The No. 22 Florida Gators faced their toughest test yet as the No. 5 LSU Tigers came to town for the SEC Game of the Week. Florida made plays in all phases of the game in an absolutely electric atmosphere to come away with a 27-19 victory.
The Gators made a statement in a game that held high stakes for both teams. These are a few of our most notable observations from the matchup.
1. Some guys earned money on defense
Florida’s defense had a strange day against LSU. There were times it seemed the Tigers could do whatever they wanted and have success. Then, there were times the Gators completely took over.
While the defense wasn’t perfect, it came up big when it counted.
Junior linebacker Vosean Joseph led the attack as he put up career highs in nearly every statistical category, from tackles (14) to tackles for loss (3.5) to sacks (2).
Joseph has had LSU’s number for a while now, dating back to the huge hit he laid on quarterback Danny Etling back in 2016. He officially put that in the past with an incredible performance on Saturday.
Joe Burrow surely has a few not-so-sweet dreams starring Joseph on the way.
Jachai Polite will probably make an appearance in those nightmares as well. The junior defensive end has steadily been increasing his stock all season, and that did not stop against LSU.
He joined Joseph with a pair of sacks, along with six tackles, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.
His strip sack in the first quarter didn’t result in any Florida points, but it may have changed the direction of the game. The Tigers already had a relatively easy touchdown drive under their belts and were driving again in Florida territory before turning it over.
Had the Gators gone down 14-0, or even 10-0, at that point, it would have been much harder to regain momentum.
Along with those guys, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Brad Stewart and Donovan Stiner were all strong in the secondary. Gardner-Johnson was all over the field as he finished with 11 tackles while Stewart and Stiner came up with back-to-back picks to put the game to bed and settle the DBU debate, at least for this year.
The Swamp is BACK
Dan Mullen has been preaching since the day he arrived that Florida fans needed to step up and make Ben Hill Griffin Stadium one of the most intimidating environments in college football again.
It did not disappoint on Saturday. 90,283 Florida faithful packed the stands for the first sellout since 2015.
Gainesville started rocking hours before kickoff and the party is still going. From Louis Murphy leading Mr. Two Bits to Tim Tebow being inducted into the Ring of Honor to the Tigers coming in with a Top 5 ranking, it was the perfect storm to get fans excited to cheer on the Gators again.
The fans were hyped, the players were hyped, even Dan Mullen was hyped. He came out of the tunnel with a contagious energy and that carried all the way into the fourth quarter when he went out onto the field to pump up the crowd with the Gators needing a big stop.
Florida has a passionate fan base, and it deserves a passionate coach. There is no doubt it has one now.
When The Swamp is alive, there is no other place in the country like it. Environments like the one Saturday are steps back in that direction.
3. Perine is becoming Florida’s most reliable running back
The Gators didn’t rely on freshman Dameon Pierce to come in and close out the game against the Tigers, but then again, they didn’t need him to.
Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett had those duties covered.
Florida continues to use Scarlett as the monster he is to come in, run people over and gain the tough yards, but it seems Mullen is leaning more and more on Perine.
He led the Gators with 17 carries for 85 yards (five yards per carry) and scored two of Florida’s three touchdowns.
Perine rushed the ball four times in a row to get Florida to the LSU 1-yard line, and he got it again on third down to put it in the end zone and tie up the game early in the second quarter.
His second score didn’t come until the fourth quarter, but it was the one that eventually sealed the deal. After Florida got to LSU’s 2-yard line on another one of those trick plays Mullen pulled out of his pocket, Perine punched it in to take a 20-19 lead.
With so much depth in the backfield this season, some thought Perine might get lost in the mix. He just continues to prove why he didn’t.