Also significant is the fact that a young Tiger team grew up in Gainesville Saturday night, flashing the kind of resiliency this season needed before it got out of hand and away from the team.
Don’t get me wrong, several additional losses seem imminent for Les Miles’ men down a brutal home stretch of games, but take a moment to consider what was witnessed in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on a national scene.
- Freshman running back Leonard Fournette took the reins as lead back and ran determined with the increased work load, churning out 140 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. The next highest total for an LSU back was six (for 50 yards) by senior Terrence Magee. Fournette is still growing into his game on the college level, but there were a few Herschel-type moments last night. If Frank Wilson keeps feeding him at this rate, which this offense needs, there will be even more.
- The offensive line, even with the more traditional I-formation quarterback in there the whole game, played with an attitude and played well. Spread or no spread, LSU’s big uglies had the look of a group that had been challenged all week leading up to the game. They fired off the ball faster, better and with more of an edge. The result: Once you take out Anthony Jennings’ 10 carries (for minus-8 yards) and a team carry (fumble) that loss six yards, the Tigers ran it 39 times for 209 yards (5.4 ypc). From start to finish it was their best performance of the season.
- The much-maligned LSU defense, for the most part, bowed up when it mattered most. With the exception of the inexcusable 73-yard deep ball from Jeff Driskel to Demarcus Robinson late in the fourth quarter, the Tiger ‘D’ performed an admirable close-out on the road. John Chavis’ crew forced punts on Florida’s first three possessions of the second half and got a Rickey Jefferson interception in the waning moments which, most importantly, Jefferson returned 23 yards to put LSU in position to nail the game-winner. Couple that with a Tre’Davious White pick earlier in the ballgame, and this was the defense’s first respectable effort in a number of weeks. It’s also important to consider the opposition in this instance, but still, confidence will be taken away from the contribution and outcome.
Some fairly par-for-the-course happenings under Miles crept into the contest, too, but I’m as tired of writing about the Hat and his time (mis)management as you are of reading about it. And, like four years ago in the same venue when Les went with the behind-the-head bounce-pass toss from his punter to his kicker, it all worked out in the end. Fitting for Miles’ 100th win in the purple and gold.
That’s a postscript in this game, however, as is the fact that LSU frequented the two-tight, I-formation look, that Brandon Harris didn’t take a snap or that the Tigers gave up a punt return for a touchdown.
The story is that LSU isn’t dead yet in 2014.
It’s not a team that’s headed toward the playoff, nor is it one that has any realistic shot of even sniffing Atlanta. But I’m now convinced for the first time in a few weeks that the Tigers will go bowling and that 7-5 is in the cards, not just a pipedream.
Like I said from the top: Wins at Florida, no matter the year, mean something.