Randall Leads Tiger Comeback Over No. 12 Florida, 24-21
LSU Sports Interactive
GAINESVILLE, FLA. -- LSU 24, Florida 21. Tiger fans, fill in your own adjectives here to describe what you just saw on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field as the 24th-ranked Tigers upset the 12th-ranked Gators.
It was another special night for the LSU football team. Wait a minute. Make that capital TEAM as the players came together in a way that hadn't been seen yet this season.
LSU rallied after spotting the Gators 14 points off two turnovers in the first quarter and playing with a swagger and confidence not seen earlier in the year, rode the arm and the legs of senior quarterback Marcus Randall, as the Tigers culminated a touchdown drive in the final 30 seconds to win for the fourth time in six games, evening its Southeastern Conference record at 2-2. Florida falls to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC.
Randall capped LSU's third long drive of the fourth quarter with a misdirection pass to Joseph Addai in the flat from 10 yards out to finish a six-play, 50-yard march that started with 2:15 on the clock and crossed the goal line with 27 seconds to play to give LSU the lead for the only time in the game. Ryan Gaudet hit the extra point to give LSU the winning margin.
LSU set up the touchdown pass as Addai knocked big holes in the reeling Florida defensive line of 16, 12 and 6 yards prior to his touchdown catch.
Florida got the ball back on the kickoff at the 23-yard line with 22 seconds to play. Florida quarterback Chris Leak threw incomplete twice and then completed a pass for 22 yards to the Florida 45 as time ran off touching off a celebration on the LSU bench and from the thousands of LSU fans on hand in 'The Swamp.'
"It was a great game and I've never been prouder of our players for coming off a humiliation against a good team on the road (Georgia) and take the challenge to show the pride and the performance that they had. My approach is it's down and dirty time for this team and we've got to quit worrying about what we did last year in the championship that we won and start thinking about the things that made us champions. Resiliency is to invoke, respect and fear through constant pressure and that game out there, the way we played was exactly that. You couldn't define the game any better," said LSU Coach Nick Saban on his LSU Sports Network post-game show. "The way we kept coming back. We got behind 14-0. We made mistakes, we played through them. The resiliency, the competitive spirit of this team. This team grew up and came together as a team because of this."
"We did a good job of executing in all areas and I really think it helped the quarterbacks in the game that everyone around them played better. This was the best our offensive line played by far. We had some great runs by three different runners who played with tremendous tenacity out there. Joseph Addai was fantastic. Shyrone Carey did a nice job. Alley (Broussard) was his usual tough, hard bruising type," said Saban.
The Tigers rolled up 210 yards on the ground and 254 in the air, out gaining the Gators, 464-236, getting 29 first downs to 14 for Florida. Randall, who came in for an injured JaMarcus Russell after Russell started the first game of his collegiate career, was 18-of-27 for 198 yards with one interception and two touchdowns. He also rushed 10 times for 46 yards. Addai finished the game with 96 yards rushing and 26 receiving.
"We made some nice catches and made some plays in the passing game," said Saban. "Marcus I've always felt comes off the bench better. He did it tonight and did a good job. I was proud of the way JaMarcus played early in the game, too bad we got some bad field position and those two turnovers were tough to take, but we overcame it because we were going to play for 60 minutes and wear them out which I think is the reason we won the game."
Twice before in the fourth quarter, LSU had long sustained drives with Randall's passing and scrambling and the LSU running backs getting big chunks of yardage. But each time the play moved deep in Florida territory, the Gators stiffened, forcing a blocked 35-yard Chris Jackson field goal to stop an 11-play, 75-yard drive with no points and LSU down 21-17 and then LSU was forced to punt with 3:49 to play when a 10-play, 41-yard drive stalled at the Florida 39.
But Nick Saban's decision to punt proved timely as the ball was downed at the three and eventually Florida would have to punt back to the Tigers for the game-winning drive.
"We can put them inside the five yard line and with all of our time outs left and get the ball back with over two minutes. Even if they had gotten one first down we would have had a chance to get the ball back in plenty of time to win the game. I just think field position in a situation like that ? you are really putting everything on one play. It's fourth and 10 you are putting everything on one play with four minutes left. Now even if you stop them and get the ball back, you've got to go 80 or 90 yards for a score. What you can do on a short field, like we got the ball on the 50-yard line and we ran the ball and threw play action passes and kept them off balance. We didn't have to throw it every time and we had time enough to do that," said the LSU head coach.
The LSU defense rose to the occasion after the punt, nearly sacking Leak for a safety on first down and despite a facemask penalty, still kept the Gators a yard shy of the first down, forcing the punt that would set up LSU's winning score.
But the contest began to look eerily similar to LSU's game the week before in Athens as the Tigers were put in a deep hole that would take the whole game to dig out.
LSU did appear to be sharp in the first few minutes. The Tigers started on the 35-yard line after Florida kicked the opening kickoff out-of-bounds. On first down, Russell found tight end David Jones for 13 yards and a first down at the LSU 48 yard line. Broussard then gained three yards before Russell made it two-for-two to open the game, finding Jacob Hester for 11 yards down to the Florida 38, setting the Tigers up with another first down.
Despite a five-yard penalty for illegal motion prior to the first down play, Russell continued to have a good grasp on things as he hit Davis for his third straight completion and a game of 14 yards to the Florida 29. But the Tigers couldn't get the first down as Broussard lost a yard and then Russell had his first incompletion on a crossing pass to Dwayne Bowe. Jackson came in and tried a 48-yard field goal attempt that appeared far enough but was wide right.
Florida took over their own 31 but failed much of anything, gaining four yards on first down and then getting two incompletes from Leak. But field position changed as Eric Wilbur punted the ball 56 yards and the Tigers started their second possession with 10:46 to go in the quarter at the LSU 18.
But the possession didn't last long.
Russell went back to pass and his effort was intercepted by Demetrice Webb at the 25 and he returned it 20 yards to the LSU 5 with Broussard making the touchdown saving tackle.
The Gators were set up with a first and goal at the five and after one incompletion, Ciatrick Fason rumbled in over left end for the five-yard score and the Gators had put the Tigers down, 7-0, with 10:18 on the first quarter clock.
Florida moved the ball but failed to get a lengthy drive and played field position with the Tigers, downing the ball inside the one-yard line with 5:33 to go in the first quarter.
Now the Tigers were in the worst possible position, gaining little on first down and Russell had to throw it away on second down. But on third down, Russell falling backwards off his back foot, lofted an ill-advised toss that was intercepted around the 10 by Florida's Jarvis Herring who returned the ball back seven yards to the LSU 3.
Quickly the Gators came on the field and scored easily on what appeared to be a shaken LSU team, on a three-yard pass to Tate Casey, his first collegiate catch, giving Florida a 14-0 lead with 4:28 to play still in the opening quarter.
The Tigers tried to get a drive going in its next possession and on the fourth play of the drive from the LSU 35, Russell was sacked for a loss of nine yards. Russell was helped from the field with what was called a sprained left ankle, bringing Randall off the bench to take over on a 2-19 from the LSU 26. Randall gained 12 yards on a quarterback draw and then found Justin Vincent for six yards. A roughing the passer penalty gave the Tigers a first down and two plays later the quarter ended.
With each play the confidence appeared to be returning as Randall found Green for 18 yards down to the Florida 17 as the second quarter began. On the 10th play of the drive Green went for four yards and LSU was backed up on the next try from scrimmage for illegal procedure making it second and 10 from the 17.
The senior QB continued looking sharp as he hit Keith Zinger for 14 yards for a first and goal at the three. Carey took the first down handoff and tried to turn the corner, gaining one yard. Carey then went over right guard for another yard, making it third and goal at the one. Broussard took the ball and scored at the 12:30 mark of the second quarter and Ryan Gaudet make the extra points to cut the Florida margin to 14-7.
The LSU drive was 14 plays, 80 yards, taking almost seven minutes off the clock.
Florida tried to answer back, taking advantage of two LSU penalties that gave the Gators first down, advancing to a first down at the LSU 44. Leak was incomplete three straight times and Florida punted. Again, LSU gave up the opportunity for a fair catch and let the ball hit and for the second time in the half the ball was down on the one-yard line as LSU took over with 9:22 to go in the half.
The Tigers were able to get out of the hole and make a couple of first downs, but a sack of Randall forced LSU to punt from the 20 and Florida took over on their own 37 with 5:50 to go before intermission.
Florida picked up a first down to move to the Florida 49, and then Ron Zook went to the bag of tricks, as Leak lateraled to Caldwell who then tried to throw downfield but Ronnie Prude was called for pass interference, giving Florida a first down at the LSU 36.
On the next play, Leak picked on Prude again, as Caldwell broke away from Prude's attempt to tackle and gained 13 to the LSU 22. After gaining four yards in two plays, Leak hit O. J. Small in the end zone to give the Gators a 21-7 lead with 1:39 to go before intermission.
For the second straight week, it would be LSU making the most of its two-minute offense, going 80 yards in 1:27 to cut the margin to 21-14 at intermission.
Addai opened with a nine-yard rush and then Randall hit Addai for six, Addai for four and Craig Davis for 22 yards to the Florida 39. After a false start on Nate Livings pushed the ball back to the Florida 44, Randall hit Dwayne Bowe for a 14-yard screen pass to the Florida 30. However, Florida was penalized for a dead ball personal foul that put LSU in business in the final 30 seconds at the Florida 15.
Randall then hit Early Doucet cutting across the middle of the end zone on an outstanding pass to put LSU back in the game.
The Tigers allowed yardage on the opening drive by Florida in the third quarter as Florida drove from its own 27 to the LSU 35 before the LSU defense was able to get a stop going and forced the Gators to punt and when the Tigers got the ball back, it was obvious that the Tiger offense came out feeling it could get the job done.
Starting on its own 22, Broussard rushed three straight times for 14 yards to the LSU 36. Randall then hit Doucet for 19 yards to the Florida 45. Randall's running ability was keeping the Gators off guard as he rushed for 14 yards to the Florida 31. But three more yards was all the Gator defense would allow, but the drive wasn't for naught as Chris Jackson came in and equaled his season best with a booming 47-yard field goal that cut the margin to 21-17 for Florida with 7:22 to go in the quarter.
Both teams had drives in the remaining minutes of the third quarter with Florida getting the ball to the LSU 36 in eight plays before punting and the Tigers took over at the 20 with 4:46 to play in the third.
Randall again made things happen with his feet, rushing for 12 yards for a first down and rushing of Addai got LSU to midfield before Randall threw his only interception of the night on a tipped pass that Cory Bailey intercepted to give Florida the ball at the LSU 47. But LSU's defense rose and Kirston Pittman sacked Leak as the third quarter ended, to force a punt that would see LSU dominate the line of scrimmage and wear the Gators for a second straight win in Gainesville.
"I thought some guys did a great job from a leadership standpoint," Saban said about his team's ability to come together. "Marcus Spears, Andrew Whitworth really took the bull by the horns and I think that affected everybody. I'm going to tell you what. I've got to thank everybody. All of our fans, all of our supporters, the players on our team. You don't get very many feelings like you get in winning the game in the Swamp and this is our second. To see a group of players so happy for putting everything they had into something and getting a positive reward for it and feeling good about themselves. The gratitude I have to even be a part of something like that and the spirit and the passion that we have, as an institution and as a fan support group, I've got to thank everyone else for that."
The Tigers have an open date next Saturday before returning home to Tiger Stadium for four games in five weeks starting with a 7 p.m. game on Oct. 23 Homecoming Game against Troy. LSU then host Vanderbilt on Oct. 30, Alabama on Nov. 13 and Ole Miss on Nov. 20 before closing out the regular season against Arkansas in Little Rock on Nov. 26.
On the touchdown play -- "Coach (Saban) just told us to believe in ourselves. We've run through that play a lot during practice. So I mean, it was just like a practice field. Everybody has their man. I criss cross with Skyler Green. I come underneath him. We've practiced that play so much, I kept thinking it was like practice."
"It kept our rhythm. The coach talked to us about having to get down and dirty during that last play. I wasn't just thinking about scoring, but that's what we needed to win the game. We pulled through."
On coming in later in the game -- "We decided to switch it up this game. We started with JaMarcus Russell first, but the whole team has seen me play too. They've seen me come out second and they've seen me start. We just like to switch it up."
On playing better off the bench -- "I've been playing well. Whether or not coach thinks I'm better coming off the bench is a different thing. That happened again tonight. I came off the bench and we played well. We came out especially hard on the last drive and finished the game."
LSU at. Florida -- Oct. 9, 2004 - Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
- LSU's game captains were 29 Travis Daniels, 76 Andrew Whitworth and 84 Marcus Spears.
- Tigers extending their consecutive starts streak tonight were: OT Andrew Whitworth (33), DE Marcus Spears (25), LB Lionel Turner (21), C Ben Wilkerson (20) and CB Travis Daniels (20). CB Corey Webster did not dress for the game, snapping his consecutive starts streak at 19.
- LSU is 9-2 at night on the road under Nick Saban. The Tigers have won eight straight, including a victory over Florida in 2002. LSU is 14-2 in all night games away from Tiger Stadium under Saban (including the 2001 and 2003 SEC Championship games, the 2000 Peach Bowl, the 2001 Sugar Bowl and the 2003 Sugar Bowl).
- LSU's sack of Florida QB Chris Leak on the last play of the third quarter (sack by DE Kirsten Pittman) extended the Tigers streak of recording at least one sack in a game to 31 straight.
- The comeback victory was the seventh time under Nick Saban that the Tigers have rallied to win a game despite trailing in the final quarter. LSU came back from a 15-7 fourth quarter deficit against Oregon State in the season opener. It also marked the fourth time QB Marcus Randall has been involved in a comeback victory. Randall engineered game winning drives against Ole Miss and Kentucky in 2002 and also ran in the game-winning score versus Oregon State in the season opener.
- The win marked the first time the Tigers have won back-to-back games in Gainesville since doing so in 1980 and 1982.
- LSU had four first-time starters in tonight's game. QB JaMarcus Russell (in 1994, freshman QB Melvin Hill also made his first start at Florida) RG Brian Johnson, WR Early Doucet and LB Ken Hollis all made their first career starts.
- WR Skyler Green pulled down a reception midway through the first quarter, extending his reception streak to 20 straight games in which he has played on offense (Green did not play an offensive down at Auburn, but was in on special teams).
- TE Keith Zinger's reception early in the second quarter made him the 13th different LSU receiver to have at least one reception this season.
- RB Shyrone Carey's reception in the fourth quarter made him the 14th different LSU player to have at least one reception this season.
- PK Chris Jackson's 47-yard field goal with 7:22 left in the third quarter tied his career-long. He also kicked a 47-yarder against Arkansas last season.
- QB Marcus Randall went over 2,000 career passing yards in tonight's game. He entered tonight's game with 1,972 yards and finished the game with 198 yards for a career total of 2,170.