Hobbs: Tigers finally run out of excuses in the Swamp

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Omigosh, maybe it’s worse than anybody ever imagined for LSU.

Maybe the Tigers weren’t just looking past Auburn. Perhaps they weren’t foolishly ignoring Towson.

Maybe they’re just that bad.

It seemed suspiciously so Saturday on a day the Tigers finally ran out of scheduling excuses for lackluster play.

LSU didn’t lose 14-6 to Florida because it wasn’t in the mood to play or wasn’t paying attention.

The Tigers got beat because the Gators kicked their tails.

That’s the bottom line, and also surely the most disturbing thing for Les Miles.

Particularly in the second half, the old gut-check time, the Gators pushed LSU around.

This was the day the Tigers were going to flip the emotional switch for national television and turn back the clock to last

year’s regular season and … woo boy, it was some ugly.

LSU made their share of mistakes, but that wasn’t the Tigers’ biggest problem.

LSU has a long list of foibles to work on this week, and surely they will be rehashed in the coming days.

The Tigers had trouble throwing the ball, and it was only partly because of Zach Mettenberger, who probably deserved better.

And for gosh sakes, don’t hang this one on him.

In the film breakdown, he might almost be a bright spot.

LSU had trouble running the ball, too, to the point the meager 42 yards were a non-factor.

That was just a symptom, not the core of the problem.

True, LSU could have used more than 200

yards of offense, particularly since 56 of them really didn’t amount to

much because

the biggest offensive play of the day for LSU, after further

review, ended with Florida holding the ball after Odell Beckham

couldn’t keep a grasp on it.

Bad break there, perhaps.

But it was a minor irritant in the over scheme.

The sideline sent in the wrong play on a crucial third-down play at the 4-yard line, forcing them to take back-to-back timeouts.

So blame it on coaching.

Bemoan this, darn the luck on that, wish upon a star for every silly penalty.

Even Brad Wing got out-punted by the same team that he gained everlasting fame for taunting last year.

But, if Florida really did expose LSU (and it sure looked like it) the bottom line on the game was this:

Florida was tougher — yeah, those same Gators who, just a year ago, were accused of being a mambie-pambie track team trying

to wear shoulder pads.

This was supposed to be LSU’s kind of game, at least the way it developed in the first half.

Boring, ugly, smashmouth.

And that should have been OK with LSU.

They can do winning ugly. They’ve shown that in the past.

At the half, this being the real season coming out party, it was looking like one of those seasons where the Tigers might

just have gut-up, forget the style points, and win double-ugly.

The first half was a bare-knuckles, Greco-Roman, full-contact, in-your-face slugfest.

The Tigers always liked that kind of party, too.

You could almost hear them saying, “Bring it on.”

The problem was, the Gators did.

Did they ever.

At halftime, all of America had to be thinking this is the stereotypical SEC again, taking a stand against the pinball football

sweeping the land and burning out scoreboards.

This was old-style —the 1980s SEC, Florida coach Will Muschamp said, but you might go back further than that— where defense

rules and offense is accidental.

Down and dirty. Don’t blink.

Then the Tigers quit tackling.

And Florida ran the ball right down LSU’s throats in the second half.

There were no fake field goals, no Tim Tebow jump passes, no end-arounds or throw-back silliness.

Afterwards strong safety Matt Elam was divulging Florida state secrets.

“We had a great game plan,” he said.

Yeah?

“We had a plan to hit them in the mouth. We felt we had to come out and hit them in the mouth and that’s what we did.”

In the second half, strangely, LSU didn’t hit back.

LSU’s defense looked tired and worn out midway through the third quarter. Tigers were dropping like flies, often with cramps,

for most of the second half.

Florida kept hitting them in the mouth.

And running up the gut.

The Gators couldn’t protect their quarterback Jeff Driskil, either, and ended the game with only 61 air yards.

So they kept running the ball. And hitting LSU in the mouth.

The Gators got 160 of their 176 yards rushing in the second half with Mike Gillislee finishing with 146 himself.

LSU didn’t have that option. After an

encouraging opening series that settled for a field goal, LSU’s longest

run was a (harmless)

9-yarder by Michael Ford on third-and-forever.

Otherwise, they had one 5-yard gain as the biggest breakaway of the game.

They got whipped up front.

It was the LSU-Florida game last year, where the Tigers manhandled the Gators in Tiger Stadium, that sparked Muschamp’s epiphany

that if he wanted to play in the SEC his team would have to get stronger, meaner, tougher.

The Gators evidently were quick learners.

Maybe LSU needs a refresher course.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com