A win was there for the taking Saturday night at The Swamp. The only problem was the LSU Tigers did all the taking. The Gators had their chances, too, but instead of coming away with a win that would have allowed Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to keep pace with Georgia in the SEC East, they gave away a very winnable game.
Officially, the difference in this 30-27 win LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) scored over the Gators was a 50-yard field goal by Colby Delahoussaye with three seconds remaining but you can pin this one on three Florida fourth quarter mistakes.
“The opportunities were countless,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said in his post game remarks, later adding, “Red zone we didn’t convert … turnovers killed us.”
The first mistake was a 41-yard Anthony Jennings pass to Travin Dural that turned a third and 25 into a scoring opportunity. On the play, corner Brian Poole thought he had help over the top so he let Dural go but safety Keanu Neal wasn’t there until it was way too late. Dural made the catch and was shoved out of bounds at the Florida 26. A half-the-distance penalty was tacked on to the end of the play because Alex McCallister was flagged for illegal hands to the face. Two plays later Jennings and Dural hooked up again for a 10-yard touchdown pass that put LSU ahead 27-24.
The second mistake came on third and goal from the LSU one on the ensuing drive. A 73-yard Jeff Driskel to Demarcus Robinson pass gave the Gators a first and goal at the LSU two but two running plays couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. On third down, Driskel rolled to his right and flipped an easy pass to tight end Tevin Westbrook for what should have been a game-winning touchdown but Westbrook dropped the ball, forcing the Gators to settle for a Frankie Velez field goal with 1:49 to go.
Florida still had one more chance because the defense came through with a three-and-out to force a punt that allowed the Gators to take over on their own 42. Consecutive completions from Driskel to Brandon Powell gave the Gators a first down at the LSU 45. That’s when mistake #3 proved fatal. Driskel was picked off by Ricky Jefferson, who ran the ball back 36 yards to the Florida 36. Two plays later Delahoussaye drilled the game-winner.
The loss offset a brilliant performance by Andre Debose, who returned an LSU punt for a touchdown in the first quarter, set up Florida’s second touchdown with a 35-yard gain on a jet sweep and came through with a 53-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that set up a Driskel to Robinson touchdown pass that gave the Gators a 24-20 lead.
Heading into the game the Gators had control of their destiny in the SEC East but the loss ended that. Instead of keeping pace with Georgia, which handed Missouri its first SEC loss to a 34-0 tune Saturday, the Gators dropped their second SEC game which means they have to play catch up the rest of the way. Florida plays host to Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC) next week, then after a bye its off to Jacksonville to face Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC).
Florida outgained LSU, 306-305 but LSU ran 72 offensive plays to Florida’s 57 and controlled the ball for 36:36 to Florida’s 23:27. LSU pounded the ball on the ground for 195 yards with freshman Leonard Fournette accounting for 140 and two touchdowns.
Driskel hit 14-25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and he ran 21 times for 71 yards, but he fumbled the ball in the first quarter to set up LSU’s first touchdown and threw two interceptions.
FLORIDA 7, LSU 0: Special teams delivered for the Gators after the defense turned LSU’s first series into a retreat. Following their first third down conversion in the last 18, LSU got a 15-yard personal foul penalty, a snap for a 6-yard loss when Anthony Jennings wasn’t looking, and a sack for another 6-yard loss by Alex McCallister to force a Jamie Keehn punt that Andre Debose turned into a 62-yard touchdown with 8:52 remaining in the first quarter. Debose took the punt near the west sideline, made a couple of moves to turn it into a sprint to the corner and then turned upfield along the east sideline where he found a convoy of Gators for the first punt return for a touchdown of his career. Frankie Velez came on to add the extra point to stake the Gators to a 7-0 lead.
LSU 7, FLORIDA 7: The Florida defense did its part on LSU’s second possession forcing a three-and-out. Taking over on the UF 30, Jeff Driskel was separated from the ball by Kwon Alexander with Jamauria Rasco recovering for the Tigers. It took LSU two plays to go the 28 yards, a power running clinic by freshman Leonard Fournette, who got 16 on the first carry and an impressive 12 on the second when he pushed two Gators into the end zone with 6:21 to go in the quarter. Colby Delahoussaye kicked the extra point to tie the game.
FLORIDA 14, LSU 7: The go-ahead touchdown came on a 9-yard run by Driskel on a quarterback sweep around the right side with 2:32 to go, but the 8-play, 75-yard drive got its momentum when Debose turned a jet sweep into a 35-yard gainer on the first play of the drive. Six of the next seven plays were all about Driskel, who completed both his passes for 14 yards and ran four times for 26 26 yards. Driskel came up with an 8-yard run on a fourth and two at the Florida 32 to extend the drive, then hit a 7-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson and followed that with an 8-yard run before finishing things off with the touchdown. Velez booted the extra point to complete the drive.
FLORIDA 17, LSU 7: After forcing an LSU punt, the Gators took over on their own 28 and got the ball into the LSU red zone before settling for a 34-yard field goal by Velez with 11:07 left in the half. Key plays on the drive were a 23-yard Driskel to Brandon Powell completion, a 9-yard run by Matt Jones and a pass interference call against the LSU defense. With a first down at the LSU 17, the offense stalled, bringing on Velez, who extended Florida’s lead to 10 points with his seventh field goal in eight attempts this season.
LSU 14, FLORIDA 17: LSU responded with a 12-play, 75 yard scoring drive, the last 11 on the ground. Kenny Hilliard’s 1-yard touchdown run with 6:51 left in the half came on a fourth and one when Les Miles elected to gamble and go for the TD rather than settle for a field goal. The drive featured runs of 16 and 11 yards by Terrance Magee and 19 and 16 by Fournette, who carried six times for 40 yards on the drive. Delahoussaye cut the lead to three with the extra point.
The Gators outgained LSU, 149-140, in the first half with 105 yards on the ground and 44 in the air. Driskel was 6-10 for 44 yards with one interception throwing it and was the Gators’ leading rusher with 59 yards on 12 carries.
Debose’s 62-yard punt return was the fifth return for a touchdown of his career, but the first on a punt.
LSU 20, FLORIDA 17: Third down was the killer for the Florida defense as LSU converted four – two on pass plays, two on penalties – on a 13-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that killed 8:16 off the clock and ended with a 2-yard run by Fournette with 3:42 to go. The penalties were lethal. Brian Poole was called for a hold in the secondary that gave LSU a first down at the UF 20 and Bryan Cox Jr. was called for pass interference in the end zone on a third and goal at the Florida four that gave the Tigers first down at the UF two. Fournette, who had a 20-yard run on the first play of the drive, finished things off by powering into the end zone off the left side. Delahoussaye pushed his extra point attempt wide right.
FLORIDA 24, LSU 20: Debose worked his magic again with a 53-yard punt return that set up the go-ahead touchdown, an 11-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Demarcus Robinson with 6:10 to go in the game. Robinson ran an out route and got a half step on Jalen Collins. The throw from Driskel was a tad high but Robinson outmuscled Collins for the ball for the touchdown. The touchdown was only possible because Debose got loose in the middle of the field on the punt return, then cut to the west sideline where he picked up blockers until he was forced out of bounds at the LSU nine. Following a 2-yard loss by Driskel, the Gators took the lead. Velez added the extra point to make it a 4-point game.
LSU 27, FLORIDA 24: The offensive play of the game for LSU came on third down and an overnight camping trip. Facing third and 25, LSU sent Travin Dural deep. Expecting help from the safety, Poole let Dural go but Keanu Neal was way too late getting over and Dural hauled in a 41-yard pass from Jennings. A 15-yard penalty was tacked on to the end of the play, giving the Tigers first down on the Florida 13. Following a 3-yard run by Fournette, Jennings found Dural in the right corner of the north end zone. Held by Poole, Dural made a 1-hand grab for the touchdown with 2:40 remaining. Delahoussaye added the extra point.
FLORIDA 27, LSU 27: This should have been the game-winning touchdown drive for the Gators but a dropped pass in the end zone by tight end Tevin Westbrook on third and goal from the LSU one forced the Gators to bring on Velez for an 18-yard chip shot field goal that tied the game at 27. The Gators got into scoring position when Driskel connected with Demarcus Robinson for a 73-yard gainer to the LSU two on Florida’s first play of the drive. From the two, the Gators tried Powell and Driskel up the middle with no success. On third down, Driskel rolled right and had tight end Tevin Westbrook wide open in the end zone, but Westbrook dropped the ball forcing Velez to tie the game with 1:49 to go in the game.
LSU 30, FLORIDA 27: The game-winning field goal by Delahoussaye was made possible by an interception of a Driskel pass by Ricky Jefferson, who picked off a pass intended for Latroy Pittman and ran it back 23 yards to the Florida 36 with 24 seconds remaining. Following a Magee run for three yards and a spike to kill the clock, Delahoussaye came on to hit a career-long field goal that was the game-winner.TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest Giveaway