BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s performance against Florida on Saturday brought to mind a pair of 1990s rock hits that may need to be considered for the Tigers’ fight song rotation — the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away” and Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy.”
Yes, Florida earned the 16-10 win on the strength of its game-ending, goal-line stand, but it never would have gotten that far had the Tigers not repeatedly blasted themselves in the feet.
People will look at the final score and assume it was the same old inept LSU offense that got Les Miles fired, but the Tigers actually did move the ball. LSU outgained Florida by a margin of 423-270. LSU outrushed Florida 219-126. In the last 10 games in the series, the team with the most rushing yards was the winner.
And Danny Etling eclipsed 200 yards as a passer for the fifth time this season.
The problem, obviously, was the fact the Tigers could not cross the goal line whenever it was right in front of them. After scoring on its first drive of the game, LSU got only a field goal out of four trips inside the Florida 10-yard-line. That’s not going to cut it against Central Florida, much less Florida.
The LSU football team would get an A if we just counted drives until they got to the 10, and then we’d have to invent something worse than a F for when it did cross that threshold. So we’ve settled on a D.
This was arguably the worst performance of the year for LSU’s defense — and the Tigers still allowed only 16 points.
The lone touchdown, and the majority of the yardage, came on one unfortunate 98-yard connection from Austin Appleby to Tyrie Cleveland that burned Donte Jackson in man-to-man coverage with no safety help.
LSU did give up one man-sized drive, a 15-play, 70-yarder that took 7 minutes, 45 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter and resulted in a short field goal to give Florida a 13-10 lead. On multiple plays during that particular drive, the void left by Kendell Beckwith’s absence was apparent.
“You could tell it was a difference,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “But it’s a part of football. We had to step up.”
Special Teams: F
As mentioned in the postgame recap, it’s impossible to comprehend why LSU’s next head coach would keep Bradley Dale Peveto around as special teams coordinator next season.
This unit has been a leaky boat all season, and on Saturday the pirogue finally sank to the bottom of the bayou.
Botching a 19-yard field goal is something that should not happen. Ever. And that was far from the only issue LSU dealt with on special teams.
Florida’s first field goal came courtesy of a short field set up by a kickoff return to midfield in the first quarter. If that 39-yard drive started at the Florida 25 instead of the Florida 42, the Gators probably don’t get those points.
And, of course, Jackson’s fumble on the kickoff return following Eddy Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter made it necessary for LSU to score a touchdown the next time it got the ball. The Tigers, of course, did not do that.
“We didn’t play very well today on special teams,” Orgeron said. “Having two turnovers in there is unacceptable. We have athletes. We should be better in that area.”
Jim McElwain had his team better prepared for this game.
The Gators were a team on a double mission: first, to secure the SEC East title. Second, to avenge what they felt was the unjust moving of this game from Gainesville to Baton Rouge following Hurricane Matthew.
“The way I look at it, they got what they deserved,” a spiteful McElwain said after the game. “And it should have been worse.”
LSU’s participation in the pregame brouhaha 90 minutes before kickoff was a sign of immaturity regardless of who started the beef. Not a good look for Coach O as far as getting his team to block out noise.
And to have four straight plays without at least one run-pass option when the game is on the line … had it worked out we wouldn’t be second-guessing it, I suppose. But it didn’t. So we are.
Still, it was not play calling that doomed LSU. It was sloppy execution. Even on the final play, Derrius Guice ran to the wrong hole — a fitting way to finish this game.
None of LSU’s losses this season have been enjoyable pills for fans to swallow, but this one may stick in the craw worse than any of the rest. After a roller-coaster year, the Tigers finally had control of their own destiny and a feel-good Sugar Bowl appearance.
Instead, the Tigers responded with their worst performance of the year as two-touchdown favorites. Now a lesser-tier bowl, and probably a new head coach, await.
LSU football has bounced back admirably from its previous three losses. This one may be a fatal blow.