Tigers dismantle Gators
Published: Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. — In their quest to ascend back to where they were just two years ago, among the SEC's elite programs, the Florida Gators apparently are facing an Everest-like climb.
1. True freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who started in place of the injured Jeff Driskel (and John Brantley), threw a touchdown pass, but had no chance against the Tigers' fast and aggressive defense.
2. The Florida defensive front had no answer for tailback Spencer Ware and the Tigers' power running game. Ware rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
3. In back-to-back games against the nation's No. 2 and No. 1 teams, the Gators were outscored 79-21.
It was obvious after a 28-point loss to No. 2 Alabama last week.
It was even more obvious after a 30-point beatdown at the hands of No. 1 LSU on Saturday at Death Valley.
“We're at Florida,” a disconsolate Will Muschamp said after his team's 41-11 loss before 93,022 at Tiger Stadium. “We expect to be able to go into these games and play well.”
The No. 17 Gators fall to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. The Tigers improve to 6-0 and 3-0.
Just like a week ago, the Gators didn't even come close to playing well Saturday.
In back-to-back losses to the league's elite (Alabama and LSU), the Gators have been outscored 79-21.
That's not even competitive. Not even close.
Yes, the Gators had to start a true freshman at quarterback (Jacoby Brissett), who had not played a down coming into the game. But did it really matter?
Florida could have started Tom Brady at quarterback, and the result likely would have been the same. That's how dominant the Tigers were in all phases of the game.
The greatest mismatch came right where it did a week ago — on the line of scrimmage, where the Gators were manhandled on both sides of the ball.
“We've got to get better on the line of scrimmage,” Muschamp said. “We wore down as the game wore on. We've just got to play better on the line of scrimmage.”
LSU tailback Spencer Ware rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns to lead a ground game that churned out 238 yards. Whenever the Tigers needed a play in the passing game they got it from Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson, who combined to throw for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Florida offense, which was scaled back dramatically to keep Brissett out of difficult situations, managed only 113 yards rushing and 100 yards passing. The only score came on a 65-yard TD pass from Brissett to Andre Debose in the closing minute of the third quarter.
“We need to visit where we are on offense and what we need to do to be successful,” Muschamp said.
Brissett, who learned Wednesday he would be the starter, threw only 14 passes, completing eight for 94 yards. He threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“I thought he was solid under the circumstances against a good defensive football team,” Muschamp said of Brissett. “Field position in the first half was tough. They had the wind in the fourth quarter and we were backed up a lot.
“He's going to be a really good football player for us. We've got to play better around him in situations and create some more (plays) in the run game.”
Another true freshman, Jeff Driskel, was the expected starter at QB early in the week, but an ankle he sprained in the Alabama game did not respond and the decision was made on Wednesday to go with Brissett.
“We came to the conclusion Wednesday night that (Driskel) just wasn't healthy enough to go and play in that environment,” Muschamp said. “We tried to rep him through the week, but it wasn't fair to him or fair to us.”
Muschamp said once that decision was made, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis had to scale back the offense for Brissett.
“It was a much-reduced package in what we were trying to do,” Muschamp said.
There was very little in the way of a running game to take some of the pressure off Brissett.
For the second game in a row, the running game was stuffed. Chris Rainey rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries, while fellow speedy tailback Jeff Demps had zero yards on just two carries. The leading rusher was Mike Gillislee with 56 yards on nine carries.
Rainey said he was impressed with Brissett's poise and performance.
“He looked good out there, he looked good in practice,” Rainey said. “He did good out there. He was great. He wasn't scared. Everyone got around him.”
The road doesn't get any easier for the Gators, who travel to Auburn on Saturday. Muschamp said the Gators will be without starting quarterback John Brantley again. He sustained a high ankle sprain late in the first half of the Alabama game. He is expected back for the Georgia game on Oct. 29.
Senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said it's time for the Gators to stick together and get back to work.
“It starts in practice, come back to practice Monday motivated,” he said. “All we can do is improve. We're a young team. We're facing growing pains right now.”
LSU is a veteran team inflicting pain on everyone the Tigers play.
“We just go in and play great football,” said wide receiver Rueben Randle, who caught a 46-yard pass for a touchdown on LSU's second offensive play. “We have a great team and great talent around here. We just go out and do our job and come out with a victory.”
Just like the Gators used to do in this league.