Starting to feel like the Little Engine That Could is working toward becoming a bona ride freight liner. The win over the top 10 ranked Coon @sses was a classic! Paraphrasing Mullen's requirement that the toughest team would come out on top and it certainly did. Lot of punching and counter punching in this one with LSU scoring a knock down on their first possession and us finally knocking them out on their last. In between was a lot of back and forth. Clearly both teams were tough, LSU that and big and talented in many areas to boot, but as has been a theme to me this season, our S & C program and the part it has played in player confidence was again a difference maker. We didn't fold when we would have on recent teams and have shown the ability to turn it on late in games. Yesterday was a true test of this mettle with the time the defense was required to spend on the field when the offense had periods of ineffectvity. This is also a fact IMO that adds to the pride felt, relates to the reliability and tenacity of many of our great Gator defenses of the past, and a good part of what is making our team fun to watch and rekindling what was a waning spirit among the fan base. If you looked at LSU objectively, there's a lot to admire about what Ed O has developed and put on the field. His OL is big, strong, and pretty well coached. The QB is a good fit and is effective when he has time to read the field. Lot of speed in his LB corps and his secondary pretty damn good. Ensminger and Aranda are two good coordinators as well. So what I'm saying is that we rose to the occasion and beat a pretty good team that gave us their best shot. This is the direction we have been looking for and that most of felt we were beginning to head toward, but weren't quite as confident that this game was one of the ones that was do-able on this schedule. It's nice to be surprised this way and it certainly whets our appetite for more. It'll be interesting to see if this team that is starting to resemble the Spurrier and Meyer led teams in outcomes and expectations (though it's still very early) will have the Vandy swoon with the Dawgs on the horizon. Making it even more interesting is UK's loss yesterday, cracking the door to a shot at the SEC East, but let's not get ahead of ourself. Keep the next step as the most important one. Now, as @oxrageous might say...let's discuss: *Starting with the D, I've got to give POTG shouts to Reese and Chauncey, though there were a lot of stars yesterday on that side of the ball. Each had 11 tackles I believe. Reese has a knack for finding the ball and probably the best position instincts among the LBs that we've had in a few cycles. That first LSU drive it looked like he was going to have a rough day with their RG wearing his @ss out on a couple of snaps, but he was money afterward and his leadership can't be undersold. And while on the topic of leadership, Chauncey is providing just that to our young and emerging secondary while making plays. His 11 stops from a DB is significant when considering what that means to not only stopping gains by the opponent's receivers, but also the support provided against their rushing attack. *Still on the D, Polite and Zuniga are giving us a couple of book ends that can effectively rush the passer and are getting better each week in run defense. They were a big part of the stat line for this group that recorded 11 tackles for loss that included 5 sacks and 3 turnovers. The interior got punched on a couple of drives, but obviously fought back pretty hard. These guys are showing an ability to fight back and play bigger than some of their light @sses might have been able to last year. The D coaches are doing a job with the entire unit that shouldn't be overlooked. *It is most notable that we forced Burrow into his first interception of the season (first two actually). The guy is a pretty good player and leader for them and we didn't let him beat us. *The offense and Franks obviously had some positives and negatives yesterday, struggling after LSU's first drive and score, then coming alive only to stagnate after blowing what looked like a sure TD on a bad interception to start the second half, then coming back to life to take the lead that was eventually extended by the pick six late. This group owes one to the D, but still did what they had to do for us to win. Franks made some nice throws, the corner route to the TE for example, that last year he couldn't make stood out. Chizik, love him or hate him, pointed out how much more comfortable he looks each week in the pocket which obviously has led to his improved effectiveness. No Pierce yesterday, but Perine and Scarlett collectively rushed for 150 (85 and 65 respectively) and each got some key first down runs. You had to love the little option twist Mullen used to help in this department and Franks and Toney had some nice runs as well. *The OL took another step forward IMO. Still some false starts and missed assignments, but gave up no sacks and did their part in allowing us to rush for close to 200. We still aren't elite on base blocking, but we are pretty good on the angles and G schemes. Hevesy is an obvious upgrade to what we've had since, well, Hevesy! It remains to be seen just how good this group will finish the season, but from where they have been, they're doing a pretty good impression of Lazurus right about now. Tip of the cap to these guys and their coach. *Receivers played against a pretty good secondary who provided tight coverage pretty consistently, but there were some good catches, Jefferson and Hammonds stand out, and this group shows they have bought into their part in blocking downfield. *Special teams continue to be very consistent if not spectacular at times. Coverage has been strong consistently and we have not had a drop off with our new punter and kicker. Young Raymond did his job of pinning the Tigers deep and flipping the field with a couple of boomers and McPherson's kick off after the penalty when we scored was pretty phenomenal. Even after the face mask penalty LSU still started at their 27, giving them a longer field than expected. This group's value is pretty evident and certainly makes us a more effective team in all three phases. *Mullen's ability to have us prepared for the weekly challenges and his game planning continues to impress. The fact that we have learned not to panic when we have break downs offensively and defensively is a testament of the belief that is being instilled in the players. It is clear they have bought into him and the coaching staff and what they seek to accomplish. Still more tests to come, but thus far Mullen may be exceeding the early expectations. If you weren't initially enthused with his selection, hopefully he is growing on you. *Probably the only negative about watching us yesterday was that I forgot to switch over to see the Noles blow a 20 point lead to Captain Coma and the Canes. I guess Willie and the tribe isn't back after the Christmas present from Petrino and the turnover chain is > than the turnover purse/backpack after all. *A deserved shout out to Vosean Joseph. Always plays hard even if technique and fundamentals have been lacking, but he seems to be getting it and is making more plays less gaffs from what I see. Played through several dings yesterday as well. Good to seethe improvements to go along with the toughness. *I know we got plenty of dings yesterday, but I don't recall any significant injuries. You have to think our level of fitness is playing a big part in this thus far. *Cant forget Timmy's induction into the ring of honor. Much deserved for a great Gator and pretty special human being. He's a guy that makes you proud of our team and university. *The Swamp looked electric on TV. Good to see us on the way back to being one of if not the toughest place to play in college football. Next up...Vandy. As mentioned earlier, they always seem to give us fits or benefit from us letting down a bit after preceding tough games. However you want to look at it, the game with them is important to keep the momentum going. Their HC is a pretty good defensive guy and they always seem to bring a good effort when they play us. They played Notre Dame close, so they have the ability to surprise us. It will be interesting to see our approach. Again it is the next step and hopefully we don't look beyond them. I know I'm repeating myself, but you have to like our direction. And those characterization so far of what Mullen's offense was going to be? Well, it looks like the guy is making it more about his personnel than a predetermined scheme. Certainly there's still room to grow and improve, but some early fears and preconceptions should be soothed somewhat. Kinda getting the feeling that the best is yet to come, in following seasons if not this one. As always, Go Gators and beat the Commdores!