Mistakes doom LSU in 23-10 loss to Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida scored 16 points off three LSU turnovers and earned seven more on a short field following a safety, as the No. 5 Gators took advantage of the errors to win, 23-10, on Saturday afternoon at The Swamp in Gainesville.

LSU (4-2, 1-2 SEC) lost for the second time in as many road contests this season, both to teams ranked in the top 5.

Florida (6-0, 4-0) took control of the SEC's Eastern Division by winning for the third week in a row at home.

A muffed punt, JaMarcus Russell's second interception of the season, and a safety on a muffed kickoff return led to a 1-yard rushing touchdown and a 1-yard passing touchdown by Florida freshman Tim Tebow for Florida's first 16 points of the game.

The Tigers also fumbled on the Florida 1-yard line, had a touchdown pass called back by penalty, had a punt blocked and threw two interceptions inside Gators territory.

Conversely, Florida' made mistakes -- a fumble in LSU territory, an interception and a blocked punt of its own. But, LSU could not do to Florida today what Florida did to LSU.

Russell, sacked once for 1 yard, finished 24 of 41 for 228 yards and a touchdown to Jacob Hester. Three interceptions and a fumble at the goal line, though, will be his memory from his final trip to Gainesville as a Tiger.

His favorite targets -- Craig Davis (eight catches for 85 yards), Dwayne Bowe (six for 50) and Early Doucet (five for 68) -- were productive. However, two of the interceptions were touched by Bowe before being pulled down by Gators.

LSU's Jacob Hester proved his worth as an all-purpose back, leading all rushers with 43 yards on nine carries while catching five passes for 25 more. He scored LSU's only touchdown from 2 yards out.

Florida was able to take advantage of LSU's turnovers thanks to Tebow. The 6-3, 229-pounder was the right change of pace against an LSU defense that gave Chris Leak fits.

Tebow was 2-for-2 passing for 36 yards and two touchdown passes, while rushing for a touchdown to account for 18 of the 23 Gators points. He was one yard short of being the team's leading rusher, behind Moore's 36 yards.

LSU won its sixth coin toss in as many games, and elected to defer until the second half as usual.

Florida completed passes on its first three plays from scrimmage to three different receivers for 27 yards. With a 15-yard run by the middle by Moore, the Gators entered LSU territory with little resistance.

After gaining a first down to the LSU 28, Tigers linebacker Luke Sanders forced Moore to fumble and safety Jessie Daniels recovered to end the Florida drive.

Russell converted on third down by scrambling to his right and tossing over two Florida defenders to Craig Davis to advance into Florida territory. A personal foul on Florida gave LSU a first down at the Florida 16-yard line.

Four plays later, Russell found Hester wide open on a play-action pass from the 2-yard line to give LSU the early lead with 6:45 to play in the opening quarter.

The LSU defense stepped up to the challenge on its opening drive, however, Chevis Jackson looked into the sun and muffed the punt to allow Florida its first points of the game.

Tebow scored from the LSU 1-yard line on fourth down to complete a 19-yard scoring drive with 11 seconds to play in the quarter.

The points were the first allowed by the LSU defense in the first quarter this season.

In the second quarter, LSU's first punt of the game was downed at the Florida 1-yard line. However, a procedure penalty against LSU forced another punt. Jackson's lesser attempt landed out of bounds 28 yards farther up field.

The second major field position mistake of the game didn't cost LSU, as Jackson redeemed himself by snaring a Leak pass on the next play at the LSU 24-yard line.

Another pair of mistakes on the part of the LSU offense plagued a 17-play, 75-yard drive that ended at the Florida 1.

A holding penalty by Herman Johnson nullified a touchdown catch and run by Davis. Four plays later, after a Hester run was reviewed and spotted at the 1, Russell fumbled the center exchange to give the Gators possession.

Though Florida quickly went three-and-out, Russell's long pass toward Brandon LaFell on the next play was picked off to setup Florida's second touchdown of the half.

The Gators converted a third-and-15 from their 23-yard line to build momentum. On second-and-goal at the LSU 1, Tebow ran toward the line, jumped and double-pumped a pass to stumbling tight end Tate Casey in the back of the end zone.

The point after touchdown gave Florida a 14-7 lead at the half.

The second half started exactly wrong for the Tigers.

In the first five minutes of the half, the following went down:

Early Doucet muffed the kickoff, had the ball jarred loose at the 3-yard line before Trindon Holliday recovered in the endzone for a safety (14:46)

Florida scored a quick strike touchdown from Tebow to sophomore wide receiver Louis Murphy (12:05).

Finally, LSU had a punt blocked when Florida's Reggie Nelson broke the LSU "wedge" and got to Chris Jackson (10:10).

The nightmare finally ended when Florida placekicker Chris Hetland missed a 37-yard field goal -- his fourth miss in as many attempts in 2006.

The nine quick Florida points gave the Gators a 23-7 lead.

However, LSU couldn't take advantage of the miss, as Colt David pushed a 41-yard field goal of his own with 2:46 left in the third quarter.

Later, David knocked through a career-long 45-yard field goal with 11:53 left in the game to reduce the Florida lead to 23-10.

It was too little, too late.

LSU's last gasp into Florida territory ended when a ball intended for Bowe careened into the air and was intercepted at the 23-yard line by cornerback Ryan Smith.

The Tigers had worked their way from the LSU 6 to the Florida 38 in just over 60 seconds.

LSU found a ray of hope in a blocked punt by LaRon Landry with 3:17 to play, but Russell's pass into the endzone on the first play was tipped by Bowe and intercepted by Tony Joiner.

The series of events were fitting of the Tigers' day.

The crowd of 90,714 was the second-largest in Florida history, trailing only the Sept. 17, 2005, game against Tennessee which had two more attendants.


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