If you assume the No. 20 Florida Gators are going to cruise past LSU because they’re 10½-point favorites and facing a banged-up team with an embattled coach, you don’t understand one of the weirdest rivalries in college football.
“It’s Florida-LSU,” UF defensive lineman Zachary Carter said. “Anything can happen.”
The series’ bizarre eight-decade history proves it. The series is so weird that the Tigers going 5-for-5 on fourth down in 2007 doesn’t qualify as one of its most unusual moments. In back-to-back years, UF had its starting quarterback suspended the Monday of game week for off-field reasons (Treon Harris in 2014 and Will Grier in 2015). That doesn’t make the cut, either.
Here are our rankings for the five oddest Florida-LSU moments:
5. ‘Grid Larceny Denied’ (1960)
LSU quarterback Jimmy Field noticed in the first quarter that his wristband had been torn off. Small problem: it had the Tigers’ game plan on on it. Coach Paul Dietzel reported the issue to the referees, who found it and returned it from … the UF bench. Gators coach Ray Graves denied using the information, according to a column from The Tampa Times titled “Grid Larceny Denied.”
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that LSU outscored the Gators 10-0 when the wristband was missing. “Needless to say,” the Advocate wrote, “the Bengals will strap the bands on more securely in the future.” UF shut out LSU in the second half in a 13-10 win.
4. Hurricane Matthew (2016)
UF officials said the game was postponed so they didn’t use resources that were needed for an impending Category 3 storm. Some Tigers officials suggested the Gators were ducking them to preserve their championship hopes. Bitterness lingered after the game was pushed back a month and moved from Gainesville to Baton Rouge. Athletic director Jeremy Foley said LSU “was never a true partner in our discussions.” When the Gators won 16-10 on a goal-line stand that clinched the division title, coach Jim McElwain said the Tigers “got what they deserved.”
This wasn’t the first time Florida-LSU was postponed because of a storm; Hurricane Hilda delayed the 1964 game two months. We found no smack-talk in the archives, though the Gators’ coach called it “Florida’s Hurricane Bowl.”
3. Fake field goal (2010)
Les Miles lived up to his “Mad Hatter” nickname in the top-15 showdown in Gainesville. With 35 seconds left, LSU lined up for a game-tying 53-yard field goal. Holder Derek Helton took the snap and flipped the ball over his right shoulder. It bounced to kicker Josh Jasper, who scooped up the lateral and ran for a first down to set up LSU’s go-ahead touchdown with six seconds left.
Miles’ Tigers also used a fake field goal for the winning touchdown in 2015. The kicker bobbled that go-ahead pass three times, but we’re giving the edge to the ‘10 game because of the odd bounce.
2. One more second (1989)
UF great Emmitt Smith made a rare misstep when he failed to get out of bounds in the closing seconds of a 13-13 game. When Kyle Morris threw the ball out of bounds to stop the clock, the scoreboard read :00. But, as The Tampa Tribune wrote, officials determined there was one second left “since the horn had not sounded.” Arden Czyzewski, an alumnus of Tampa’s King High, used the final play to hit the winning 41-yard field goal.
1. LS-Shoe (2020)
Maybe it’s recency bias, but nothing tops last year. The Gators made a third-down stop in the final minutes of a 34-34 game, but Marco Wilson picked up Kole Taylor’s size-14 Nike and threw it downfield. That drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for what the referee announced as “throwing the LSU player’s shoe 20 yards down the field.”
The official’s explanation was helpful, because the field was too foggy for spectators to see what happened. Cade York finished the drive by nailing a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to give LSU the win.
The game was also notable because UF’s coronavirus outbreak forced it to be pushed back two months. But the craziest ending of this crazy series makes the delay merely a historical footnote.
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