The No. 23 Florida Gators (8-2, 6-2) defeated No. 16 LSU (6-4, 4-3), 16-10, on Saturday to clinch the SEC East.
This contest was a brawl from the beginning, literally, as LSU star running back Leonard Fournette shoved Florida assistant Torrian Gray before the game. Fournette, who originally wasn’t expected to play, decided to play after the scuffle.
It didn’t matter.
Florida’s 3rd-ranked defense held strong in the closing seconds to preserve the victory and earn a date with Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Here’s what we learned.
LSU’s offense was surprisingly effective: We knew the Tigers could run the ball with Fournette and Derrius Guice. However, Florida was only allowing the opposition a meager three yards per carry entering this game. LSU ran for 219 yards and averaged almost five yards per attempt. And quarterback Danny Etling had a solid outing for the Tigers, completing 14 of 25 passes for 204 yards. That’s actually outstanding for Etling, especially versus Florida. Overall, the Tigers finished with 423 total yards.
Jordan Scarlett was the game’s best back: Fournette and Guice received all the type, and deservedly so. But it was Florida’s sophomore running back who stole the show. Scarlett ran hard against a good LSU defense and finished the game with 108 yards on 22 carries. And every yard was tough, too. Many of Scarlett’s yards were after initial contact. It was a good thing the Gators had Scarlett, because outside of him they totaled just 162 yards.
The Tigers should’ve passed the ball in final series: LSU had a good drive to get down to Florida’s seven-yard line in the final seconds. Instead of keeping the Gators off-balanced, the Tigers tried to run the ball on four consecutive plays. Why not spread the Gators out near the goal line on one of those attempts or have Etling run a play-action bootleg with the option to run or pass? You’d have to think on at least one of those plays it could’ve worked. The Tigers were moving the ball well on that final drive. Guice carried the ball three times, while little-used fullback J.D. Moore carried once for no gain.