more than 85 percent. EIGHT FIVE. He is in complete control of what LSU is doing on offense. He is calm when plays bust, and making every throw with uncanny accuracy. He has proven himself to be one of, if not the, best players in the country, and I cannot wait to see how he and the Tigers navigate the rest of this SEC schedule.
Success in sports is always fleeting in some way. Just like it was for Leonard Fournette around this time in 2015. Enjoy it while you can, folks. And do not take it for granted.