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October 12, 2013

Florida beaten at its own game



BATON ROUGE, La. - Florida wanted Saturday's game with LSU to be a plodding, physical game decided at the line of scrimmage.

It was, and the Gators left Baton Rouge victim to a 17-6 defeat.

The Tigers, a team that came into the mid-afternoon showdown flashing the Southeastern Conference's third-most potent passing attack, planned on making the Gators play their style of ball. LSU had not scored less than 35 points in any of its six contests this season. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger came in as the SEC's highest-rated passer.

He went 9 of 17 for 152 yards, about status quo for quarterbacks against Florida's secondary. For the most part, he wasn't needed. The Gators lost because of the very part of the game they expected to control.

"They beat us at our own game," defensive tackle Damien Jacobs said. "We're going to get back to the drawing board and fix that. ... They really didn't do too much special. They were just physical."

LSU running back Jeremy Hill had the first 100-yard rushing game allowed by the Gators' defense since Georgia's Todd Gurley slashed Florida for 118 yards in its only regular season loss of 2012. Hill finished the day with 122 yards on the ground, though both of the Tigers' touchdowns came from different backs in short-yardage situations.

Florida gave up most of those yards up the middle, noticeably missing injured senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley more than ever. LSU's offensive line had its way with the Gators, who also struggled to get any form of pass rush - zero sacks against a team that had allowed 11 in six games.

"We've got to do a better job of stopping the run and getting off blocks. That's just the bottom line," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "You can call whatever defense you want to call. Kids have to get off blocks and they didn't."

The up-front issues were hardly limited to the defense. Florida's offensive line didn't get junior quarterback Tyler Murphy a chance in the biggest start of his brief career. Murphy finished 15 of 27 for 115 yards with one fumble as opportunities never came to start anything in the passing game. Murphy was sacked four times and was pressured on nearly every passing play before routes were given a chance to develop.

"We have to protect better," Muschamp said. "We had too many free runners at the quarterback. They did a nice job of pressuring us. (Murphy) just had too many guys in his face. We have to give him more time. We will watch the film, but my initial thought is there was too much pressure."

Murphy refused to blame his offensive line for the loss after the game, saying he needs to get rid of the ball faster and pressure forced the Gators into a short passing game. Only three of Murphy's 15 completions went for 10 yards or more. Florida's offensive line took the blame.

"It was a line of scrimmage game. We knew that coming into the game," right guard Jon Halapio said. "It was all on the offensive and defensive line. We just got outworked, outplayed. We've just got to do a better job of preparing for stuff like this."

For the 13th SEC game in a row, Florida held its opponent to 20 points or less. This time, it didn't matter.


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