Instant Analysis: LSU-Florida

Staff Columnist
Posted Oct 7, 2006

On a day when mistakes were many and points were precious, Florida had a change of pace that made all the difference in the world against LSU: Urban Meyer taking a literal leap of faith in his freshman quarterback. Tim Tebow, jump-passer and stage actor extraordinaire, delivered the goods for his coach and teammates, and now the Gators stand atop the SEC.

The immediate statistics merely say that Tebow, a run-first quarterback at this stage in his career, completed two of two passes for 36 yards. But the larger reality of his performance indicates that when defining plays needed to be made, Tebow made them, and with the part of his body--his arm--that hasn't usually been called upon this season. This reality took LSU by surprise in the Swamp, and it turned the game in Florida's favor.

There are two simple but very important points to make about this contest in connection with Tebow's passing game. The first is that while LSU fumbled on the Florida 1, courtesy of a botched center snap--thereby enabling the Gators to stay even and then take control in the second half--Florida was able to use a shotgun look. In a dynamic that will soon revolutionize college football, it will dawn upon coaches that this use of the shotgun is a more ball-secure formula near the goal line; but aside of that long-term consideration in the college football industry, the more immediate benefit of that play was that the space between Tebow and the line of scrimmage (a byproduct of the shotgun look) is precisely what enabled Tebow to sell the run and then execute the jump pass to Tate Casey for a touchdown. The use of the shotgun with Tebow paid big dividends for the Gators.

The second big point about Urban Meyer's use of the passing game with Tebow is that he confirmed the belief--held in some quarters--that he wanted to build Florida's offense to the point where Tebow could pass, Chris Leak could run, and any quarterback--at any time--could run any kind of play from any formation, thereby providing the unpredictability that would eventually snooker defenses as talented as the LSU crew coached by Bo Pelini, a man who is accorded a fair amount of respect in the national coaching fraternity. On Tebow's second touchdown pass, this larger offensive vision was enfleshed.

The fact that Tebow passed wasn't the brilliant part of the play; it was the fact that Tebow sold a run and then hid the ball in an expert display of acting that truly sewed confusion in LSU's defensive backfield. After all the quick-hitting plays Florida used in the first half, this slow-developing play took LSU by surprise, and it was this layered quality to the play that made it work. That it scored a touchdown only heightened its importance within the larger framework of the game.

While Florida thrived with the help of great coaching, LSU drowed in a sea of foul-fingered fumbling and frequently foolish football follies. Whether it was JaMarcus Russell committing yet more big-game turnovers, or 12 men being on the field in the red zone, or kicks being botched, the Tigers continued the nasty habit of leaving gobs of points on the field in a high-profile, big-stakes ballgame. Ever since the Les Miles era started, the spotlight games for the Bayou Bengals--against Auburn (twice), Florida (twice), at Alabama (last season), and versus Georgia (last year's SEC title game)--have involved boatloads of mistakes. Last year, the aftermath of Katrina gave the Tigers a legitimate reason for being rusty and rough-edged, but this season, LSU is still Miles away from looking well-schooled and alert in a huge contest. The mistake bug is something LSU's coaching staff has to address if the Tiger program is to ever reach the proverbial next level... the level Florida shows every sign of attaining after this huge breakthrough in the Urban Meyer era.

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