Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was rockin’ on Saturday because it was witnessing something they hadn’t seen in a while. You see, it had been three years since the Florida Gators last beat two ranked teams in back-to-back games and that was, also, the last time the Gators beat a ranked team at home.
Saturday’s win over LSU was the next rung on the Gators ladder climb back to relevance and “being back”.
While it wasn’t always pretty, the Gators beat the number five team in the country – an undefeated cross-conference rival in a very emotional game that was close from beginning to end.
On paper, this was probably the Gators most “complete” game (with the defensive side of the ball certainly earning a bit more kudos) of the season. They had a good rushing offense; delivered when they needed to through the air; were able to get to the quarterback on defense, and for the most part, hindered LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and limited the big play.
At 5-1 halfway through the season, the Gators sit in a position with more wins than last season already and almost control their own destiny making it back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
Now I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there is a reason to feel optimism in Dan Mullen’s first year.
Let’s look at the numbers that defined the Gators win over LSU and the season thus far.
- The Gators have started the season with 5+ yards per play each game for the first time since 2009.
- Third and Grantham? Mississippi State and LSU combined to go 6-of-29 over the last two games. LSU was just 4-of-17.
- The Gators rank third in the country in sacks on the season with 20. Last season, for comparison, they only had 23.
- Over the last three games, the Gators are only allowing on average 9 points in the second half of the game – last season they averaged nearly 14.
- The Gators rank 8th in the country in scoring defense.
- The Gators are averaging 57.7 more yards per game than their opponents on offense, which is +70 yards per game over opponent averages last season.
- The Gators have four players averaging more than five yards a carry (at least 10 carries): Scarlett (5), Perine (5.5), Pierce (10.6), and Toney (9.8)
- The Gators are 43rd in the country in yards per play (6.22). They have not ranked that high on offense since 2009 (6.97).
- The Gators rank fourth in the country in points per game allowed against ranked competition – 17.3 points per game. They average 5.8 points allowed in the first half, which is the fourth-fewest points allowed in FBS.
- The Gators rushed more the most yards LSU allowed all season (215) and yards per play (5.51).
- The Gators have now matched takeaways this season (17) to last season and currently sit second in the nation.
- Jachai Polite leads the country in forced fumbles (4). The Gators are fourth the country with 14 forced fumbles and lead the nation in fumble recoveries (11).
- The Gators have played three ranked opponents and are holding them to 146.7 yards per game passing, which is the lowest amongst any team with two or more games versus ranked opponents by 28 yards.
- Through six games, the Gators have nearly three times as many punt return yards (180) than last season (66).