SEC: Gators-Tigers 101009

SEC viewer's guide: Week 9

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
10:00
AM ET
A look ahead to Saturday's games in the Southeastern Conference. All times Eastern:

Noon

UAB at Arkansas, SEC Network: Bret Bielema will have to wait at least one more week before notching that first SEC victory, but after three straight losses, this Arkansas team needs a win in the worst way. It’s not like the Razorbacks are playing poorly. Even Saturday, after falling apart in the first half, they didn’t give up. They responded in the second half and outplayed Georgia the final 30 minutes. That first conference win is coming. In the meantime, Arkansas can’t afford to overlook UAB. The Blazers put up 34 points on No. 1 Mississippi State earlier in the season, so they’re at least capable of getting in the end zone.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisDak Prescott threw for 268 yards and ran for 33 last season in a 28-22 home victory over Kentucky.
3:30 p.m.

No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky, CBS: What happened to Kentucky? This game was shaping up to be one of the biggest games in program history – a top-25 matchup, a chance to take down the No. 1 team in the country – and then it all fell apart at LSU on Saturday. Losing close is one thing, but the Wildcats were dominated in Death Valley. The good news is that they can still take down No. 1 this weekend as this will be Mississippi State’s first game since taking over the top spot. For the Bulldogs, it’s a chance to prove they’re worthy of No. 1 and it’s another opportunity for Dak Prescott to shine in front of a national audience.

4 p.m.

Vanderbilt at Missouri, SEC Network: A week after everybody left Missouri for dead, the Tigers are back in the SEC East race and rolling after a 42-13 win at Florida. The defense feasted on the Gators’ offense, forcing six turnovers and taking two back for touchdowns. That’s bad news for Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary, who will be making his first start for the Commodores. In his first action since the season opener, McCrary went 10-of-16 for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday against Charleston Southern. But that was Charleston Southern. This is Missouri. Good luck Mr. McCrary.

7:15 p.m.

No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU, ESPN: Don’t assume that Ole Miss is going to just go to Baton Rouge and handle its business. Yes, the Rebels have arguably the top defense in the SEC. And yes, they’re ranked No. 3 for a reason. But winning on the road at LSU is no easy task. Just ask Les Miles, who is 45-4 as LSU coach in night games at Tiger Stadium. There’s something special about when the sun sets over Death Valley. So don’t be surprised if this game is close in the fourth quarter, and it’s up to Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to make a play. Wallace did account for more than 350 yards and four touchdowns at LSU two years ago.

7:30 p.m.

No. 4 Alabama at Tennessee, ESPN2: Thank you, Lane Kiffin, for infusing a little life back into this rivalry. He made it interesting back in 2009 when his Tennessee team nearly knocked off the eventual national champs, and he’s doing it again this year with his return to Knoxville as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. You can bet the fans will be a little more rowdy in welcoming Kiffin back to Neyland Stadium on Saturday. But despite all the hoopla surrounding Kiffin, there’s still a game to be played. Alabama comes in as a heavy favorite, and the Vols could be in trouble if quarterback Justin Worley isn’t able to play.

South Carolina at No. 5 Auburn, SEC Network: Gus Malzahn admitted this week that he wears a visor every game because of Steve Spurrier. That’s how much respect and admiration he has for the Head Ball Coach. On Saturday, Malzahn will face Spurrier for the first time as a head coach in a game that Auburn has to win for its playoff hopes. The Tigers are coming off a loss to Mississippi State, and this is their first of four SEC games in four weeks. Meanwhile, South Carolina has not delivered on the preseason hype. A top-10 team before the season, the Gamecocks are barely above water at 4-3.

Alabama, Florida on a collision course

October, 11, 2009
10/11/09
2:21
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- You can see it from a mile away.

We’re not even to the midway point for some teams in the SEC, but you can see it coming.

Alabama and Florida are on a collision course to meet again in the SEC Championship Game.

And after the most anticipated Saturday of the season in the SEC, it’s hard to discern at this point who has the better team.

They both made convincing arguments.

Florida, playing with a Tim Tebow who wasn’t quite Tim Tebow, ruined what has become a national holiday in these parts, Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The No. 1-ranked Gators rolled to a 13-3 victory over the No. 4-ranked Tigers to stay unbeaten and now have their toughest road game of the season out of the way.
Marvin Gentry-US Presswire
Nick Saban and Alabama are on course for another showdown with Florida.

Do they stay No. 1? Does it really matter?

Florida senior linebacker Ryan Stamper doesn’t feel the need to lobby, but he doesn’t think there’s a better overall team out there.

“With our offense, defense and special teams clicking as one, I think we deserve that No. 1 spot right now,” Stamper said.

The Gators (5-0, 3-0) have won 15 in a row dating back to last season, the nation’s longest winning streak. And while two of their three SEC wins this season were still close in the second half -- unlike their blitzkrieg through the SEC in October and November a year ago -- nobody seems too concerned about style points.

“We don’t even talk about (being No. 1), really,” Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez said. “We just go out there every game like we’re the worst team in the country and come out and fight.

“We try to grind every game. Every game is the same to us, come out with a victory.”

Stamper admitted that he tuned in to part of Alabama’s 22-3 bludgeoning of Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon while hanging out at the team hotel.

“The SEC championship will get here when it gets here,” Stamper said. “We’ve got to play every week.”

Perhaps so, but the rest of us can start anticipating a rematch now. After all, the game last season in Atlanta was a classic.

“Yeah, that would be a good rematch for the SEC championship,” Hill said. “But right now, we’re not looking that far down the road. We’re looking at Arkansas. We’ll take it one step at a time.”

That’s certainly been Alabama’s mantra this season. Of course, it better be if you're going to play for Nick Saban.

The No. 3-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) haven’t had a close game in the second half since the season-opening win over Virginia Tech. They didn’t just beat the Rebels on Saturday. They beat them up.

Between them, the Florida and Alabama defenses gave up just one third-down conversion Saturday.

LSU was 1-of-9 against Florida, and Ole Miss was 0-of-9 against Alabama.

And to this point, the Crimson Tide have been even more diverse offensively than the Gators. They’ve run it when they’ve needed to (See Mark Ingram’s career-high 172 rushing yards against the Rebels), and they’ve thrown it when they’ve needed to (See what Greg McElroy has done all season without throwing an interception since the opener).

Granted, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. But a second straight No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the SEC Championship Game doesn’t seem that far away.

Defense steals the show for Gators

October, 11, 2009
10/11/09
1:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Tim Tebow might have been the story, but he wasn’t the difference.
 
 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
 Quarterback Tim Tebow got the most attention but coach Urban Meyer said Florida's dominant defense was the key to victory.

The difference was a Florida defense that was good enough to win a national championship a year ago and was in national championship form Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

The No. 1-ranked Gators buried No. 4-ranked LSU 13-3 with the kind of suffocating defensive performance their defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong, has been pushing for ever since last season ended.

“What we have to do is become a dominant defense,” Strong said during the spring. “We’ve made a bunch of big plays when we’ve needed to, but I want to see us become dominant.”

Strong’s boss, Florida coach Urban Meyer, would call what he witnessed Saturday night dominant.

“Defensively, it was one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen at containing athletes,” said Meyer, whose Gators have still only given up two touchdowns in five games.

Of course, at halftime Saturday, you would have thought they’d given up two touchdowns in the second quarter with the way Strong was unloading on his guys.

“He had some words for us, but I can’t repeat what he said,” Florida sophomore safety Will Hill said.

Strong was peeved that his defense allowed LSU to drive 77 yards for a field goal in the second quarter and tie the game at 3-3.

From there, the Tigers managed just 58 yards.

“We weren’t going to do anything to put our defense in a bad situation,” said Tebow, who admitted he picked his spots on when to lower his head after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. “This wasn’t a game where we were going to spread it out. We were going to try and be more physical, control the ball, take care of the ball ... and trust in our defense.”

With a defense like Florida's, why not trust it?

The Tigers probably thought there were 12 men on the field most of the night. They managed just 162 total yards against the Gators and were 1-of-9 on third down.

Quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked five times and pressured relentlessly.

“We have that mentality of the Baltimore Ravens in that 2000 season,” Florida senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “If we get three points, we feel like we should win the game. All the offense has to do is get three points, and we’re going to win.”

The Tigers’ only scoring drive was aided by a couple of personal foul penalties and the only time an LSU receiver got loose all night against a Florida secondary that has few, if any, peers nationally. Brandon LaFell hauled in a 26-yard pass.

“If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think they would have scored at all,” Stamper said.

In fact, that was the plan. And not that Hill was unconcerned about his teammate, but he didn’t spend much time during the week wondering about Tebow’s status.

“We knew he was going to suit up, but we didn’t know if he was going to play or not,” Hill said. “We didn’t really care, because we had to play defense.

"The defense knew what we had to do to come out and win this game.”

Was it good enough to be classified as dominant?

“That was a first step toward it,” Hill said.

Final: Florida 13, LSU 3

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
11:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Two weeks after his concussion, Tim Tebow played the whole way at quarterback for Florida, and the No. 1-ranked Gators defeated No. 4-ranked LSU 13-3 on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.

Here’s a quick analysis of the game:

How the game was won: Florida’s defense was dominant, pressuring LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson all night long and sacking him five times. LSU managed just 162 yards of total offense and was 1-of-9 on third down. The Gators have only given up two touchdowns all season.

Stat of the game: LSU had its 32-game winning streak on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium snapped.

Player of the game: His stats weren’t Tebow-esque, but the mere fact that Tebow was back and playing was a huge lift for the Gators. He wasn’t great, but he was good enough and made every play he had to.

Unsung hero of the game: We’ll go with heroes here. Both of Florida’s cornerbacks, Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins, were outstanding. They kept the LSU receivers from hurting them down the field and had terrific coverage all game. Several of the Gators’ sacks were coverage sacks.

What it means: Florida, winning for the 15th straight time, will almost certainly remain No. 1 in the polls and now has its toughest road game of the season out of the way. The Gators’ path to the SEC Championship Game and ultimately the BCS National Championship Game looks a lot less treacherous after winning in Baton Rouge for the first time under Urban Meyer.

Florida playing keepaway

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
10:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Florida's offense hasn't been dynamic tonight. The Gators haven't had a lot of big plays, and Tim Tebow hasn't been his usual unstoppable self.

But what Florida has done very well is keep the ball away from LSU. In stretching its lead to 13-3 on Caleb Sturgis' 32-yard field goal, Florida kept the ball 11 plays.

The Gators' first scoring drive in the first quarter was 13 plays, and their only touchdown drive before the half lasted eight plays.

LSU bumbling along on offense

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
10:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- How do you explain LSU's close to the third quarter?

The Tigers couldn't even get lined up after initially getting a third down and were hit with consecutive false start penalties and then failed to get a play off before the end of the third quarter.

The start of the fourth quarter wasn't much better, as LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked by Jermaine Cunningham on the first play.

The Tigers have lived in a lot of third-and-long situations, which is death against Florida's defense.

Florida's blanket coverage

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
10:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. - Florida has been all over LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson to this point. He's had very little time to throw.

But over and above the pressure, the Gators' coverage in the secondary has been excellent. Even when Jefferson has had some time, he just hasn't had many open guys to throw to.

That's not a huge surprise. Florida's secondary is one of the deepest and most talented in the country, and that talent has been on full display tonight.

LSU's defense hanging tough

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
10:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. - LSU's defense has done its part. If the Tigers are going to win this game, they need some semblance of a drive from the offense.

The defensive stand down near the goal line to force the Florida field goal attempt, which was wide left, is the kind of thing that gets this crowd right back into the game.

But if the Tigers are going to get back into the game, they need to start hitting some plays down the field.

Florida likes playing with the lead

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
9:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Florida, leading LSU 10-3 at the half, still hasn't trailed in a game this season.

The Gators obviously like playing with the lead. They've now outscored opponents by a 37-3 margin in the first quarter and 73-16 in the second quarter.

Cornerback Joe Haden's interception at the end of the first half marks the 17th straight game in which the Gators have intercepted a pass, the nation's longest streak.

Halftime analysis: Florida 10, LSU 3

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
9:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Tim Tebow starting the game and going the entire way in the first half, No. 1 Florida leads No. 4 LSU 10-3 at halftime Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

Here’s a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: After LSU had tied the game at 3-3 on Josh Jasper’s 18-yard field goal at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter, Florida answered with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that featured an incredible 8-yard scramble by Tebow on first down. He looked like he was going to be thrown for a big loss, but made five LSU defenders miss and gained 8 yards.

Stat of the half: LSU was whistled for five defensive offsides penalties, although one of those was declined by Florida.

Best player of the half: Tebow saved his best for last. Despite running very little in the first half, he looked off the defense beautifully to the left side on his touchdown throw and then hoisted a 24-yard scoring pass to Riley Cooper in the right corner of the end zone with 50 seconds remaining in the half.

Mistakes costing LSU's defense

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
9:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. - -A solid defensive effort by LSU is being spoiled by a lot of silly mistakes.

The Tigers, trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, are tackling extremely well and have held Florida in check for the most part. But LSU has been whistled for five defensive offsides penalties, although one of those was declined.

Safety Chad Jones also had a 15-yard face-mask penalty, but made up for it a few plays later with his tackle on fourth down when the Gators went for it on fourth-and-2.

Florida initially lined up to kick a field goal from the 21, but Urban Meyer called a time out and elected to go for it.

Fourth-and-short is usually Tim Tebow territory. But not this time. The Gators ran a reverse.

So far, we've seen very little of Tebow running the ball. He hasn't kept the ball at all on the zone read play.

Not much running from Florida's Tebow

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
8:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Florida's first drive was a beauty, as the Gators took it all the way from their 7 to get in position for a short field goal.

What stuck out about the drive, though, was that Tim Tebow only ran it twice for no gain. There wast at least one other time where he could have kept it, but threw the ball on the run instead.

He took a big shot, too. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson came free on a blitz and leveled Tebow as he threw it, but Tebow stood in there and completed the pass.

The Gators' offense did look a little different on that first drive. They pitched it to tight end Aaron Hernandez once on an option play and ran out of several sets with a couple of backs flanking Tebow.

Tebow starts for Gators

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
8:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow started the game for the Gators.

They started inside their own 10-yard line after an LSU punt.

An electric environment on the Bayou

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
7:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Let's get it on.

We're less than 30 minutes away, and the two teams nearly went at it at after the Florida players began dancing on the "Eye of the Tiger" at midfield.

Coaches and staff members from both sides had to come rushing in to separate the players, but there was plenty of woofing going on. Florida's Carl Johnson had to be restrained, and Florida's Brandon Spikes looked like he was ready to go right then and there.

Several of the LSU players, led by Charles Scott, Brandon LaFell and Kelvin Sheppard, rushed to midfield when they saw the Florida players gathering at midfield.

Pretty soon, both teams were staring, pointing and woofing at each other from about 10 yards away with Garth Brooks' "Calling Baton Rouge" blaring from the Tiger Stadium speakers. And I mean ... blaring.

I've said it repeatedly, but there's not a better environment anywhere in college football than Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night. It's an event like none other.

The fans were already here at 6:30 this morning and partying down in the driving rain.

Needless to say, they're ready.

Tebow looks fine in warmups

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
7:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Not that you can tell a whole lot about warmups, but Florida quarterback Tim Tebow looks fine throwing the football.

He's been out on the field at Tiger Stadium throwing for at least the last 20-30 minutes with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler close by, but there hasn't been any medical personnel around him.

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