The government should make posters for display in locker rooms warning QBs and RBs about Drake Nevis.
More than any other player, Drake Nevis stood out on Saturday night. Nearly every time a Florida run was stuffed or John Brantley was getting pressured, Nevis was the one doing it. I can't say enough about the way he abused the middle of the Gator offensive line as Mike Pouncey, Jon Halapio, and Carl Johnson took turns whiffing on blocking him. His burst off the ball is incredible, several times getting two yards in the backfield before Halapio could even get a hand on him. He came very close to scoring two safeties in the first half.
I can understand why Nevis has been lost in the shuffle of story lines at LSU. Les Miles's puzzling quotes, clock management, Patrick Peterson, and a quarterback rotation are all more attention grabbing for the general populace than a defensive tackle. However, it's time to take a step back from the headlines and focus on more than just the flashy stuff. Nevis is absolutely dominating in the middle, and he had his best game of the year on Saturday.
Florida's offensive line management is puzzling.
Something must have happened off the field between OT Xavier Nixon and Steve Addazio. I have no other explanation for how Addazio is managing Florida's offensive line. In the first half of Saturday's game, the Florida line looked like Swiss cheese. LSU's defensive line was playing at a very high level, and they had a lot to do with that. A lot more of it had to do with Halapio playing poorly and Maurice Hurt, a career guard, playing out of position at right tackle. Pouncey and Halapio struggled to stay on the same page, and Hurt gets beat around the corner.
Halapio broke a finger shortly before the half, knocking him out for the game. Hurt slid over to guard and Nixon came in at tackle. The result wasn't revelatory or anything, but the line play definitely improved. Brantley officially was sacked three times in the first half; he was not sacked in the second and had more time to throw. Florida averaged 3.16 yards per play before intermission and 5.32 yards per play after. Florida's six first half drives maxed out at 40 yards and added up to 79 total yards. In the second half, Florida had an 80-yard drive and 164 total yards.
Why Addazio is keeping Nixon on the bench and forcing Hurt to play out of position is beyond me, but it's not working. The line has played noticeably better all season when Nixon is in at tackle and Hurt is in at guard.
LSU's two quarterback system is working.
Two quarterback systems often come under fire for being ineffective. That's because they are rarely done properly by coaches. They usually play two similar quarterbacks that can't separate from each other in practice. That is when you get a problem of leadership (because which one of these two similar guys do you follow?) and of rhythm. The band is playing the same kinds of tunes only with different conductors. It's hard.
However, LSU's two quarterbacks are different from each other. They run different packages that play to their strengths. The benefits aren't as big in the game, where you know Jarrett Lee isn't running the option, as they are in the week leading up to it when the opposing team has to prepare for more than it would against a normal team. You could see that in the way that LSU worked against Florida's defense. The Gators would bottle up the Tigers on a couple plays in a row before LSU would hit a big gainer against an unprepared set.
That is the reason why I think LSU's dual quarterback system is working now (two straight games at or above 385 total yards) and will continue to work this season. It actually has been set up properly.
Florida was very fortunate to be there in the end.
Both of the Gators' first half scores came after turnovers. One was a 17-yard drive after Jelani Jenkins intercepted Jordan Jefferson, and the other was a 16-yard drive after Peterson fumbled a punt. Like I mentioned above, the Gator offensive line in the first half was awful. It took the Gators nine combined plays to get those two gimme touchdowns (3.6 yards per play). When Florida forced LSU's only first half punt after the second touchdown and Janoris Jankins took that punt back 41 yards, it looked like momentum had turned in Florida's favor. Instead, two penalties on the return backed Florida up inside its own 10 yard like. A punt and fumble then set up 10 Tiger points in the final two minutes.
Those facts lead me to the one completely encouraging thing from the game. The Gators never gave up. They never hung their heads or displayed poor body language. Andre Debose's kickoff return probably made that the case in a lot of ways, but overall, they never stopped fighting. Urban Meyer said in his post game press conference that some guys aren't giving their all yet, but I'm not sure who they are. Florida may be struggling in all kinds of ways, but they kept with it and could have stolen a game they had no business being in.
Of course, LSU trying to give it away with two turnovers and a special teams breakdown helps to hide the fact that Florida's offense on its own only accounted for eight of the team's 29 points. The Gators were outgained by over 140 yards. LSU's defense put in a much stronger performance than I think a lot of people might guess from looking at the score.
Now that the offense is finding its identity in the two quarterback system, LSU's prospects for the rest of the season look a bit brighter than they did last week. The Tigers had problems sustaining and finishing drives against Tennessee, but they did not against Florida. Only time will tell if it is something of a fluke that LSU gained over 380 yards two weeks in a row for the first time since September of 2007, but last weekend it didn't look fluky to me.
The LSU defense also has established itself as the best of the conference. Nevis is a monster, and the rest of the line isn't shabby either. Kelvin Sheppard is doing wonderful things at linebacker, and the secondary is as good as we thought it would be. John Chavis probably saved Les Miles' job last year, and this year he's making sure that it's never in doubt. You'll rarely see a coordinator dial up the right blitzes at the right time like Chavis did against Florida.
The Gators are mired in a similar place to where they were in 2005, only this time no one can blame Ron Zook. The quarterback is not a good fit for the offense the coaches want to run. The offensive line oscillates between mediocre and bad, preventing any sort of rhythm from forming. Without an every down running back, the rushing game has no identity. Injuries are taking a toll. The defense is clearly a year away from being something special.
If this team can just hold on and make it through this weekend, it has a chance to right the ship a bit. It must find a way to beat Mississippi State in order to salvage morale and prevent things from falling apart. After that, it has a bye week to get healthy and figure out a plan for the rest of the year that reflects reality. Many of the things the coaches thought they had in the off season—like an elite offensive line and a top-three quarterback in the league—simply aren't there. Adjustments have to be made, and a bye week is a great time to make them.