BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The LSU Tigers traveled to Gainesville, Fla. to take on The No. 6 Gators in “The Swamp” on Saturday, Dec. 12, and left with the upset win.
The Tigers (4-5) gutted out a 37-34 stunning victory over the Gators (8-2). LSU was playing with a depleted squad, as only 54 scholarship players made the trip. Of those, Derek Stingley Jr. was ruled out with a lingering injury. Also, Cordale Flott was ejected for targeting in the first quarter.
Cade York’s 57-yard record field goal with 23 seconds lifted the Tigers to triumph on the road. There were six lead changes, more than 1,000 yards of offense, and a blanket of thick fog during the contest.
True freshman quarterback Max Johnson was 21-of-36 (58.3 avg.) for 239 yards and three touchdowns (141.6 QBR). He is the first LSU quarterback to ever throw three touchdowns in “The Swamp.” He also ran the ball 18 times for 65 yards. Possibly more importantly, he didn’t commit any turnovers.
True freshman wide receiver Kayshon Boutte had five catches for 108 yards (21.6 avg.) and one touchdown. Sophomore wideout Jaray Jenkins had four receptions for 65 yards (16.3 avg.) and a touchdown.
Sophomore running back Chris Curry led the ground attack with 17 carries for 66 yards. Ty Davis-Price had eight rushes for 55 yards and John Emery Jr. gained seven yards on four attempts. Both Davis-Price and Emery left the game with injuries.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, considered by some to be the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, was 29-of-47 for 474 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns. However, he also had three turnovers - two interceptions and a fumble.
On just the second play of the game, the LSU defense gave up a 44-yard pass play but the Tigers made a valiant goal line stand and kept the Gators out of the end zone on fourth-and-1. Unfortunately, the LSU offense then went three-and-out and had to punt. Flott was ejected for targeting on the first play of Florida’s next drive. Trask capped off the 5-play, 52-yard march with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Gators a 7-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers were undeterred by the deficit and responded. Johnson led them on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that he finished off with a 5-yard floater to Jenkins in the end zone to tie the game, 7-7, with 4:21 remaining in the opening quarter of play.
In the second quarter, Eli Ricks intercepted a pass by Trask and took it 68 yards to the house to give LSU its first lead of the game, 14-7. Trask entered the game having thrown only three interceptions all season. LSU entered the game ranked dead last in the SEC in pass defense.
Florida’s next drive ended on one of the most bizarre plays many people have ever seen and resulted in Trask’s second interception of the game. The pass was intended for wide receiver Kadarius Toney but as he was falling out of bounds, Toney tipped the ball, which then hit LSU freshman cornerback Dwight McGlothern right in the facemask, bounced in the air, and was caught inbounds by Jay Ward. Ward initially dove at the ball before Toney tipped and was on his stomach on the turf when the ball popped up off McGlothern but he had the presence of mind to get on his knees to secure the interception.
After the LSU offense went three-and-out, Florida drove down to the LSU 5-yard line but the defense held again for a red zone stop and the Gators had to settle for a 23-yard field goal to make it 14-10 with 6:29 left in the first half. Later, Trask threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Copeland to give Florida the lead again. The Gators were up 17-14 with 2:25 remaining in the half. With that toss, Trask tied Florida’s record for touchdown passes in a season (39), which was held by Danny Wuerffel since 1996.
Johnson then led LSU on another impressive drive. After converting two third downs, he connected with a wide open Boutte for a 34-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 21-17 with 33 seconds before halftime.
But they weren’t done just yet. The defense made a huge play when Ray Thornton was credited for a sack-fumble on Trask. BJ Ojulari recovered it for the Tigers with 10 seconds left on the clock. A 39-yard field goal by York extended the lead to 24-17.
LSU received the ball to start the second half and the offense went to work again. The Tigers drove down the field but on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, they were called for holding. Then, Tre Bradford dropped a pass, so LSU had to settle for another field goal by York. He was good from 30 yards out to make it 27-17. Florida had a quick response. Trask dove into the end zone from 1-yard out to make it 27-24 with 6:52 left in the third quarter. Later, Trask hooked up with Toney for a 9-yard touchdown to retake the lead, 31-27 with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter.
Bradford later made up for his earlier drop with a 4-yard touchdown catch to make it 34-31 with 13:14 left in the fourth quarter. It was his first career touchdown. The 9-play, 84-yard drive was highlighted by a 41-yard completion from Johnson to Boutte.
Later, Florida put together a drive that included a 32-yard run by Toney and a 30-yard gain on a pass play from Trask to Copeland. But once again, the Tiger defense stepped up big and forced a 31-yard field goal to tie it, 34-34, with just 2:51 left in the game.
The LSU offense then appeared to have gone three-and-out after a third down completion to tight end Kole Taylor that was well short of the yards needed for a first down. Taylor’s shoe came off during the play and Florida defensive back Marco Wilson picked it up and then threw it down the field. Wilson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and LSU was rewarded with a first down. The drive eventually ended with York’s game-winning 57-yard field goal.
Florida had an opportunity to tie the game and force overtime but missed a 53-yard field goal try.
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