LSU Review / Missouri Preview

Well, so much for playing fast and loose in Baton Rouge.  Despite the success of shortening the game and reducing the number of possessions that LSU’s offense had, the inability of the Gator offense to make big plays and execute in key moments led to a desultory loss.  This was painful to watch……how long before the defense starts pointing fingers at the offense and things get really dicey in the locker room?

The main reason for the failure of the offense to score a touchdown was the poor performance of the O-Line.  Even with the Tigers jamming 8-9 men at the LOS to stop the run, the Gators managed enough first downs and time-of possession to make this a winnable game.  But the pass blocking was horrid, never allowing Murphy the time to make some throws where the design of the play actually had something available.  This is year 2 under OL coach Tim Davis, and this unit still is not SEC-caliber.  Garcia and Harrison are by far the best 2 OL, while the rest are limited as run or pass blockers……the loss of Chaz Green at RT before the season even started is glaringly apparent now.  Not far behind in poor performance was the WR corps – too many times did a WR not read a blitz and adjust their route accordingly to a quick hitch, and let the ball either him them in the back or simply never see the pass coming.  The freshmen receivers were guilty of this a few times, but also Burton once, and that is inexcusable for someone with his experience.

By process of elimination, it looks like those who are a part of the “Free Kelvin Taylor” movement will get their wish, as he relieved Matt Jones – Jones is now out for the season with a torn meniscus.  Taylor ran well, but it is his lack of knowledge of the entire playbook and deficiencies in pass blocking show why the staff had been trying to hold him back for a redshirt – now that is no longer an option.  Brown ran well in spurts to move the chains, but can’t rip off large chunks of yardage.  Murphy never panicked despite heavy pressure and was able to scramble a few times to extend plays, but never really had the chance to take advantage of the few opportunities to make a game-changing completion.  He did overthrow a few open guys in the red zone, and that hurt as well – he looked like a guy running for his life with little experience, which had to be expected at some point.

The Gator defense was gashed all afternoon by the run.  LSU decided to use it’s size advantage, and exposed the front 7 as too small to stop an elite O-Line.  This was more than the loss of Easley at work – Orr, Jacobs, and Cummings were manhandled, and the LBs could not fill the gaps effectively, either.  The pass rush was almost non-existent, with Powell and Fowler no real factor.  It was surprising to see the lack of blitzes until later in the game, maybe underscoring the lack of trust in the coverage by the secondary……a puzzling scenario.  Just as disappointing were the lapses in pass coverage from Roberson and Purifoy, as each received his at least once-a-game PI penalty.  The real crusher, though, was allowing LSU to convert on 3rd-and-17 in the second quarter, eventually leading to a 14-3 Tiger lead.  Still, even with all of those negatives, only 17 points were allowed after LSU shut things down to see what the Gator offense could (or couldn’t) do, which should have given Florida the chance to win, but……

As bad as that loss was, Florida still has it’s destiny in it’s own hands as far as getting to Atlanta by winning the East.  This week’s game at Missouri is critical to not just keep that opportunity alive, but to start to repair the mental damage of 2 road losses this year.  Florida gets a huge break with Tiger QB James Franklin out for the season with a shoulder injury.  Head Coach Gary Pinkel has to go to backup Maty Mauk, who is an unknown factor, but playing at home always helps someone thrown into that circumstance.  Franklin’s running ability will be missed, but the Tigers still have a good running attack with 3 RBs over 300 yards for the season, and averaging 5.7 yards per carry.  Their WRs are big and strong, led by Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington.  It will be another physical matchup for the Gator secondary, which has to play better this week and shut them down.  Missouri did Florida a huge favor in winning at Georgia, and the Gators must take advantage.  The real question (as usual) going in will be whether the offense can play at an effective SEC level and pull it’s own weight.  The Tiger defense has an excellent pass rusher in Michael Sam, but has inexperience in it’s back seven that can be exploited (at least by most teams).  Perhaps Taylor can break off some big runs to spark the offense..

Will Muschamp is a smart coach, and has to recognize how this offense is killing the team.  While no one knows for sure if he has a hand in the painful conservatism of the play-calling, it’s obvious that the offensive staff has to change things up in order to get better results.  The defense will continue to show cracks if it has to carry the team all season.  The wolves are starting to howl in the distance, and this could prove problematic if the rest of the season tanks and potentially affects recruiting.  Jeremy Foley will not make any rash decision, but will seriously evaluate things next year unless tangible progress is shown on the field.  Maybe changes will be made within the staff in the offseason if necessary…….but right now there is still a lot to play for in 2013, and the staff owes it to these players to put them in a better position to succeed.  This is now the biggest game of the year, and the coaches and players have to rise to the occasion.  It’s too late now to try and hold stuff back for the Georgia and South Carolina games – Florida needs a win this week.  The Gators haven’t won on the road against a decent opponent yet – here’s their chance to make something good happen.

Prediction:  Florida 20      Missouri 17