NUNEZ: LSU weaknesses exposed against tough Florida team

October 07, 2018 - 6:52 am
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Tyler Nunez, Assistant Editor of Tiger 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Well that didn’t go as planned.

Going into the Swamp and coming out with a victory is never easy, but the Tigers had to feel confident after winning their first five games of the season and showing some offensive prowess a week prior against Ole Miss.

That confidence must have been through the roof after LSU drove down the field and scored a quick touchdown against the Gators, a drive that was quickly followed up by a decisive stop by the defense.

Everything seemed to be going the Tigers’ way for the first few minutes.

That’s when it happened.

The first of five sacks Florida got on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow caused him to drop the football and give the Gators all the momentum they needed to stay in the game.

LSU’s defense held out for a while, forcing Florida to punt twice after the fumble. But the Gators’ defense had found its spark and forced the Tigers into back-to-back three-and-outs, winning the field-position battle until they got the ball in LSU territory and took advantage with a touchdown drive.

The LSU offense never quite looked the same after that fumble.

Florida’s defensive front began abusing the left side of LSU’s offensive line, getting to Burrow in from the blind side three times in the first half.

All-in-all, the Tigers gave up five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. It’s going to be tough to move the ball against anybody pushing you behind the line of scrimmage that often.

“We just got behind the sticks,” said LSU tight end Foster Moreau. “Whether it was a penalty or a negative play, we put ourselves in a bad second-down situation. When we do that, it’s tough to break the line of scrimmage.

The Tigers had one more drive in which the offensive line looked good, great even. Nick Brossette broke off runs of 31 and 47 yards in what would eventually be LSU’s only other touchdown drive of the game.

But other than that, Brossette looked fairly pedestrian. Outside of those two runs he garner 13 carries for 17 yards, an average of 1.3 yards per carry.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a better night running the ball getting 55 yards on 13 carries, but he only tallied six yards on his six last carries after going for 49 in his first seven.

That’s a recipe for disaster, offensively, but the Tigers found a way to stay in the game regardless.

But LSU’s defensive front didn’t have the game of its life either. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks and the Gators got pretty comfortable running and throwing the ball by the time the first half ended.

Head coach Ed Orgeron has lamented the Tigers’ lack of quarterback pressure for weeks now, and it cost LSU dearly against the Gators.

They finally started getting to Franks in the second half after an adjustment on the defensive line, but the damage forcing the Tigers to play catch up for a majority of the half had already been done.

Allowing 215 yards on the ground while recording just two tackles for loss is less than ideal, and below the standard of a typical LSU defense.

“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage,” said LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. “We gave up 215 yards rushing. They had more sacks and plenty more tackles for loss than we did. We had too many turnovers. We just didn’t get the job done.”

So what does this all mean for LSU?

Honestly, the loss ultimately doesn’t hurt the Tigers too badly.

One of the only advantages of having Alabama in your division is beating them gives you a one-loss cushion in a race for a spot in the SEC Championship game. LSU just used that cushion.

Before Saturday night’s loss to Florida, LSU’s hopes for that title game spot hinged on beating Alabama. Now, the Tigers must beat Alabama and win the rest of their SEC games.

Yes, that’s an extremely tall order, but a win against an undefeated Georgia team next week would go a long way in building confidence and getting the Tigers back on track.

Let’s also not forget where the general consensus thought LSU would be before the season opener. Most pundits had them winning seven, maybe eight games at most.

The Tigers are still on pace to have a season surpassing expectations so long as they can bounce back and the games they’re expected to.

So the Tigers have a long way to go before becoming the team they want to be. Orgeron openly said that in the week leading up to the loss to Florida.

One comforting thing is the way the team seemingly handled the loss after the game. Players weren’t happy, but they weren’t down, either.

Orgeron was pretty clear when he said he took responsibility for the loss. He wants the players to enjoy wins and accept blame when they lose, which is admirable.

But the players had a different perspective on the loss.

“It wasn’t the coaching,” said defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko. “It was more on us. Guys like myself bearing down, taking leadership. That’s one thing I gotta do, step up as a leader, especially in tough times.”

Taking responsibility for your missteps is the first step to fixing the problem. Right now, the Tigers have a problem up front on both sides of the ball. Florida didn’t do anything revolutionary to expose them. They just took advantage of the weaknesses that were already known.

LSU has to find a way to protect Burrow on offense and get to opposing quarterbacks on defense. It’s much easier said than done, but also not impossible fixes.

The Tigers seem to know what they have to do to make those changes and get back on track. It’s just a matter of doing them at this point.

“We have to go to back to the drawing board, and fix our problems,” said LSU linebacker Devin White. “We have to fix our mistakes and just get better.”

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