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Florida linebacker David Reese II, left, defensive back Donovan Stiner and defensive back Trey Dean III (21) upend LSU tight end Stephen Sullivan (10) on a reception in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Gators’ Defense Looks to Bounce Back

It had been since the 2015 season that a Florida Gators defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense. Florida allowed 511 to the LSU Tigers this past Saturday in a 42-28 loss.

The Gators were shredded both through the air and on the ground. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow had as many touchdowns as incompletions (3) and threw for 293 yards. The Tiger ground attack, anchored by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, pounded out 218 yards. That’s a week after allowing only 269 yards of total offense to Auburn.

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) carries for 57 yards in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

It wasn’t a typical performance for a Gator defense that entered the game against LSU fifth in points per game allowed. According to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, two factors led to the defensive breakdown:

Front Seven Faltered

The most alarming number may be that LSU averaged 10.6 yards per play. The Tigers had 511 yards on 48 plays. Prior to LSU, the Gators had allowed only 4.6 yards per play.

Multiple factors attributed to this. First off, LSU is flat out good. The Gators held the Tigers to their lowest point total of the season. That total was still over 40 points. To add to that, Florida was without both starting defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga virtually the entire game. Having two All-SEC caliber players go down early on is a massive hindrance to the defensive game plan, but Gators defensive lineman Zach Carter isn’t using that as an excuse.

Prior to LSU, the Gator front seven hadn’t allowed more than 140 yards on the ground in a single game. Getting healthy along the defensive front will be vital going into this Saturday’s game at South Carolina.

Both Greenard and Zuniga will be game-time decisions, according to head coach Dan Mullen.

LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson (2) carries against Florida defensive back Kaiir Elam (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. LSU won 42-28. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Secondary Woes

The secondary was a liability as well. LSU constantly picked on Trey Dean in coverage from his nickel position and eventually found himself on the bench in the second half. Grantham elected to move Marco Wilson from his outside corner spot down to the nickel and insert freshman Kiar Elam into Wilson’s place.

C.J. Henderson quietly had a good game, getting credit for all three pass breakups. However, there were some miscues from Henderson. He missed some tackles in space and allowed a touchdwon to Ja’Marr Chase on LSU’s second drive (although, Henderson was in air-tight coverage and Burrow threw a perfect ball).

LSU used crossing routes all game to create mismatches against safeties and linebackers, exposing Florida’s lack of coverage ability at both positions.

Wilson knows this can’t happen again if the Gators want to continue to contend for the SEC East crown.

A Chance for Redemption

The Gators won’t see an offense like LSU’s probably the rest of the season. They definitely won’t see an offense anywhere as good this coming weekend at South Carolina.

Yes, the Gamecocks beat Georgia this past Saturday. However, they scored 13 offensive points. And they’ll more than likely be without their budding true-freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinksi.

South Carolina ranks 71st in total offense. However, that ranking is heavily inflated by a 775 yard showing against Charleston Southern. Subtract that game, and Carolina averages 337 yards a game.

This is a chance for Florida’s defense to bounce back and regain some momentum. If the Gators can show up and stifle the Gamecocks en route to a win, it’ll serve as a springboard going into the bye week and the teams looming match-up with Georgia in two weeks.

About Michael Knauff

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