Gator -- It’s What’s for Dinner: Why LSU Slow-Roasted Florida

By Terry Waldrop

The Florida Gator gumbo took a little longer to finish today, but fittingly, on a day when LSU was honoring their 2003 National Championship team, the Tigers came up with a little defensive nostalgia of their own. Call it throw back, retro or just simply the smothering dominating defense that LSU and the SEC have been known for in their decade-long dominance of the BCS. The Tiger defense has now pitched a touchdown shutout in six-consecutive SEC quarters.

LSU lined up and went directly after coach Will Muschamp’s Gator squad today, and the continual ground onslaught of Jeremy Hill mixed in with timely passes from Zach Mettenberger was too much for a valiant but ultimately lacking Florida squad in Death Valley.

The real heroes of the day for LSU were the much maligned and harshly-criticized defense who effectively pitched a near shut out of Florida. Granted, the Gator offense isn’t much to write home about, but the constant pressure and bend-and-not-break Tiger defense set a tone early that continued throughout the game. That tone was physical toughness. Both sides of the LSU line exhibited that today and the Tigers grounded out an impressive but less-than-full-of-highlights key SEC victory.

On a day where Georgia’s Aaron Murray saw his Heisman hopes vanquished and Georgia‘s SEC and BCS National title aspirations go down in flames, Mettenberger was determined not to let the same fate ensnare the Tigers. Mettenberger was efficient if nothing else.  His 9-of-17 passing for 151 yards produced no touchdowns, but his ability to not only buy into the physical LSU gameplan, but to execute it against a very good Florida defense  provided the separation needed, and the Tigers won a game they controlled from early in the second quarter.

Mettenberger’s stats will likely take him out of Heisman contention for now, but he has put the Tigers squarely in the BCS and SEC title picture with the showdown in Tuscaloosa with Saban and Alabama looming in a couple weeks. It will be the game of the century, part whatever it is now. Alabama has LSU in the way and the Tigers’ notoriously difficult schedule is looking seemingly much more manageable at this point. LSU has Alabama on the road and the Texas A&M Aggies in Death Valley around Thanksgiving in a sprint to the Tiger finish.

There weren’t many style points in the 17-6 victory over the Gators. Survive and advance is the battle cry for all teams with BCS aspirations at this point in the season, and the Tigers showed toughness and an ability to turn the clock back a few years and play bulldozer-style football their fans have been accustomed to. Don’t sleep on Ole Miss next week, but look for Mettenberger and company to open back up the airways and the Tigers to cruise over the Rebels.

Terry Waldrop was a long time college basketball coach and AD. He also is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @terrywaldrop,  or “Like” him on Facebook / add him to your network on Google.

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