By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
LSU limped into the Swamp on Saturday night with high hopes that they could play a competitive game against the #6 Florida Gators. Not only were they competitive, but they were also victorious. The Tigers played perhaps their most inspiring and complete football game of the season as they beat Florida 37-34 in an epic SEC showdown.
Below is our 'Da Boot Sports' game recap.....
The Tigers would win the coin toss and elect to defer.. Florida would take the opening kickoff and begin to move easily into LSU territory, eventually finding themselves with a 1st and goal at the nine. The LSU defense would stand tall and keeping the Gators out of the end zone setting up a 4th and goal from the three. Florida would line up for a field goal attempt but Ali Gaye would jump off sides moving the ball to the one. Dan Mullen would choose to send his offense back onto the field to try for the six. The Tigers would slam the door on the Gators as the defense in purple and gold would stuff Malik Davis for no gain, forcing the turnover on downs. Florida would drive 74 yards in 11 plays and come away empty handed.
With freshman Max Johnson starting the game at quarterback. LSU would take no chances starting their first drive at the one in the shadows of their own goal post, only managing six yards. Zach Von Rosenberg would boom a nice punt that would be fair caught at the Florida 48 yard line.
Kyle Trask and the Gator offense would begin their drive right at mid-field, and again would find it easy to move the football against the struggling LSU defense. On 1st down Cordale Flott would be called for personal foul targeting and would be injected from the contest. On the next play Malik Davis would bust a 24 yard run down to the LSU six yard line. This time the Tigers would be unable to keep the Gators off the score board. On 3rd and goal from the one, Trask would sneak it in for his first rushing touchdown of the season. Evan McPherson would add the point after giving the Gators a 7-0 lead with 8:01 to go in the 1st quarter.
Starting their second drive with some breathing room, the Tigers were able to begin a nice drive highlighted by a nice job of play calling. LSU would be able to run the ball well as Ty Davis-Price would and Max Johnson would both help move the ball with nice runs. Johnson would show poise as he would complete a couple of mixed in key passes. The Tigers would end up on the scoreboard when Max Johnson would throw a perfect pass hitting Jaray Jenkins crossing in the back of the end zone for a five yard touchdown. York's PAT would tie things up at 7-7. The LSU drive would go 75 yards in 11 plays, eating 3:40 off the clock.
Both teams would trade punts to end the 1st quarter of play, tied at 7-7.
Florida would take their next possession into the start of the 2nd quarter. After crossing mid-field Trask and the Gators would have the ball 3rd and 6 at the LSU 35 yard line. Trask would drop back to throw and release his pass under heavy pressure. Eli Ricks would step in front of the pass and return the interception 68 yards for a LSU touchdown. The Tigers would now have their first lead of the game, 14-7.
Kadarius Toney would start the Gators next drive with an explosive 26 yard run to the LSU 49 yard line. From there Florida would go backwards after a penalty and a sack by Jaquelin Roy. Facing 2nd and 26 from their own 35, Trask would go deep and find Trevon Grimes for a 50 yard completion down to the LSU 15 yard line. On the next play LSU would pressure Trask forcing him to escape the pocket and role to his right. Trask would try to force a throw to a Gator receiver, who would tip the ball into the air. The ball would then bounce off of the helmet of LSU cornerback Dwight McGlothern back into the air and into the hands of Jay Ward at the six yard line.
Johnson and the LSU offense would quickly go three-and-out returning the ball back to Florida.
Trask would bounce back from his two interceptions and drive the Gators down the field going 44 yards in nine plays before the drive would stall at the LSU five yard line, as the Tiger defense would continue to play tough in the red zone. Evan McPherson would boot a 23 yard field goal attempt between the uprights making the score 14-10 with 6:25 left in the 1st half.
The Florida defense would seem to have finally figured the LSU offense out as they would force the Tigers three-and-out again forcing them to punt the ball away for the third straight possession.
Trask and the Gators would continue to pile up yardage against LSU defense, driving 66 yards in seven plays to retake the lead. On 3rd and eight at the LSU 19 yard line, Trask would find Jacob Copeland in the end zone for a touchdown. With 2:25 left in the half, the Gators lead 17-14.
The sputtering LSU offense would finally find find a groove as they would begin to establish the
run, keeping Florida's defense back on their heels as they would mix things up nicely. Max Johnson would throw his 2nd touchdown of the game as he would find Kayshon Boutte wide open down the far sidelines for 34 yards out. The score would end a 9 play, 75 yard drive, putting LSU back on top, 21-17 with :33 ticks left on the clock.
Instead of running out the clock to end the half, the Gators would look to strike deep down field against the LSU secondary. After a 17 yard gain, Trask would drop back to throw and would be sacked by Ray Thornton, causing the ball to pop loose. B.J. Ojulari would recover the fumble at the Florida 19 yard line.
Cade York would come in a kick a 39 yard field goal on the final play of the 1st half to give LSU the lead 24-17 at the half.
LSU would take the second half kickoff and begin a dominating drive to begin the 2nd half. The Tigers would go 63 yards in 17 plays, (12 of them rushing plays), while eating up 6:31 off the game clock. However, the Tigers would need to settle for a Cade York 30 yard field goal after a holding penalty would stall the drive deep in the Florida red zone.
Trailing LSU 27-17, Trask and the Gator offense seemed would score touchdowns on back to back drive as Florida would slowly take over the momentum in the 3rd quarter. Both times the Gators scored quickly, making it look too easy. First they would go 75 yards in only four plays, with the drive ending with Trask diving into the end zone from one yard out for the score, cutting the LSU lead to three, 27-24. After a quick three-and-out and a LSU punt, the Gators would strike quickly again. This time going 81 yards in only five plays. This time Trask would hit Kadarius Toney on a quick bubble screen that he would take into the end zone for a nine yard touchdown play giving the Gators the lead once again, 31-27.
Both teams would then exchange punts before LSU would take their next possession into the start of the 4th quarter. With Florida back in control, it seemed like the Tigers would begin to follow their same ole 2020 season routine, allowing their opponent to begin to take control a start to pull away.
But these Tigers had a lot of fight left in them. Max Johnson and the offense would put together a nice 9 play, 84 yard scoring drive. Johnson would find freshman running back Tre Bradford in the flat for a four yard touchdown putting LSU back up, 34-31 with 13:44 left in the ballgame.
Over the next four possessions, both teams would trade punts as a thick fog would begin to
move into Gainesville.
The Gators offense would be the first to break out of the offensive funk and finally start to move the football with 5:49 left in the game. Trask and the Florida offense would find themselves 1st and goal at the LSU nine yard line. It looked like Florida was on the verge of punching the ball in for a score to regain the lead, but the LSU defense continued to play their best game of the season, bending but not breaking, forcing the Gators to kick a field goal to tie things up at 34-34 with only 2:51 left on the game clock.
LSU seemed to go three-and-out quickly, but on 3rd down, Florida defensive back Marco Wilson would pull off Kole Taylor's cleat after tackling him and throw it, drawing a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving LSU a 1st down and new life. Johnson and the Tigers made the most of their gift, driving into Florida territory, setting up a 57 yard field goal attempt for Cade York. York's kick cut through the thick fog and split the uprights right down the middle to give LSU the lead back, 37-34 with :23 second left to go.
Trask would come out firing, working their way into field goal range. The drive would end at the LSU 33 with :02 seconds left. Florida kicker Evan McPherson would line up to try a 51 yard field goal to tie the game up. McPherson would miss the kick wide right and the LSU Fighting Tigers would escape the Swamp with an exciting 37-34 upset victory.
Got to give credit to the LSU players who played inspiring football for 60 minutes. There were moments when they would show signs of reverting back to the nightmarish play that has haunted them all season long. But against Florida, this team showed hunger, heart, and determination. They played with fight and pride for the purple and gold, looking like the team that we had expected to see all season long. A team that finally look prepared and well coached. A group of several young, inexperience athletes who took advantage of their opportunity. What a huge victory for this LSU program with the college football early signing day period only a few short days away, (December 16th).
Max Johnson's first start would be a memorable one as he and the LSU offense would battle a very talented Florid defense all night long. Johnson would finish the game going, 21-36, for 239 yards, and 3 touchdown passes, as he would play with the coolness and poise of a veteran leader.
The receiving corps which has taken three huge blow to it's depth chart over the last three weeks, losing both Terrace Marshall Jr. and Arik Gilbert to season opt out decisions, while Racey McMath has been unavailable due to injury. True freshmen wide receivers Kayshon Boutte, (5 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD), Koy Moore, (4 grabs for 20 yards), tight end Kole Taylor (3 catches , 11 yards), and sophomore Jaray Jenkins, (4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD), all stepped up with outstanding play all game long.
Another nice surprise on the night was the play of the LSU offensive line. This unit has played very poorly most of the season, but finally stepped up as they would do a nice job against the Gators while dealing with injuries throughout the contest. Although Johnson was sacked twice, he was protected most of the night with time to throw. The O-Line also lead the way helping establish a strong running attack that has been missing in previous contest. LSU would grind out 179 yards on the ground, lead by Chris Curry's 67 yards on 17 carries. Ty Davis-Price would contribute 55 yards on 8 touches, as well as Max Johnson adding 52 yards on 18 carries.
You have to be proud of the LSU defense. This unit has played poorly all season long, giving up countless big plays. and was coming off of one of their worse performances of the season. Derek Stingley would not play as he would be dealing with a nagging injury. Cordale Flott would be lost early in the game with a targeting infraction, and for some unknown reason Micah Baskerville didn't make the trip. Florida would put up over 600 yards of offense on the night, (609), but the Tigers played very well, especially in the red zone at times. The big story of the night was turnovers. The Tigers forced three huge turnovers, including a 68 yard pick six by Eli Ricks. Bo Pelini would put together an very aggressive game plan that the young Tigers would execute well as they put nice pressure on Kyle Trask throughout the contest sacking him four times. Damone Clark would lead the Tigers in tackles with 9 total. Jay Ward, JaCoby Stevens, and Jabril Cox all stood out making several big plays. The Tigers' defensive line played an outstanding game, while the young secondary played well. It was a great team victory for the Tigers, a victory that may be nicknamed, "The Cleat Game"...
Next up, the Tigers (4-5), will play their final game of the 2020 season as they will host the Ole Miss Rebels/Black Bears/Land-Sharks in Death Valley on Saturday, December 19th. Kickoff is set for 2:30pm..
Photos By: LSU/SEC