UF football

Florida Gators’ defense set to clash with LSU’s potent offense

 

When Florida meets LSU on Saturday, the Gators’ aggressive defense will be pitted against the Tigers’ explosive offense.

 
Florida Gators defensive tackle Darious Cummings #55 celebrates after a turnover in the second quarter against Tennessee on Sept. 21, 2013 in Gainesville.
Florida Gators defensive tackle Darious Cummings #55 celebrates after a turnover in the second quarter against Tennessee on Sept. 21, 2013 in Gainesville.
Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images

Miami Herald Writer

In three conference games, No. 10 LSU has scored 35, 41 and 59 points.

The Tigers — ranked 23 nationally in total offense (488.8 yards per game) — also dropped 37 points in their season opener against TCU — the nation’s 32nd-ranked defense.

The Tigers can score — a lot. So are the No. 17 Gators — as currently constituted — prepared for a potential shootout?

“Honestly, I got real caught up in all that stuff when I was a coordinator,” coach Will Muschamp said. “When I’m a head coach, I wanna win. If it take 51-50, lets go. … As long as we win I don’t care.”

First-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has transformed the Tigers’ attack, aided by the development and maturation of quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

A year after throwing just 12 touchdowns all season, LSU’s signal caller has 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions — tops in the Southeastern Conference.

Mettenberger, a 6-5, 230-pound senior with NFL potential, struggled mightily in the 14-6 loss to the Gators last season.

UF’s defensive front harassed Mettenberger all afternoon, as he completed just 11 passes for 158 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

“Where they’ve taken the next step has been in the throwing game,” Muschamp said. “Mettenberger is playing at a very, very high level. What strikes you is he’s completing [68.2] percent of his passes, and he’s so efficient and effective throwing the vertical balls down the field.”

But in an era of offensive explosions — especially for the SEC — Florida continues to zigs while everyone else zags.

The Gators have held 12 consecutive conference opponents to 20 points or less — Alabama has the next longest streak at one game.

An astounding statistic.

“I don’t think anybody in the country is playing defense better than we are,” defensive tackle Darious Cummings said. “We haven’t reached our max yet. We’re not going to allow ourselves to let [a shootout] happen.”

Meanwhile, UF’s offense — slowly yet steadily improving in recent weeks — is ready for the possibility of a high-scoring barnburner.

“We’re capable of scoring whatever we have to,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “That’s what we’ve got to have the mentality of. I think it’s just, our kids will rise to the occasion. It’s not like we can’t or shouldn’t do it.”

Florida has topped 30 points just a single time all season, but quarterback Tyler Murphy also believes the offense is “capable” of winning a shootout.

However, the redshirt junior said, “With the defense we have, I think it’s just important that we take care of the ball, try to stay on the field as much as possible. If we do that, if we keep their offense off the field, I think we can be successful.”

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