Roughing the passer
Gators’ rush overwhelms LSU’s protection
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU’s Joe Burrow walked out looking like he’d just been dragged through a swamp.
<p class="indent">Actually, it was The Swamp here at Florida, along with the Gators defense that had the quarterback battered and bruised and no longer unbeaten or un-picked as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
<p class="indent">It was a wonder he could walk at all after the Gators’ home stadium came to life like the old days, Saturday in Florida’s 27-19 Southeastern Conference victory.
<p class="indent">Burrow was sacked five times and “hurried” — i.e., usually almost cut in half while throwing — eight more times by the relentless Gators defense.
<p class="indent">“There were a lot of things that went wrong today,” Burrow said. “They made some real good halftime adjustments. I might have held it too long at times.”
<p class="indent">“We couldn’t protect,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said bluntly. “We tried every protection we could and when we did (protect), we dropped the ball.”
<p class="indent">Good thing LSU’s offensive line was healthier than it’s been since the season opener, else it might have really gotten ugly.
<p class="indent">“We couldn’t just drop back and throw the ball,” Orgeron said. “Our guys were getting beat one on one. You can only chip one or two (defenders). You can’t chip all five.”
<p class="indent">So the Gators spent the day wrapped around Burrow, who threw the first two interceptions of his college career.
<p class="indent">Still, LSU had a chance until the very end.
<p class="indent">The fifth-ranked Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC) led in the fourth quarter after, seemingly out of nowhere, back-to-back long runs by Nick Brossette, set up his 1-yard scoring run and a 19-14 lead with 11:14 to play.
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“The O-line did a great job on that drive,” Burrow said.
</div></div><p class="indent">“That was a heavyweight fight right there,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “That was a defensive battle.”
<p class="indent">But the No. 22 Gators (5-1, 3-1) got in the last punches, driving 75 yards to retake the lead at 20-19, keyed by a tight end throwback pass to quarterback Felipe Franks.
<p class="indent">“I thought we could stop them there and win the game,” Orgeron said. “That drive was devastating. Our pass rush lanes weren’t what they were at the beginning. We gave up too many explosive plays.
<p class="indent">“It just seemed like we couldn’t make a play, couldn’t get things going to get off the field.”
<p class="indent">Then the knockout, moments later, when Burrow, who earlier in the game set the LSU record for consecutive passes without an interception, was picked off by Brad Stewart, who returned it 25 yards for a touchdown with 1:45 to play.
<p class="indent">“I saw him,” Burrow said, admitting it was a throw he might not have made if the Tigers’ hadn’t been late in catch-up mode. “It was manto-man (coverage). He made a great play.”
<p class="indent">The Gators also intercepted Burrow on the next possession, a fourth-down Hail Marytype pass after desperation truly set in.
<p class="indent">But Burrow’s fumble in the first quarter might have been a bigger difference-maker.
<p class="indent">The Tigers’ game-opening drive was a thing of beauty, with Burrow hitting Justin Jefferson for 38 yards on the game’s play, keying a 10-play 75-yard scoring drive that Brossette capped with a 4-yard run for a quick 7-0 lead.
<p class="indent">LSU looked to be duplicating it on its next possession before the first blind-side sack of Burrow knocked the ball loose and it was recovered at the Gators’ 33-yard line.
<p class="indent">“That was devastating,” Orgeron said. “It shouldn’t have been, but it turned out to be. Anytime you’ve got turnovers in the red zone.
<p class="indent">“Too many mistakes. We had opportunities to make plays. We had a chance to go up 14-0, but we didn’t do it.
<p class="indent">“The team that wins the line of scrimmage, that wins the turnover battle, is going to win the game. They won both.”
<p class="indent">LSU’s defense, which a year ago in this same raucous venue nursed home a onepoint win all the way through the fourth quarter, wasn’t up to it this time.
<p class="indent">The Tigers forced no turnovers, had no sacks of Franks and two tackles for losses — for 2 total yards — while giving up 215 yards rushing to Florida’s running game by committee.
<p class="indent">“We knew they had some running backs,” Orgeron said. “But 215 yards, that’s way too much. You’re not going to win football games with that.”
<p class="indent">“Put it on me, We’ve got to get some things fixed. I’m the boss.”
<p class="indent">“It’s not on him,” LSU linebacker Devin White said. “He’s not out there playing. All we had to do was execute.”
<p class="indent">“You can’t have turnovers and you can’t have costly penalties,’ Burrow said. “We still haven’t hit our stride yet.”
Florida 27 | LSU 19
<div class="float"><div class="Lead"><strong>‘Put it on me, We’ve got to get some things fixed. I’m the boss.’</strong><br />Ed Orgeron<br />LSU head coach</div></div>