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October 13, 2013
Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 17-6 loss to SEC West opponent LSU.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
In a game with so little offense to choose from, freshman running back Kelvin Taylor made the most noise. He saw the most work of his young career, getting 10 carries on the afternoon after sophomore Matt Jones was knocked from the game with a left knee injury, and made the most of his opportunity. Taylor accumulated 52 yards on those 10 touches and looked explosive at times, but he was far from perfect on Saturday. Though he is a young player, he struggled in pass protection and forgot to block on one play that resulted in a sack of redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy; had he made the block, Murphy likely would've thrown a touchdown.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Florida's cornerbacks got beat by LSU's wide receivers, and the Tigers' offensive line manhandled the Gators' defensive front. The only UF defender who truly stood out was redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor, who continued to show great effort and even made a couple of important tackles in the game. Taylor finished with 10 tackles.
UNSUNG HEROES OF THE GAME
Has Florida found its kicker? Redshirt junior walk-on Frankie Velez, who had never attempted a field goal in a game let alone converted a try, made two on Saturday including one from 44 yards out. His kicks were strong and accurate, and he was not rattled by playing the first game of his career in an incredibly pressurized environment like Tiger Stadium. With redshirt freshman Austin Hardin struggling and senior Brad Phillips obviously not up to snuff, Velez may be the answer the Gators have been searching for all season.
STAT LINES OF THE GAME
2.8 and 4.3?the average yards per carry and completion Florida registered on Saturday. The Gators failed to move the ball on the ground or in the air, and the Tigers did an especially superb job shutting down UF's run game. It was the third time this season that Florida averaged 2.8 yards per carry (and gained fewer than 150 total yards on the ground). The others were against Miami (another loss) and Arkansas. LSU's defense also did a great job forcing Murphy to keep his throws short or behind the line of scrimmage. UF played East-West rather than North-South and simply could not produce any chunk yardage to make a difference in the game.
ON THE RISE
Murphy struggled against the Tigers and had his worst performance in the only four games of his career but did well enough to keep his stock pointing upward. Not only did he not turn the ball over despite being sacked four times and pressured on five other occasions, Murphy also made something out of nothing on a couple plays and proved that he can still be poised in a tough environment. Though Saturday's game may have been a bit of a step backward for him in production, it was a step forward in development.
ON THE BUBBLE
The specialists have locked down a near-permanent place on the bubble all season, and it is junior punter Kyle Christy's turn to be featured in this spot. Christy was terrible on Saturday. He did average 44.0 yards per punt with a long of 50, but he failed to pin LSU deep on two separate occasions (instead booming the ball deep into the end zone) and punted with low hang time and unimpressive distance when Florida badly needed to flip field position. Head coach Will Muschamp said after the game that he seriously considered pulling the redshirt off freshman Johnny Townsend during Saturday's contest. It would be a shocker if Townsend is not starting at punter next week.
For a UF team that has been completely fooled by fakes and trickeration all season, the Gators actually snuffed one out on Saturday by blowing up an attempted double pass by the Tigers. LSU wound up committing a penalty on the play anyway, but Florida nevertheless did a good job being aware of what was going on. No surprise that occurred with the defense on the field and not the special teams unit.
For a team that preaches toughness and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, Florida was outclassed in both areas on Saturday. LSU simply dominated the visitors and gave the Gators a taste of their own medicine considering that is exactly what they did to the Tigers when the teams met in 2012. Florida has consistently dominated unranked opponents and dropped big games to ranked opponents (1-4 in the last five games against such teams). It is a major problem for the Gators, and Muschamp does not seem to have an answer for it at this point in time.
PLAY OF THE GAME
UF's two positive plays came on flipped responsibilities. Murphy's surprise pooch punt went 36 yards and settled at the LSU one-yard line. Christy's fake punt pass was completed to redshirt junior LB Neiron Ball for a 14-yard first down reception. Both were impressive and would've been major highlights in a victory. In a loss, they're simply footnotes.
THE GOOD NEWS
There's not too many positives that can be taken from Saturday's game aside from the fact that Florida only has one SEC loss as does nearly every team in its division. (More in "A Look Ahead" below.) Taylor certainly looked capable at running back and should get more carries going forward but that would likely only occur if Jones is out or at least limited with his knee injury.
THE BAD NEWS
The Gators once again wasted an opportunity to register a big victory against a highly-ranked opponent. Florida's offense looked lost, the hard-nosed offensive and defensive lines appeared soft, and the Gators' defense, while it limited the Tigers to their lowest offensive outputs of the season, was gashed up front. Florida's front seven allowed LSU to average 4.5 yards per touch as the hosts registered 175 yards on 39 carries.
A LOOK AHEAD
Florida may have lost an SEC game, but it still has a great opportunity to take charge of its division. UF heads to Columbia, MO, next Saturday to face a 14th-ranked Missouri team that is undefeated on the season and just pulled off an upset victory over Georgia. The Gators can still win the SEC East and get to the SEC Championship game - their goals are in front of them - but it all starts with a win against a different group of Tigers.