By Dory LeBlanc
Last year in Gainesville, Florida defeated LSU by outplaying the Tigers physically. This year in Baton Rouge, LSU gave the Gators a taste of their own medicine, taking advantage of an Easley-less defense to hand Florida their second loss of the 2013 campaign. The Florida offensive line was no match for the 300 pounders on LSU's D-Line, and were manhandled throughout much of the game.
The Gators jumped on the board first, taking a 3-0 lead on walk-on Frankie Velez's first-ever field goal from 44 yards out, but LSU was in the driver's seat the remainder of the contest, eventually winning 17-6.
Florida held the Tigers scoreless in the first quarter, the first time that has happened to LSU this season, but Zach Mettenberger's passing attack was too much for the Gators to stop, and LSU challenged Florida's run-defense and won for the rest of the contest.
Mettenberger continues to improve with each start, completing 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards, but LSU's offensive focus was the running-game, scoring both TDs on the ground, with a one-yard goalline rush by J.C. Copeland to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead and backup QB Anthony Jennings took a sneak into the end zone from one yard out to extend it to 14-3.
A normally active Florida pass rush was almost non-existent in Death Valley, certainly feeling the effects of Dominique Easley's absence. Last week, Dante Fowler Jr. and Ronald Powell were able to make up for Easley against an anemic Arkansas offense, but the Tigers receivers out-ran and out-played the Gator defensive backs, leaving little time to penetrate LSU's offensive front.
Ranked second against the run nationally, the Gators allowed a season-high rushing 180 yards, with Jeremy Hill wracking up 121 yards alone.
In the first half, Tyler Murphy looked confident and solid, able to evade pressure and make plays, but things changed as the O-Line was worn down in the final 30 minutes, and the Gators struggled to get anything going consistently on offensive.
Florida, ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing, lost leading rusher Matt Jones in the first half with a knee injury. At the time of this post, the extent of his injury is unknown as is his status for next week's meeting with Missouri. Missouri, coming off a 41-26 upset at Georgia, will likely be without their starting QB James Franklin, who suffered a separated shoulder in the victory. Freshman Maty Mauk is expected to start.
Freshman Kelvin Taylor, son of Gator great Fred Taylor, split the carries with Mack Brown in the second half, picking up 107 combined yards.
Velez's 24-yarder in the fourth quarter narrowed the gap to 14-6, but LSU returned the favor on their next possession, getting the three points back on a 31 yard attempt by Colby Delahoussaye.
Murphy (15-of-27, 116 yards), under pressure for most of the second half, was sacked on back-to-back plays late in the fourth quarter, with the second (on failed protection by LT D.J. Humphries) led to a fumble, giving LSU the ball back with 3:51 left in the game and the 17-6 lead.
The Tigers stuck with what worked and kept the ball on the ground to run the clock out.
Next Up: The Florida Gators head to Columbia, MO to take on the Missouri Tigers at 12:21 next Saturday. As always, keep in tuned to 620am/95.3fm for the call.