LSU gets back to winning vs. Florida


LSU won its first SEC game of the season last night. Importantly, that puts to bed the admittedly a little left of field notion that LSU would go winless in the conference. The Tigers didn’t look worlds better than they had in weeks past, but LSU lucked into having the ball last and nailed the game-winning field goal with :03 to spare on the clock.

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Let’s be clear, neither of these teams looked good last night. The only reason why it became so exciting at the end was because each team’s ineptitude at something essentially begged the other team to win it. We’ve already recapped how LSU got to 30-27, but it won’t win any awards for beautiful football play. Exciting, though, it was and it was just what LSU needed.

Anthony Jennings got the start and went the entire distance. He completed just under 50% of his passes and played much as he has in every other start. There were times where he again held the ball far too long, resulting in sacks or incomplete passes. His accuracy was, literally, hit or miss. Jennings overthrew a couple balls, but on the bright side he was able to hit the shorter throws a bit better. Fullback Melvin Jones had 4 catches out of the backfield, adding a dimension that Jennings hadn’t had previously.

Oct 11, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Travin Dural (83) catches the ball for a touchown over Florida Gators defensive back Brian Poole (24) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Florida Gators 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Travin Dural had the best catch of the season to date. His one-handed grab to bring LSU in front 27-24 late in the fourth was an absolute thing of beauty. Jennings does continue to solely look for Dural, either by habit or design, but they were only able to connect deep once. They saved the deep ball for an opportune time, as Dural hauled in a 3rd-and-22 near the sideline, with the Gator secondary missing an assignment deep.

The real story on offense was Leonard Fournette. I saw Carter Bryant say this first on Twitter, but it’s true: The best decision Miles made last night was to let Fournette be the workhorse. Running back by committee works, but Fournette is separating himself from the pack. He is LSU’s best player and should get every available carry. Fournette’s 140 yards on 27 carries was his best outing yet.

I wonder what this team would look like if it wasn’t playing from behind. LSU has been outscored 51-7 to start SEC games this year. That’s been a combination of offensive ineptitude mixed with a defense unable to stop big plays.

No doubt Florida’s own offensive struggles helped the LSU defense begin to pull itself back together. The Gators finished the night with 306 total yards of offense, with 73 of that coming on the deep bomb to Demarcus Robinson that led Florida to kicking the tying field goal.

All in all it was a solid defensive performance. Jeff Driskel added his name to the list of QB’s who’ve been able to run well against LSU, but the Tigers held the Gator running backs to just 16 yards. The big play continues to be a problem, the aforementioned 73 yard pass the most damaging, but LSU played better. Kwon Alexander was phenomenal while Rickey Jefferson atoned for a dropped INT vs. Auburn with an INT of Driskel that set up LSU’s game winning field goal.

I don’t think much can be taken from this game as far as on the field improvements. The offense still isn’t that much better outside of letting Fournette do Fournette things. The passing game is atrocious. Anthony Jennings is who he is, which is a guy who doesn’t turn the ball over much but not much else. Harris scared the coaches bad enough last week that he didn’t see the field this week. The defense has good parts, but continues to be liable in the run game and gives up entirely too many big plays.

“It was immensely classic battle in The Swamp,” Miles said.

There were much needed psychological gains in this game. LSU got a win in the conference. That’s something to build on. While there didn’t seem to be many obvious improvements this week, the team is so young that it is going to get better and the psychological boost from getting that win will accelerate the schedule.

LSU now gets Kentucky at home. The Wildcats are much improved, but LSU could get back to .500 in conference. I think Les Miles needs to get Brandon Harris back on the field somehow, because he’s too good and has too much upside to be abandoned until later in the year or even next season. The defense needs to continue to limit big plays and show more improvement against the run.

The mantra for these Tigers is the old coach’s cliché, “One game at a time.”