FOOTBALL

Three things Florida Gators and Billy Napier learned from LSU: 'There's no shortcuts here'

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports
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Florida football finds itself entering the bye week on a down note following a 45-35 home loss to LSU Saturday night at The Swamp.

The loss exposed issues on both sides of the ball that aren't easy to fix.

"There's no shortcuts here," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "You've got to go through every single bit of adversity. It ain't  easy. It's not easy for the staff, it's not easy for the players."

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And it won't get any easier for the Gators (4-3, 1-3 SEC) when they return to action in two weeks. On Oct. 29, Florida will face No. 1 and defending national champion Georgia in Jacksonville as heavy underdogs. After that, Florida will close its season with three of its final four games on the road, including a long road trip to face Texas A&M on Nov. 5.

"We need to look at how we practice with more details than we do every day because I feel like it’s all in the small things and making sure that everything is right," Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter said. "That’s when more of the wins will come and more of the success will come.”

Here are three things learned from Florida's loss to LSU:

Jayden Daniels exposed talent, depth problem on UF defense

LSU exposed UF's talent deficiencies and lack of depth on defense. Florida didn't tackle well against LSU's bigger running backs. The receivers for the Tigers consistently beat the Gators in one-on-one matchups.

LSU running back Josh Williams stiff arms Florida cornerback Jaydon Hill during the second half of Saturday night's game in Gainesville.

 Even in zone coverage, UF's defensive backs were often too slow to react. Florida was unable to make LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels uncomfortable, as he was sacked once and hurried four times.

UF's 2023 recruiting class, ranked 8th in the country, features several four-star talents in the defensive line and secondary. But it may take some additions in the transfer portal to fix some of UF's defensive issues in the more immediate future.

"It's been 14 years since Florida won the SEC or the national championship, so we've got work to do," Napier said. 

Anthony Richardson, passing game not making progress

After throwing for 453 yards against Tennessee and 392 yards against Eastern Washington, Florida has averaged just 125,5 yards passing over its last two games (Missouri and Tennessee).

Starting quarterback Anthony Richardson isn't seeing the whole field and receivers aren't always creating separation. Shorter caught a 51-yard TD pass on the second play of the game against LSU, but after that, the Gators amassed just 134 yards passing. Richardson said he intends to continue working with his receivers during the bye week.

"I missed a few over routes, few balls behind the receivers," Richardson said. "I got to make it easier for them to make plays. I can definitely improve on that. Protection checks. Improve on that. Help the O-Line. Help the running backs. Just playing confident. I feel like that’s the main thing to improve on."

The Gators don't quit in the second half

Like the Tennessee game, Florida didn't fold in the fourth quarter facing a double-digit deficit. Down 42-21, the Gators rallied to score 14 straight points on a Richardson 81-yard TD run and 1-yard TD run by freshman Trevor Etienne.

Florida outgained LSU 152-59 in the fourth quarter and outscored the Tigers 14-3. That speaks to the culture Napier is building.

"The football execution part is where we need to improve," Napier said. "But in terms of competitive spirit, togetherness, discipline, I think we are making progress in that part. I think it's a group that is very much a team."

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