BATON ROUGE, La. — Here are the grades from Florida’s 16-10 win at LSU on Saturday.
Florida’s offense took another step forward Saturday, even if the box score doesn’t suggest it. The Gators gained only 270 yards, but they had some huge plays that made the difference. Tyrie Cleveland’s 98-yard touchdown ignited the entire team and is the type of game-changing catch that UF hasn’t had enough of in its passing game. But that’s what Austin Appleby has brought to the quarterback position.
He completed only 7 of his 17 pass attempts for 144 yards, but his ability to throw the deep ball has helped Florida tremendously the past two weeks. His first-down pass to Cleveland on a scramble was another impressive play, and he didn’t have any interceptions in the game. If Appleby can continue to make a few big throws per game and take care of the football (he almost lost another fumble at the goal line), this offense can be successful with running back Jordan Scarlett going for more than 100 yards.
This was certainly a bend-but-don’t-break performance. LSU finished with 423 yards offense and converted half of its third-down attempts (7 of 14), but when the Gators needed a stop, they made it happen. LSU had five trips inside the 10-yard line and came away with just 10 points. The Tigers had two downs to gain just 1 yard for the win, and they could not punch it into the end zone.
Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley had the best game of his career and helped make three goal-line stands. UF was without its top three leading tackles: linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye. Their replacements — safety Marcell Harris and linebackers Kylan Johnson and David Reese — were Florida’s three leading tacklers Saturday and combined for 31. Harris made the game-winning tackle on fourth-and-1. The Gators held LSU running back Derrius Guice to 83 yards rushing and Leonard Fournette to 40.
Special teams: A
Florida’s fourth-quarter fumble recovery on LSU’s kick return was one of the plays of the game. It allowed UF to add a field goal and go up by 6 points, which forced the Tigers to drive for a touchdown on their final possession. Eddy Pineiro proved once again why he was such an important addition for the Gators. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including two crucial kicks in the fourth quarter. For the third straight week, Johnny Townsend booted a 59-yard punt and cornerback Chauncey Gardner was a beast on the punt team.
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead and dominated Florida in the first quarter, but the UF coaches made some solid in-game adjustments and the Gators outscored LSU 16-3 the rest of the way. There’s a still a few play-calls you can question and improvements to be made, but this staff deserves a lot of credit for finding a way to win on the road with so many starters out.
How huge was this game for Florida? UF closed as a 13.5-point underdog at LSU, and the 16-10 win marked the biggest upset for the program in 40 years. Those were the odds the Gators had to overcome Saturday to clinch the SEC East title. They did it with a hard-nosed defense, nine 3-star recruits in their starting lineups and a pair of young running backs that outperformed Fournette and Guice.