GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There was no late comeback drive for LSU this time around as quarterback Joe Burrow’s first interception of the season was a pick six to Louisiana-native Brad Stewart that put Florida ahead 27-19 with 1:45 remaining in the game.
LSU was in a hurry on the drive that ended in Florida’s game-sealing interception after Florida burned more than four minutes off the clock with a 9-play, 30-yard drive in which the Gators ran the ball down LSU’s throat for a pair of first downs before the Tigers finally forced a punt.
“I thought that we could stop them and win the football game,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “That last drive that they had was devastating.”
The Tigers had one last chance to drive down the field and tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, but the drive ended with another interception on a fourth-down conversion attempt.
Burrow finished the game completing 19 of 34 passes for 191 yards and his first two interceptions of the season coming in the final two minutes. He spent most of his night under pressure all afternoon, as he was sacked five times.
Things went LSU’s way in the first minutes of the game. Joe Burrow led the Tigers down the field for a decisive opening drive capped off with a four-yard touchdown by Nick Brossette.
The first play of the game was a 38-yard pass from Burrow to wide receiver Justin Jefferson. From there, the Tigers put the pressure on Florida with an up-tempo offense that marched the rest of the way down the field for a quick score.
After a stop by the defense, LSU seemed poised to extend its lead as it moved the ball effectively once again down to the Florida 28 yard line.
That’s when things took a turn, as Florida buck safety Jachae Polite hit Burrow from the blindside and forced a fumble that the Gators jumped on and shifted momentum back into Florida’s favor.
“That was devastating,” Orgeron said. “It shouldn’t have been, but it turned out to be. Anytime you have turnovers (down the field) like that, it hurts you.”
Orgeron spent most of the week saying the turnover battle would prove pivotal to success against Florida. His prediction came true, as Florida forced three turnovers to the Tigers’ one, and they each played a big factor in the result of the game.
The Gators didn’t score right away, but they chipped away at LSU in the field position battle, eventually starting a drive from the LSU 43 yard line.
Nine plays later, the Gators scored on one-yard touchdown run by Lamical Perine to tie the game early in the second quarter.
Perine tallied 85 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, while fellow running back Jordan Scarlett added 65 yards on 14 carries. All-in-all, the Gators ran for 215 yards on the ground on 43 carries, an average of five yards per carry.
“We knew coming in they had a great offense,” said LSU linebacker Devin White. “We had to do what we had to do to stop them. They executed more than we executed. Hats off to them.”
LSU regained the lead late in the second quarter with a 33-yard field goal by Cole Tracy, but the Gators struck back and drove the ball 75 yards on seven plays thanks in large part to a 35-yard pass from Feleipe Franks to Josh Hammond that put Florida on the LSU 3.
The Tigers went to the break trailing 14-10 as a result.
The rolls reversed in the opening drive of the second half. Franks opened the half with a huge 49-yard pass to Hammond that, combined with a personal foul penalty, put the Gators on the LSU 13. But Breiden Fehoko pressured Franks on the next play, forcing a bad pass that allowed a Grant Delpit interception in the end zone.
“I felt like we were the better team out there, but the scoreboard didn’t show it,” Fehoko said. “I feel like we could have created more negative plays tonight. We had the opportunities, but we missed tackles. They had some good runners, and they were fresh coming out of the fourth quarter because they had a good substitution.
“I’m not going to make any excuses for myself or the defense. We needed to step up at times.”
LSU controlled the field position from that point until it finally got back on the board with a 42-yard field goal that cut Florida’s lead to 14-13 late in the third quarter.
The Tigers’ offense finally got back into the end zone early in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to running back Nick Brossette.
After struggling through the first three quarters of play, Brossette broke off rushes for gains of 31 yards and 47 yards that put the Tigers on the Florida 2 yard line.
After an illegal substitution penalty by Florida, he fittingly capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush to give the Tigers a 19-14 lead after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
But the Gators bounced back seemingly unfazed, as they marched down the field for a 9-play, 75 yard touchdown drive capped off by a 2-yard run by Perine that gave the Gators a 20-19 lead with 8:48 remaining.
LSU drove into Florida territory on the ensuing drive, but after stalling out at the Florida 45, the Tigers were forced to punt, giving the Gators the opportunity to put the pressure on by burning clock.
Orgeron said there’s nobody to blame but himself after the loss.
“Put it on me,” Orgeron said. “It’s always my fault. Give them the credit when we win, it’s always going to be on me when we lose. I’m the boss, and I have to get them ready. That’s it.”