Instant Analysis: Daniels puts up all-time performance as UF loses third straight

Florida 35 - No. 18 LSU 52

by Zack Weiss
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The Gators entered Baton Rouge eyeing that coveted sixth win and bowl game eligibility. The Tigers were looking for their seventh win of the season and fifth straight vs. Florida. In a Death Valley shootout, Jayden Daniels and the Tigers proved too much to handle for Billy Napier’s squad. The Orange & Blue fell to .500 and now have just two more opportunities left to reach six wins.

Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Florida failed to convert a 4th & 3 in its own territory with 6:34 on the clock, down 45-35. Eugene Wilson couldn’t reel it in on the short cross and the Tigers went the other way to eventually score. They were up 17 at this point with under 2:30 remaining, which was too tall a hill to climb. Graham Mertz and the Gators played a great offensive game — and still didn’t do enough to keep up with LSU.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Quarterback Jayden Daniels was absolutely, positively, utterly magnificent for the Purple & Gold. He may have just had the single greatest statistical game by any QB in FBS history. The senior out of California was questionable leading up to game day after suffering a head injury vs. Alabama last week. But none of that affected the dual-threat QB in the slightest. He rushed for 234 yards and 2 scores on just 12 carries, capped by a 85-yard TD run with 8:21 in the 2nd quarter to put LSU up 17-7. It was the longest rushing TD by any SEC player this season and the longest by any QB in LSU school history. He had 139 yards rushing with a touchdown in the first half alone. And all of that’s just on the ground. He had another 372 yards and 3 TDs in the air, giving him 606 yards of total offense and five total TDs. Just absolute dominance. Florida never had an answer for him.

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: This was always gearing up to be a battle of offenses — a shootout if you will. We knew LSU would put up points. One way or another. The question going in was if Florida would be able to match. And, despite a 488-yard performance, it just couldn’t. It’s severely difficult to when your opponent puts up the fourth-most single-game yards in program history. LSU had an eye-popping 701 yards of total offense with 372 in the air and 329 on the ground.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: Graham Mertz came into this game the fifth-most sacked QB in the country. The Gators ranked 125th in sacks allowed. So, if this struggling LSU defense was going to succeed anywhere, it was going to be in the matchup of its defensive line vs. Florida’s offensive line. It was going to be getting to the quarterback. And the Gators allowed it to do that. The Tigers racked up four sacks, five TFLs, and a fumble recovery. If the Gators’ offensive line did a better job protecting Mertz, this game could’ve looked a lot different. I mean, despite these stats, Florida still put up 35 points.

WHAT A PLAY: Following a 21-yard Trevor Etienne TD run with 9:37 remaining in the third to bring the Gators within three (21-24), LSU fumbled the subsequent kickoff return and Florida recovered. The Orange & Blue immediately took advantage, the short-yardage drive ending in a 1-yard Graham Mertz rushing TD. This gave the Gators their first lead of the night at 28-24. That fumbled kickoff completely changed the momentum of this game. At least, until Jayden Daniels did more Jayden Daniels stuff the following Tigers possession.

UP NEXT: Florida(5-5, 3-4) will play its 11th and penultimate game of the season in Columbia next Saturday against Missouri. It will be the Gators’ second-to-last chance at a bowl game, with FSU heading to Gainesville the following weekend to close out the regular season. Kickoff vs. Mizzou is set for 7:30 p.m.

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