Florida Gators: Tigers-Gators-100612

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- West Virginia and Baylor score 19 touchdowns in one 60-minute game and the nation goes weak at the knees. Arizona and Stanford get to overtime Saturday after combining for 13 touchdowns.

It's exciting. It's breathtaking. And it ain't happening anywhere near the Southeastern Conference.

The Big 12 and the Pac-12 may be playing the football of the future. The SEC remains warm and snuggy in the past. No. 10 Florida's 14-6 defeat of No. 4 LSU, the Tigers' first regular-season loss in two years, was so old-school that I think Keith Jackson did the play-by-play.

"That was typical 1980 SEC right there today," Gators head coach Will Muschamp said after the game.

For Ivan Maisel's full column, click here.

Florida 'D' makes powerful statement

October, 6, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The 41-11 beatdown LSU gave Florida last season took quite the emotional toll on the Gators -- especially the defense.

The Gators were gutted by LSU’s ground attack, giving up 238 rushing yards. They looked overmatched, overwhelmed and listless in Baton Rouge, La.

Angry probably isn’t the best word to describe how Florida’s defense felt, but depressed and humiliated are good starts.

That debilitating pain was something this team didn’t want to go through again. It wanted that pain to be transferred over to LSU when the Tigers ventured into the Swamp on Saturday. The Gators wanted LSU to feel what they felt last year … and then some.

“We wanted to come in this game and win, but more, we wanted to come and hurt them,” defensive lineman Dominique Easley said after No. 10 Florida’s 14-6 victory over fourth-ranked LSU. “We wanted them to feel the pain that we felt last year. We had hurt in our heart and we wanted them to feel the pain that we had.”

And for the better part of 60 minutes, Florida’s defense pounded LSU, allowing just two field goals, 200 yards and 42 rushing yards. LSU averaged just 1.7 yards per carry and mustered just 12 rushing yards in the second half. The best part of LSU’s offense was terminated from the start, and it was all downhill from there.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida nearly doubled its season total in sacks after taking down LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger four times in a 14-6 victory on Saturday.

Linebackers Jon Bostic and Lerentee McCray, safety Josh Evans and defensive tackle Damien Jacobs each recorded a sack. The Gators had only five sacks in their first four games, but UF coach Will Muschamp said that was more a result of the style of offenses the Gators faced in the first four games than a lack of production from the pass rushers.

[+] EnlargeLerentee McCray
Kim Klement/US PresswireFlorida senior buck linebacker Lerentee McCray collects one of the Gators' four sacks against LSU.
Bowling Green and Texas A&M were teams that used short, quick timing passes that didn’t allow enough time for UF’s rushers to get to the quarterback. Kentucky used a rolling pocket to keep the rush off backup QB Morgan Newton. The only team that used a seven-step drop and wanted to throw the ball vertically down the field was Tennessee -- and the Gators sacked QB Tyler Bray three times.

"I think we’ve pressured pretty well but we haven’t faced a team other than Tennessee that throws the ball vertically down the field," Muschamp said. "We can talk about pressuring all you want, [but] you’re not going to get there [against those type of teams] in most situations. We’ve been pressuring them but we’ve been more effective this game."

Bostic and Evans’ sacks came on blitzes. McCray was able to beat the tackle around the edge, and Jacobs’ sack was the result of him helping collapse the pocket in the middle.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s offense finally got going in the second half, but the Gators’ best offensive player in the first half was punter Kyle Christy.

The sophomore pinned LSU inside its 10-yard line on three of his four first-half punts. That helped overcome an offense that managed just 47 yards, including 16 rushing, in the first half.

Christy ended up averaging 49.1 yards on seven punts. He had a chance to put another one inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter but Loucheiz Purifoy wasn’t able to catch up to the ball to down it.

Christy now has 15 punts of at least 50 yards in his career, including nine this season.

Video: Florida safety Matt Elam

October, 6, 2012

Florida safety Matt Elam talks about the Gators' 14-6 win over LSU.video

Florida coach Will Muschamp talks about his team, specifically his defense, which has allowed a combined 13 points in the second half of games this season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Turns out Florida didn’t need LB Jelani Jenkins to beat LSU.

The redshirt junior played in his first game since he suffered a fractured right thumb against Texas A&M on Sept. 8, but he made no impact in the Gators' 14-6 victory at Florida Field on Saturday afternoon. Jenkins ended up leaving the game in the first half after suffering a sprained left hamstring.

UF coach Will Muschamp said Jenkins, who played with a cast on his right hand, should be able to return to practice in two to three days. Jenkins, who had five tackles on the season before his thumb injury, did not start against LSU. UF went with Jon Bostic, Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor at linebacker.

Video: What did we learn about Florida?

October, 6, 2012

Jon Berger breaks down Florida's defensive shutdown of LSU.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida buck LB Ronald Powell underwent another surgery on his torn left ACL last week. It’s the second surgery on the knee that Powell injured during the Gators’ spring game.

"He had a little bit of a repair on the tear," UF coach Will Muschamp said Saturday. "He should be fine."

Powell, who was on the sideline and using crutches, was scheduled to return to the field sometime in October, but Muschamp said several weeks ago that Powell was suffering from some swelling in his knee and was going to redshirt this season. He will be a redshirt junior in 2012.

Powell led UF with six sacks last season, and the coaches raved about how well he had performed in the spring before the injury.

Instant analysis: Florida 14, LSU 6

October, 6, 2012

It had to be surreal for LSU coach Les Miles to see the events that unfolded Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That No. 10 Florida upset Miles' No. 4 Tigers, 14-6, wasn't a huge surprise. What was shocking was the way the Gators did it: They beat the Tigers at their own game.

Florida attempted a measly 12 passes for 61 yards and scored only 14 points, forgoing the high-flying offense that has long defined Gators football for a smashmouth, powerful running game and a hard-hitting, opportunistic defense. The Gators looked overwhelmed by LSU for much of the early going but overcame a 6-0 first-half deficit to roar back and make a statement in the SEC pecking order.

Here's how it played out in front of a sold-out Swamp:

It was over when: Just like in the Sept. 8 win against Texas A&M, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel rolled out on third-and-3 and picked up a crucial first down with his feet in the game's dying minutes. Driskel managed just six yards as opposed to his 21-yard run against the Aggies, but it was enough to kill three minutes off the clock and end LSU's chances of a game-winning drive.

Game ball: Florida running back Mike Gillislee. Stop if this sounds familiar: The senior got stronger as the game went on, tallying an absurd 34 carries for 146 yards and both Gators touchdowns. Gillislee had a hard time running against a stout LSU defensive front in the first half, but he kept pounding and wore the Tigers down. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

Game ball, part II: LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. The junior was a one-man wrecking crew on the Tigers' defense, smashing his way to 20 total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. It's not a coincidence that Florida pounded its way to its first touchdown of the game while Minter was briefly out injured.

Key stat: Take your pick from several telling ones. LSU notched just eight first downs -- three of which were earned via a Florida penalty. A big reason for that was the Tigers' atrocious performance on third down, a horrendous 1-for-13. Meanwhile, the Gators' halftime adjustments were almost breathtaking in comparison. Florida went into the break with 49 yards of total offense and finished the game with 237 yards -- 176 of those coming on the ground. Florida won the possession battle 37:17 to 22:43.

Perhaps the craziest stat of all: After shutting out the Tigers after halftime, Florida has outscored its six opponents 78-13 in the second half this season.

Key play: It looked as if the Tigers had grabbed hold of the momentum when, trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger found wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. open for a 56-yard gain to the Florida 23-yard line. What looked like a huge gain for LSU quickly turned into a momentum swing for Florida, though, as safety Matt Elam stripped the ball and recovered it at the Florida 21. What followed was an 11-play, 77-yard Gators touchdown drive to grab the game-winning 14-6 margin.

What it means: With either Georgia or South Carolina guaranteed to lose tonight, Florida controls its destiny in the SEC East. The Gators leave Florida only one more time this season, which has to make them a contender for the division championship. The Tigers' offensive struggles were concerning while they were still winning games, but the ineptitude on display in Gainesville has to be sounding some panic alarms. LSU still has games against South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State -- all of which boast equally stout defenses. That said, one loss won't sink the Tigers if they can handle their business the rest of the way.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Here's a breakdown of the first half of No. 10 Florida's home game against No. 4 LUS.

Stat of the half: The Gators and Tigers combined for 128 yards of total offense. LSU had 81 and Florida had 47. The Gators ran for only 16 yards.

Player of the half: Florida P Kyle Christy was the best offense the Gators had. He pinned the Tigers inside their 10-yard line three times to bail the Gators' non-productive offense out. He had kicks of 55, 61, 44 and 41 yards in the half.

What's working for Florida: After giving up 64 yards on LSU's opening drive, the Gators' defense held the Tigers to just 14 yards in the rest of the half. UF clamped down on RBs Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford. They also were able to mount a decent pass rush and sacked QB Zach Mettenberger three times and intercepted him once. UF also kept the game within reach by forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal after getting a first-and-goal at the UF 7 following a fumble.

What's not working for Florida: Until the Gators went to the hurry-up late in the first half, the offense was generating nearly nothing. The offensive line had protected QB Jeff Driskel well early in the game, but Driskel held onto the ball too long and got sacked. Then the Tigers started blitzing up the middle and the Gators couldn't pick it up and Driskel got sacked on back-to-back plays. RB Mike Gillislee uncharacteristically missed some holes, too. And when the Gators finally mounted a drive deep into LSU territory, WR Frankie Hammond fumbled and the Tigers recovered. Driskel's fumble before halftime cost the Gators three points.

Video: LSU-Florida pregame

October, 6, 2012

Edward Aschoff and Ivan Maisel discuss Saturday's LSU-Florida matchup.
Watching film of last year's LSU game must be traumatizing for Florida's defense.

All the Gators will notice is the constant pounding LSU's run game put on it. All those defenders were good for was getting pushed around and making each of LSU’s running backs look like a Heisman candidate.

That film is probably burning in a trash heap this very moment. And that's perfectly acceptable when you consider the Gators surrendered 238 rushing yards to the Tigers last season.

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College Teams Most Needing A Big Spring
National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss which programs most need success in the coming months to both establish momentum and keep competitors at bay.