Florida entered its homecoming matchup with LSU on a three-game win streak because of its ability to execute on critical plays on both sides of the ball.
But there was nothing money about third downs for the Gators during their 17-16 loss to LSU at The Swamp on Saturday. Offensively, the Gators were 2-of-9 on third-down conversions and 0-of-1 on fourth down. Defensively, the Gators allowed LSU to convert 4-of-7 on third down in the first half and 6-of-14 for the game.
“Really the difference is the game was in third downs,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “You guys saw that and there’s no denying that at all.”
Florida’s inability to convert on third down offensively proved costly in the fourth quarter. On one fourth-quarter drive, Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks found sophomore receiver Freddie Swain on a crossing pattern on third-and-three, but Swain failed to turn upfield and came up a yard shot. At its own 24-yard line, Florida elected to punt.
The Gators got the ball back with 8:56 left but went three-and-out, with Franks being sacked for a seven-yard loss on a third-and-nine play.
On UF’s final possession, Franks threw incompletions on attempts to senior Brandon Powell on third-and-three and fourth-and-three, turning the ball over on downs with 1:39 left. Florida sophomore running back Lamical Perine said the Gators had issues getting plays in quickly enough during the fourth-quarter drives.
“We couldn’t get the plays in so once we got the plays in we had to hurry up and rush,” Perine said. “We just have to get better, going forward with that.”
Florida senior offensive lineman Martez Ivey also admitted there were communication issues.
“We’ve just got to execute,” Ivey said. “Some things went our way in the game and some things didn’t go our way.”
LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada kept UF’s defense off-balance early with misdirection plays on sweep runs by wide receivers. Of LSU’s first five drives, four went for nine plays or more. At one point in the third quarter, LSU was 6-of-10 on third-down conversions.
“It was just lack of focus,” Florida sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. said. “It wasn’t nothing new. That’s unfortunate for us. Third down for defense has been our strong suit.”
Florida held LSU without a third-down conversion in the fourth quarter, though an offsides penalty by UF junior Taven Bryan on third-and-3 early in the fourth quarter allowed the Tigers to bleed some additional time off the clock.
“We just came out with the mindset in the second half that we have to try our best to beat this team,” Florida defensive lineman Khari Clark said. “Because in the first half we didn’t come out as strong.”