GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU junior linebacker Kevin Minter may have played a little too well in the Tigers’ 14-6 loss to Florida on Saturday.
In the Gators’ first offensive drive of the second half, Minter added two tackles to the 10 he’d already accumulated before halftime, at which point LSU led 6-0.
“Kevin played his butt off,” said LSU coach Les Miles.
While it’s probably safe to assume Miles didn’t mean that literally, one could make the case.
Minter said the muscles in his legs seized after he made his 13th tackle of the game on the Tigers’ next defensive stand, sending him to the locker room. When Minter returned later in the quarter, the game was not how he left it.
Florida immediately took a 7-6 lead in Minter’s absence. He would wrestle down seven more Gators.
However, not even pulling within one tackle of LSU’s single-game record of 21 — along with two sacks and a forced fumble — could save a team that allowed Florida’s offense to stay on the field for 70 percent of the game.
“[Minter] showed up with a tremendous game, but it’s a team effort,” said junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo. “The team should’ve rallied around that and got him off the field.”
With Minter causing mayhem, LSU’s defense didn’t have that problem prior to the half.
The Gators were forced to punt on their first four drives, the fourth of which Minter single-handedly halted. He made every tackle
of the three-and-out, two of them sacks. Florida sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t complete his handoff motion before
Minter reached him on the first sack.
And finally gaining steam on the fifth drive, Driskel dropped
back from the LSU 22-yard line, delivered a pass in the flat and watched as Minter swooped in and crushed the ball from senior
receiver Frankie Hammond’s grasp.
“We had an outstanding first half, all of us [from] the linemen, to the linebackers, to the secondary,” Minter said. “It’s just a shame we couldn’t finish the second half like we did the first.”
He could only do so much. LSU’s offense laid an egg, rushing for just 42 yards, completing 44 percent of its passes and converting one of 13 third downs.
As a result, the Tigers found themselves on the opposite side of a grinding tactic they’re
accustomed to employing. Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee began gutting the Tigers in the third quarter, finishing with 146 yards on 34 carries.
Of those 34 carries, 22 came in the second half as Florida abandoned the pass, rushing on its final 25 offensive plays. LSU’s defense was on the field for 37 minutes, 24 seconds.
“[The offensive struggles are] not frustrating because we don’t think about blame here,” said junior defensive end Sam Montgomery. “But it is tiring.”
Minter’s 17 solo tackles against the Gators set an LSU record and outmatched his season total coming into the contest.
Gillislee was funneled repeatedly toward Minter, but
Mingo said it was personal effort rather than any scheme or situation that dictated his teammate’s breakout game.
“He played above and beyond his position and really came through for us,” Mingo said. “It just didn’t work out our way.”
Minter’s 54 total tackles this season outpaced his next closest teammate by 15, and he also leads the way in tackles for loss with 8.5.
Minter said he wanted to apologize to the fans for Saturday’s
overall performance but that he thought the Tigers improved
despite the loss.
That attitude, combined with his monster game, garnered high praise from his head coach following the disappointing result.
“He has given us great leadership, and he is the captain of our team,” Miles said. “He is exactly what you would want from a college football player.”