Looking for redemption

LSU vs. Florida. It's not either team's most historic rivalry. In fact, the Tigers and Gators have only been playing annually since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992. Nonetheless, the annual October showdown has developed a fair amount of intensity in a short amount of time.

“I’m not going to stand here and lie,” said LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. “LSU has a long list of rivals, but UF is the big name on that list to me.”

 

Just when it seemed like Steve Spurrier and the Gators would paste LSU on a yearly basis, the Tigers rocked No. 1-ranked Florida on national television the season following Spurrier’s lone national title.

 

Freshman quarterback Chris Leak helped Florida become the lone blemish on LSU’s 2003 national championship résumé with a 19-7 victory in Tiger Stadium. But Joseph Addai returned the favor in 2004 by scoring the game-winning touchdown late in LSU’s 24-21 victory at the Swamp.

 

History aside, LSU Head Coach Les Miles took things to a new level in 2007.

 

Miles had his offense go for it on fourth down five times in an incredibly physical contest. A Jacob Hester touchdown run helped the Tigers to a 28-24 win in what many consider the best college game of 2007.

 

Miles said that experience was one of the best of his career.

 

“The memory of that Florida game is of it being very competitive,” Miles said. “I have great memories of it…That was one of one of my more enjoyable games [as a coach].”

 

The game will go down as one of the greatest in the history of Tiger Stadium. But unfortunately for LSU, the Gators have a chance to return the favor in their own infamous venue, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, otherwise known as The Swamp.

 

A goal line fumble and a handful of ill-timed interceptions led to a 23-10 Gator win in Miles’ first season and only trip to The Swamp. That loss very obviously sticks with the Tigers.

 

“That’s the main reason I want to get a victory,” said senior safety Curtis Taylor. “Especially what happened to us last time; a lot of things went wrong so we just want to have the opportunity to make it right…Being that it’s my last chance it would be a real big victory.”

 

Miles said the nature of 2006’s loss inspires the desire for a better performance. The Tigers turned the ball over five times, with four of those miscues in Florida territory.

 

“It’s the want to go there and play well,” he said. “It’s the want to play our best football against one of our finest opponents. That’s the challenge. We want to go there and show what we have.”

 

The challenge will be a big one for a team that is still breaking in a new secondary and a new quarterback. Miles said the team has been working with intense noise all week in order to prepare quarterback Jarrett Lee.

 

As a team that plays in front of 92,400, it will be quite a role reversal from playing against Tiger Bait to becoming Gator Bait.

 

“The fans [at the Swamp] kind of remind me of what goes on in Tiger Stadium,” said defensive end Rahim Alem. “I think it’s the second-best place to play in college football.”

 

Even with Florida’s shocking loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 27, Saturday’s game promises to be just as physical and intense as last season’s heavyweight slugfest.

 

“I was pretty tired and just thankful to come out with a win,” said linebacker Darry Beckwith of 2007’s game. “It was a battle and we know coming into this game it’s going to be a hard fought game.”

 

No. 1 Oklahoma will be playing No. 5 Texas on the same day, but it’s clear this battle of college football’s past two champions takes a back seat to nothing, and no one.

 

“It’s always a great place to play and traditionally it’s going to be very loud,” said defensive end Kirston Pittman. “Playing against the Florida Gators is always going to be a tough game.”


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