By Alex Asaro
Heading into Saturday’s game in Death Valley between LSU and Florida, there was a plethora of storylines surrounding the matchup of top ten cross-divisional Southeastern Conference opponents.
Whether it was the suspension of the Gators’ starting quarterback Will Grier earlier in the week or the hype that surrounded the Heisman Trophy candidacy of LSU running back Leonard Fournette, there was much to be said about this SEC rivalry matchup.
Under the cover of all of these stories was an offensive dual between quarterbacks Brandon Harris of LSU and Treon Harris of Florida.
With Florida’s defense allowing only 99.2 rushing yards per game (2nd in SEC) and LSU allowing just 99.6 per game (3rd in SEC), it comes as no surprise that both of these teams’ game plan on offense was to throw more.
Playing high-powered run defenses gave both quarterbacks a chance to shine in a pivotal SEC showdown.
“Everybody knows what I can do throwing the football.”
– Brandon Harris, LSU quarterback
– Brandon Harris, LSU quarterback
LSU sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris has been under the scope of the media for being a “non-threat” and failing to produce the consistent results expected from the Tigers’ passing game.
Going into this game on Saturday it is easy to imagine why there were so many critics on Brandon Harris, despite his big game against South Carolina the previous week.
The Tigers were ranked last in total passing offense in the SEC with 610 yards through the air. With running back Leonard Fournette shouldering the bulk of LSU’s offensive burden, the need for a lethal passing game had not been necessary for most of the season. This is bound to happen when you operate under a run-first Les Miles offense.
For Harris, the doubters have done nothing but fuel him and the LSU receivers.
“It’s nothing but motivation to me, and I can’t stand it,” Harris said. “I play with a chip on my shoulder every single week. This team knows how talented we are passing the ball. Everybody knows what I can do throwing the football.”
In Brandon Harris’ last two games he has proved the critics wrong, passing for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in each game.
In the first half of this weekend’s game against Florida Harris threw for 189 yards on 10 completions for a pair of touchdown grabs to Malachi Dupre.
The only downside is the slump he hit in the second half where he only threw for 13 yards to total 202 on the entire game.
But Harris has taken care of ball this season as he has yet to throw an interception. With each passing game he has been given more opportunities to open up the passing game and give the LSU offense a threat through the air to complement the powerful run.
On the other side comes sophomore quarterback Treon Harris for Florida.
Treon was pushed into a starting quarterback role this week after the announcement of Will Grier’s one-year suspension for his use of performance-enhancing substances.
Even with Grier gone, the Gators were in no shape to complain. Harris was the starter for the first game of the season against New Mexico State and started the last six games of the season in 2014.
Treon’s stat line from the Gators’ season opener is something that LSU’s fans envied early on in a quarterback, as he went 14 for 19 with 215 yards and two touchdowns in Florida’s 61-13 trouncing of the Aggies.
Treon picked up right where he left off in week one as he fended off the boisterous LSU crowd to put up 271 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns to tight end Jake McGee.
Another thing to keep in mind about Treon’s play was the fact that he picked up 55 yards with his legs to help keep many of Florida’s offensive drives alive. But with no help from his offensive line, he was sacked 5 times to bring that rushing total down to only 20 yards.
Although the Gators were not able to escape with the victory it is worth noting the athletic ability and true potential that Harris showed against a tough LSU defense.
Based on what was seen this past weekend, both Harris’ are shaping up to be quarterbacks of the highest level in SEC play.
The numbers put up by these quarterbacks did not set the world on fire, but there is much to be said about a great game manager at quarterback in this defensively dominated SEC world.
With LSU at the top of the SEC West with a record of 6-0 (4-0) and Florida still remaining at the top of the East division at 6-1 (4-1), look for a potential rematch of Harris vs. Harris in the SEC championship that could be a deciding factor for a spot in the college football playoffs.