Let me first start by expressing my mindset coming into Saturday - which could basically be summed by saying I was beyond worried. The Tigers were bringing in a defense that could only be described as scary, and the overall team speed on offense (particularly at the WR position) matched up well against a secondary who has been picked at (although they haven't allowed too many big plays) all season. On top of all of this, the Gators starting RB, Deshawn Wynn, was not going to play and he would have to be replaced by a few running backs with little experience this season. While I was not expecting a glaring dropoff in the running game, I still was not fully ready to replace a guy who has started every game.
Now for my broad reaction following the game: I really felt that we played LSU on a good day. This means I don't think that we got everything LSU could offer, but I'm not complaining. Their special teams at best were atrocious, which really changed the face of the game. I was impressed with our offense's ability to make the big plays that we needed to make on this unforgiving defense, and I liked the fact that we got pressure on Russell when it was needed.
The Special Teams Units Changed the Game
Following a Kestahn Moore fumble and an LSU big play and dominating touchdown drive, the Gators were forced to punt the ball from deep within their own territory. Things were not looking good following a couple of "dumb" penalties and a Chris Leak sack. Then came the punt to Tigers returner Chevis Jackson, who proceeded to muff the return and give the Gators great field position within the opposing territory. The Gators scored a touchdown and tied the game up on the pursuing drive, drastically changing the momentum the LSU offense grabbed earlier. This was pivotal.
Next, of course, is the Early Doucet kick return to start the second half. The Gators had grabbed momentum going into halftime with a very formidable drive to score a touchdown (on a freak play I might add), and LSU needed to answer big to start the second half. This was when the worst possible scenario, perhaps ever, occurred for the Tigers. After fumbling the catch, Doucet picked the ball up, only to fumble it again. A safety was the final outcome, and the Tigers were left shocked coming out of the tunnel. I couldn't imagine a worst way to start a half.
There was also a missed FG by LSU which could have given them a little momentum, and a blocked punt which really had no relevance to the outcome. Overall it was a TERRIBLE day for the Tigers special teams unit.
What a day for Tim Tebow. He ended up accounting for all 3 Gator touchdowns in the game, and did a great job of keeping the crowd pumped up the whole time. He ran through defenders on his first drive that ended in a touchdown, threw a ridiculous looking jump ball to Tate Casey, and even chucked a ball downfield to a wide open Louis Murphy following a run-fake...this guy did everything and we really saw the power of a well managed quarterback duo that we have yesterday.
Ivan Maisel wrote this piece on ESPN.com today in regards to Tim Tebow's performance against the Tigers:
The offense obviously needed to make some big plays on this defense. Without big plays the Gator offense would be forced to sustain long drives against a defense that hasn't been friendly to that type of gameplan this season. Meyer saw this and did integrate more downfield passing plays than we have seen all season, and I tip my hat to him for that. This could have also had a lot to do with DeShawn Wynn being out of this game, and an exceptional LSU run defense. I was pretty happy with our offensive gameplan in this one, as there were less plays that tried to outrun the LSU defense side to side and more plays that just tried to aggressively move down the field on the defense.
The Defense Played Well
The Gators defense really needed to pressure Jamarcus Russell and not let him beat them with scrambling plays that equaled big yards. On the first LSU drive he made a play in which he rolled right and hit a receiver deep. This drive resulted in a TD, and I was thinking that it was going to be a long game for the Gators defense. Fortunately after this drive, Jamarcus Russell committed numerous TOs and the Gators ended up victorious.
The D did a great job of not giving up really big plays after that first drive, highlighted by the play of safeties Reggie Nelson and Tony Joiner. Both were great, and I must say that overall I was happy with the corners ability to not get burned. They have done a great job of making you frustrated as a fan but doing their job this season. The drives in which LSU got yards were on mid-range passes, usually over the middle...and of course the near brain-aneurysm drive in which the Tigers completed what seemed to be 15 passes to the sidelines in a row.
I will say that the defense did catch a break on the LSU drive that resulted in a goal-line fumble. A TD was called back on a questionable holding call, followed by a questionable non-TD call on Hester. It only seemed suitable that the ball was fumbled on the goal-line and the Gators catch a break. Unreal.
I was very happy with this unit's performance yesterday, although I would have loved to see Ryan Smith get 4 INTs as opposed to 2.