A FAMILIAR SCENARIO
The Gators have lost twelve games under Ron Zook, and have been outscored in the second half in all but one of them. Saturday night marked the 4th time in less than three years the Gators were shut out after halftime. In three of those games, a first half lead evaporated in the final 30 minutes.
FLORIDA OFFENSE DID NOTHING
After averaging almost 450 yards a game the first four contests of 2004, Florida's offense managed roughly half that against an LSU defense which Georgia riddled for 430 yards and seven touchdowns. The Gators were given two touchdowns by their defense, driving only a combined eight yards for those score. But other than that, the offense had one single drive of over 40 yards. It came late in the first half and resulted in the TD pass to OJ Small.
For the game, the Gators average starting position was the 37-yard line. That is great field position. By comparison, LSU's average was on the 19.
The biggest problem I saw was a lack of sharpness for Chris Leak who seemed to be just late, or just off on most of his throws. His receivers didn't help with several drops and some sloppy route running. It's the first time all year the Gators had trouble getting open and they didn't seem to fight the tight LSU coverage the way you would like to see.
Florida also played and coached without much of a swagger. Twice in the third quarter the Gators had the ball around the LSU 35 facing fourth and either four or six yards. Rather than going for it, or trying a long field goal, the Gators elected to punt both times, hoping to duplicate the early game success in pinning LSU deep. Neither punt got the job done and Florida ended up trading two scoring chances for about 25 yards in field position.
You can argue for the first punt, but you'll never convince me the second opportunity, with the lead down to four points, that it wasn't worth the risk.
DEFENSE WAS ¾ EXCELLENT, ¼ AWFUL
For much of the first half the Gator defense was superb, forcing turnovers, handing the offense phenomenal field position and controlling the game. But then came the all-too-common late half letdown. LSU, which had just 98 yards at that point, went 80 yards in seven plays in less than 90 seconds for a crucial touchdown that made it a 21-14 score at intermission.
Then, with the ball at the 50 and 2:06 to play, they couldn't make the stop. Like FSU and Ole Miss last year and Tennessee this season, Florida allowed an opponent to drive and score in the final minutes and saw a win disappear. LSU ran for over a hundred yards in the 4th quarter. That can't happen.
I thought Florida had its best pass rush in two seasons, largely because they did a better job of subbing in the front seven. Todd McCullough and Brandon Siler both made significant plays off the bench. However with as much nickel and dime coverage the Gators use, more than six DB have to play. The Gators blitzed more effectively with Crowder, Siler and even Dee Webb getting in the mix. And three interceptions handed the Gator offense the ball in LSU territory three times. Still, while the defense gets better grades than the offense, 464 yards of total offense is way too many.
TOP FIVE THINGS
- Eric Wilbur--- he was Florida's MVP. His punting helped the Gators to a 218-yard advantage in starting field position over the game.
- Pass Rush Discovered--- Florida turned Crowder loose, got pretty good push from the d-line and were credited with four sacks
- Turnover Differential--- plus-three should be enough to win, ALWAYS
- Ciatrick Fason--- "C-4" goes for 92 yards. And should have gotten the ball late in the fourth quarter with UF facing 2nd and six on the 7.
- Georgia lost to Tennessee--- Seriously, since Florida lost, it actually is better for the Gators for Georgia to have one loss. Otherwise the Gators would need help from teams putting losses on both the Dogs and Vols. Now, Florida controls its destiny Vs. Georgia. (I know it's a stretch!)
BOTTOM FIVE THINGS
- Late Half Failures Continue--- Gators surrender crucial score late in first half and game changing score late in the game. Still not finishing.
- Stupid Penalties--- Personal foul flags against McDonald and Mincey aided LSU's first half scoring drives.
- Run Defense Disappears--- Tennessee got 171, Arkansas 134 and now LSU gets 210.
- Swamp Mystique Gone--- The Gators have now lost six home games in the past three years and are 0-and-5 against ranked teams. Impossible to understand when they are 5-5 against ranked teams away from home.
- Perception of Program Worsens--- If Bill Parcells is right and you are what your record says you are, the Gators are mediocre. Under Ron Zook Florida is 5-and-0 against the "paycheck" teams who come to G'ville for a butt kicking and cash. They are 14-and-12 against "real" competition.
Even though this game ended similarly to the Tennessee contest, this loss was much worse. While the Gators and Vols played on even terms most of the night; Florida was thoroughly outplayed by LSU. Despite the home crowd, huge advantages in field position and turnover margin the Gators didn't get it done. LSU out-gained Florida by 228 yards total offense.
One other thing to consider; because the next two opponents are lousy football teams, this setback will hang over the program for three weeks. Florida cannot even hope to get past this loss until it's party time in Jacksonville.