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BATON ROUGE — Florida coach Dan Mullen said it himself last week.
He was responding to a question about LSU coach Ed Orgeron being under fire so soon after the 2019 national title, but he could have been talking about himself and his staff in a way.
“You’re either really smart or really dumb,” he said. “And there’s nowhere in between.”
This week after unranked LSU beat No. 20 and 12-point favorite Florida, 49-42, Saturday, Orgeron and his staff – smart. Mullen and his – not so much.
First, Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who makes $1.8 million a year, could not defend nor adjust to simple counter running plays with LSU tailback Tyrion Davis-Price, who set the LSU record for rushing yards in a game with 287, breaking Derrius Guice’s 285 against Texas A&M in 2016.
And Grantham had many chances to adjust. Davis-Price carried 36 times – the most by an LSU back since running backs coach Kevin Faulk gained 136 on that many rushes against Arkansas in 1996.
It was also the most yards allowed by Florida to a tailback in history, breaking the mark of Herschel Walker, who gained 238 for Georgia in its 26-20 win on ABC on Nov. 8, 1980.
Herschel Walker. Did you get that? And 41 years ago? Did you get that? Walker won the 1982 Heisman Trophy. He was one of the greatest backs in college football history. He is the SEC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,259 yards from 1980-82 and is the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher over three seasons.
Herschel Walker was significantly faster than Davis-Price, and he could cut and run outside better. Davis-Price is basically a straight-ahead runner who doesn’t break tackles all that well either and entered the game with only 288 yards in six games. And Grantham could not figure a way to stop him, or at least downsize the incredible holes he was running through.
Davis-Price would run a little right, or a little left with the line blocking that way or the opposite, or he would just go up the middle. He scored touchdowns on runs of 18, 40 and 25 yards, often barely touched.
“They got us out of position a few times,” Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate said. “We saw some things from them we haven’t seen before.”
“They ran the counter all night long over and over, and they never stopped it,” said former Auburn coach Gene Chizik, a former defensive coordinator at UCF, Auburn, Texas, North Carolina currently working for the SEC Network and is one of the best analysts of the game anywhere.
“We made the adjustments we were given to make,” Diabate said.
Wow. That could clearly be read as an indictment of the adjustments – or lack thereof – by Grantham.
LSU also rushed for 321 yards after not breaking 100 in four games this season. LSU last rushed for 300 yards or more in 2017.
Yet, there was nothing fancy about LSU’s plan. Although, it was exotic in a way because the offensive line did something had not done much of this season – block well. And it was with basically the same guys – right tackle Austin Deculus, left tackle Cameron Wire, left guard Ed Ingram and center Liam Shanahan. Backup sophomore Marlon Martinez was a relatively new face at right guard as he had to replace Chasen Hines, who left the game early with an injury.
New offensive line coach Brad Davis did come with a new wrinkle as he frequently inserted tackle Garreett Dellinger as a tight end to have an extra lineman blocking. Grantham never quite solved that either.
“I can’t say enough. It just feels great,” said Shanahan, who has consistently showed up for interviews after things were not going so great. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to build on this going into next week.”
Florida’s rush defense was 27th nationally with just 108 yards allowed a game. No. 13 Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1 SEC), which hosts LSU at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS, is struggling at defending the run as it is No. 109 in the nation with 196.5 allowed a game.
Look for Touchdown Price to carry many times.
“Feed me,” Davis-Price told LSU offensive coordinator Jake Peetz last week when Peetz said he would be featured prominently against the Gators.
During the game, Davis-Price basicall said, “Keep it coming,” as he looked at Peetz on the sideline and waved his hand toward himself.
“I was just amazed at how good the offensive line was doing. Those were big holes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mullen may need to remember to look at injury reports. LSU played without its two starting cornerbacks – junior All-American Derek Stingley Jr. and sophomore Eli Ricks, who was a freshman All-American last year. Stingley missed his fourth straight game, and Ricks his first. Both are likely out for the year.
LSU had to start freshman safety Sage Ryan for the first time as the fifth defensive back in place of safety Cordale Flott, who moved to cornerback for Ricks. Yet, Mullen did not try to take advantage of the newbies enough until it was too late.
New LSU defensive coordinator Daronte Jones’ unit stuffed the run and came up with four interceptions, including two on back-to-back passes by Florida quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson in the second quarter with both being exchanged for touchdowns and a 21-6 LSU lead. Florida quarterbacks have not thrown consecutive picks since 2011.
So, this week Orgeron is the genius.
“We went to work this week,” said Orgeron, who is rarely one to brag. “We were going to beat the Florida Gators. We started out on Monday. Nothing else mattered. And we did it. So, I’m happy for our team. Got to give them credit. Give our assistant coaches the credit. I thought they did a great job of coaching the team this week.”
SEC West Next Saturday
LSU (4-3, 2-2) at Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1), 2:30 p.m., CBS
Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2) at Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-3), 3 p.m., SEC Network
Tennessee (4-3, 2-2) at Alabama (6-1, 3-1), 6 p.m., ESPN
South Carolina (4-3, 1-3) at Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Non-Conference – Arkansas Pine-Bluff (1-5, 0-4 SWAC) at Arkansas (4-3, 1-3), 11 a.m., SEC Network. Open – Auburn (5-2, 2-1)