In a Southeastern Conference showdown that pitted two, top-ranked programs against one another in primetime, LSU stumbled.
To be fair, the defense played well – a common result from first year defensive coordinator John Chavis’ side, ranked as the 15th best defense in the country (293 yards allowed per game).
The Gators scored just 13 points, seven by way of kicker Caleb Sturgis, en route to totaling 327 yards of offense.
The LSU offense, which possessed the ball 13 minutes less than the UF offense, had their worst outing of the season, finishing with 96 yards through the air and 66 yards on the ground.
Despite all the hype that surrounded the evening’s affairs, the LSU offense had managed to let the wind out of the sails.
According to Tigers on both sides of the ball, sleepless nights were all that followed.
“After the Florida game was a definite low point for us,” said LSU center T-Bob Hebert. “But, something unseen happened that night. Now, we are coming back and trying to play our best. We don’t want to do that to the defense again; where they play a great game and we blow it.”
In the two games since, Hebert and the offense have put together their most dominant back-to-back outings on the year.
In a 31-10 win over Auburn on Oct. 24, LSU totaled 376 yards of offense as Jordan Jefferson hit on 21-of-31 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, the best start of his career.
A week later, LSU topped Tulane 42-0, their first shutout of the season. Also their biggest offensive outing of the year, Jefferson and Co. managed 455 yards of production.
Charles Scott and Stevan Ridley led the ground game, which flirted with a 300-yard effort. Scott, who scored twice, reached the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2009 (112). Ridley, who had not recorded a touch this season, carried the ball eight times for 73 yards and a score.
“We have taken strides since the Florida game,” Scott said. “You have to feel more confident with where we are.”
As preparation week for Alabama kicked off on Monday, Scott said that the mood around the football facility was as high-energy as it has been all season.
“It is a big game, just like Florida was,” he said. “That anxious feeling to get to practice and get a game plan going is what you see in weeks like this.”
After coming off two of their most top-to-bottom performances on the season, the LSU side is carrying a confidence that they did not have the Florida week – which could be the key.
“We are definitely feeling good about our chances,” said linebacker Perry Riley. “We are very confident on both sides of the ball. Going into this game, you are going to see a lot more emotion [compared to Florida].”
So, what changed with the Tiger offense during the bye week? What pushed production over the top?
According to most LSU players, good luck trying to find an answer.
“It is unseen changes,” Hebert said.
Scott, one of the veteran leaders on the side, said it boils down to immeasurable attributes.
“It was more of an attitude change than anything,” he said. “We came out and said we weren’t going to get stopped anymore.”
For left tackle Ciron Black, time has become the unit’s greatest ally.
“We have a lot of new guys at different spots, so we slowly get better each week,” he said. “Our steps and hand placement is getting better, while Jordan’s reads are coming quicker. We are just doing what we have to do.”
For Jefferson, carrying the team through nine weeks of football has expedited his maturation process, leaving him filled with confidence headed into a hostile road environment.
“Going through more than half the season, I don’t feel like that young guy anymore,” he said. “I almost feel closer to a veteran with the amount of plays and games that I have gotten in this season.”
On Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Jefferson will take the field for what should rank as his biggest challenge to date.
Much like preparations for Florida, the Tigers know that each snap this weekend could tip the scale of their season in their direction or against them.
“If a team like Alabama catches you slipping, it will hurt,” Scott said. “You are going to have to be almost perfect.”