For the second-straight week, LSU statistically dominated a Southeastern Conference opponent and, for the second-straight week, the outcome of the game remained in doubt until late in the game because of a host of Tiger mistakes. Last week, the opponent was an obviously out-manned Vanderbilt team that eventually lost 34-6.
This week, the opponent was the much more formidable Gators, who's hopes of representing the SEC East in the conference championship game rested largely on the outcome of Saturday's visit to Baton Rouge.
The win improved LSU's record to 4-1, 3-1 in the SEC while Florida fell to 5-2, 3-2 in the conference, a full two games behind SEC East leading Georgia. The Tigers take on bitter rival Auburn in Baton Rouge next week. Florida's players get what Coach Urban Meyer described as a much-needed week off both physically and mentally before having to face Georgia on October 29.
LSU amassed 361 yards while Florida managed 206. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 14-22 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Florida quarterback Chris Leak completed just 11-30 passes for 107 yards and no touchdowns. LSU scored 14 points so easily during the games opening minutes it seemed as if a route was in the making.
But, as in last week's game, the Tigers provided their own demises. LSU committed five turnovers, three of which led to all of Florida's 17 points. Russell was responsible for three, on two interceptions and a fumble while Tiger tailbacks Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent threw in a fumble a piece.
"On offense we cannot sustain the mistakes that we made," said LSU Head Coach Les Miles. "I will not allow it. We worked hard on it last week and we're going to work hard it again."
Florida seized a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter just three plays after Russell threw his second interception. But, LSU reclaimed the lead for good on the ensuing drive, an impressive 12-play, 75-yard time eater that ended with a 3-yard run by Addai with 12:35 remaining in the game.
Florida was able to take advantage of the Tiger mistakes by opening up its running attack in LSU territory after the turnovers. All three Gator scores came within five plays of a Tiger mistake and two of the three drives contained runs of at least 30 yards. The Gators finished the contest with 99 net yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground.
But, when LSU didn't hurt itself with fumbles and interceptions, its defense
dominated, sacking Leak four times and limiting Florida to just four trips
beyond the 50-yard line the entire game.
LSU deferred the winning coin toss giving Chris Jackson the chance to drill the opening kick out of the back of the south endzone. Florida moved the ball to the LSU 35 but penalties and an aggressive Tiger blitz kept the Gators from accomplishing much and LSU took over at its 29-yard line with 13:28 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers responded quickly, moving the ball across midfield in three plays thanks to a personal foul against Florida. On the drive's fifth play, Russell found Benny Brazell wide open between the safety and the cornerback at the Gator 10-yard line and the receiver skipped into the endzone to give LSU a touchdown lead with 11:42 remaining in the quarter. The 44-yard strike capped a 71-yard drive that ate up just 1:38 and marked the first career touchdown catch for the long-time special teams specialist.
LSU's defense stymied Florida again on the ensuing drive, forcing the Gators to punt and giving Addai a chance to display his speed and agility on the second play of LSU's second drive. The senior tailback gashed Florida for 30 yards setting up a first down at the Gator 31. But, Vincent turned LSU's scoring chance into a an opportunity for Florida when he dropped the ball on the next play and Gator linebacker Brandon Siler recovered it at the 30.
Leak appeared befuddled after the Gators took over on offense, constantly moving from the shotgun formation to under center to change the play call. Florida managed a first down, but that was all as the Tiger crowd grew increasingly louder as Leak shifted.
LSU was unable to move the ball past midfield on its next chance and Jackson entered the game to pin the Gators inside their 20-yard line. Leak continued to struggle as the Tiger defense harassed him and Florida booted the ball back to LSU four plays later, giving the Tigers another prime scoring chance with a first down at the LSU 44.
Russell connected with Bowe on the drive's first play for 24 yards, setting up a first down at the Gator 32. The next play, Russell found Bowe again in one-on-one coverage on the right side and Bowe out-muscled Gator cornerback Demetrice Webb in the endzone for a 27-yard touchdown grab with 1:10 left in the opening quarter. LSU's quick score ability put the Tigers up 14-0 after just a three-play drive that used a scant 23 seconds of the first-quarter clock.
The Tigers were pinned deep to begin their next offensive chance after Gator punter Eric Wilbur bounced a kick dead at the LSU 4-yard line. Shyrone Carey attempted to move the ball beyond the shadow of the goal line on first and second down to no avail and Russell launched the third down pass attempt well over Skyler Green's head setting up a Jackson punt from deep in his endzone.
Florida took over on offense at the LSU 47-yard line and moved themselves into a 4th-and-2 situation at the 38. Leak pitched the ball to tailback DeShawn Wynn well behind the line of scrimmage and was met first by Tiger safety Jesse Daniels then a host of Tigers at the 41.
LSU took over on downs at their 41, but handed the ball right back to the Gators on the first play of the drive when Addai dropped the ball on a straight dive play up the middle. Florida safety Jarvis Herring picked up the loose ball and stumbled to the 32-yard line before Russell pulled him to the turf.
Two plays later, Florida cut the two-touchdown LSU lead in half on a 32-yard run by back-up tailback Kestahn Moore. The point after made the score 14-7 LSU with 8:44 remaining in the first half.
LSU's offense sputtered on its next two possessions and Jackson gave the Gators a decent offensive shot after a wobbling 34-yard punt was touched dead at the Florida 39-yard line with 3:38 to play in the half. But, the Tiger defense exploited Leak's confusion again as the Gator signal caller dropped a shotgun snap at his 35, losing nine yards on a third-down chance and Wilbur was forced to punt again.
The Tigers took control at their 16 and moved the ball close to midfield in three plays. But LSU ended its own momentum again on a fumble when Russell dropped the ball as he dropped back to pass at the 37-yard line. Florida recovered with less than 40 seconds to play and the half ended with Leak in the arms of linebacker Ali Highsmith, who tracked down the Gator quarterback deep in the backfield.
LSU continued its giving ways on the first drive of the second half when Russell, after being chased from the pocket inside his 10, lofted a wobbling, inaccurate pass along the west sideline into Herring's arms at the LSU 46.
Wynn outpaced the Tiger defense for a 26-yard run on the first play of the Gator drive, setting up a first-and-goal at the Tiger 10. Leak advanced to the Tiger 5 on a 2nd-down scramble, but that was as far as the Gators traveled. Place kicker Chris Hetland chipped in a 22-yard field goal with 11:31 to play in the third quarter and Florida had its second score thanks to a Tiger turnover.
LSU started its next drive at its 10-yard line thanks to a holding penalty during the kickoff return but then embarked on a methodical drive that ate up plenty of clock and looked promising but resulted in another turnover and predictably, another Gator score. Russell dropped back to pass on third down at the Gator 44 and had his attempt batted into the air by defensive tackle Steven Harris then picked off by end Joe Cohen. Cohen returned the interception 16 yards setting up a first down at the LSU 32-yard line.
Three plays later, Wynn carried the ball easily over the Tiger goal line and the Gators claimed a 17-14 lead with 4:02 to play in the third.
LSU responded with an often uncertain, but ultimately successful 12- play drive, the result of which gave the Tigers the lead for good. Addai carried the ball into the endzone from two yards out with 12:35 remaining in the game to cap a 12-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a 31- yard pass from Russell to Bowe with the Tigers facing a 3rd-and-8 at the Florida 43. Colt David's extra point gave the Tigers a 21-17 advantage at the end of the 6:27 drive.
Florida started its next drive at its 18, giving the Tiger defense a chance to cut loose on Leak the same as it did in the first half. The Gator drive ended with another sack by Highsmith and a short punt gave the Tigers control at their 45 on the ensuing possession.
But, LSU was unable to move the ball forward, losing a combined 22 yards on first and second down. Jackson was forced to punt away one of the best of his career, a 54-yarder that pinned the Gators at their 6-yard line to begin their most crucial drive of the game. Florida moved to the 24-yard line but was forced to punt after Leak was unable to escape a Tiger blitz on 3rd-and-12 on the drive's third play.
The Tiger offensive possession again began close to midfield after another punt angled away from Green. LSU took over at its 42-yard line but was forced again to punt after the drive netted minus -1 yard.
Jackson punted again and again the Gators took over on offense inside their 10-yard line. Leak was given 4:02 to move the ball 95 yards, but the Gators moved backwards on penalties too often to be effective. Florida had three similar chances before the game's finish but they all concluded without another point being scored. The Gators moved the ball close to the 50 with less than 3:00 to play on what appeared to be a 33-yard completion. But, the play was called back because of an offensive pass interference penalty.
"Our defense played extremely well from start to finish," Miles said. "They played with the same intensity, they played hard. They need to correct some things certainly because nobody plays a perfect game, but our defense came to play."