Sunday, October 7, 2007

Florida Post-Game, Continued

It's morning now, and that game seems more unreal by the light of day and after a decent night's sleep than it did at 11:00pm last night. Matt Zemeck at College Football news said it better than I can:
The kids from LSU will remember this night more fondly than the Gators--especially since the national title is now in the Tigers' hands--but this was the kind of college football experience that transcends the scoreboard result and the emotions that currently dominate the winning and losing teams. Decades from now, these Tigers and Gators, in their 50s and 60s, will tell their children and grandchildren about October 6, 2007, a night when everything right about college football spilled out in full flower before an enraptured crowd in the sport's best nighttime setting.
It's a beautiful sentiment about a beautiful game for which there is no shame in Florida's having lost it.

But let's get one thing straight right now. We outplayed Florida. We were the better team over the course of the 60 minute game. Florida outplayed us in the first quarter, but we outplayed them the rest of the game. Florida almost won anyway, in part because we missed field goals and in part because of penalties. But let's be clear about that. We outplayed them. How do I know?
  • We outgained them 391 yards to 314.
  • We won the turnover battle 2-1.
  • We won the time of possession 35:52 to 24:03
You do that, you win, most of the time. We did that, and we almost lost. But we didn't lose. We won, thanks in large part to a Herculean effort by Jacob Hester.

Here in Alabama, there is the legend of Van Tiffin, a former Bama kicker back in the 80s. If the name Van Tiffin is mentioned, everyone immediately associates it with a last-second 52 yard field goal in the 1985 Iron Bowl to beat Auburn by 2. Every football fan here in Alabama knows the name, and associates it with "The Kick". LSU now has a modern equivalent (to go along with the Billy Cannon run) in Jacob Hester. He won't be remembered for one play, but for three. He converted two fourth downs and scored the game winning touchdown on LSU's final drive. Jacob Hester will forever be an LSU hero for that game.

To me, the quintessential moment of that game was Hester, having just scored the final touchdown, lying injured on the turf, with half his body in the end zone and half of it out.

Lest we allow Jacob Hester's phenomenal game overshadow the other players, let's also credit the defense, but let's make it a backhanded compliment. They really got up off the mat and played well in crunch time, after struggling so much early.

How much did they struggle? Not counting the final possession of the first half, where Florida simply kneeled the ball and went to the half, the defense gave up scores on 4 of Florida's first 5 possessions, including three touchdowns.

How much did they bounce back? Florida got 44 yards of offense and committed a turnover in the decisive 4th quarter. Going back to the closing minutes of the 3rd quarter, Florida's last 4 possessions gave them 74 yards and 2 turnovers.

They had our number early. They really had our defense figured out and moved the ball seemingly at will. I haven't watched the replay yet to figure out why they were able to do it, but it was impressive.

I don't want to lose track of all the different storylines of this game.

Matt Flynn gutted out a good performance. His first pass was way off the mark, but he played very well after that, and would have had really nice numbers if not for a couple drops.

If you didn't know before, Tim Tebow is a monster football player. I don't think college football has ever seen a player quite like him. He's a power running back with the arm and decision-making ability of a quality quarterback. And he's got the competitive spirit of a Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Pete Rose, or Mark Messier. I don't know if he has a future in pro football with his particular skill set, but he could go down as the best college football player of the modern age.

There could well be a rematch in Atlanta. Florida does not control its destiny, but they only need to win out and hope Tennessee takes another loss. Until yesterday, Tennessee didn't look very good at all, so I think it's a fairly safe bet that if Florida wins out against Kentucky (after a week off), Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina before ending the season with out-of-conference games against Florida Atlantic and Florida State, they will end up in the championship game.

Now, after Les Miles' signature win on the LSU sidelines, he has a new challenge. He has to take a team coming off of that kind of game; a physical, brutal, and highly emotional game; and get them to channel their energy to the next opponent in time to get on the plane to Lexington next week. We got a big win, but if we don't continue the season, it won't mean much. The season continues, and it doesn't exactly get easy.


Brian said...

Without benefit of a replay, it looked Florida was sending receivers into the flat, which cleared our linebackers out of the box. Tebow would then fake a run into one gap and then hand off into another gap, depending on which way the tackle played. It almost looked like an off-tackle option. This forced either the safeties or the linebackers to commit more to the run, which then opened up the run. I'll be interested to read what you see on the replay.

Poseur said...

Les Miles' balls are so big, Bama is considering hiring them as Saban's co-ordinators.

FIVE fourth down conversions? FIVE?! I want every person who has questioned Les Miles as a game day coach to have a giant glass of shut the fuck up.

Rog said...

Good point on the Billy Cannon reference. I was thinking the same thing. That timeout call nearly made me puke, but coverting five fourth-down conversions was an effective Pepto Bismol

Richard Pittman said...

Brian: I didn't see anything quite that sophisticated in the replay. I mainly watch the line play on replays. I noticed that Florida, like a lot of teams including LSU, runs that shotgun option where the quarterback chooses to either hand it off up the middle or pull it back and run around the end, depending on the read of what the end is doing. It's a tough play to defend if you have a mobile QB. I noticed Tebow really holds that fake longer than most, by about a half-second, and carries it down close to the line, forcing the defensive end to make a decision on whether to collapse in or stay outside. They got a lot of big runs on that play.

I'll post more thoughts on that tomorrow.

Steve: yeah, buddy.

Rog: Welcome to the board.

Jeffrey Macloud said...

South Carolina did it first, exploiting the seam between the LBs and the secondary. They had a lot of success there, and Tulane had some as well, so I figured Florida would let Harvin fly through there as much as possible. Our LBs just can't cover a guy like Harvin.

As for Tebow, no one else in the country can run that option like he does because no one else can run like he does - straight at the LBs and carry them for three yards. Wow.