…the 2014 Florida-LSU game.
You can’t make this stuff up. What was a great, but ragged, effort went for naught due to a series of unbelievable events that cost the Gators an important SEC win, and makes you wonder how the players will react and come back from it. The team played hard for 4 quarters and seemed to have put the events of the week leading up to the game behind them.
I have to start with praising Andre Debose and the return team for electrifying the Swamp with a great night. He is possibly the most dangerous return man in the SEC, and maybe, just maybe, this game makes him a consistent threat the rest of the season. Perhaps he will also get some more touches on offense as well.
As for the winner of the “Who Feels the Worst” award, I’d have to say it’s a tie between Brian Poole on defense and Tevin Westbrook on offense. Poole somehow did not get the check on the pass play that went easily over his head, allowing LSU to covert a 3rd-and-25 that led to their taking the lead with under 4 minutes to go. And if that wasn’t crushing enough, Westbrook dropped the likely game-winning TD pass from a scrambling Driskel with under 2 minutes to go. It would have forced LSU to drive the length of the field with a below-average passing game and no timeouts. This was Twilight Zone material……everyone is still shaking their \heads about 2 plays of that magnitude happening in the same game.
On offense, Jeff Driskel still made some bonehead reads and missed opportunities for long pass plays, but showed real toughness in carrying the ball 21 times due to a depleted backfield, and still made enough plays to win. He was betrayed by a terrible read on the last interception that put LSU in position for the game-winning FG, and by too many drops (again) by the WRs and TEs – especially the inexplicable drop by Westbrook. The injury to Matt Jones really hurt the running game – Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown are MIA, and Brandon Powell is not a short-yardage specialist. At least Powell showed flashes of becoming a playmaker in the Spread, proving elusive in the open field. I am perplexed as to why Kurt Roper did not have Driskel try to ram the ball in from 2 yards out with 3 opportunities, or even line him up under center and try 3 sneaks. The O-Line played reasonably well, especially given the fact that an inconsistent passing attack allowed LSU to put 8-9 guys in the box. Driskel and Demarcus Robinson were able to hook up on what should have been the play of the game, a 73-yard bomb down to the Tiger 2-yard line. But failure to punch it in from there ultimately doomed the Gators. Ugh.
The defense had it’s moments, but allowed 2 time-consuming drives as LSU gashed them with the running of Leonard Fournette. That isn’t a crime……but what was criminal was allowing the 3rd-and-25 pass completion late in the 4th quarter which led to a go-ahead score. Apparently another miscommunication in the secondary let the Tigers off the hook until Driskel’s long pass to Robinson. Jalen Tabor did a fine job filling in for VH3 when he left due to a head injury – he will be an excellent SEC CB in the future. But the loss of VH3 was telling on that play, as Poole was forced to play outside instead of where he more comfortable – in the slot.
It’s on to Homecoming, as Missouri comes to Gainesville after getting hammered by Georgia 34-0 at home. A lot of teams have payback in mind for the Tigers after they took advantage of a weak SEC East last season. They are starting to feel the loss of 4 senior starters on the O-Line in league play. QB Maty Mauk was horrible last week with 4 int. Time for DJ Durkin and the defensive staff to borrow a lot from that game plan and continue to do the same this week. I think the Gator defense should be able to have a good game, as the Tigers do not have the power rushing attack that LSU does. The secondary is actually playing better overall, despite the one meltdown play last week. Missouri will look to take advantage of the Gator LB corps on intermediate routes, so it will be interesting to see if Florida runs more 4-2-5 sets to insert an extra DB. The return of VH3 cannot be understated – it will be a lift to the entire defense.
The Gators will utilize 2 QBs this week, as Treon Harris returns from his suspension and a hellish week personally. I hope he can somehow refocus on football and provide a nice change of pace to Driskel. We shall see how the offense responds when Harris is in the game, and also how they adapt to changes at QB during the game. Of course, the main thing for the Gators is getting a healthy Jones back at RB, and somehow unlocking the Taylor mystery and getting him going. If there is no running game, neither QB is equipped to rely solely on the passing game right now. And it’s time to start playing some new guys like CJ Worton at WR, until Quinton Dunbar can somehow regain his confidence and relax during the game and make the simple catches.
Will Muschamp, and Gator Nation, really needs a win this week. A Homecoming loss might get the ball rolling behind the scenes for Jeremy Foley to have to begin a coaching search, despite his statement that Muschamp will not be evaluated until after the season is over. Florida still has a chance at securing a quality recruiting class if the current staff stays in place. Finally, the program is in desperate need of some positive momentum heading into the bye week before playing Georgia.
Prediction: Florida 24 Missouri 23