Let me start off by apologizing. Why you may ask? I apologize for having no postgame recap written about the Florida/Missouri game that took place last week on October 10. For a brief recap, Florida won 21-3, Kelvin Taylor ran for two touchdowns, and Jalen Tabor had a pick six.
It has been a very crazy month and my focus has not been there when it comes to writing. But I am going to make up for it with this article.
Florida suffered its first loss of the season tonight against LSU by a score of 35-28 in Death Valley. LSU running back, Leonard Fournette, was spectacular as he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Florida's defense did its best, but nothing was corralling this present day incarnation of Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson.
Besides Fournette running amuck, Florida once again got beat by a Les Miles' fake field goal for a touchdown. There were two reasons why I was FURIOUS when I saw the play. First, Florida did not at all anticipate it despite Miles having a history of running these shenanigans against the Gators. Second, I saw no point for it! The game was tied at 28!
I heard Les Miles say after the game that "seven points is better than three", but that still does not clarify why he would fake a field goal for the heck of it. Regardless, it worked and once again Florida was duped by the Mad Hatter.
In addition to getting fooled by this ludicrous fake kick, Florida was was also burned for a 52-yard completion on a flea flicker. The defensive woes do not end there though. In the waning moments of the first half, the Gators had a chance to sack LSU QB Brandon Harris. Not only did Harris avoid the sack, but he fired a strike to receiver Malachi Dupre for a touchdown to push the lead to 28-14.
So between the excellent play of Fournette, a (very unnecessary) fake field goal, and a defensive lapse at the end of the half, I cannot blame this loss on one particular moment. LSU outgained Florida by nearly 100 yards (423 to 326) and was able to establish a running game with the best running back in the country.
Florida's running game was dead. Kelvin Taylor ran just 15 times for 25 yards and a touchdown. It was like the clock had been turned back and I was experiencing the Muschamp Era yet again. Treon Harris (filling in for the recently suspended Will Grier) took off 13 TIMES for just 20 yards. I cannot say enough how much I wish Grier had played. Some of Treon's throws were off and he was running for his life for most of the game as he took five sacks. He finished the game 17 of 32 for 271 and two touchdowns.
I was (and still am) all in on Will Grier and I firmly believe that Florida would have beaten LSU tonight if he had played. But there is no point of me complaining. Will is gone for the year and this is what the Gators have to work with from now until next October.
Tight end Jake McGee was the primary target tonight as he caught five passes for two touchdowns and 43 yards. The leading yard-getter was Antonio Callaway with 100 yards on three receptions and a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Florida was able to complete some deep passes, but the receivers were not too dynamic this game. The ineffectiveness of the receiving core can easily be attributed to the difficulties of having to adjust to a new quarterback.
Defensively, trick plays and the inability to stop Fournette is what hurt Florida. The defense had NO sacks or turnovers this game. The one fumble that Vernon Hargreaves III forced on Fournette went out of bounds just nanoseconds before Bryan Cox Jr. could recover it.
Safety Keanu Neal was the only defender to record double-digit tackles as he notched 14 (one for loss). Behind him were Marcus Maye, Jarrad Davis (0.5 for loss), and Antonio Morrison (0.5) with eight a piece. Bryan Cox Jr. led all Gators in TFL (tackle for loss) with 3.5 on seven tackles.
All though the defense was not its best tonight, one phase of the game remained constant: JOHNNY TOWNSEND! That's right! The future Ray Guy Award winner punted six times for 255 yards and pinned LSU within its own 20-yard line four times! He averaged 42.5 yards per punt. Win or lose, the play of Johnny Townsend always brings a smile to this writer's face.
Florida came back from a 14-point deficit on the road twice and hung with one of the best teams in the country. Winning in Death Valley is hard for any team. The loss still stings and hurts Florida in the national championship picture, but the SEC is still theirs for the taking. Georgia remains the Gators' last difficult SEC opponent, and all signs point to another Florida victory over the Bulldogs this year.
The offense will be rejuvenated with a bye week and the defense is still one of the best in the SEC. Come 3:30 on Halloween, Florida (6-1) will do battle with Georgia (5-2) in the "World's Largest Cocktail Party" and will win yet again. As for LSU (6-0), they prepare for another 7 p.m. home game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-1) next week.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com