The Back Nine comes at you after a long, late night in Louisiana followed by a long day of traveling, but kudos to the new Starke bypass.
10. Dan Mullen wasn’t complaining, but he was right that the holding penalty called on Florida midway through the third quarter was gigantic in the game Saturday night. “There was one penalty and it was a game-changing penalty,” Mullen said. “That was a big moment in the game after they scored and we were going to go down and retake the lead.” Florida had hit a first-down pass that Lamical Perine took for 27 yards to the LSU 48, but the call on tackle Stone Forsythe brought it back, put Florida in a hole and allowed LSU to eventually flip the field, getting the ball to start the next series on its own 48. The interesting thing is that there were only nine penalties in the game (make that nine penalties that were CALLED; I still can’t believe they didn’t see Tyrie Cleveland get his pants pulled down on Kyle Trask’s interception). If you count all of the special teams plays (like extra points and kickoffs), there were 161 plays in the game. And only nine penalties. Well played or poorly officiated? Probably depends on who you were rooting for. I’ve watched a lot of SEC games and the bigger the game the more the officials swallow their whistles. But that sure beats what the NFL has turned into where even the announcers are complaining about the number of flags.
11. While a heap of credit is going to quarterback Joe Burrow for LSU’s win, the Tigers offensive line should be getting a ton of credit for negating Florida’s pass rush (I know, I know, Florida’s ends were out for much of the game) and opening holes for the running backs. The Gators had been averaging 4.3 sacks a game coming in and never got to Burrow once. The other problem for the Florida defense was that it had recorded 17 turnovers through six games, but never came close to getting one on Saturday. UF’s ability to get red zone stops was a big reason for the Gators limiting opponents to single-digit scoring per game, but LSU scored three times in the red zone, doubling the number Florida had allowed. (Have I given you enough reasons why Florida lost?) LSU’s offense wasn’t perfect, but it was darn close. It is funny, however, that Florida seemingly received more national love after losing than it did for winning its first six games of the season.
12. Certainly, the Gators did not catch a break drawing a night game in Baton Rouge (although I agree with the players that they handled the environment pretty well), but might have caught one this week. The atmosphere for a noon game is rarely bounce-house crazy even though the Gamecocks are basking in the glow of their upset of Georgia. I never thought I’d be saying this, but Florida could be trouble for South Carolina because the Gator passing game is better than Georgia’s. Please don’t tell any of my Georgia friends I wrote that.
13. But stats are stats and right now Florida is ranked 22nd in the nation in passing offense to Georgia’s 42nd. Jake Fromm is clearly struggling to get used to his new batch of receivers and threw three picks last week, one that was returned for a game-changing touchdown at the end of the first half. It’s amazing to think that the Bulldogs shut out the Gamecocks in the second half (and one OT) and it still wasn’t enough. By the way, Florida being ranked 22nd in passing is hardly the norm around here. I mean, it used to be but since Tim Tebow was the starting quarterback at UF, Florida’s best finish in passing nationally has been 79th and four of those years UF was ranked in the 100s. You probably knew it has been bad and probably don’t appreciate that I bothered to look it up.
14. Despite having the two best wins of the season so far (at Texas, Florida), there are still enough voters too stubborn to vote on what teams have done this season and Alabama remains No. 1. The winner of Florida-LSU was going to No. 1 on by ballot. LSU, of course, was already there. Here’s my Top 10:
1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Ohio State; 4. Oklahoma; 5. Clemson; 6. Wisconsin; 7. Penn State; 8. Notre Dame; 9. Florida; 10. Auburn.
You could definitely make an argument for Wiscy over Clemson and Oklahoma over both Alabama and Ohio State. There has to be some eye test. And it was good to see my fellow voters came around and finally put Appalachian State in the Top 25. I had Appy in last week.
15. By the way, Florida had a record broken Saturday. The largest margin of defeat for consecutive games in Florida State history had been 78 by the Gator teams of 1972 and ’73 (two teams that weren’t even that good winning only 12 games those two seasons combined). Clemson broke that record by beating FSU by a combined 80 points the last two times they played. I was among the fools who thought the Semis might hang with Clemson. What do I know?
16. One final thing on Saturday night’s game before we start looking ahead. There are a lot of people on social media and in my emails who are wondering this — if Dan Mullen is such a great quarterback whisperer, why wasn’t Trask playing all along? In hindsight, yes, it’s a good question. But we have to remember the amount of time Trask missed with his two injuries and how far it appeared Feleipe Franks came at the end of the 2018 season. In a way, it’s reminiscent of the time that Will Muschamp chose Jeff Driskel over Jacoby Brissett. Brissett is an NFL starter, but every NFL type that watched Florida thought Driskel was the better quarterback. Sometimes it’s not all about arm strength.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my old pal Jeff Schulz who now works for The Athletic and has seen his share of suffering in Atlanta —
“A peak into Atlanta sports Hell:
Sun: Falcons lose at Houston 53-32.
Mon: Braves lose to St. Louis 5-4.
Wed: Braves lose to St. Louis 13-1.
Sat: UGA loses to SC 20-17 (2OT).
Sat: GaTech loses to Duke 41-23.
Sun: Falcons lose to Arizona 34-33.”
I feel your pain, Atlanta.
18. Yes, you could have driven to and from Baton Rouge in less time than it took us to fly. But it gave me time to come up with this playlist:
• “The Stars of Track and Field” by Belle and Sebastian in honor of Eliud Kipchoge becoming the first human to run a marathon in under two hours. I don’t care that he had pacesetters, no competition and a perfect course. If it was so easy, why didn’t anyone else do it?
• “Forgotten Eyes” by Big Thief.
• “When Am I Gonna Lose You?” by Local Natives.
• “Fever Pitch” by Rainbow Kitten Surprise.
• And for a really old one, “A Summer Song” by Chad and Jeremy. I know, it’s a really soft and too sweet song, but I love the harmonies and it takes me back.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.