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Florida scoffs at "D" giving up 50 to LSU

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - No. 17 Florida expects something closer to a shutout than a shootout against 10th-ranked LSU.

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The Gators have praised Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger and arguably the nation's top receiving tandem, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, all week. But defensive players raised eyebrows, shook heads and pretty much scoffed at the notion of LSU dropping half a hundred on them Saturday.

``We're not going to allow ourselves to let that happen,'' Florida defensive tackle Darious Cummings said.

The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) are averaging 45 points and 489 yards a game this season. Florida (4-1, 3-0), meanwhile, hasn't given up 21 points in any of its last 13 league games.

How one of the SEC's highest-scoring offenses fairs against the league's stingiest defense likely will determine the outcome in Baton Rouge, La.

``I don't think anybody in the country is playing better defense than we are,'' Cummings said. ``We haven't even reached our max yet, so I feel we just have that relentless effort and we're not taking no for an answer. We get challenged week in and week out to be the best.''

LSU's offensive improvements are obvious.

Mettenberger, who threw for 158 yards and was sacked four times in a 14-6 loss at Florida a year ago, looks more comfortable and confident in his second season as the starter.

The senior has thrown for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns, the most through the first six games in school history. Coach Les Miles credits new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for Mettenberger's progress. Cameron was fired after one season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2007 and let go again last year as Baltimore's offensive coordinator in the middle of the Ravens' Super Bowl run.

But with Cameron calling plays and Mettenberger executing them, LSU's offense has been mostly unstoppable.

The Tigers have scored 100 points the last two games: 41 in a loss at Georgia and 59 in a victory at Mississippi. Mettenberger completed 73 percent of his passes for 712 yards in those outings, with five touchdowns and an interception.

``He's more accurate with the ball,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. ``I think he's got a better understanding in the passing game. Everybody matures as different ages. I know we're all in an instant-coffee society, where we want it right now, and that's not always the way it is.

``Sometimes that happens with players. From a maturity standpoint, he's playing at an extremely high level.''

It certainly helps to have Beckham and Landry, who have the most receptions and yards of any duo in college football.

Beckham has caught 35 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns. Landry has 42 receptions for 616 yards and seven scores.

But if anyone can slow down Beckham and Landry it's Florida.

The Gators have one of the deepest secondaries in the country, featuring cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy, Vernon Hargreaves III and Marcus Roberson. Purifoy had a sack, a forced fumble and returned an interception for a fumble in last week's 30-10 win against Arkansas. Hargreaves, a freshman, leads the team with three picks. And Roberson (knee) should make the unit better, assuming he returns after missing the last three games.

``Florida has a combination of both athleticism and great schemes,'' Mettenberger said. ``They have big guys that can run, linebackers that can cover and corners that cover very well. We will have our opportunities to be man on man with the defense and hopefully we can score more times than not against them.''

All of Florida's talent on the back end allows Muschamp to be creative up front. And defensive linemen Dante Fowler Jr. and Ronald Powell have gotten to opposing quarterbacks all season.

``That's kind of been our identity, coming after the quarterback, getting after him, getting hits on the quarterback, pressuring the quarterback, making him make bad decisions,'' Powell said. ``That's kind of like what we do. That's what we want to do. We want to play physical and force our will on people.''

It's worked for 13 consecutive SEC games. The last team to really gouge the Gators was LSU, which beat Florida 41-11 in Baton Rouge in 2011.

Not surprisingly, the Gators haven't forgotten - and don't expect it to happen again.

``It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here,'' senior Jaylen Watkins said. ``It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth, but that's the game of football. We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves and we're looking forward to it.''

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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