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TD, safety, TD, victory

The Gators score 16 points in 3:17 for their eighth consecutive win, the longest streak since the national title season.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published October 8, 2006


GAINESVILLE - During Urban Meyer's weekly conversation with his former boss and mentor, Lou Holtz, last week, Holtz reminded Meyer that in big games such as Florida-LSU, the game is usually won in the last five minutes of the first half and first five minutes of the second.

Meyer and the Gators can testify to that today.

No. 5 Florida scored 16 points in 3:17, a touchdown with 22 seconds left in the first half and a safety and touchdown during the first 2:55 of the second half, on its way to a 23-10 victory over No. 9 LSU in front of 90,714 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

LSU had won three of the past four games in the series.

The second-largest crowd in school history watched the Gators win their eighth consecutive game, the longest streak since the 1996 national championship season.

"The team that we played has to be one of the most talented teams in America," said Meyer, who tied Steve Spurrier and Charles Backman as the second fastest to reach 15 wins at Florida.

"Our special teams played phenomenal. Our punt and kickoff coverage units were great. We held LSU to minus 10-yards on punt returns, and we really kept them in check. (Saturday) was a great day for Florida football."

Florida (6-0, 4-0 SEC) avenged last season's 21-17 loss in Baton Rouge that left many of the players so emotionally drained, they cried afterward. Saturday night, there was mass celebration but also cautious optimism.

"This is real big," senior cornerback Reggie Lewis said. "We're going to enjoy this, but come Monday, we've got to get ready to prepare for Auburn. I'm glad we beat LSU because there have been a lot of ups and downs with them. But we came in very focused, and we got our W."

Turnovers were the key to Florida's victory. The Gators' 14 first-half points came off Tigers turnovers: a 1-yard run by backup quarterback Tim Tebow and a 1-yard pass from Tebow to Tate Casey. Tebow's 1-yard run was the first first-quarter score allowed by the Tigers this season.

LSU (4-2, 1-2) had three fumbles in the game (two lost), and quarterback JaMarcus Russell threw three interceptions, two to senior Ryan Smith and one to junior Tony Joiner. LSU put together a 17-play drive in the second quarter, but Russell fumbled on the 1-yard line (recovered by junior Brandon Siler) with 5:12 left in the first half.

"There's no question that it certainly affected momentum," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We would've have never thought we would go into the half behind."

Florida's other scores also came after LSU miscues. The Gators scored a safety when former Clear-water Central Catholic standout Riley Cooper hit Early Doucet as he fielded the second-half kickoff, causing a fumble recovered by Jermaine McCollum.

On Florida's next possession, Te-bow connected with former Lakewood standout Louis Murphy for 35 yards and Murphy's first career touchdown.

"I was just trying to lay it in there as best I could," Tebow said of his first passing touchdown.

The freshman finished 2-of-2 for 26 yards and ran nine times for 35 yards. Senior Chris Leak, who struggled against the Tigers last season, was 17-of-26 for 155 yards and one interception. Florida also had 120 yards on 32 carries.

"Chris did a great job of navigating our offense," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "He effectively moved the ball and managed our offense well for us."

Florida's defense was again solid. The Gators held LSU to 90 rushing yards on 25 carries. And although they allowed Russell to throw for 228 yards, the Gators held LSU to one field goal (a 45-yarder by Colt David) after it scored on a 2-yard pass from Russell to Jacob Hester with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.

LSU entered the game with the nation's No. 1 pass defense and was among the top five in the nation in five categories. The Gators said they took offense to so much talk about the Tigers.

"All the talk was about their de-fense and how they had the best defense in football," Siler said.

"We felt called out, and we felt we had to prove something."