The Florida Gators had the life sucked out of them in Death Valley when the LSU Tigers defeated them 17-6 last weekend. Football is said to be a game of inches, and over the course of 60 minutes there are a handful of plays that change the course of the game, and those plays are what the big play breakdown will dive into.
Editor’s note: Florida defines an explosive play as any running play that go for 12 or more yards and any pass play that goes for 16 or more yards. So let’s take a look at a few of those plays and the scoring drives while diagramming what went right on the key plays that made them successful. Finally, we look at turnovers forced by the Florida defense because on that side of the ball, those are usually the biggest plays of all. At the end, we’ll look at a critical error as well as Florida’s play of the game.
Series No.1: nine plays, 70 yards, 4:32 time elapsed, LSU touchdown to take a 7-3 lead.
On first and 10 the Tigers ran a play that ended up gaining 25 yards when quarterback Zach Mettenberger found Odell Beckham Jr. on the right side.
The play succeeded for a few reasons, most notably because Mettenberger had all day (a full three seconds) to set his feet and fire the ball to Beckham.
The play went for extra yardage because Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy missed a tackle, allowing Beckham yards after the catch.
As you see, the throw from Mettenberger is perfectly placed, which carries Beckham into a position where Purifoy has no chance to break on the ball for an interception.
Beckham shows a great (and risky) skill for a receiver in making a cut while catching the ball
Notice how Beckham’s weight is shifted, he’s already making a move in the middle of his catch.
Beckham is tackled near the red zone, and then Florida defensive tackle Darious Cummings compounds things with a bad roughing the passer penalty.
The Tigers picked things up at Florida’s 11 yard line and ended up scoring on a simple goal line run a few plays later.
On the scoring play, we see LSU’s left guard Vadal Alexander pulling to the outside while the rest of the left side of LSU’s offensive line crashes down.
Alexander seals off Florida linebacker Neiron Ball, and fullback J.C. Copeland scores.
Series No. 2: eight plays, 62 yards, 4:14 time elapsed, LSU touchdown extending the Tigers lead to 14-3.
The backbreaker on this drive? Odell Beckham beat Loucheiz Purifoy (again) for a 22 yard gain.
As the Tigers get to the line of scrimmage you see the perfect matchup on the backside — their best receiver (Beckham one-on-one with the weakest of Florida’s three cover corners (Purifoy).
You can see how Purifoy maintains outside leverage with his shuffle step, and Beckham stays just inside of him, and whips around to catch the ball.
It’s perfectly timed (Mettenberger had the ball out while Beckham’s back was turned to him) and just like that the Tigers are again near Florida’s red zone. It’s interesting to note that these plays are not supposed to happen on the Gators defense. It was third and 17 against a Florida team that has feasted on offenses that get behind the chains.
Watch as the Tigers score on another short yardage play where they put tackle Josh Boutte in a four-point stance like a defensive tackle and run backup quarterback Anthony Jennings right behind him for the 1-yard touchdown.
If you notice, Florida places three players to clog the two inside “A” gaps, leaving some room for Jennings to ease into the end zone with no down lineman in the “B” gap.
Series No. 3: 9 plays 61 yards, 04:13 time elapsed, LSU field goal to extend the Tigers lead to 17-6.
The big play that sprung this drive had everything to do with LSU asserting its will in the second half.
On this play, LSU lines up in the I-formation with fullback J.C. Copeland the lead blocker for running back Jeremy Hill. Each each LSU lineman blocks an assigned defender.
Copeland’s block downfield on Florida safety Cody Riggs is just icing on this run’s cake.
Other explosive plays:
Jeremy Hill: 16 yard rush.
Jeremy Hill: 30 yard reception.
Terrance Magee: 17 yard reception.
Jarvis Landry: 29 yard reception.
Let’s focus on the Magee and Landry receptions because they’re very similar.
On the Magee catch, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison doesn’t have egregiously poor coverage (especially from a linebacker perspective), but Mettenberger essentially throws Magee open with a back shoulder pass.
The Landry back shoulder was thrown a bit off-target and much better defended by a more natural pass defender in Vernon Hargreaves III, but the concept is the same. Run to a spot, and the ball will be there when you turn around. It’s something the Tigers have practiced hundreds of times, and when ran to perfection, it’s nearly impossible to defend.
With a better throw, Hargreaves would have been rendered powerless to stop the pass, but as you can see, Landry has to wrestle it from the freshman’s grasp.
Turnovers: LSU fumble.
On the very next play, you see Florida get its only turnover of the day when the ball slips out of Mettenberger’s hand
LSU’s center Elliot Porter also fails to block Florida defensive lineman Leon Orr.
As is usually the case with fumble recoveries, Orr is in the right place, at the right time to jump on the ball.
Critical error: Darious Cumming’s roughing the passer penalty in the first quarter.
Thanks to a missed tackle by Purifoy it was already a costly play, and Cummings made it even worse when he made the fatal error of hitting Mettenberger after taking two full steps then driving through the signal caller after he had released the ball.
Defensive Play of the game: Leon Orr’s fumble recovery.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and that’s what happened when Orr pounced on the Mettenberger fumble. At the time, LSU was leading 7-3, and the Tigers had put together a decent drive that petered out before it could get points in the beginning of the game, as well as a scoring drive. Florida needed to get LSU off the field before the Tigers could do more early game damage, and thanks to some Mettenberger butterfingers and a stroke of luck, the Gators pulled it off.
So there it is. The big plays, scoring drives and turnovers that went into Florida’s loss in Death Valley at the hands of the LSU Tigers.
Screenshots taken from SEC football games video.