Even through struggles, LSU put itself in a great position to beat Florida and potentially earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl on Saturday. The Tigers drove all the way from their own 25 to first-and-goal from the 7-yard line.
Since Leonard Fournette was limited by injury, Derrius Guice had a pair of rushes to get down to the 1-yard line with 24 seconds remaining and two plays left in the game.
The first was a fullback dive, which Florida stuffed at the goal line to force a decisive fourth down. LSU tossed it to Guice again, and he leaped into the mouth of the Florida defense but fumbled.
Plenty has to go wrong for LSU to lose 16-10 against a depleted Florida team. Having Fournette and linebacker Kendell Beckwith go down with injuries didn’t help. Several receivers dropped passes from Danny Etling.
But ultimately, the story of this game was really the story of the past few seasons at LSU. The defense played a heck of a game, holding Florida to just 270 yards and just over 5 yards per play. Ninety-eight of those yards and the Gators’ lone touchdown came on one missed tackle.
It didn’t matter. The offense, once again, faded in the most important spots.
The stats actually weren’t unkind to LSU. The Tigers posted 423 yards and Etling was pretty efficient, averaging 8.2 yards per passing attempt. But when it came to turning that production into points, LSU found itself as lost as ever.
After a touchdown drive on its first drive, here’s the remaining drive chart: fumble, punt, punt, half, turnover on downs, punt, field goal, fumble.
Granted, Florida has a very good defense. The Gators rank No. 4 in defense S&P+, behind only Michigan, Alabama and Wisconsin. That said, Florida is ravaged by injuries, and the list includes standouts in linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye. That doesn’t even count players dealing with nagging injuries.
This is the same Florida team that allowed 466 yards and 31 points to Arkansas two weeks ago. It’s the same one that allowed 38 points against Tennessee, including 35 in one half. LSU is more talented than both of those teams. LSU at least should have been able to get close to those point totals against the depleted Gators.
I wrote last week for SEC Country about how Ed Orgeron still could earn the full-time head coaching job. It revolved around three ideas: Coach O had to win the rest of his games, win the hearts of the fan base and come up with a plan to revamp the offense. Unfortunately, LSU put all three keys into peril. Even though fans and sportswriters alike love the way Orgeron represents the program, it probably won’t be enough.
There have been clear offensive improvements compared to the Les Miles era, but LSU was still rendered completely ineffective against the two quality defenses on its schedule. This proves once again that a complete offensive transformation needs to happen in the offseason. After Saturday’s game, it’s unlikely that effort will involve Coach O.