From every seat in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, the story was the same. But it was familiar, too. The Gators dominated the second half. They did the same thing in their previous two biggest games of the year—Texas A&M and Tennessee—before bringing the performance to Gainesville for the home fans.
What showed was the offseason toughness built in the bows of the southwest corner of the stadium.
The offensive toughness shone as Florida wore out a defense considered nationally as one of the best. On defense, it was evident from the opening kickoff. The Gators came into Saturday with a 4-0 record, just like they did heading into the Alabama game in 2011.
When the clock ran out, the story was different because of the toughness that has been built.
"We've certainly come leaps and bounds in playing the run in a year against a very talented running football team. That was typical 1980s SEC today," Muschamp said. "It was a physical, physical match because both lines of scrimmage are going to put pressure on the quarterback.
"That's the difference in playing in this league and these other leagues you watch on TV. I know you all like all these points being scored, but the quarterback won't make it through the game or the season in our league."
The toughness was proven in the running game. Florida ran the ball 24 times for 16 yards in the first half, although Muschamp did point out those stats were hurt by sacks. Gillislee ran the ball 12 times for 34 yards, so the production from his angle still wasn't ideal.
Despite the numbers, the Gators were still positive about the running game.
"I felt like in the first half we ran the ball effectively, regardless of what the stats were, but we had some sacks," Muschamp said. "We had a hard time protecting. We made some adjustments in the second half, but we felt like the running game was there. We just needed to be a little more patient with it."
Then came the second half.
Any struggles to run were soon forgotten. Gillislee ran the ball 22 times for 112 yards in the second half alone. He totaled 34 carries and scored two touchdowns for the third time this season.
The Gators did what they wanted on the ground in the second half. When they needed long drives to kill clock, they did it, including an 11-play, 77-yard drive to get in the end zone and take a 14-6 lead with 13:18 left to play.
As usual, Muschamp's focus was on next week and the challenge ahead.
"We need to understand as you continue to climb a mountain, it gets a little more dangerous," Muschamp said.
INJURY REPORT: Jelani Jenkins came out of the game in the first half with a "tweaked hamstring" he suffered on a perimeter run by the Tigers. The training staff told Muschamp after the game that they expected Jenkins back in "two or three days."Muschamp also said after the game that Ronald Powell, who is taking a redshirt this year after tearing his ACL, "had a little bit of repair on the tear." Powell was seen on crutches and with a brace on his left knee before the game.
FIRST HALF STOP: With 2:02 left in the first half, quarterback Jeff Driskel did the unthinkable. He fumbled the ball while trying to throw it away and gave the Tigers the ball at the Florida seven-yard line.His defense picked him up.
Florida stopped Spencer Ware for a gain of three yards before Zach Mettenberger was forced to throw the ball away on second down. After LSU called back-to-back timeouts, they tried to run Terrance Magee up the middle with an option to throw a jump pass before he got to the line of scrimmage. His man wasn't open, so he tucked it and was stopped.
Florida held the Tigers to a field goal that pushed the LSU lead to 6-0, but it was a big difference from a possible 10-0 if the Tigers converted for a touchdown.
"A lot of it goes into confidence and that you're going on the field to make some stops," Muschamp said. "Just keep them in the green and give us an opportunity. Knowing they want to run it, and they came down and tried two passes down here. How we're playing up front is a great compliment to our kids."
PASS RUSH: The Gators came into Saturday tied for last with five sacks on the season. They almost doubled their season total, sacking Mettenberger four times on the day and adding one quarterback hurry.Muschamp chalked it up to scheme. The Gators saw quick-pass offenses in Bowling Green, Texas A&M and Kentucky, which kept the sack numbers down early in the season.
"Our kids were pretty dialed in on what we needed to do and the adjustments," Muschamp said. "We did a good job affecting the quarterback, but they were more of a drop back team than what we've seen throughout the season.