An intense, hard-fought, back-and-forth affair Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, came to a close as Colby Delahoussaye booted a career-long 50-yard field goal to push the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a 30-27 victory over the Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC).
LSU benefited from three forced turnovers – all coughed up by Florida redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel – tough running and some questionable penalty calls throughout the contest, while the Gators had multiple chances to win the game late but came up short by making numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Freshman running back Leonard Fournette was beastly for the Tigers, taking 27 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. LSU sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural also broke through for 52 yards and a one-handed touchdown, hauling in a huge 41-yard reception on 3rd and 25 late in the game to put his team in position to score.
For Florida, Driskel completed 14-of-25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, but a fumbled early in the contest and a late interception (one of two for the game) that led to Delahoussaye’s game-winning field goal. He also carried the ball a team-high 21 times for 71 yards and another score.
Redshirt senior WR Andre Debose was the Gators’ best playmaker on Saturday, returning one punt 62 yards for a touchdown and another 53 yards to set up a second Florida score. He also had one carry for 35 yards. Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson, the beneficiary of a 73-yard bomb from Driskel late in the fourth quarter, led the wideouts with 104 yards on the evening, and freshman RB Brandon Powell took six receptions for 66 yards.
After a five-yard run that gave LSU 2nd and 5 and its own 37-yard line, the Tigers committed a personal foul, lost six yards on a fumbled snap and then gave up six more on a sack by Gators redshirt sophomore defensive end Alex McCalister. LSU punted the ball deep on 4th and 32, only to have Debose field the punt for FLorida, reverse field and take off for a 62-yard return touchdown, the first of his career on a punt.
The Tigers were able to answer back almost immediately, however, as Driskel fumbled a keeper, the first play from scrimmage for the Gators, when Florida’s offense touched the ball next. LSU jumped on the back of Fournette, who carried the ball twice for 28 yards and rumbled into the end zone to tie the game 7-7.
Driskel quickly rebounded from his miscue to lead the Gators on an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Debose opened the possession with a 35-yard rush over the left end, and Driskel took over from there, completing two short passes and keeping the ball four times for 33 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown rumble.
Florida forced LSU to stall at its own 33 and got the ball right back but was only able to muster a field goal. Driskel hit Powell for a 21-yard gain down the right sideline, but the Gators eventually stalled inside the red zone and brought on redshirt senior kicker Frankie Velez to boot a 34-yarder and spot UF a 17-7 lead.
A 12-play, 75-yard drive for the Tigers got the visitors right back in the game, as LSU used runs of 16, 11, 20 and 15 yards to move down the field on the Gators with ease. Faced with 4th and Goal at the UF one-yard line, head coach Les Miles went for it and converted with senior RB Kenny Hilliard taking a toss in for the score.
After swapping three-and-outs to open the second half, LSU was able to take the lead on a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took 8:16 off the clock and was assisted by two big penalties on Florida. The Tigers converted a 3rd and 17 on a questionable holding on Gators junior defensive back Brian Poole and got an extra opportunity to score when pass interference was called on redshirt senior DE Bryan Cox Jr. in the end zone on 3rd and Goal from the four-yard line. Fournette busted through the line for his second touchdown of the day, but a missed extra point gave LSU a 20-17 advantage with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Struggling to put anything together offensively in the second half, Florida got another boost from Debose on a punt return. Avoiding some tacklers, Debose jetted off 53 yards down the field, giving the Gators great field position at the Tigers’ 11-yard line with less than seven minutes to play. Two snaps later, Driskel completed an 11-yard crossing pass to Robinson to put UF ahead 24-20 with 6:10 left in the game.
Florida looked to be on its way to victory as an 11-yard sack from junior DE Dante Fowler Jr. and a substitution penalty backed LSU up with a 3rd and 25 on its own 33-yard line. Instead, Tigers sophomore QB Anthony Jennings completed a 41-yard pass to Dural, who found himself wide open due to a busted coverage. Two plays later, Jennings hit Dural for an 11-yard fade touchdown, which the wideout hauled in with one hand to give his team a 27-24 advantage with 2:40 remaining.
As was the case all game, the Gators found a way to answer immediately with Driskel hitting Robinson on a 73-yard bomb down the right sideline. Florida was unable to convert a touchdown from two yards out, however, as senior tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped a third-down pass in the end zone. Instead, UF tied the game 27-27 on an 18-yard field goal by Velez.
The Gators had another chance to score and win the game with 1:01 left, but after gaining some significant yardage, Driskel threw an interception across the middle, which was returned down to Florida’s 35-yard line. Junior WR Latroy Pittman was seriously injured on the play and taken off the field on a stretcher.
LSU took over with no timeouts and appeared to mismanage the clock after running a play, but the head referee called an official timeout, put seven seconds back on he clock and allowed Delahoussaye to attempt and convert a 50-yard game-winning field goal, which clinched the victory for the Tigers.