LSU bounces back, wins at No. 21 Florida
LSU coaches and players spent the week enduring heavy criticism, something the Tigers earned after losing to Troy last week at home.
LSU responded to the negativity on Saturday with its biggest win of the young season.
Quarterback Danny Etling threw a touchdown pass, and the Tigers’ defense made a late stand in a much-needed 17-16 SEC victory over No. 21 Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Etling, who was benched in the second half of last week’s loss, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Carter that extended LSU’s lead to 17-3 early in the third quarter.
Florida’s running attack got the Gators back in the game. Lamical Perine capped back-to-back scoring drives with short touchdown runs, but the Gators botched a potential tying extra point and trailed 17-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
The snap and hold on the potential tying extra point were not clean, and kicker Eddy Pineiro pulled the kick to the left. Pineiro had been 46 of 46 on extra points in his Gators career.
Still trailing by one with 4:01 to play, Florida started a drive from its own 4-yard line. The Gators (3-2, 3-1 SEC), lacking explosive playmakers in the passing game, methodically tried to get something going, but ended up failing on fourth-and-3 at its own 25, giving the ball back to LSU on downs.
The Tigers (4-2, 1-1) ran out the final seconds and picked up a huge win.
It’s a deflating loss for the Gators, their first of the season in SEC play.
“This is a tough one to swallow, and it hurts,” Florida coach Jim McElwain. “We were prepared.”
This SEC rivalry has intensified the past two seasons. Last year, the game was relocated from Gainesville, Fla., to Baton Rouge, La., due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. The decision to move the game instead of reschedule it rankled the Gators, who eventually won 16-10 at Tiger Stadium.
“It was a tough week,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said in the post-game press conference. “I thought we got close as a football team and staff.”
LSU would get revenge this year, when it needed it most. The Tigers were coming off a humiliating loss at home to Troy that left Orgeron facing stiff criticism just a few games into his tenure.
LSU opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by Etling’s touchdown pass to Carter. Etling finished 9 of 16 for 125 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also made plays with his legs, often refusing to slide and fighting for more yards on scrambles.
The Tigers got their running game going first, with a mix of between-the-tackle plays and jet sweeps with wide receivers. The Tigers opened the scoring with a 30-yard touchdown run by receiver Russell Gage late in the first quarter.
The Tigers rushed for 133 yards in the first half and led 10-3 at halftime.
Florida, which rushed for 194 yards and passed for 108, never seemed to pose a big-play threat against the Tigers’ defense. Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks completed 10 of 16 passes for 108 yards without a touchdown.
Franks could not jumpstart the offense on the final drive and misfired on a fourth-down pass attempt that sealed the win for LSU.
“That’s life in the SEC,” McElwain said. “Guys are hurting in that locker room, and they should hurt. We need to come back and have a good week.”
LSU finished with 216 yards on the ground, with Derrius Guice returning from injury to rush for 50 yards. Gage had 52 yards on six carries.
The LSU defense had five sacks, and sophomore linebacker Devin White had 13 tackles to lead a stellar effort.
Some Tigers celebrated the win by running across the field doing the Gator Chomp with their arms.
“Good feeling,” Orgeron said. “I was so happy for our team. This shows what kind of team we can be.”
NOTES: Florida K Eddy Pineiro’s 25-yard field goal accounted for the Gators’ only points of the first half. Pineiro’s field goal extended the Gators’ streak of not being shut out to 366 games, breaking the NCAA record set by Michigan from 1984-2014. ... LSU WR Derrick Dillon was disqualified in the first quarter after being called for targeting. ... LSU hosts No. 12 Auburn next week; Florida hosts Texas A&M.