GAME BLOG: LSU vs. Florida
FINAL: Florida 14, LSU 6
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Good afternoon and welcome to The Swamp for LSU’s first day game of the season.
The once thought-to-be-dominant No. 4/3 Tigers (5-0, 1-0) come to Gainesville after losing quite a bit of steam following victories more narrow than the experts thought they should be over Auburn and Towson. The good news: they were indeed victories, and the Tigers enter hostile enemy territory unbeaten.
Standing in their way is the also unbeaten No. 10/11 Florida Gators (4-0, 3-0). Will Muschamp’s group started the season with a very unimpressive victory over Bowling Green here. But then they took to the road and knocked off SEC newcomer Texas A&M and rival Tennessee - coming from behind and dominating the second half in both ball games. Florida blanked pitiful Kentucky most recently before taking the week off last Saturday.
How much has LSU fallen and how much has Florida risen since last year’s 30-point drumming in Tiger Stadium? We’ll find out in three and a half hours.
The biggest keys for LSU (and both teams really) are ball security and discipline. As bad as Tiger supporters have crushed Les Miles’ bunch for penalties in their last two games, Florida has actually been more undisciplined than LSU, losing 64 yards per game via fouls than LSU’s 59 yards per game. But turnovers are also the big key. LSU has really struggled to hold onto the ball in the red zone in 2012, and in a low-scoring game like today’s figures to be, just getting three points at the very least near the goal line is important. Florida has protected the ball brilliantly in 2012. Gator QB Jeff Driskel has yet to throw a pick this year, but expect him to face more third and longs than all year to this point combined. I think he won’t still have zero when it’s all said and done today. Florida has a 1.25 turnover margin, while LSU’s takeaways (most notably in the Idaho game) has LSU still above water at .80. Both QBs will need to make good decisions with the football when their run-heavy offenses decide to throw. Unless if turnovers sway the balance, the team with the best starting field position should win the game. That means getting to the 50 and punting rather than taking a risk to extend the drive is a good thing today.
There’s a 30 percent chance of rain according to web reports, but the skies have cleared and I don’t think we’re seeing any bad weather any time soon. It’s a bight, vibrant, beautiful day in central Florida.
As always, Richard Fischer with have your offense and special teams reports, and Hunt Palmer will take the defense. New Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham will be on the field taking pictures, so check out this week’s magazine for his photos and first weekly column.
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. back home, and you can watch the game on CBS. The atmosphere outside the stadium is tremendous, and I can’t wait to get this one started.
First quarter recap
LSU 3, Florida 0
Spencer Ware starts the game at tailback with OBJ and Kadron Boone at the receivers. J.C. Copeland does not start as LSU goes double TE with Chase Clement and Nic Jacobs. Copeland comes in on LSU’s third play and plays for the remainder of the quarter, even catching a pass for seven yards to set up a closer field goal for Drew Alleman. He did, however, commit a stupid personal foul following his first play (which was negated as a drive killer due to a Matt Elam getting an equally stupid penalty following the next play. Guess you wanna see feistiness from your fullback anyway.
Jarvis Landry was the third WR in. Kenny Hilliard was the second RB in, and he had LSU’s longest run of the quarter for 13 yards.
Josh WIlliford left the game for one play with a leg injury. Trai Turner took his spot for the lone play.
LSU’s first drive resulted in a 31-yard FG by Drew Alleman. Zach Mettenberger looked sharp on the drive, completing 4-of-5 passes for 47 yards. The only incompletion was a low throw but it went through the arms of Boone. Good start for the Tigers.
The next drive was not so good, as Mett took a sack from the left side. He held onto the ball, but it was scary for a brief moment. Neither was the third when Copeland dropped a Mett pass. Michael Ford, Jeremy Hill and Russell Shepard made their debuts on the final play. Very conservative, but why you should be from deep in your own territory in this defensive struggle.
LSU’s D will be dominant today, so success for the offense will be one scoring a drive a quarter and no turnovers. So far, so good.
Starters on defense were Montgomery, Mingo, Logan and Downs up front. Minter, Barrow and Kwon Alexander at linebacker, and Mills, Simon, Loston and Reid in the secondary. Obviously Luke Muncie still isn’t ready.
On a 3rd and 1, LSU went heavy used five down linemen including Downs, Logan and Freak Johnson.
Florida didn’t have much success running straight ahead. They have begun to spread the field a little bit more to soften LSU up. The splits on the offensive line are huge.
Huge sack by Freak Johnson and Josh Downs, but it was aided by great coverage. That set up a 3rd and 18 where LSU did another great job in coverage. Credit Driskel, though. He’s taking a sack or a short gain instead of forcing a tight one. He’s been coached to avoid mistakes.
LSU’s speed is obvious early. Florida not getting the edge.
Special Teams notes
Alleman makes a 31-yard field goal.
OBJ living dangerously without fair catching it….. again.
Second quarter recap
LSU 6, Florida 0
Mett throws a pick on third and 10. Gotta be critical of the play calling there. Three consecutive long passes. Punts and playing defense have been working out for LSU pretty well so far. Boone dropped a pass behind him before the pick. Tough catch but very catchable. Williford got hurt again on the interception. Turner plays the rest of quarter at RG.
Tigers go ubber-conservating on their next drive. Another three and out, but Wing booms it inside the Florida 30 for a 57-yard punt, no return.
Next drive that starts near midfield after a Kwon Alexander fumble recovery goes three and out. A Bryan Cox sack was the drive killer. Hurst is getting absolutely owned by Cox today.
LSU finally gets on the scoreboard in the quarter thanks to a Mingo fumble recovery inside the UF 10. However, more bad offense and good Florida defense holds the Tigers to the field goal.
Lonergan jogged off the field in the middle of the quarter following what appeared to me a left knee. Elliott Porter in for a snap before P.J. returned.
LSU snuck Terrence Magee in at slot WR near midfield before calling a time out due to a miscommunication. He does not go back out, so look for a possible trick play later in the game.
Offense was as bad as it gets in the second quarter. No first downs and a bad INT by Mettenberger. LSU is now 0-for-6 on third down in the game. LSU’s hasn’t run more than three offensive plays on a drive since the first drive. LSU’s D has been tremendous, but if the offense can’t keep them on the bench more, they’re gonna wear down in a hurry.
Florida finally got a chunk of yardage on the ground to open the 2nd quarter, but a holding penalty on the edge negated it.
Jermauria Rasco into the ball game to start the 2nd quarter. He did a nice job in containment on a Gillislee run, allowed Reid to clean up.
The interception put the Tiger defense in a tough spot. Kevin Minter took care of it with a pair of sacks. He’s a really good player.
Ego Ferguson makes his first appearance with just under 10 minutes to play in the half.
Gators go a little wildcat with Trey Burton. Nothing doing.
Driskel can carry the football. He makes the read option work for a nice gainer.
Florida had upped the tempo. Gotta think the Tiger defense may be tired. They’ve been out there a ton.
Lamin Barrow was shaken up. Deion Jones replaces him.
What a massive play. With the Gators on the move, Minter forces a fumble and Kwon Alexander, who missed the tackle, scoops it up. The defense has been brilliant through 25 minutes.
What else can you say? This defense is just awesome right now. Logan wraps Driskel up and knocks the ball loose. Mingo dives on it. The offense can have it at the 7.
Special teams notes
Brad Wing has been a major factor in today’s game. His 49.3 average on four punts has been instrumental in giving the Gators a long field despite the offensive struggles. When he’s needed as a weapon, it’s usually a bad sign for the offense. And it certainly is today.
Alleman made a 22-yard chippie as the quarter was coming close to expiring.
Third quarter recap
Florida 7, LSU 6
LSU opens up the quarter with its first first down since the first drive of the game and it came on a PI penalty. Give Boone credit for his effort to draw the flag there. Tigers get to midfield and punt (although they needed two penalties to do it). Remember that’s a key to today’s game, making UF go 80+. Interesting that LSU threw the ball four times on its first drive of the third.
OBJ answers a Mett prayer on third and long, but OBJ fumbles as he was being tackled, recovered by Florida. Kinda poetic justice, because that was an ugly play that shouldn’t have worked. Turnover No. 2 for LSU.
With Florida’s offense waking up and LSU’s defense wearing down, the Tiger offense is going to have to win this game. Not so sure I like its chances right now.
Just a note to start the 3rd quarter. Kevin Minter had 10 solo tackles in the 1st half. Yikes.
The LSU defense looked like it had a 3rd and 1 stop, but Mike Gillislee fought to get it.
Chancey Aghayere played defensive tackle on a 3rd and 5 play. That play resulted in an incomplete pass thanks to a big hit from Simon.
Florida gashing the Tigers on the second drive of the second half. Driskel completes a slant and then two nice running plays.
Now Kevin Minter is shaken up. He’s headed to the locker room. What a masive loss that would be, Lamar Louis and Ronie Feist will play replacement.
Kwon Alexander goes down on the next play. Luke Muncie is his replacement.
LSU looked lost and confused as Florida gashed them for a 75 yard touchdown drive. Too many injuries and not enough help from the offense. The misdirection is too much for the young LB’s.
Ronald Martin is playing some safety here in the second half.
Minter returns to action and immediately makes a tackle.
Florida is manhandling LSU up front. The defensive line is tired and can’t get penetration or shed blocks.
On 2nd and 6 with :43 left in the quarter, Miles calls a timeout. LSU has to get a stop, and he knew it.
Special teams notes
OBJ finally gets loose on a tremendous punt from UF booter Kyle Christy. He weaved 11 yards to the LSU 21 after being backed up all the way to the 10 to receive it. Both punters have been awesome with distance and hangtime.
Fourth quarter recap
Florida 14, LSU 6
LSU’s offense gets something going, catching UF in a third and 18 blitz and hitting Jeremy Hill on a screen for 20 yards. However the drive goes no further as Florida is stingy on a third and three run. Hilliard tackled in the backfield. LSU’s offense is completely lost.
On the next drive, LSU goes for it on fourth down and gets it with a pitch and catch to Jacobs. Mett hits Jacobs again on the next play, but he was covered by a receiver that shouldn’t have been on the line so it’s nullified. He can’t complete another pass, and the drive stalls anyway.
Mett’s final stat line: 11-of-25 for 161 yards with an interception. He received no help from the running game past the first drive. LSU finished with 42 yards on 25 carries for a pathetic 1.7 yards per carry.
LSU finishes the game with nine first downs after having four on the first drive. Two of the final five came by way of penalty, another came on a fourth-down attempt and another came on the less-than-epic hook and ladder try to end the game.
Tigers had eight three and outs on 12 drives (not including the last second-desperation heaves). You could even call it nine three and outs because I didn’t count the fourth down conversion late in the fourth. LSU was 1-for-13 on third down.
I could keep going, but this was truly awful any way you slice it. Tiger fans will be and should be furious with this offensive performance. Place UF’s second half surge directly on the shoulders of the offense, who couldn’t keep its defense off the field (UF had the ball for over 37 minutes). Poor play calling. Poor QB play. And injuries are just too much for this unit to overcome. Let’s see how they respond next week. A loss like this could really derail a season.
After giving up a huge 3rd down conversion, Muncie makes a dumb mistake and gets a personal foul. Hearing it may have been a flop, though.
Florida turns it into a touchdown. LSU is too tired to play defense.
Florida tried a play-action bootleg. Montgomery stayed home. The Tiger defense came up with a stop. They’ve left it all out there.
On the last gasp, Driskel beats the Tigers on the scramble and moves the chains. That practically does it.
Special teams notes
Not much to note in the frame other than more stellar punting from both sides.
OBJ had a long punt return at the very end of the game that would have set up a manageable end zone throw, but a block in the back nullified it. The block in the back sprung him so he wouldn’t have made it that far without it.
Check back later to TigerRag.com for a recap with quotes and locker room reaction from LSU’s loss in Gainesville.