LSU needed this. Ed Orgeron needed this. Tigers fans needed this.
A week after getting embarrassed at home in a 24-21 loss to Troy, LSU had to prove it made more than minuscule improvements ahead of its trip to Florida. A 17-16 victory over the No. 21 Gators showed it did.
LSU quarterback Danny Etling attempted just 16 passes this week compared to 25 against Troy. Compared to 29 runs against the Trojans, the Tigers called 48 run plays in Gainesville. After admitting to some meddling last week, Orgeron gave the reins back to offensive coordinator Matt Canada and his unit did just enough to win the game.
The Tigers relied more on the hurry-up offense and sent playmakers in motion before the snap. The Gators didn’t seem prepared for that kind of adjustment at all. Instead, Florida gave up a 30-yard touchdown run to wideout Russell Gage in the first quarter and was stuck playing from behind for the rest of the afternoon.
Florida (3-2, 3-1 SEC) trailed 17-3 in the third quarter before mounting a 13-0 run. A missed point-after attempt kept UF down 17-16 into the fourth quarter. The snap looked good, but when holder Johnny Townsend tried to get the laces out, the ball fell forward giving kicker Eddy Pineiro no chance to send it through the uprights.
Florida got the ball back one last time with nearly four minutes of clock time to put together a winning drive from deep in their own end, but couldn’t even get to midfield.
LSU’s commitment to running the ball helped solved a lot of issues this week — namely cutting back on turnovers — and helped the Tigers manage a game they couldn’t afford to lose control of.
The Gators are now squarely behind the Georgia Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 SEC) for first place in the SEC East with Georgia visiting Gainesville in two weeks.
The victory might not make Orgeron’s seat any cooler, but it does show plenty of growth for a team that needs to rebuild on the fly. LSU is now 4-2 on the year (1-1 SEC) with No. 12 Auburn coming to Baton Rouge next week. If there’s such a thing as a “must-be-competitive” game, that might be it. A blowout would wipe away any positive thoughts after taking down Florida.
And for now, those thoughts are as needed as the victory itself. For LSU, for Orgeron and for Tigers fans everywhere.
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