LSU’s 41-11 victory over No. 17 Florida on Saturday in Tiger Stadium was another impressive win by the No. 1 team in the country.
The Tigers’ first two possessions yielded a 14-0 lead that grew into a 24-3 halftime cushion in a game whose outcome was never really in doubt. LSU outgained the Gators 453-213, took the ball away twice and didn’t give it away and possessed the ball for all but 6 minutes of the second half.
But if the Tigers coaches want to point out imperfections, which they get paid to do, they can find a new nits to pick with this 6-0 team.
First of all, there are the penalties — a season-worst-tying nine for 65 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on punter Brad Wing that turned an electrifying 52-yard run on a fake punt for a touchdown into a disappointing field goal.
Then, there was a third-quarter lull by the offense during which three possessions yielded just three points as the Tigers seemed content to watch their 24-3 lead become 27-3.
And finally there was Morris Claiborne bumping Andre Debose out of bounds and falling to the ground and watching Debose get back in bounds and grab a 65-yard touchdown pass that gave Florida a fighting chance by pulling the Gators within 27-11 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
The penalties were tempered by the fact that the Gators were worse — 12 for 90 yards — and the brief offensive lull was followed by two touchdown drives that totaled 157 yards in length, and the long touchdown was the only one given up.
But this team speaks frequently about playing for a national championship and gauges itself against itself, so those nits likely will be picked in meetings this week as LSU prepares to play at Tennessee.
“We showed everybody that we are capable of some special things against a really good Florida team,” defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “I want more. I want a national championship. I want to play the best ever.”
And, Montgomery allowed, the Tigers aren’t there yet.
“We’re feeling unsatisfied,” he said. “You look around here, and you see a lot of guys without a lot of smiles on their faces, because we’re aiming for something bigger. I’m going to celebrate each victory, but I know there are bigger things that I want out of this season, there are bigger things that I want out of football.”
Montgomery said his coach, Les Miles, and the coach of No. 2 Alabama, Nick Saban, won’t accept sloppiness, even amid so much good football.
“They will not tolerate any trash-talking in the media,” he said. “They will not tolerate any extra celebrating. They will not tolerate somebody jumping offside, because those are things that do not have to be done.”
The best example of that was Wing’s penalty, which came after he briefly waved his arms and turned his head toward a Florida player while Wing was still 8 yards from what would have been, and should have been, a touchdown.
“The play was amazing, but it’s one of those things that cannot be tolerated at a top program,” Montgomery said. “You’re not going to celebrate (like that). It wouldn’t happen at Alabama. It (shouldn’t) happen at LSU. So he’s going to be punished for it.
“Brad Wing will be punished come Monday. He will have some running. It will be bad. Les Miles is not happy.”
The 65-yard touchdown pass was the longest scoring play allowed by the Tigers this season and second only to a 72-yard pass play against West Virginia among all plays.
“I think that we have to learn that we cannot afford to give up the big play,” safety Brandon Taylor said. “We gave up a big play, and I think we have to remember that we always need to stay on our toes and keep our motor running to make sure those big plays don’t happen.”
Still, the Tigers are 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference and haven’t won any game by fewer than 13 points as they prepare to visit Tennessee on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of maturing to be done,” Montgomery said. “You know how coaches are. They want perfection. You never look at the positives. You get a pat on the back, and you move on to the next week, but they will always focus on and harp on the negatives. They want you to be perfect.”