Florida vs. LSU: Four Observations From the Gators' 42-28 Loss to the Tigers
Saturday night's showdown with LSU was competitive, but not competitive enough for Florida to pull off another upset.
The Gators exited Death Valley with their first loss of the season, being taken down by the Tigers and their high-powered offense by a score of 42-28. This one was tied at halftime, looking like a shootout between two offenses playing well, but LSU pulled away while Florida began to struggle on both sides of the ball in the second half.
Here are four observations from the loss.
The defense had flaws exposed
This was not the Florida Gators' defense that has wowed the nation during the 2019 season. Not even close.
Between missed tackles, blown coverages, linebackers playing the boundary (which led to one of the previously mentioned blown coverages), poor containment (which led to 43 yards created off of scrambles), it was a huge mess.
Joe Burrow had a strong performance against Florida's defense, which will only propel his NFL Draft status higher. He went 21 for 24 for 293 yards and three touchdowns, despite Florida being at full health in the secondary. LSU also posted 218 rushing yards and three scores on the ground, simply dismantling what has been known as an elite defensive unit.
Trey Dean III had issues in coverage prior to the LSU game, but they were highlighted tonight. He allowed a first-half touchdown among several other receptions and was eventually replaced by Marco Wilson at STAR.
Why did Florida refuse to adjust to LSU's pre-snap motions that led to linebacker Ventrell Miller playing the boundary, especially considering how well Burrow was playing? LSU took advantage of to throw a 54-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Look, this was a tough game in a hostile environment against a QB who has a great chance at winning the Heisman Trophy this year, and plenty of these issues can be corrected. But this was, easily, the worst game Florida's defense has played all year.
Kyle Trask's pocket awareness was far better...
In his first three starts, quarterback Kyle Trask had committed five strip-sack turnovers. For the first time as a starter, Trask did not commit a fumble on a sack, only taking two sacks all night. He appeared much more comfortable handling pressure than he had all year.
Trask moved through his often-collapsing pocket well, throwing the ball on the run and extending plays with his legs. It wasn't enough to mount a late comeback, but that type of improvement was exactly what we needed to see from the Gators' starting quarterback.
...but Emory Jones needs to keep playing
This take is unpopular with a ton of Florida fans, and that just doesn't make any sense.
Emory Jones certainly hasn't done enough to earn Trask's starting gig, but he's certainly carved out a role in the offense. He saw his snaps increase against LSU, created 36 rushing yards on nine carries and threw a touchdown on a jump-style pass while under pressure in the first half.
Jones's mobile skillset and cannon arm are two things that Trask doesn't provide. He is a perfect change-of-pace QB compared to Trask's game-manager style, and it works.
Keep playing Emory Jones.
Florida needs a healthy edge tandem to compete
The Gators have barely gotten to see their edge tandem of Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga this year as Zuniga has been hurt since Week 3. When the opportunity to reunite the duo finally came on Saturday both players suffered injuries and didn't get to wreak havoc on Burrow.
And if both players were available and at full strength until the end, the result probably would have been different.
The Gators rely on the pressure created off of the edge, and Greenard and Zuniga are the team's best options there. Florida needs both to get healthy as soon as possible in order to compete down the line.