But the next two Gator possessions would end in turnovers and a punt with 9:20 left to play set up the winning drive for LSU.
"The two turnovers in the second half were real hard," Urban Meyer said after the game. "I thought our defense played real hard. They hung in there pretty good. The two turnovers and the field position in the second half were not like the first half."
In the first half, the Gators average starting field position was their own 34-yard line, but in the second half, it was 15 yards worse. After winning the time of possession battle in the first half, Florida had the ball for only 8:04 in the second. The inability to get the defense off the field proved to be the difference maker in the end.
LSU turned a fourth quarter interception into seven points, cutting the Gator lead to just a field goal. Then after forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers sustained a 15-play, 60-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes. The Tigers converted two fourth downs, including one inside the Gator 10-yard line.
LSU's Jacob Hester, who rushed for 106 yards on 23 carries, picked up the critical first down after a great second effort. The Gators just didn't have enough energy left to make the stop.
"They got worn down," Meyer said. "The defense is so young."
That's not the way things started, though. Florida shut out the Tigers in the first quarter and took a an early lead after Joey Ijjas nailed a 31-yard field goal on the game's opening possession.
"The energy level coming here, I think it says something about this team," Meyer said. "They are the No. 1 team in the country and to come in here and play with them until the end of the game is good."
The Gators extended their lead early in the second quarter when Kestahn Moore made a shoelace grab for a 2-yard touchdown reception. After going practically unused in the last two games, Moore carried 12 times for 79 yards. He also caught two passes for another 21 yards, but he fumbled late in the third quarter while the Gators were putting together a solid drive.
Moore's fumble didn't lead to points for the Tigers, but it was a momentum changer. Florida was heading into Tiger territory when Moore fumbled. It prevented the Gators from extending the lead, but more importantly, it put an already tired defense back on the field.
Later in the fourth quarter, LSU turned a Tim Tebow interception into seven points. During the drive, LSU converted a 4th-and-3 when Tiger quarterback Matt Flynn hit Demetrius Byrd for a 4-yard touchdown, cutting the Gator lead to 24-21 with 10:15 left.
Florida stalled on the next drive, setting up the winning touchdown drive by the Tigers. Florida had one last chance with 1:09 left to play, but some clock mismanagement caused the Gators to get only two plays off in the first 33 seconds of the two-minute drill.
"We practice that every week," Meyer said. "It was a very tough situation. Tebow scrambled around and made a couple throws. We want him to put us in a situation where we have a shot at the end zone at the end of the game and he did. I think he could have managed the time better. There were a couple throws he could have managed better."
Tebow finished the day, completing 12-of-26 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 67 yards. Overall, the Gator offense was much more balanced, running for 156 yards and throwing for 158.
"I thought the balance was very good," Meyer said. "I thought the balance between run and pass in the first half was tremendous. Dan Mullen called a good game, and I thought some guys were making plays. We were moving the chains against a very good defense."