LSU Review

That was a great game in Death Valley against LSU. Florida gave the Tigers all they wanted and more, and were in a position to tie or win late in the game despite a few egregious mistakes.  This team has really developed well so far, and credit must be given to both the players and the coaching staff.

The offensive staff did a great job of scheming plays to score upon in the red zone, especially the 2 TD throws to Jake McGee, possibly the offensive MVP up to now.  They did a decent job of designing some rollouts for Treon Harris to get him outside the pocket so he could see the field better and possibly run.  However, the inability of the O-Line to generate any movement in running game finally cost the team, as the offense really had no balance the entire night.  Kelvin Taylor rarely had any running room, and that allowed LSU to simply pressure Harris and blitz when they wanted to.  Harris played well considering the circumstances, but his flaws were on display against a good defense.  He is painfully inaccurate on short throws, often short-arming or trying to guide them.  He struggles to check down if his first option is not available.  Finally, his situational awareness has to improve – taking sacks and not getting rid of the ball to avoid negative plays really cost the offense, especially in the 4th quarter.  The staff has to find a way to get these thoughts into his head going forward.

Antonio Callaway is still far from a polished WR, but continues to make big plays. His catch along the sideline late in the 2nd quarter leading the Florida’s second TD exhibited great concentration, and his punt return to tie the game late in the 3rd quarter was a thing of beauty.  He’s not a blazer, but seems to have the kind of game speed that makes him just fast enough to break long plays.  Not having Will Grier definitely hurts the intermediate and deep passing game, though.  Demarcus Robinson was double-covered most of the night, and Brandon Powell is not a true WR – he still looks like a former RB who now plays in the slot, and is not enough of a threat to help the other WRs gain some room.

So much for all the talk of DBU.  The secondary essentially lost the game.  Keanu Neal and Vernon Hargreaves were beaten by the flea-flicker play, and Marcus Maye simply lost the ball at the end of the 2nd quarter – the play that pretty much gave LSU the margin it needed to win.  Even Quincy Wilson misplayed the fade route that LSU scored on 3rd down in the second quarter.  This group needs to eat some humble pie and re-focus, because they let the entire team down.  I will give some props to Neal, though, as he played well in run support, racking up 14 tackles.

The front seven played a decent game against LSU’s running game, but still had some lapses in playing their gaps which were exploited by Leonard Fournette.  That guy is a load – definitely the best RB in the SEC in many years.  The lack of LB depth really showed itself, as Jarrad Davis and Tank Morrison were gassed by the 3rd quarter, and missed some tackles they usually make.

I do have some criticism for the staff.  When will Coach Mac ever challenge a dubious call by the officials?  Bryan Cox’ fumble recovery looked legit, and Callaway’s sideline catch late in the 1st quarter was in bounds.  Coach Mac made a huge tactical error not punting late in the game, eventually guaranteeing the offense would have to go 90 yards with no time outs and only 90 seconds left.  You simply have to punt the ball away in that situation, lean on the defense to get a stop, and try and obtain decent field position for a possible last drive.  Finally, I simply could not believe the staff was not ready for the fake FG that gave LSU it’s winning TD.  Les Miles has screwed over many teams during his stay in Baton Rouge, especially Florida.  Plus, a lot of the current Gator staff has coached in the SEC, and should know what to expect.  Just play a “safe” scheme on the edges, and at worst you’re only losing by a FG.  That came home to roost late in the game, as the Gators drove inside the 30, but were down 7.  Perhaps Mac was spooked by Jorge Powell’s injury, leaving only Austin Hardin as a PK, but at least Hardin made his extra points, and kicked the ball off consistently into the end zone – a pleasant surprise for coming off of a hip injury.

Florida now has a week off to rest, recuperate, and prepare for a huge game against Georgia that will likely decide the East Division winner.  It will be interesting to see how the young guys use this time.  Will they continue to work hard to improve?  Will they become too full of themselves after a very good start to the season?  The coaching staff will be out recruiting for much of the off week, but has another challenge ahead in preparing the Gators for the annual trip to Jacksonville.

I’ll be back next week with my Georgia preview.  Go Gators!