The Florida-LSU game was supposed to be a hard-hitting close game, and it lived up to billing. It wasn’t the prettiest game on record, but it was still a win that redefined what Dan Mullen might be able to accomplish in only his first year on the job. Here is what the advanced stats have to say about the huge victory in the Swamp.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. It does not include the quick possessions Florida had that ran out the clock in each half.
Everyone has a different definition for what counts as an “explosive play”, but I go with runs of at least ten yards and passes of at least 20 yards.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
Three of LSU’s four scoring drives contained at least one explosive play; the one that didn’t was an 18-yard field goal drive that began on the Florida 42. All three of the Gators’ scoring drives contained at least one explosive play. Each team had a scoring opportunity killed by a turnover on a drive when an explosive play had put them inside the opponent’s 40-yard-line.
You can envision these plays. The big completion LSU began the game with. Lamical Perine taking option pitches for nice, longer gains. Joe Burrow’s 21-yard scramble on 3rd & 1. Feleipe Franks hitting Josh Hammond right before the half. Nick Brossette’s personal three play, 79-yard series. Franks hitting Van Jefferson to spark the final touchdown drive.
They were not sufficient, as a few explosive plays for each team came in otherwise unremarkable drives. However, they basically were necessary for either team to score except for the one great field position instance for the Tigers.
The most important number here is the 5.1% for LSU’s explosive passing rate. The Tigers throw a lot of longer, contested balls, but not a lot of them hit in this game.
Part of why they do it, I think, is to draw pass interference flags with their big receivers. However Florida only had one DPI flag, and it prevented a catch that would’ve been longer than 15 yards. There were some big drops from the Tiger receivers, especially late, but the coverage on those longer passes was good enough to keep them from getting any truly back-breaking completions.
The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
That is not a misprint. The Gators really were that efficient on the ground. Jordan Scarlett padded the number a bit on the late clock-eating series with four success runs in six attempts, but even without those half-dozen runs UF still ended up at 50%. The fact they were able to be well above average in rushing efficiency against that LSU defense is impressive.
Just as impressive is the Tigers’ below average rushing success rate, although it’s mostly reflective of the Gators shutting down one of the running backs. Brossette got his with a 53.3% rate on 15 carries, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire only had a 30.8% success rate on 13 rushes. UF was a little fortunate in a way, then, that LSU didn’t lean more on Brossette.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
The Gators returned to their old pattern from the early season of being terribly inefficient in the first quarter and then really getting things going in the second. Both teams took a hit to efficiency after the half, but Florida managed to turn it around in the fourth quarter.
LSU did too at first, with Brossette’s heroic touchdown drive coming early in the final frame. Brossette never touched the ball again though, as the following Tiger drive went to Edwards-Helaire and the final two drives that ended in interceptions were entirely composed of passing plays. The choice to go with Edwards-Helaire instead of riding Brossette’s hot hand, especially given how much better the latter was throughout the whole game, was a curious choice that may have helped seal the LSU loss.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
So, look. Franks did not have a Heisman performance. He was very off with his throws in the first quarter. His pick was brutal and set back the offense’s momentum for a quarter. Mullen spoke in his halftime interview of him also not running hard enough in the first half.
But Franks took some shots from the defense and kept getting up. He did run harder in the second half, and he made the right reads on option plays. He had a pair of beautiful tosses to Hammond that put the team into scoring position each time.
Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t take a sack. Some of that is a credit to the offensive line, but the line did not have as good a game as it did the last two weeks. The one pick aside, Franks didn’t make any debilitating mistakes, and he didn’t take a ton of sacks like Burrow did. The Tiger quarterback completed more passes, but all those sacks helped make the passing success rates be nearly the same.
After being mostly invisible for the first four weeks of the season, Hammond has come on strongly in the last two weeks. As I noted in my offensive film study piece last week, the reason for Hammond emerging against Mississippi State was that Franks was forcing fewer throws to the outside where Jefferson and Cleveland often are and used more of the middle of the field. Hammond had some big catches against the Tigers near the sideline, though, but they weren’t at all forced. The specifics were different, but the root cause of Hammond coming up big again is the same: the quarterback is becoming more comfortable in the offense.
Jefferson made some impressive plays even if his numbers aren’t gaudy, and I remember thinking for the first time this year that this game showed why all the beat writers tabbed him as the team’s best wideout all offseason. Poor Cleveland couldn’t come up with a catch, but he made a number of other plays that contributed to the win. Also, this was easily Swain’s quietest game of the year.
It’s good that Jefferson and Hammond came up big because outside of them, the receiving was mainly done by tight ends and Perine. Grimes, Cleveland, Swain, and Toney combined for one catch on 11 targets. If you’d told me that would happen before the game, I wouldn’t have predicted a win. The emergence of the “Franks” guy as a receiver is promising, as the Gators could use a third receiver besides Swain and Hammond who averages at least 15 yards per catch.
For the second straight week, the two running backs were well out ahead in carries with Franks at or a little below half of what the backs had each. I think that’s a healthier balance than what we were seeing earlier this year, though Franks’s running was an asset at most times in this one.
Toney got the most work of any game this year as I suspected might happen. While he didn’t have any spectacular plays like he did with the touchdown pass against Mississippi State, he reliably moved the ball with a minimum rush of three yards. Even on the snap that went over his head, he still managed to get six of the lost yards back.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
The stats suggest that the game was about even in the field position phase. It was, but it wasn’t uniformly even throughout. The teams traded off having field position advantages, with Florida’s first touchdown and LSU’s second half field goal being the primary fruits of the transient imbalances.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive where the team has a first down at the opponent’s 40 or closer or where it scores from further out than that. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the opponent’s 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
LSU getting a bonus, largely pointless drive shortly before the half and Brad Stewart’s non-offensive touchdown are the reasons for the disparity in drive count. Both teams got points on all but one of their scoring opportunities, and LSU had more of them. It’s just that the Gators got three touchdowns to hit 20 points while the Tigers had two touchdowns and two field goals to hit 19.
Neither defense was particularly effective in the red zone. Every trip there turned into points except when Franks gifted LSU with his pick. You may recall from the efficiency section that the contestants had robust red zone success rates too. The game was dominated by defense, except when it wasn’t, which was when the offenses got to the red zone.
The teams each blew their single missed scoring opportunities via turnovers with the strip-sack of Burrow early on and Franks’s pick while being hit after the break. Florida slammed the door with Stewart’s pick-six and Donovan Stiner’s leaping interception. Burrow had been asking for his interception-less streak to end, particularly late against Auburn, and the Gators finally broke it.
The story going into the game was that Florida and LSU were roughly mirror images of each other. In a lot of ways, they were. The differences were where the game broke, and they broke in the Gators’ way.
Burrow took five sacks and Franks took none. The Tigers lacked their elite edge rusher after K’Lavon Chaisson went down for the year in Week 1, but Florida had its best edge rusher in Jachai Polite supplemented by another good game from Jabari Zuniga and Vosean Joseph’s career-best performance. UF has been on the wrong end of bad injury luck aplenty in the past half-decade, but it wasn’t in this one.
Both of the Gators’ running backs were able to be efficient, while only one of the Tigers’ was. Brossette may have been the best of any of them, but Perine’s explosiveness and Scarlett’s efficiency were a potent combination. The Gator defense was fast enough to keep Edwards-Helaire to the lowest yards per rush average and easily the lowest success rate among the four, and it would’ve been a very different game had he been able to get it going as well as the other three primary running backs did.
Those two facts speak to the Gator offensive line being the better of the two units in the game. They were not at their best, but they fought through it and did enough on three big scoring drives to secure the win. LSU’s patchwork line may have been better on a lot of plays, but its worst plays were utter disasters. The UF line had very few disasters.
And then, Mullen was able to find plays that worked well enough to put his team ahead in the first half and retake the lead late in the second. He found that speed option with Perine to be a winner, and Ed Orgeron and Dave Aranda never stopped it. The LSU offensive staff overthought itself into never feeding Brossette again after he gutted the Gator defense on the Tigers’ final touchdown drive. Todd Grantham went against his normal instincts by rushing only three at the end and not blitzing, but it not only generated sacks anyway but led to a pair of picks. The coaching edge went to Florida as well.
Had Stewart taken a dive before the end zone to let the offense kneel the clock out, it would’ve been a one-point win. That margin would’ve been entirely appropriate. These truly were evenly-matched teams that played very close all the way. Where the teams diverged, Florida had the advantage. That fact led to Mullen’s first signature win and an elevation of the 2018 season halfway through.