GAINESVILLE — So this is how you honor beloved native son Tom Petty.
With a heartbreaker.
Fourth-year Florida junior Eddy Pineiro shanked a would-be game-tying extra point to the left late in the third quarter after Lamical Perine's 1-yard touchdown run, helping preserve beleaguered LSU's 17-16 victory Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
It was the first missed PAT in 47 career tries for Pineiro.
"You don't think that's gonna happen," said Gators coach Jim McElwain, who added that the miss might have resulted from a bad snap.
"Everybody can say it cost us the game," safety Chauncey Gardner said. "But it didn't cost us the game."
To be sure, plenty of culprits — including third-down defense and no sense of urgency in the waning moments — surfaced before an announced homecoming crowd of 88,247.
But the miss thwarted a surge of second-half momentum the No. 21 Gators (3-2, 3-1 SEC) had gained behind the tailback tandem of Lamical Perine (12 carries, 70 yards) and Jesuit High alumnus Malik Davis (14 carries, 90 yards) after trailing 17-3 in the second half.
It also gave at least a one-week reprieve to Tigers coach Ed Orgeron.
Maligned throughout the bayou for limiting new coordinator Matt Canada's presnap movement in last week's humiliating homecoming loss to Troy, Orgeron held nothing back Saturday, despite losing three offensive linemen to injury in the first half.
"This team made the decision on Monday that they were going to win this football game under any circumstances," Orgeron said, "and we did that."
With Orgeron giving carte blanche to Canada, the Tigers (4-2, 1-1) shifted and motioned at will. So, too, did all the heat Orgeron's been feeling. It shifted and motioned right over to McElwain, whose team now is staring potentially at 3-4 with Texas A&M and Georgia looming.
"That's life in the SEC," McElwain said. "For our guys, for this Gator team, it hurts. And it should hurt. … We'll find out about leadership as to where we go."
The Tigers ran jet sweeps on at least three plays in their initial scoring drive, the last of which was a 30-yarder by senior wideout Russell Gage, who appeared untouched on his dash. The previous play, Gators cornerback Duke Dawson had been whistled for holding on a third-and-8 incompletion.
LSU finished with 216 rushing yards and went 6-of-14 on third down against the SEC's top third-down defense. LSU's second touchdown, a 2-yard throw from quarterback Danny Etling to fullback Tory Carter, came on third and goal and gave LSU a 17-3 lead early in the third period.
To that point, LSU had controlled the ball for 21 minutes, 41 seconds to the Gators' 12:23.
"(Third down) was a big issue," UF defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. "We weren't stopping them on third down, and that's on us as a defense."
Meantime, the Gators didn't cross midfield on their first three possessions. They fed their tailbacks on the fourth, with Perine and Davis combining for 64 yards, but the drive stalled when Franks was flushed from the pocket and forced out of bounds just inside the 10 on third-and-goal.
The Perine-Davis tandem really got churning in the third, sparking touchdown drives of 75 and 76 yards, with Davis and Perine inflicting most of the damage as Florida eclipsed 150 rushing yards for the fourth consecutive game.
But after Pineiro's miss, when there appeared to an issue with the hold, Florida managed 24 yards on its final three drives. The game essentially ended at the Gators' 25, when Franks' fourth and 3 crossing pass intended for Brandon Powell sailed incomplete with 1:39 to play.
The drive had begun nearly 2 1/2 minutes before at the 4.
"I just feel like we didn't get out and get the play call real fast," Perine said of the final drive. "Looking forward, we got to get better at that."
Because this very season's now on the clock.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.