The No. 17/18 Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) fell on the road on Saturday, dropping a 41-11 decision to the No. 1/2 LSU Tigers (6-0, 3-0 SEC). OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both head coach Will Muschamp and the players.
MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP
Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.
“I’m obviously disappointed in the game. Defensively [there were] too many big plays. Penalties killed us in the game. We’ve got to get better on the line of scrimmage. We wore out as the game wore on. No forced turnovers for us and we committed two. We just got to play better on the line of scrimmage and big plays. We gave up some big plays trying to load the box in the run game. We gave up some big plays. [I’m] disappointed in the game. We’ve got to get better.”
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
In addition to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg) and freshman QB Jeff Driskel (ankle) not dressing for the game, two notable absences from the field were junior left tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar During the game, sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (neck) and junior safety Josh Evans (arm) were injured, and senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle) came in for a play or two but quickly exited and was unable to continue.
Muschamp explained after the game that freshman Jacoby Brissett got the start at quarterback because Driskel’s health prevented him from taking the reigns of the team. “He practiced this week,” Muschamp said of Driskel. “We came to the conclusion Wednesday night that we just didn’t feel like he was healthy enough to go and play in that environment. We tried to rep him throughout the week and it wasn’t fair to him. It wasn’t fair to us.”
He continued, “[Driskel]’s more experienced and he’s played. So as far as the packages, you look at the number of reps that Jeff’s gotten through spring and into fall camp, obviously he’s gotten a lot more turns. That’s part of the game. You’re not going to hear me talk about youth or injuries. That’s pretty obvious with our teams.”
Muschamp said the staff with “reevaluate where Jeff is” before the Auburn game because Driskel may be able to return but said Brantley will “be out for the game more than likely.” He did not give a timetable for Brantley’s return (Georgia game would be the earliest) but said the coaching staff needed to “evaluate where we are on the offensive side of the ball and what we need to do to be successful” going forward.
DOOMED BY A LACK OF DISCIPLINE
Florida committed 12 penalties for 90 yards on Saturday, their second-highest total of the year. And that’s not counting lost yardage on plays that were called back. It was also the fourth time in 2011 that the Gators had nine or more penalties called against them in a single game. Florida kept two (in particular) LSU drives alive due to their penalties and even had consecutive offside calls on a possession that ended in a touchdown for the Tigers. The Gators also had a great run by senior running back Chris Rainey
negated due to a holding call well behind the play.
“There’s aggressive penalties that are judgment situations and then there are penalties that shouldn’t happen. We got a 30-yard run in the first quarter and we’re blocking 20 yards behind the ball. That’s not very smart,” Muschamp said. “It’s something that’s been talked about 100 times and it needs to be talked about 200. We’re going to talk about it 200 times this week because that’s not very smart. We’re going to talk about it 205-12-15, something like that, to see if we can do a little better.”
Another area that UF proved to be undisciplined was in tackling. For the second straight game, Florida had the opportunity to wrap up runs and short passes on the first level but failed by taking bad angles and using their arms instead of their bodies and legs. Muschamp was obviously none-too-pleased with that fact after the game.
“Tackling is ‘want to’ to me,” he said. “You either want to do it or you don’t. I’ll find guys who want to tackle.”
BRISSETT PROVES HE CAN HANG
It is a rough situation to start a freshman QB against a SEC opponent, especially when that opponent is LSU, the game is at Tiger Stadium, and the signal caller has never taken a collegiate snap before. With all that being said, Brissett performed admirably on Saturday, finishing 8/14 for 94 yards with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose. He also threw two interceptions in the game – one down the middle of the field that should not have been thrown and another to Debose in the end zone that Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu made a great play on.
Brissett worked well off the play action, had decent vision down field, stepped up in the pocket on occasion, showed he could be mobile and proved that he indeed has a big arm. “I thought he was solid under the circumstances against a good football team defensively,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s going to be a really good football player for us. We’ve got to play better around him in some spots and create some more situations in the run game.”
The Gators tried to do that by giving sophomore Trey Burton multiple snaps at the quarterback position. Burton mostly handed the ball off and was used more than anything because Brissett had a limited package of plays that he was prepared for heading into the game.
“[We did that] just to take the pressure off of Jacoby. We felt like we had a package for him that we could execute and execute well,” Muschamp said. “I thought, for the most part, [Burton] did a nice job. I was very pleased with that. Trey’s package, we got the ball moving in the second half with that package and it was effective for us.”
THE DEFENSE IS OFFENSIVE
With a questionable offense heading into the season and a defense that was one of the best in the country against the run heading into last week’s game against Alabama, Florida looked to have at least one area of their team completely figured out. Wrong.
The Gators have allowed their last two opponents to rush for 226 and 238 yards, respectively, which equates to an average of 5.04 yards per carry. Muschamp is obviously aware of this and continues to say it will be a point of emphasis in practice this week.
“I thought we would play better than we did in the last two ball games. Again, we’ve got to come up with some ways to stop the run game better than we’re doing at this point, and that’s been disappointing because I did think we would play the fronts better,” he said. “We’re not tackling well when we’ve got the ball on the perimeter in some spots. It’s just a collective effort. It’s not one area.”
One reason he gave for why UF may be failing in this area is its lack of depth up front. “We’re really playing three or four guys inside and three guys at end,” Muschamp said. “We just got to do a better job of getting off the field earlier in the game in those situations.”
PLAYMAKERS PROVE THEY SHOULD GET MORE LOOKS
Debose was put on the spot this week to replicate his performance from last Saturday and he did just that with a mirror image 65-yard touchdown reception. He did not catch another ball in this week’s game but was open on occasion and had an early jump on Mathieu on a ball that was eventually intercepted.
Seeing increased playing time for the injured Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee again proved that he can be effective with the ball in his hands. Gillislee carried the rock nine times for a team-high 56 yards and was integral on Florida’s sole scoring drive in the first half. “Mike was very effective in the game,” Muschamp said afterward. “He runs hard; he runs with his pads down. He does a nice job in the run game. He’s done a better job with protections. He’s got to continue working on catching the ball out of the backfield.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Florida has been outscored 79-21 over their last two games. The Gators’ 41-11 loss Saturday was their worst since the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (62-24 to Nebraska), and the team has not fallen so badly in consecutive games since dropping back-to-back decisions to Auburn (40-7) and Georgia (49-7) in 1971.
» On failing to properly cover the fake punt: “We had two guys assigned for the punt that didn’t do their job. We’ll move on with that. That’s coaching. We had two guys assigned to do their job that didn’t do it. They did what they wanted to do. And those guys aren’t going to play in our program anymore, guys that do what they want to do when they want to do it. It’s undisciplined football and that’s my fault and nobody else’s.
» On if he took any positives away from the game: “Not a whole lot. Not a whole lot.”
» On running the fake punt early in the first half: “We came here to win the game. And I felt like in that situation we were backed up. Worst thing we could do was punt again into the wind. The ball’s going to be at midfield. We had a hard time with the wind in the first quarter, so I felt like we had to get the first down. The fake punt we felt like was there. We hit it tighter than we wanted to. We felt like it was there, and I would call it again.”
» On deciding to kick the field goal in the first half: “We needed points at that time. It was a three-score game and we needed points. I didn’t want to come out without points.”
» On how he will handle consecutive losses against top -three opponents: “A loss is a loss regardless of how it looks. We just got to look at the film, evaluate where we are as a football team and that’s what we’re going to do to move forward with the guys that are willing to do the things we need to do to be successful. That’s what we plan on doing. We got a bunch of guys in that locker room who are hurting right now, as well as us, and we just need to get better.”