Go ahead and say the Gators’ roster was littered with injuries. But that does not excuse 90 yards of penalties for the Gators, which is something the Gators simply CANNOT AFFORD TO DO IF THEY WANT TO WIN ANOTHER GAME.
These weren’t the hustle penalties, either… these were the stupid, completely avoidable procedural penalties that drove Will Muschamp out of his mind and drove me to punt a soccer ball over two neighbors’ fences after the timeout.
Then there was Jarrett Lee, who picked the Gators apart like a surgeon.
Oh and for what it’s worth, the Gators once again got manhandled in the trenches.
Without John Brantley and his backup Jeff Driskel, and top running back Jeff Demps, Florida was no match for LSU, who put the Gators down 41-11.
But there were some positive sparks. Andre Debose has proved to be a legitimate deep threat, albeit in two blowouts, against the best defenses in the nation. He now has a 65 yard TD catch against Alabama and LSU- in both cases, the Gators’ lone offensive highlight.
Although Florida’s young and at times woefully inadequate defensive line got pushed around, they did make a few nice stops. Sure, those were few and far between, but then look at how LSU has run all over a bunch of great teams this year already. LSU has really made a habit of opening up doors halfway and allowing their running backs to lower their shoulders and break them open for big gains.
And then look at the final score. Yes, 41-11 looks humiliating and eerily familiar (Florida beat LSU 51-21 in 2008, thanks in part to Jarrett Lee’s touchdown pass to Brandon Spikes and Jeff Demps’ long run, and those roles were inversed today) but look what they’ve done to other opponents. They were beating Oregon 40-20 in Dallas and the Ducks scored at the last second. They smashed West Virginia 47-20 on their home turf. Now, in their first real test at home- Tiger Stadium- where they lose about as often as a priest loses his virginity- they beat Florida by 30, and it was 23 until about 90 seconds left in the game.
So, last week, our realistic chance at a national championship went out the door. Now, our silly, hopeless dreams of a national championship went out the door- and slammed it on their way out. OK… awesome. I never thought the Gators would be a championship team (though I thought they’d be better than this). I never thought the Gators were better than LSU or Alabama, I thought that maybe the crowd at the Swamp could pull out the Alabama game… but it didn’t happen. So I’m willing to take a step back.
However, our chances at an appearance in the SEC Championship are not only a real possibility, but a certainty if we win out. Now, our schedule gradually get easier. We’re done with the David vs. Goliath games, but we do have another difficult road game against Auburn… who I HATE with a BURNING PASSION. Seriously, they take a backseat only to Georgia in my mind. I actually hate them more than Florida State, because they have the single most annoying habit a team can possibly have.
They beat us by a field goal every year.
Yes, every year.
Doesn’t matter if we’re ranked #1 and they’re not ranked at all (see 1994, 2001) or if we’re still in the top 5 and they’re not (1993, 2006, 2007) or if they’re clearly better than us but we outplay them in a truculent tease by our team… we lose by a field goal…
FSU, as much as I can’t stand them, doesn’t do that. That game is pretty much always played fairly, with the better team winning 90% of the time.
Auburn, however, is a different story. They always get that winning field goal to drive Florida fans crazy. Then they rub it in with a mocking Gator Chomp. Oh, and there’s the whole Cam Newton story as well. 5 of the Tigers’ last 6 wins over Florida have been by 3 points, and the one that was not was because of a fumble on a desperation hook and lateral attempt that was taken in for a touchdown as time expired. Auburn won that one 27-17, in 2006.
So, how are we going to beat this team that drives winning field goals through the uprights and drives Gator fans to drink like Tucker Max on a night at the bar?
It won’t be easy by any means, but I actually think Florida’s a whole lot better than they appear. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gene Chizik hangs one of those signs you see on side mirrors on your car: “Warning. Gators on field are closer to our level than they appear.”
Everything has been distorted by Florida’s first four opponents in a too-good way, and by Alabama and LSU in a negative way. In truth, Florida is in the middle of where it has played so far. Only Tennessee gave Florida a somewhat accurate reading of where they are as a team right now- and that’s somewhere in the lowest five of the top 25. I believe they’re a 20-25 team in the nation right now, and will always believe that unless they lose to Georgia or South Carolina (or worse).
Anyway, Florida has to do three out of these five things to win the game.
Consistently take shots downfield
There’s no hiding it anymore- Auburn’s pass defense is really, really bad. And Jacoby Brissett showed that he can throw it deep (ehh… somewhat… but remember, this is against LSU, a top tier defense). The only things Auburn’s defense have in common with LSU’s is that they’re both named the Tigers and they play in the SEC West. And Florida has the personnel to exploit this glaring weakness, this tender area… this pressure point.
Stop the run
This means two things: wrap up on tackles, and get a better push. The d-line did do better than last week, I will say that. But then, Trent Richardson is better than Spencer Ware (no knock on Ware… he’s a great runner… but he’s no TR). If tackles are made by the first guy that has a chance, Michael Dyer won’t have the chance to put up these crazy numbers. And of course if the line gets penetration…. he’ll be ganged up on for losses.
What’s a turnover? Gee, I forgot, I haven’t seen one by Florida in a long, long time. They need to remind us next week or they’re in trouble. Giving the offense back to back possessions and getting off the field for long periods of time would be key for this defense. I think a lot of the Gators’ lack of pressure has to do with inexperience and being gassed. Because talent is not the issue. Go look at their last few recruiting classes.
This doesn’t mean not taking shots down the field or being conservative. This means, if you’re the QB, and you have a 3rd and 12 and don’t see anybody open and there’s a big rush, take the sack and don’t throw the wounded duck that turns into a pick 6 in a matter of seconds. Or if you’re a running back, don’t run 410 yards laterally just to gain 1, but lower your shoulder, plow forward and get 3. And for god’s sake… LAY OFF THE PENALTIES.
Does anybody remember the nice runs Mike Gillislee and Chris Rainey ripped off today? It’s hard to, because those plays were outnumbered by about 12:1 by the plays where they had no daylight because there was no blocking. Again, this was LSU, but it has to get better to beat a slightly worse team.
Whatever happens, I believe Florida is a better football team than they were a year ago, but it’s not showing in the scores because Alabama and LSU are just SO much better than THEY were in 2010. Do not get discouraged, fellow Gators, we just lost to two of the top 3 teams in the nation.
I just hope we don’t lose to Auburn by a field goal next year…