LSU’s offensive struggles vs. Florida far surpass final play, toss dive
Saturday’s final play was less the culprit than a nutshell.
LSU snapped the ball from Florida’s 1-yard line, tossed to running back Derrius Guice and came up short of tying and likely beating the Gators as time expired.
The Tigers’ offense had left much more to be desired for four quarters of a miscue-riddled afternoon for both sides, though, than simply an understandably frustrating conclusion to the 16-10 defeat.
“We can’t put the result of the game on one play,” senior fullback John David Moore said. “That wouldn’t be fair to anybody on this team. Really, yeah, he was supposed to go the other way, but at the end of the day, it comes down to everybody on this team.”
Interim coach Ed Orgeron and his players stuck by the decision to go with the toss dive — a staple, if not trademark, of former coach Les Miles’ frequently criticized offenses.
“I mean, if I had thought of anything different, then I would’ve spoke up and said, ‘Eehh, maybe not,’ but I thought it was a good call,” junior quarterback Danny Etling said. “Unfortunately, again, we just didn’t execute right, and unfortunately we came up short.”
The issue far surpassed a lone play-call or execution on the goal line.
The empty red-zone possession was just the last of five trips inside the Gators’ 10-yard line that netted just one touchdown, one field goal, a fumble and two failed fourth-down plays.
LSU out-gained Florida, 423 yards to 270, and had 23 first downs to its visitor’s 14.
But even impressive-looking drives stalled in the red zone more often than they succeeded.
“It’s frustrating, but that just comes down to finishing,” Etling said. “That’s something we’ve emphasized. We were really rolling on offense. Unfortunately when you come up short and you don’t get any points because it’s a turnover or a miscue, it’s frustrating and it’s unfortunate.”
Leading 7-3 at the time, the Tigers marched 68 yards on 10 plays down to the 7-yard line early in the second quarter only to fumble the ball away.
“I thought that was the difference in the game right there — or one of the turning points in the game,” Orgeron said. “Up 7-3, we go up 14-3 with the great defense we have, we could do some things to move the football and take care of the clock. We just didn’t get it done.”
LSU appeared on pace to finally extend the same lead on the third quarter’s opening drive with eight plays for 74 yards down to the 1-yard line.
But the Gators stuffed a hobbled Leonard Fournette for a loss from the 1-yard line on third down and defended well a potentially confusing fourth-down pass as snapper Josh Growden mishandled the hold and heaved the ball into a crowd in the end zone.
Florida quarterback Austin Appleby found Tyrie Cleveland for a 98-yard, go-ahead score on the next play — the program’s longest-ever passing play against an SEC opponent — and momentum never completely shifted back the Tigers’ direction.
“Execution on a lot of things,” junior wide receiver D.J. Chark said. “We were fighting hard, but it’s not all about just fighting hard sometimes. You’ve gotta execute, and we weren’t. At times we were, but we’d get the ball down close to the end zone and we wouldn’t capitalize. You can’t do that. And that’s something that we have to work on.
“I feel like if we capitalize on those times we got the ball down into the red zone, it wouldn’t have been close. But we didn’t, and we came out on the wrong end of it.”
LSU had to settle for a game-tying field goal to cap an 11-play, 79-yard drive split between the third and fourth quarters.
The Gators regained a 13-10 lead with a field goal on its next possession, recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return and doubled its advantage to 16-10.
Etling, Guice, Chark and company rolled 74 yards on 12 plays with their next and final possession.
But the Tigers once again found a frustration awaiting at the goal line on a familiar call that more continued a disappointing theme than it did cost them the game.
“The turnovers, not executing at the right time, poor red-zone play, obviously the turnover on the field goals, that and the botched snap hurt us,” Orgeron said. “We didn’t play well on special teams tonight. Field position hurt us. Give Florida credit. They’re a very good defense, but so are we. We should’ve won that football game with better execution.”
Jerit Roser can be reached at Jerit@DatBoot.com.