By GLENN GUILBEAU | Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE – Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley started the mess by refusing to reschedule the Hurricane Matthew-postponed game against LSU from Saturday, Oct. 8, in Gainesville, Fla., to Sunday or Monday there, but in the end Florida blew in and finished it on LSU’s lawn.
The Gators, a 12-point underdog with seven injured starters out and forced to make up their home game at LSU partly because of an unprofessional stance by LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, had the last play and the last laugh in defeating No. 14 LSU, 16-10, and capturing the Southeastern Conference East title in Tiger Stadium.
In the interim, LSU fans said Florida, which had several injuries in the week leading up to the original date of the game, was scared to play the Tigers at that time. Then LSU defensive end Arden Key echoed that after the Gators suffered more injuries over the previous two weeks before Saturday.
“I know they’re scared to come up here because they don’t have all their starters. So we feel real comfortable,” he said.
“It just shocks me that somebody would question the Gators,” said Florida coach Jim McElwain, who became the first coach in SEC history to take a team to the SEC Championship Game in each of his first two years as coach. “The way I look at it, they got what they deserved. So, that’s pretty cool.”
“We were terrified of them boys,” Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor said with a hearty laugh. “I guess out of fear, we fought back.”
Florida also got back at LSU tailback Derrius Guice in more ways than one. After the Gators managed just 12 yards on 14 carries in a 31-10 loss two weeks ago to Arkansas, which LSU beat 38-10 last week, Guice said, “They can’t run no more.”
And Key said, “The offensive line isn’t that good in pass blocking. In run blocking, I think the right side is stronger.”
But Florida allowed just two sacks and showed no fear to run as tailback Jordan Scarlett burned LSU’s defense on his way to Atlanta with 108 yards on 22 carries, including 43 on 10 carries in the fourth quarter, and tailback Lamical Perine added 38 on seven carries, including a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter that set the Gators up at the LSU 4-yard line for a field goal and 13-10 lead with 4:37 left.
Perine carried LSU safety Jamal Adams for the last 10 yards or so on that play on his back as cornerback Donte Jackson avoided Perine as if he was an Auburn defensive back skirting Leonard Fournette in the 2015 game.
“I thought we put a dent in those guys,” McElwain said. “Our offensive line was challenged. They were called out. I wanted to pound it at them, and we pounded it at them. Our guys getting called out up front, that ain’t right. I’m proud of them.”
Florida took advantage of LSU losing senior middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith to a knee injury in the first quarter, but Florida was without seven starters, including offensive guard Tyler Jordan.
Florida also won the battle for DBU status as Jackson also allowed a 98-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Austin Appleby to true freshman wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, who caught the ball near midfield and easily eluded a too-high tackle attempt from Jackson. He flew out of bounds, and Cleveland flew the rest of the way for the touchdown.
So now, the longest play from scrimmage in Tiger Stadium history goes down as belonging to Florida, and LSU went down on about the very shortest play possible in its own backyard inside Florida’s 1-yard line.
Guice, who couldn’t hold the ball “no more,” fumbled on the last play of the game on fourth and one from inside the 1 as he turned a pitch the wrong way up the middle instead of around an open left side and LSU lost after outgaining the Gators, 423 yards to 270. Guice also fumbled after the Tigers had reached a first and goal at the Florida 7-yard line in the second quarter and appeared ready to take a commanding, 14-3 lead.
“To win and secure the SEC East in Louisiana on the 1-yard line – I’m speechless, man,” defensive end Cece Jefferson said. “I’m speechless.”
After talking so much before the game, including a scuffle started during pregame warm-ups by LSU safety Dwayne Thomas in Florida’s area of the field that included Fournette pushing Florida DBU assistant Torrian Gray, LSU was the one truly speechless at the end.
“Florida? Scared? The Gators? That’s who they’re talking to? We won the game in Death Valley – where opponents come to die,” Tabor laughed on. “Isn’t that what they say about the stadium?”
LSU’s Thomas got in Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson’s way to initiate the pregame scuffle, but Wilson had one of the many last laughs in the postgame celebration.
“A lot of build-up coming into the game,” he said. “The East was in our hands. The hurricane. We were scared.”
GUILBEAU SEC POLL: 1. Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC). 2. Florida (8-2, 6-2). 3. Auburn (8-3, 5-2). 4. LSU (6-4, 4-3). 5. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3). 6. Arkansas (7-4, 3-4). 7. Georgia (7-4, 4-4). 8. Tennessee (8-3, 4-3). 9. Kentucky (5-5, 4-4). 10. South Carolina (6-5, 3-5). 11. Missouri (3-8, 1-6). 12. Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5). 13. Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4). 14. Mississippi State (4-7, 2-5).
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
[su_quote]“Clearly, we were scared.”[/su_quote]
—Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson after the Gators’ 16-10 win at LSU in reference to defensive end Arden Key saying Florida was “scared” to play the Tigers considering all of the Gators’ injuries.