Florida Football: How Florida Upset LSU

Neil ShulmanCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2012

Mike Gillislee led the way for Florida
Mike Gillislee led the way for FloridaSam Greenwood/Getty Images

I remember Jordan Jefferson's first-ever start as LSU's QB. I'm not sure how many others do, but I specifically remember it in vivid detail. 

It was in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl, and behind Jefferson, LSU rolled over Georgia Tech, 38-3, leading many to wonder where that dominant LSU team had been all year in embarrassing losses to Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

But the next three years of Jefferson's career were very up and down. One week, he looked great, the next week he was abysmal. Still, LSU fans thought he gave them the best chance to win since he could beat teams with his legs.

His final performance was the 2012 BCS Championship against Alabama, and after yet another year of offensive struggles, fans called for him to play over Jarrett Lee. Les Miles complied and rode Jefferson all the way to a 21-0 blowout.

I never thought I'd see the day where LSU fans miss Jordan Jefferson. Nor did I think I'd see the day when an LSU offense looked worse than it did against Alabama. I saw both on Saturday.

That's not at all a shot at Alabama's defense, or saying that this year's Gators defense is better than last year's Tide defense. I'm just saying that LSU's offense was the worst I have ever seen.

True, the Tigers scored six points against the Gators and none against Alabama. But this time, the Tigers didn't just fail to move the ball like they did against Alabama, they consistently went backwards. Whether it be due to penalties, sacks, negative rushes or by other means, the Tigers just kept backing themselves up and always left the Gators in great field position.


Of course, Florida does have a great defense as well, and they used a system of complicated schemes to get to new QB Zach Mettenberger.

The one thing Muschamp has always prided himself on above all others is his ability to confuse offensive linemen with a dizzying array of blitz packages and stunts. After the first drive of the game, the Gators settled down and began executing on defense with near perfection. All of Muschamp's packages worked, but in particular, the stunts by the front seven were what won the game for Florida. LSU's thin offensive line had no chance to stay with the speed and strength the Gators put out there to begin with, so they certainly didn't need to deal with complicated techniques as well.

My personal favorite stunt was the one where linebacker Jon Bostic lined up on the line of scrimmage, started going left at the snap, where three other Gators were already blitzing, making LSU's offensive line think it was going to be a right side blitz (from their point of view), and then went straight forward through the a-gap to get an easy sack of Mettenberger.

But it didn't matter which particular stunt the Gators dialed up because they all worked to the tune of four sacks and numerous other negative plays.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Gators' offensive line—once criticized by Muschamp for being soft—has indeed become a strength the way Muschamp said it would after spring practice. The line constantly made holes for Mike Gillislee to run through. The Gators didn't hit the home run in the run game, but Gillislee still finished with 146 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 34 carries against the supposed stifling LSU defense.

Jeff Driskel didn't exactly have a career day, but he still made the plays when he needed to, including a third and short conversion... and speaking of making plays, welcome back Omarius Hines. The senior had a big day catching balls in the flat and getting some yards after the catch. This was a killer for LSU, who had enough to worry about in the trenches with Gillislee to begin with. The Tigers' heads kept bouncing back and forth between the sidelines and between the hashmarks, and when a team is guessing like that instead of simply reacting, it's never a good sign.

Finally, it appears like the Gators have the type of team that Will Muschamp wanted to build: a nasty defense that generates sacks and turnovers, an offense that consistently moves the chains and gives the defense a rest, and a genuine leader at QB who manages the game and every now and then makes a huge play.

This is how Nick Saban has won two BCS Championships at Alabama, and another at LSU, and just like we saw with Saban in his first year at Alabama, his players initially struggled with the changes he brought to the tune of a 7-6 season, but ran off 12 straight wins the following year.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

The Gators went 7-6 last year under Nick Saban's prime assistant in his first year, didn't they? Now that the players seem to have the system down pat, the Gators are 5-0 and No. 4 in the country, right?