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Gators down on the Bayou
Leading No. 1 LSU most of the game, UF sees any last title hopes dashed.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007
LSU's Jacob Hester scores the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth.
[Brian Cassella | Times]
BATON ROUGE, La. - If last week's home loss to unranked Auburn was a heartbreaker, this one may have ripped Florida's heart right out.
Leading the nation's No.1 team for the majority of the game, No.9 Florida let a golden opportunity to hold onto its SEC championship hopes, and possibly get back into the national championship mix, slip away in the final 10 minutes.
Top-ranked LSU 6-0, 3-0 SEC rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 28-24 victory over the Gators in front of a record 92,910 at Tiger Stadium.
The Gators are now 2-7 all-time against No.1 teams.
"We found out we've got some pretty good men on our football team who have strong souls," UF coach Urban Meyer said.
LSU's winning drive, capped by a 2-yard run by fullback Jacob Hester, went 60 yards on 11 plays and ran 8:11 off the clock.
The drive seemed stalled after LSU was called for offensive pass interference and faced third and 16 from the 34-yard line, but LSU quarterback Matt Flynn gained 15 yards on the next play, then Hester picked up two of his game-high 106 yards on fourth and 1 to keep the drive alive.
"That Florida team was as talented as we've seen since I've been here at Florida," third-year LSU coach Les Miles said. "I give credit to that team."
Today, the defending SEC and national champions most likely will drop out of the AP top 10 and the race for the SEC East title. Meyer had one thought about how to rebound from the loss.
"Take this sting and work extremely hard so you don't have to experience it again," he said.
For three quarters, things looked good for the Gators.
After sputtering on offense the past two games, Florida seemed to get back on track with a balance it hasn't produced recently. Through three quarters, the Gators had 132 rushing and 145 passing yards. And the running game wasn't all quarterback Tim Tebow. Junior running back Kestahn Moore had 79 rushing yards.
But in the fourth quarter, mistakes and the nation's No.1 defense got the best of the Gators, who were held to 24 rushing yards and 13 passing in the quarter.
And as was the case in last week's loss to Auburn, mistakes hurt the Gators, this time late in the game. With first and 10 on their 49-yard line, and moving the ball against the Tigers' normally stingy defense, Moore lost the Gators' first fumble of the game. It stalled the drive, but LSU couldn't convert.
The second mishap was much more costly.
After its defense held, and LSU's Colt David missed his second field goal of the game - a 37-yard attempt - Florida took over on its 20. Two plays later, Tebow's pass hit the back of Cornelius Ingram's head and landed in the hands of LSU's Kirston Pittman.
Five plays and 27 yards later, Flynn threw a 4-yard pass to Demetrius Byrd to pull the Tigers within 24-21 with 10:15 left in the game. Florida went three-and-out on its next possession, setting up LSU's winning drive.
LSU had the ball for 35:52.
"We knew it was a possession game and we had to have the ball," Miles said.
LSU trailed for the first time all season (17-7) at halftime but wasted no time getting back into the game.
The Tigers took the ball on their 30 and went 70 yards in 15 plays before Keiland Williams' 4-yard touchdown pulled the Tigers to within 17-14.
The drive, which ate 7:03 off the clock, was aided by an LSU fake field goal and a critical pass interference call.
Florida had an answer. Tebow found an open Ingram in the backfield with no LSU defenders near him for a 37-yard touchdown to give Florida a 24-14 lead with 5:14 left in the third quarter. The Gators never scored again.