Florida report card: Gators’ worst defensive performance leads to first loss
Florida dropped its first game of the season on Saturday, but there are still plenty of positives to take away from the game. Despite a 35-28 loss to LSU, Florida can still win the SEC East. A win over UGA on Halloween would almost seal the SEC East for the Gators.
But before we get to that game, here are the grades Florida deserved for its performance against LSU.
Entering the game, Florida fans had to be concerned with Treon Harris’ ability to lead the team after Will Grier was suspended a year for performance-enhancing drugs. Harris showed he was capable, although he missed on quite a few easy throws. He finished 17-of-32 for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive line played its worst game of the season and it showed on almost every single play. It seemed like LSU defenders were in the backfield all game and that affected running back Kelvin Taylor. There was no space in between the tackles. He finished with 25 yards on 15 carries.
The highlight of the offense was wide receiver Antonio Callaway’s incredible one-handed 48-yard reception. It’s worth another watch, for sure. Reminder: He’s a freshman.
The biggest question entering the LSU game was if Florida’s defensive line would be able to contain running back Leonard Fournette. Notice how I didn’t say stop, because, really, no one can completely shut him down. The Gators didn’t contain Fournette. He rushed for 180 yards and scored two touchdowns.
There was a much bigger problem than that, though. Florida let LSU QB Brandon Harris beat them. Harris was 13-of-19 for 202 yards and two touchdowns. All that talk about “Defensive Back University” was quieted. The secondary got burned on multiple plays — and looked foolish on the long touchdown right before halftime.
UGA is built like LSU. Very good running game, below-average quarterback. If Bulldogs quarterback Greyson Lambert plays like Harris did, Florida may be in trouble.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Starting kicker Austin Hardin returned and made three extra points. Walk-on Jorge Powell made the other one. Punter Johnny Townsend boomed punts all night — as he has done all season.
There was also the 72-yard punt return touchdown for Antonio Callaway. Again, he’s going to be a star.
But Florida lost on a special teams play. LSU, reminiscent of the 2010 game, perfectly executed a fake field goal. That gave the Tigers the lead and eventually the win.
Are you not really an SEC coach until LSU coach Les Miles runs a fake field goal against you? Jim McElwain was welcomed to the SEC last night. I think the Gators will be ready for that in the future.
Even with the loss, this coaching staff showed its a winner. The Gators didn’t lay an egg on the road. They fought until the final play of the game. Florida is in good hands with McElwain.
There were a lot of positives to take away from this game. Florida knows it can compete with some of the nation’s best teams. When the Gators fall behind in a hostile environment, they know that they can compete.
Florida will bounce back from this, and I fully expect them to play in the SEC Championship game come December. Who knows, maybe the Gators will have a chance for redemption if LSU gets there, too.