While No. 4 LSU will present a tough challenge in every phase for No. 10 Florida, it’s the Gators’ offense that will face the toughest task on Saturday. The young group appears to have made a remarkable turnaround from the past two seasons, but its first true test this year will be against the feisty Tigers who have one of college football’s best defenses.
By Alex Gray
The Gators’ offense only managed to put up 11 points on the Tigers’ last season, and this year the Bayou Bengals will bring an even more mature and experienced group into The Swamp for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
The positive news for Florida is its offense is also a more experienced group.
With new offensive coordinator Brent Pease in the booth this season, the Gators have begun to resemble the Florida offense of old, with a number of big plays boosting the team to a 4-0 start and once again creating a buzz amongst fans and media alike.
On Tuesday, Pease spoke with reporters about LSU’s stingy group, his football mentors and what the offense will need to do to emerge victorious on Saturday.
While some around the Florida program have downplayed the Gators’ showdown against LSU as a measuring stick game, Pease was not shy about stating the game’s significance.
“It’s obviously a signature game for us,” said Pease.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us to see what we’re up against or how we handle being against a ranked team — a team that’s got talent across the board.”
The Tigers have been perhaps the biggest topic of discussion in college football circles this week, as many are unsure of what to make of the team that has seemingly struggled against teams they were supposed to defeat handily over the past couple of weeks.
Despite the Tigers’ troubles, the defense has still shown what they’re capable of, as they’ve held opponents to an average of 12.6 points per game. Pease said on Tuesday that it’s hard not to be impressed with what they’ve put on film.
Pease cited Tigers defensive linemen Josh Downs and Barkevious Mingo as players who jumped out on film. He was especially praising of Mingo, calling him a “great, great player.” Pease said what makes the Tigers’ front so special is not only their ability to rush the passer, but also the fact that they can be seen running 10-15 yards up field to make a tackle on a receiver.
While some coaches and players may not want to admit they’re not going to win every battle on game day, Pease had no problems admitting the truth.
“The defense that we’re gonna go against, they’re gonna win some battles out there,” Pease said.
“There’s no doubt about it. After that, its how our kids handle the situation … we can’t be in a lot of third-and-long situations.”
The Gators will certainly hope to avoid getting into any third down situations on Saturday, but if they do, it’s not just sacks they’ll have to worry about according to Pease.
“Yeah no doubt they take out so much of a coverage situation because they get to you so fast,” Pease said.
“Its not that maybe they’re sacking you all the time but, its just that they’re moving you around in the pocket, and when you start having to move your eyes become different as a quarterback to where you’re really trying to focus and going on time and rhythm — its disruptive.”
O-Line Up To The Task
Of all the units on the team, none will be looked at under a bigger microscope than the Gators’ offensive line. The group has certainly played well up to this point in the season, but their first true test will be on Saturday. On Monday Gators coach Will Muschamp and quarterback Jeff Driskel said the line will be up to the challenge on Saturday, and Pease echoed their thoughts on Tuesday.
“I think they’ve been good every week,” Pease said of the offensive front.
“I think they have improved. We went from an eight-sack game to no sacks. They’re always up for a challenge — that’s how they are. They don’t complain. We don’t have great, great depth. You’d like to have 12 guys, we have about nine guys we’re rolling with … they do a lot of work in practice … They’re led by the guys in front you know, Jon (Harrison) and (Jon) Halapio, and the young guys kind of fall in to place with them — I appreciate the fact of how they approach each day.”
Not Worried About Gillislee
When Pease was asked if the Gators would be limiting running back Mike Gillislee at all considering his injuries earlier this season, Pease made it emphatically clear they wouldn’t.
“We’re gonna do what we gotta do,” said Pease.
“If he’s gotta carry it 30 times this game, carry it 30. [If] he’s gotta carry it 12, carry it 12, whatever it takes to win. He’s 22, he’s got good youth in him. I look at it like the NFL — if a guy wants to play at the next level, you better be able to handle it 25 times a game — how strong are you in the fourth quarter?”
Pease went on to compare the senior rusher to one of his former players who is currently playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
“I think the kid’s good,” Pease said. “I compared him to Doug Martin when we were at Boise State. Doug Martin carried it 25-30 times a game and I don’t see any difference between Mike — he can handle that. Mike’s good at avoiding people, he’s not taking direct hits all the time. He knows how to protect himself — any good running back does.”
• Pease said that the Gators try to stay consistent with their bank of plays. He said the Gators aim to have at least 75 plays per game.
• Pease also said that both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett have input on game plans and play installation based on what they see off of film study.