Baton Rouge, LA – The Florida Gators suffered their first loss in Death Valley Saturday night. Despite dominating in time of possession and play count, the Gators ultimately succumbed to the Tigers by a score of 42-28. The game was much closer than the final score indicates.
From the beginning of the game, it was apparent that the Gators were in for a battle. Joe Burrow and the Tigers offense lived up to the billing as they amassed 511 yards on just 48 plays. In fact, Florida’s downfall was the explosive nature of LSU’s offense.
Kyle Trask proved that the moment was not too big for him as he confidently led the offense on four 75 yard touchdown drives and a 28-21 lead before LSU took over. Trask finished the evening 23/39 for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Unfortunately, that interception came in the endzone as the Gators were threatening to tie the game up once again.
If there were a moment where you could pinpoint the changing of the tide for the Gators, I would likely point to the third quarter series when Emory Jones came in following an LSU touchdown that tied the game at 28 a piece.
Although Trask had the hot hand, Mullen opted to give the series to Jones — who also played quite well on the night — presumably in an attempt to ignite the rushing attack. Unfortunately, LSU was ready for everything Jones had on the quick three and out possession. It was a crucial drive for the Gators in order to keep on schedule.
Instead, they gave the ball back to an LSU offense that couldn’t really be stopped. The Tigers marched right down field and regained the lead.
The larger story, however, is that the Gators went into Death Valley and proved that they were worthy of their top ten designation, even silencing the raucous homecoming crowd on four separate occasions. And who knows? Maybe the Gators could have even snuck out with a victory had the defense been at full strength.
Florida sack leader, Jonathan Greenard left the game after the opening possession with an ankle injury. Later, Jabari Zuniga would do the same. So the Gators two most valuable edge rushers weren’t truly able to factor into the equation.
The bottom line is this. Florida needs to simply continue with their plans. Georgia’s loss to an unranked South Carolina opened the door a little further for the Gators but even if they hadn’t, this loss to LSU wasn’t going to derail any of Florida’s goals for the season.
If they travel to South Carolina and win — and I believe they will — then they get a week off to prepare for a Georgia team that is clearly beatable. If Florida wins out, they are guaranteed a spot in Atlanta, where they very well may get a second chance at LSU.
Do not hang your heads in dismay, Gator Nation. Know that your mighty Gators played valiantly and they earned the nation’s respect on this Saturday night. They will return to the win column and there will be cause for celebration. Even in defeat, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.