By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One yard spelled the difference in LSU’s loss 2016 to Florida.
One point spelled the difference in its 2017 win.
A missed extra point by Eddie Piniero, a 17-3, jet-sweep-fueled start, and stout defense were enough to see the Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) bounce back from last week’s historic loss against Troy, taking a 17-16 win over No. 21 Florida (3-2, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday.
“This was a complete team win,” said head coach Ed Orgeron, who won his first SEC road game as a full-time head coach. He had gone winless in his previous 13, including LSU’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State earlier this season. “We kicked a field goal, made one. They missed an extra point. We knew it was going to come down to any play.”
Devin White, who finished with 13 tackles, broke up a Feleipe Franks fourth down pass with 1:39 to play to seal the deal, after a punt from Zach Von Rosenberg pinned the Gators deep in their own territory with little time to mount a game-winning drive. White said he knew he had to make up for a missed tackle on Malik Davis, who slipped him on a screen pass four plays earlier.
“That’s the type of situation I want to be in,” said White. “As the game gets tougher, I want to make big plays. I had a missed tackle on the screen, so all I wanted to do was make a play.”
It was a night of defensive plays for LSU. The Tigers finished with five sacks, five tackles for loss, and held Florida to 2-of-9 on third downs, a week after Troy converted 10-of-18 in a 24-21 Tiger defeat.
“This team made a decision on Monday that they were going to do everything they could to win this football game, under any conditions,” said Orgeron.
LSU also got a big break. The Tigers established a 17-3 lead in one half and one drive, scoring on the second drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half, marching 75 yards in nine plays to stretch the lead to two scores. The biggest was a Danny Etling 47-yard pass to D.J. Chark, who wrestled the ball away from Duke Dawson. Six plays later, Etling (9-of-16, 125 yards, 1 TD) play-faked and found a wide-open Tory Carter in the end zone.
Florida rallied back. Lamical Perine (12 carries, 70 yards) punched in two scores on run-heavy drives to seemingly tie the score. But Pinierio flubbed the extra point – the first point-after miss of his career – and breathed new life into the Tigers.
“Momentum,” said Orgeron. “That’s what we’ve been missing. We came out fired up. We have a saying. Big plays fuel emotion. You gotta keep on making plays and continue to get fired up. That field goal gave us a little relief and that drive in the first half gave us a little room for wiggle. That drive in the beginning of the second half was the difference in the ballgame, for the temperament of our ball team.”
LSU built its lead by moving the ball in the first half and on its first drive of the second. Despite a substandard start from Etling – who was nearly intercepted twice and misfired on a would-be touchdown pass to Darrel Williams – and a banged-up offensive line, the Tigers gained 279 yards on its first five drives, mostly by attacking the edges and converting on third downs.
Using all the shifts and motions of Matt Canada’s unfettered offense, LSU opened the scoring on a Russell Gage 30-yard scamper to the left. The Tigers used the jet sweep to their advantage early, attacking the Gator defense on the edge with 83 yards on their first four sweeps. The Tigers finished with 105 rushing yards from their receivers, led by Gage’s 52 on six totes. It would prove critical, as Florida stuffed the inside run. Williams and Derrius Guice combined for just 85 yards on 29 carries.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do: get our jets going,” said Moreau. “If we get those jets going, those outside ends gotta rush more up the field, which can bring in more (offensive) opportunities.”
Dave Aranda’s defense, meanwhile, proved stout, giving up just 302 total yards. They were particularly stiff on third down, stopping the Gators on seven of nine third down attempts on the game, including their first three attempts and four of their first five. The fifth, a LaCouture sack –the third of four Tiger first-half sacks – held Florida to a 25-yard Pineiro field goal after an 11-play, 70-yard drive with 4:01 left in the first half, bringing the score to 7-3 LSU.
When the Gators pulled within a point, LSU’s defense held the score. Eric Monroe stopped Freddie Swain short on one third down, while LaCouture and Greg Gilmore teamed up for a sack on another. White’s fourth down PBU sealed the win. When the clock hit zero, dozens of Tigers ran to the corner of Ben Hill Griffin, Gator-chomping the Gator faithful and handing them a forgettable homecoming, a week after Troy handed LSU a similarly miserable homecoming.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Orgeron. “I was just happy for our team. I know what happens with they go home, and I know what coaches are reading when they go home or watching on TV. It’s tough on everybody. But we got to work. We stayed focused on the task at hand.
“It shows the kind of football team we can be, but we have to pay attention to the details. It all starts with leadership. It all starts with practice. It all starts with playing within our identity, playing with true grit, and not being denied.”