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No. 11 Gators route No. 4 LSU

GAINESVILLE — They can take the videotapes of last season's game against LSU out of the Florida weight room and put them away.

For now, that demon has been exorcised.

Still troubled by the memory of a fourth-quarter collapse in Baton Rouge, No. 11 Florida redeemed itself with a 51-21 victory over No. 4 LSU in front of 90,684 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.

In a meeting of the past two national champions, it was the largest margin of victory in the series since a 41-9 victory for the Gators in 2000.

"We came out with a little chip on our shoulder," Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said. "We played with a lot of hype and played with a lot of passion. We wanted to dominate and play physical.

"LSU is a very good team, very athletic, very talented. We knew we had to come out and execute well."

And the Gators did, especially early on.

Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) scored 17 first-quarter points, and when Jonathan Phillips hit a 34-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining in the first half, the Gators seemed in position to take a 20-0 lead into halftime.

LSU had other ideas.

The Tigers (4-1, 2-1) turned a 20-point deficit into six in just more than five minutes.

After his field goal, Phillips' kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving LSU a first down on its 40 and 49 seconds remaining. Florida coach Urban Meyer challenged the call, but the ruling was upheld on replay.

And LSU made the most of it.

The Tigers put together a six-play, 60-yard drive that took only 44 seconds, culminating with a 6-yard pass from Jarrett Lee to Chris Mitchell to cut the deficit to 20-7.

Still carrying some momentum, LSU opened the second half with an 80-yard, 12-play drive, scoring on a 3-yard run by quarterback Andrew Hatch to pull within 20-14.

And just like that, the Tigers were back in the game.

Briefly.

The Gators responded with consecutive touchdowns and a defensive score that sealed the victory.

Tebow (14-of-21 for 210 yards) scored on a 2-yard run with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter to give the Gators a 27-14 lead.

Then on UF's next possession, freshman Jeff Demps broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run to give the Gators a 34-14 lead with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter.

It was the fourth touchdown run of 30 or more yards for Demps, doubling the Gators' total for all of last season.

Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, junior linebacker Brandon Spikes picked off his second pass of the game, returning it 52 yards for a touchdown to give Florida a 41-14 lead.

"I never took a pick to the house before," said Spikes, who was penalized 15 yards for punting the ball in the end zone.

Florida scored its first touchdown in dramatic fashion — a 70-yard pass from Tebow to junior Percy Harvin — 1:28 into the game. Harvin caught the pass after safety Danny McCray leaped into the air and tipped it into his hands.

The Gators succeeded for the second straight game in spreading its offense around, gaining 265 rushing yards and 210 passing.

Demps and freshman Chris Rainey combined for 21 carries and 194 yards. And six different receivers caught passes, and six different players carried the ball.

"I thought it was one of the most well-rounded performances we've ever had," Meyer said.

The Florida defense held LSU, which had the league's best rusher in Charles Scott, to 80 rushing yards but gave up 241 passing yards.

"It might be one of the best defensive performances in recent history," Meyer said.

"Our defense really answered the bell."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

No. 11 UF 51

No. 4 LSU 21

No. 11 Gators route No. 4 LSU 10/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 2:02pm]
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