BATON ROUGE, La — The No. 8 Florida Gators dropped a close game on the road to the No. 6 LSU Tigers. Despite the loss the Gators are still in the driver’s seat in the SEC East as they head into a bye week before taking on Georgia in a game that will go a long way in determining who will represent the East in the SEC Championship game.
Here are five things we learned about the Florida Gators in their 35-28 loss to the LSU Bayou Bengals.
1. The Gators have their swagger and confidence back
A year ago the Gators would have rolled over.
Florida has just scored quickly — it turned out too quickly — and swung momentum back their way before the LSU Tigers flipped the script and scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass with just seconds to go before halftime.
The easy thing to do in the locker room at halftime would have been to point fingers, give up, just go through the motions in the second half and cruise into the bye week.
Florida never quit. They came out in the second half and controlled the ball game for most of the half; they just couldn’t dig themselves out of the first half hole they had dug.
Jim McElwain hasn’t been around these players for very long but he’s gotten his team to buy into his program, his way of doing things and they’re starting to come together for each other. It’s a refreshing site to see a team that wasn’t picked to win by many get into a hole and still go down punching.
There is no quit in the Gators.
2. A star in the making
He introduced himself in a remarkable game-winning touchdown run and catch against Tennessee but that was just the tip of the iceberg for the freshman from Miami.
Callaway had a one-handed, 48-yard catch in the second quarter that was SportsCenter’s No. 3 top play of the night and a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown against LSU on Saturday night. Callaway had three receptions for 100 yards (the second 100-yard receiving game of his seven game career).
Florida got in late on Callaway in the recruiting process, but he’s going to be a good one for the Gators.
3. Gators are missing Alex Anzalone
Anzalone is the Gators best linebacker in pass coverage, but without him the group is playing thin and LSU’s power rushing attack took advantage of that.
Without Anzalone, Florida struggled to play with three linebackers on the field and had to play a lot of nickel and dime, sliding Marcus Maye down into the box rather than being able to play a true 4-3 defense.
With Georgia and their power rushing attack coming up next, Florida will have to figure out a way to fit the run better without Anzalone in the middle of the defense.
4. Florida should be the favorite in the East
Georgia squeaked out a 9-6 win over Missouri — all but mathematically eliminating the Tigers from the SEC East race. Georgia is 3-2 in conference play and Kentucky is 2-2. At 4-1 Florida is in command in the SEC East. A win over Georgia would almost clinch the SEC and that’s not a position that anyone thought they would be in at this point of the season.
Moving forward, and considering how Florida has been playing football, the Gator should be favorites in the rest of their conference games this season (Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt).
The Gators haven’t been to Atlanta since 2009 but they should be packing their bags for the SEC Championship game pretty soon.
5. Harris is good enough to lead Florida
The headline this week surrounded Will Grier and his NCAA suspension for taking a banned substance.
Many counted the Gators out with Treon Harris taking over for Grier, but they forgot to mention that Harris had made more starts for the Gators than LSU quarterback Brandon Harris had made for LSU.
Harris’ deficiencies showed, he doesn’t anticipate his receivers getting open very well and he doesn’t throw his receivers open, rather waiting for them to make their cut before throwing the ball. However, Harris took care of the football. He threw the ball away when he needed to throw it away, he slid when tacklers were coming downhill at him and he didn’t turn the ball over.
Florida’s defense is good enough to keep the Gators in the game every Saturday as long as the offense doesn’t turn the ball over. Harris only needs to manage the football game, not turn the ball over and he’s more than capable of doing that for Florida.