Thursday, April 26, 2018
Colleges

No. 10 Florida Gators knock off No. 4 LSU Tigers

GAINESVILLE — One game, one victory and pure, sweet redemption.

In the postgame euphoria after No. 10 Florida's 14-6 victory over No. 4 LSU on Saturday, those were the sentiments expressed among members of a Gators defensive unit that one year before had been maimed and maligned by the Tigers in a 41-11 road loss.

But this time, in front of 90,824 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida's defense held the SEC's second-best rushing attack to 42 yards, refused to break as the offense sputtered in the first half and caused a fumble by safety Matt Elam late in the third quarter that helped seal the victory.

"We had hurt in our heart (from last year's game)," junior defensive end Dominique Easley said.

"So we wanted them to feel the pain we had. This game was serious to us just for the fact that we got our (butts) kicked last year."

It was the first victory in October for the Gators (5-0, 4-0 SEC) since 34-31 in overtime over Georgia in 2010 and the first win over a ranked opponent since the January 2010 Sugar Bowl victory over then-No. 4 Cincinnati. In fact, the Gators have won 10 in a row against teams ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll.

The loss ended LSU's 18-game regular-season win streak, which was tops in Division I-A.

"I have to give credit to the Florida Gators," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I thought they played awfully hard."

LSU took a 3-0 lead on Drew Alleman's 31-yard field goal with 4:12 left in the first quarter. Alleman's 21-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining in the first half gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead.

Florida had just 31 passing yards, 47 overall and zero first downs in the first half. But the defense held LSU to 0-of-7 on third-down conversions and two field goals in the red zone.

"That's Florida defense," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "Dan Quinn (defensive coordinator) and the defensive staff did a fabulous job. We tackled well. We executed well. We certainly have come leaps and bounds in playing the run in one year against a very talented running football team. My hat's off to our defensive staff."

Ultimately, it was a defensive effort that changed the game late in the third quarter. Florida took a 7-6 lead on a 12-yard run by senior Mike Gillislee with 5:15 left in the quarter.

On third and 7 in LSU's ensuing possession, Zac Mettenberger lofted a 56-yard pass to Odell Beckham. But as Elam chased Beckham down, he swiped at the ball, jarring it loose as safety De'Ante Saunders recovered at the UF 23. Officials ruled on the field that Beckham was down, but a replay review overturned the call, ruling it a fumble.

The Gators then put together an 11-play drive that culminated with a 12-yard run by Gillislee for a 14-6 lead with 13:18 remaining.

"It was just a great effort," Elam said. "I saw (the play developing) the whole time, I just took a bad angle and got behind. I had to make a play, and I was just trying to stop him from getting into the end zone."

Gillislee had career highs in carries (34) and yards (146). UF, which finished with 58 rushes vs. 12 passes, ran the ball on its final 25 snaps and did not throw a pass in the fourth quarter. It held the ball for more than 20 minutes of the second half.

LSU (5-1, 1-1) entered averaging 432.8 yards, fifth in the SEC, but was held to 200. Mettenberger was 11-of-25 for 158 yards, one interception and no touchdowns. He was sacked four times.

The Gators have outscored opponents 41-0 in the fourth quarter through five games. LSU had possession of the ball for just 9:41 in the second half and gained just two first downs.

"We had a chip on our shoulder from last year," UF senior safety Josh Evans said. "We're a better team this year, more improved. My hat goes out to the D-line. They played real well, stopped the run. And that's really what it came down to."

 
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