Gators Trounced Again on the Ground

After dominating the first four games of the season, the Florida run defense hasn't slowed its effectiveness. It has come to a screeching halt. The Gators allowed LSU to run for 238 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers gashed the Florida defense wherever it wanted. The line of scrimmage was Florida's main concern after a loss to Alabama, and that hasn't changed.

"I thought we would play (the run) better than we did in the last two ball games," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said after the game. "We've got to come up with some ways to stop the run game better than we have to this point. That's been disappointing, because I did think we would play the fronts better. We haven't tackled well on the perimeter. It's a collective effort."

The competition for Florida has improved, and that was expected to make the defensive statistics go up. It's not just the stats, though. It's how the defense looks. Alabama and LSU running backs have burst through gaping holes in the line over the past two games, as the once dominant Florida defensive line got blown off the ball.

Some of it is attributed to a lack of depth. Muschamp said the defense is playing three or four linemen at defensive tackle and only three at defensive end.

"We wore out as the game went on," Muschamp said. "We need to do a better job of getting off the field early in the game in those situations."

Whether it was Spencer Ware bursting into the second level of the Florida defense or Alfred Blue, the defenders then struggled to bring players down. Missed tackles killed the Gators for extra yards on the ground.

Muschamp doesn't think it's fundamental flaws for his players.

"Tackling is want-to to me," Muschamp said. "You either want to do it, or you don't. We'll find the guys who want to tackles."

Changes may need to be made in the secondary, and Muschamp wasn't afraid to talk about them. He said they will watch film of the game and make decisions based on starters and playing time from there.

While the defense was struggling to bring down the ball carrier, the Florida offense didn't have much of a chance to get the ball to its playmakers. Whether field position or penalties, the offense sputtered out of the gates and never allowed freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett to get a rhythm.

Even when the offense had positive plays, like Chris Rainey's 25-yard run that only turned into a net gain of ten because freshman tight end A.C. Leonard was given a personal foul behind the play.

"We were blocking 20 yards behind the ball," Muschamp said. "That's not very smart. It has been talked about 100 times, but it needs to be talked about 200. We're going to talk about it 200 times this week. We'll talk about 205, 212 or 215 times."

EVALUATING BRISSETT: The freshman ended the game 8-for-14, throwing for 94 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The play calling was predictably safe early in the game to ease Brissett into position where he could make plays.

It was based around Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, but neither got going. Rainey ran for 53 yards on 13 carries, while Demps ran the ball just twice after his ankle injury from last week popped up again.

While the offense struggled to run the ball for the second straight week, the freshman was forced into a tough spot.

"I thought he was solid under the circumstances against a good football team defensively," Muschamp said. "The first half was tough. We were backed up a lot. I think he's going to be a good football player for us, but we've got to play better around him."

Muschamp said it was "pretty evident" that the playbook was scaled down for the freshman. He wouldn't put a percentage on the plays that were used, but he said it was a reduced package from the one Florida ran against Alabama when John Brantley was healthy.

To make up for the lack of an experienced quarterback, the Gators threw in wildcat with Trey Burton at quarterback.

"We felt like we had a package for him that we could execute well," Muschamp said. "He did a nice job. Trey's package got the ball moving in the second quarter. It was effective for us."

INJURY REPORT: Muschamp said that Jeff Driskel did practice this week, but the coaches didn't feel he was healthy enough to play "in this environment." Muschamp said the decision was made on Wednesday night that he wouldn't play.

The uncertainty at the quarterback position has the Gators in a tough spot as they head to Auburn next weekend.

"We've got to reevaluate where Jeff is," Muschamp said. "John will be out of the game more than likely. I'll let you know Monday for sure, but Jeff could be back. We need to evaluate where we are and what we need to do to be successful."

Ronald Powell and Josh Evans both came out of the game with injuries and were in track suits on the sidelines. Cody Riggs exited the locker room wearing a boot on his left leg.

AGGRESSIVE COACHING: Down 14-0, Muschamp decided to go for a play that could've ended Florida's hopes early. He decided to go for a 4th-and-1 play from the Florida 28-yard-line. Burton snuck the ball for a first down, but it wasn't comfortable for the coaches.

"We came here to win the game," Muschamp said. "We were backed up and the worst thing we could do was punt again into the wind because the ball would be at midfield. I felt like we had to get the first down."

The Florida staff later went for a fake punt on the same drive on 4th-and-6 from their own 44-yard-line, but Burton was stuffed for just four yards.

"The fake punt we felt like it was there, but we hit it tighter than we wanted to," Muschamp said. "We would call it again. We came to win the game."

FAKE PUNT FAILURE: On 4th-and-15 from their own 48-yard-line, LSU head coach Les Miles saw something in the Florida punt coverage unit. He called a fake, and punter Brad Wing ran down the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown that was waived off because of a taunting penalty before Wing scored.

The entire Florida special teams ran to block for the punt, giving Wing the entire left sideline to run through.

"We had two guys assigned for the punter, and they didn't do their job," Muschamp said. "We move on from that. That's coaching. We had two guys assigned to do that job, and they didn't do it. They did what they wanted to do, and those guys aren't going to play in our program anymore—guys that just do what they want to do when they want to do it."


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