The Florida Gators (4-2, 2-1) have not quite turned the corner on offense. After a couple of weeks of steady improvement by QB Tyler Murphy and the unit as a whole, the Gators took a step back last week in a 17-6 loss to LSU.
Florida managed only 111 rushing yards, by far its lowest total of the season, which allowed the Tigers’ defenders to hone in on Murphy. The fourth-year junior was under duress all day, with defenders in his face batting down passes, knocking him to the ground and forcing errant throws.
Murphy finished 15-of-27 for just 115 yards. He was nearly intercepted three times, but LSU defensive backs dropped each of those chances.
The Tigers’ defense “had too many free runners at the quarterback,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said after the game. “My initial thoughts are there was too much pressure. We’ve got to protect (Murphy) better.”
But Murphy, in a move characteristic of a good leader, didn’t point the finger at his offensive line, instead blaming himself.
“I really have to work on getting rid of the ball quicker,” he said.
Considering it was the first time LSU kept its opponent out of the end zone, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
On the other side of the ball, Florida’s defense actually played very well considering the opponent. The Gators held LSU’s powerful offense to just 327 yards and 17 points, well below its previous season averages of 488 yards and 45 points.
What to look for in Week 8: Florida’s defense has to be thinking it will feast on Missouri’s freshman QB, Maty Mauk. The Tigers are coming off an upset of Georgia and are currently sitting atop the SEC East standings, but they are without dynamic QB James Franklin. Without Franklin’s playmaking ability, Missouri figures to be only a shell of its previous offensive self. The Gators should be able to hold the Tigers well below their 45 points per game average (eighth best in nation).
The question: Will the Gators score enough to win? They’re averaging just 15.3 points per game on the road and have not scored a touchdown in their last six quarters outside The Swamp. Missouri is giving up just over 23 points per game, which is just one more than the LSU defense that kept Florida out of the end zone last week. Furthermore, the Gators head to Columbia without starting running back Matt Jones (torn meniscus) and starting right tackle Chaz Green (labrum). Even when healthy, Florida struggled to move the ball and score.