By Richard Cirminiello
Xavier Nixon, James Wilson, Jonotthan Harrison, Jon Halapio and Chaz Green … Florida is still unbeaten and in the national title hunt in large part because of the play of the offensive line.
Conventional wisdom said that the Gators wouldn’t be able to run the ball effectively on the vaunted LSU defense this Saturday in the Swamp. The Gators O-line said something very different, taking over the game in a couple of critical second-half drives that erased a 6-0 halftime deficit. Mike Gillislee was fantastic in the win, rushing for 146 yards and a couple of scores, while flashing and assertive running style that’s a perfect fit for this program. Heck, he’s been so good all season that it makes you scratch your head why he never carried the ball more than 11 times at any point during his first three years. However, his MVP effort would not have been possible if his front wall was unable to manage and even manhandle at times the nation’s ninth-ranked run defense.
Nixon, Wilson, Harrison, Halapio and Green … not household names, even inside Gainesville. They should be this weekend. It’s not always flashy, but Florida continues to survive by winning the all-important battles at the line of scrimmage. And if you can do that on a consistent basis, you can win the SEC. In fact, it’s a prerequisite to winning the SEC.
By Phil Harrison
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This game should file an interoffice memo to Alabama and the rest of the SEC, but it’s hard to know exactly what message is being sent.
Is it that the Florida chomp is back en vogue again, or is it that the struggles LSU has shown over the last couple of weeks should be found moving from the fiction to autobiography section of the library? As good as the Tiger defense was, the side responsible for scoring points showed less bite than a toothless granny.
First year quarterback Zach Mettenberger lacked any sort of confidence and play-making ability all game to gain chunks through the air, and the offensive-line couldn’t open up real-estate on the ground. The result? A very talented Bayou Tiger front seven wore down, and the Gators kept coming.
The benefactor of the dam that cracked was Florida running back Mike Gillislee. Once the chinks in the armor were found, Florida was able to score two TDs behind the 146 yards of the senior running back.
Off and running.
But take nothing away from the Gators. Of any SEC team, they have the three best combination of wins to be found. The defense is improving, the offense is hitting another gear, and Jeff Driskel is growing up under center.
How’s that for a message?
By Matt Zemek
There is almost always a moment in a big game that you can frame on your living-room wall, the kind of snapshot you can freeze in classic black-and-white textures and identify as the instance when two teams' seasons turned in opposite directions.
Florida safety Matt Elam knew that his cornerback got toasted by LSU receiver Odell Beckham on a vertical route down the right sideline. With Florida clinging to a 7-6 lead in the third quarter, Elam knew that if he didn't make up ground against Beckham, LSU would have re-taken the lead and, instructively, forced Florida to throw the ball more than it would have liked in the final one and a half quarters.
Elam not only chased down Beckham, however; he stripped the receiver of the ball and gave the Gators possession of the rock. LSU's tired and injury-plagued defense had to go right back onto the field, and the sudden-change situation enabled the fresher Gators to do what they've been doing all season long: wear down and outperform the opposition in the second half thanks to superb coaching adjustments and greater resilience.
How bad was LSU's offense? "Jordan Jefferson" bad. Moreover, LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa inexplicably passed the ball on second and goal from the Florida 4 in the final minutes of the first half with a subpar quarterback under center. LSU's offensive coaching was just as deficient as the performance of its offensive unit, and that's why the Tigers were unable to get a 10-0 halftime lead, a big key in light of how the second half unfolded.
Nevertheless, give credit to Florida. The Gators earned only so much recognition for beating Texas A&M and Tennessee. Beating LSU represents a far more impressive statement. It can be said with clarity and confidence, even at this early stage of the season, that the SEC East is better than the SEC West.
By Terry Johnson
Regardless of what happens in Columbia tonight, the Florida Gators are the team to beat in the SEC East.
Make no mistake about it: this game was no upset. After road wins over Texas A&M
and Tennessee, Florida already had the most impressive resume in the nation coming into the game. This afternoon’s convincing victory only added to it.
That’s right: today’s win was a convincing one. Every time it looked like LSU was about to break the game open, Florida had an answer. After Frankie Hammond’s fumble killed a scoring chance, the defense responded by forcing the Tigers into a three-and-out. Later on in the first half, LSU had a golden opportunity to take a two-score lead with a first-and-goal from the Gator seven-yard line. Once again, the hard-nosed Gator defense hung tough, holding a frustrated Bayou Bengal offense to just three points.
The goal line stand in the second quarter is what won the game for the Gators. Sure, the fumble recovery after Beckham’s big gain was a big play, but the goal line stand set the tone for the rest of the game. The stop not only kept the game within striking distance, but it sent a message to LSU that Florida was simply not going to back down.
Believe it or not, today’s win is enough to move the Gators up to second in the nation behind Alabama. After all, how often does LSU get beat during the regular season?
Not often, In fact, today was the first time it had happened since November of 2010.