One play changed it all

There were three momentum swings on the play that changed the game in Florida's upset win over No. 4 LSU. In the end, the big shift came from junior safety Matt Elam, with the most important play during the best game of his career. After taking a bad angle on the play and getting beat deep, Elam's forced fumble secured the win for Florida.

The Swamp was loud for the 3rd and 7. The Gators stuffed a run for a three-yard gain on first down before forcing an incompletion from Zach Mettenberger on second down. The crowd smelled blood in the water. It came three plays after Florida took a 7-6 lead, but they wanted more.

The Gators were one stop away from getting the ball back, so a consistently loud crowd at The Swamp hit one of its peak moments before the third-down snap. Mettenberger was in the shotgun and had Lerentee McCray sprinting from his blind side before he was slowed and tripped.

McCray was closing in just as Mettenberger spotted a wide-open Odell Beckham Jr. The senior defensive end arrived just as the ball came out of the quarterback's hand but still delivered a big hit. It didn't matter.

Cornerback Marcus Roberson came up and was following a crossing route to the middle of the field. Beckham Jr. ran a double move, which Florida head coach Will Muschamp called a perfect design against the pattern match coverage Florida was running.

It worked.

Elam was deep but immediately broke out in a sprint towards the west sideline, but he admittedly took a bad angle. Beckham Jr. got by him, and it was a foot race. The safety won. When Elam got to him, there was only one thing on his mind.

"I had to make the play," Elam said. "I had to stop him. My plan was to stop him from getting in the end zone."

The strip was never on his mind. He was trying to take the receiver to the ground, but the junior's football instincts took over.

"Hustle play. I'm not going to say I tried to (knock the ball out), it was just all instincts," Elam said. "It was all playmaking."

The ball popped loose. There were a few loose cheers in the stadium as Pop Saunders picked up the ball, but he lightly jogged with the ball before realizing the referee blew the play dead. The Florida defense was trying to regroup after being gashed for a big gain, but the headsets of the Florida coaches started to become more active.

The assistants in the booth saw the replay and thought the ball was out. Muschamp broke out in a sprint to the referee, telling him that he wanted a timeout to review the play before the ball was snapped.

"It was huge," Muschamp said, shaking his head. "That was a huge turning point."

The play was reviewed and overturned, giving Florida the ball at its own 23-yard line. An 11-play, 77-yard drive followed to give the Gators a 14-6 lead that would stick. But it wouldn't have happened without one play from Elam.

"They beat us down last year," Elam said. "We had a plan to hit them in the mouth and we did."

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