BATON ROUGE, La. -- Deep in the noisy bowels of Tiger Stadium, Gators linebacker Michael Taylor was in no mood to point fingers following No. 22 Florida’s 17-6 loss to No. 6 LSU.
“We didn’t hold them enough,” the junior said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Is it though?
Florida’s defense — ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense entering Saturday’s showdown — limited a potent Tigers offense to a season-low 327 yards and 17 points.
LSU’s gun-slinging quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed just nine passes for 152 yards with no touchdowns and one inexplicable fumble.
The Gators’ defensive line struggled to get off blocks and slow down LSU tailback Jeremy Hill (121 yards), but the unit surrendered just 17 points in a hostile environment.
It wasn’t enough, though. Again.
Despite holding a conference opponent under 20 points for the 13th consecutive game, Florida lost for the fourth time in the Will Muschamp era when its suffocating defense yielded 17 points or less.
In those four losses — including Saturday — the Gators have scored zero touchdowns and totaled just 33 points.
“We didn’t create enough explosives down the field, and a lot of that was we couldn’t get rid of the football,” Muschamp said. “We were under duress as far as pressure is concerned. There’s no question it’s a huge concern as we move forward.”
The Gators waltzed into Death Valley with their efficiently dull offense, but their methodical attack was no match against a young, fast and aggressive LSU defense.
Florida — especially its offensive line — wilted facing LSU’s relentless pressure, conceding four sacks, eight tackles for loss and six registered quarterback hurries.
Florida tallied its fewest yards (240) since the blowout victory over South Carolina (183) last season. The Gators didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since the loss to Georgia in 2012.
“It seems like we’ve messed up twice this year on the same stuff,” wideout Trey Burton said. “We just got to find a way to get better.”
Quarterback Tyler Murphy — unsurprisingly — crashed back down to earth, but the redshirt junior was running for his life for much of the afternoon.
Ultimately, Florida was thoroughly dominated by a team using its own blueprint.
Muschamp’s brand of football: toughness, physicality and execution has proved futile against recent quality opponents. The Gators are just 1-4 in their last five games against ranked foes.
The throwback ground-and-pound philosophy is nice against Kentucky and Arkansas, but an inability to complete the most traditional 15-yard passes forces the Gators to play with a margin of error to dangerously small proportions.
“They were kind of forcing us to go [short] because they were pressuring and then when they didn’t pressure, they tried to keep everything in front of them. We tried to nickel and dime them,” Murphy said. “We had a few plays where we could have broke, but we just didn’t execute.”
Florida wasn’t undone by turnovers (none) or offensive penalties (two), it simply couldn’t block and generate explosive plays.
In an era of offensive explosions, UF’s punchless, “nickel and dime” unit continues to come up short and let down a championship-caliber defense.