Florida Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 6 Game vs. LSU
Who saw this coming?
The Florida Gators are 5-0 (4-0) and can win the SEC East if they run the table in October.
Florida entered the 2012 season with a ton of question marks but have answered most of those with their play this season. The Gators have bought into Will Muschamp's system, and you can see the results on the field.
Florida's win on Saturday ended a two-year losing streak to LSU and was Will Muschamp's biggest win as a head coach.
As always, no team or game is perfect, and you will always have winners and losers. Let's take a look at who took care of business on Saturday and who needs to step up.
Winner: Kyle Christy
Kyle Christy was the unsung hero of the game.
For most of the first half, Florida couldn't get anything going on offense. Florida was backed up deep in their own territory, and it was Christy's punts that kept LSU from starting with good field position.
Christy averaged 49.14 yards per punt with a long of 61. Three of his seven punts were downed inside the 20 with two being downed inside the 10.
Christy's punting consistently gave the defense a lot of field to work with, and he should be recognized for the game he had.
Remember, punters are people too.
Winner: The Offensive Line
This is a unit that has been up and down all season long, but they showed up in the biggest game of the season.
LSU brought in not only one of the best defensive lines in the country, but they are also about eight deep along the line. Having that kind of depth has allowed the Tigers to rotate their linemen and keep them fresh throughout the game. Florida's offensive line was just too physical for LSU, and they wore them down as the Gators reeled off over 25 consecutive runs in the second half.
The Gators ran the ball 58 times on Saturday, and that is a testament to how much trust the coaches have in the offensive line.
Jon Halapio visibly pancaked a defender on Mike Gillislee's second touchdown run, Kyle Koehne was able to hold his own against two very good pass-rushers, Jonotthan Harrison was seen dragging Mike Gillislee a couple yards to gain a first down and Xavier Nixon played his best game of the season after having to compete with a freshman for his starting job.
Has the offensive line turned a corner? That remains to be seen, but they played a complete game when it mattered most.
Loser: The Receivers
Florida showed you what happens to a team when they are one-dimensional on offense. The Gators stuffed the LSU running game and forced a team who had relied on the run all season to throw the ball to win.
Florida is becoming too dependent on their running game and could be exposed like LSU was on Saturday.
The receivers have struggled all season and need to pick up their game so opposing defenses can't stack the box on every play.
Only three receivers caught passes on Saturday. Quinton Dunbar had two receptions for 15 yards, Andre Debose had his first catch of the season for five yards and Frankie Hammond caught one pass but lost three yards and fumbled the ball.
That simply won't cut it moving forward.
Winner: Jaylen Watkins
Jaylen Watkins is quickly becoming one of the Gators' best cover corners.
Watkins got his second interception in as many games on Saturday and is playing the best football of his career.
Against LSU, Watkins had four tackles, one interception and one pass breakup.
Winner: Matt Elam
Matt Elam came out playing like a man on a mission.
Elam's intensity earned him two early penalties, but the junior safety quickly made up for it.
Elam finished the game with seven tackles, one for loss, and made the play of the day.
Zach Mettenberger found a wide open Odell Beckham for a 56-yard gain, but Elam was able to strip the ball before bringing Beckham down. The Gators recovered the fumble. The play could have been a huge momentum swing for LSU, but instead the play re-energized the Gators, and LSU wouldn't come close to scoring again.
Elam is making his case to be considered as one of the top safeties in the country.
Loser: Andre Debose
This is quickly becoming a season to forget for Andre Debose. While he was able to record his first reception of the season, it went for just five yards. Debose remained largely ineffective the rest of the game.
Debose returned three kickoffs for 51 yards, a 17-yard average. To put that into perspective Debose averaged 26 yards a return a season ago and 27 yards a return as a freshman.
Debose was given more opportunity on offense but just wasn't able to be a difference-maker.
Winner: Mike Gillislee
Mike Gillislee is running on fresh legs. For three seasons Gillislee sat patiently and waited for his turn to be the feature back for Florida.
Gillislee was given his chance this season, and he is running with it, literally.
Mike Gillislee became the first running back since 2010 to run for over 100 yards against a Les Miles defense. Gillislee carried the ball 34 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Gillislee is on pace to rush for 1,424 yards and score 18 touchdowns. That would fall just short of his lofty preseason goals but would be the best season a running back has had since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
Gillislee's seven touchdowns through the first five games are just one shy of the eight touchdowns that Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for in the entire 2011 season.
Winner: The Defense
Florida's defense finally put a full game together.
If not for a couple costly penalties on the Tigers' first possession of the game and a Jeff Driskel fumble late in the second quarter, the defense could have shut out LSU completely.
Florida's defense allowed just 200 total yards and held LSU scoreless in the second half. LSU came into the game averaging 229.6 yards per game on the ground, but Florida was able to hold them to just 42 rushing yards on the day.
We have watched the defense play well for a couple drives, a quarter or a half but were always wondering and speculating what would happen if they could put a whole game together.
You saw what it looked like on Saturday, and it was impressive.
Loser: Jeff Driskel
Jeff Driskel had gotten better every week. The rate he was progressing was surprising and promising.
However, all good things must come to an end.
Driskel reverted back to some of his bad habits against LSU. Driskel held onto the ball too long in some spots and tried to make plays when taking a sack or throwing the ball away was the only play to be made.
His biggest error came with two minutes and two seconds left before halftime. With the Gators down 3-0 and backed up on their own 29, Driskel rolled away from pressure and fumbled while trying to shake a tackler.
Driskel will learn that sometimes taking a sack is the only play you can make. Taking the sack would have given the Gators a 2nd-and-long, but it would have allowed them to take time off of the clock and would have kept LSU from tacking on another field goal.
Driskel was only asked to throw the ball 12 times against LSU, but he should be able to learn from the experience and use it the rest of the season.
Winner: Will Muschamp
Gator fans are an impatient bunch.
After struggling through the 2011 season, some Gator fans were calling for Will Muschamp's job. After a lackluster performance against Bowling Green and a subpar first half against Texas A&M, there were even more rumblings.
Will Muschamp's seat was getting hotter, and the fanbase was another bad performance away from turning their back on the coach.
Does anyone have a problem with how Muschamp has recruited and coached this team now?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
Three weeks ago Will Muschamp got a "signature win" against Tennessee. How small does that win seem after taking down LSU?
Watch the video in this slide to see how the players have bought into Muschamp's system and how much they genuinely like their head coach. The relationship Muschamp has with his team is not only good for the Gators on the field but will help in recruiting off the field as well.
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