BATON ROUGE -- On Saturday at Tiger Stadium, the 10th-ranked LSU football team refound its defense that was mostly lost to the NFL.
Despite the obituary written about the 2013 defenders at halftime a week ago, the Tigers held No. 17 Florida to 240 yards of total offense and led LSU to a 17-6 victory.
LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) became bowl eligible for the 14th-straight season by building a 14-3 halftime lead and then stopping Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) nearly every time it entered LSU territory. For the first time since 1979, LSU held Florida out of the endzone.
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Led by linebacker Lamin Barrow's career-best 13 tackles and safety Craig Loston's nine, the Tigers held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time in 18 games (41-3 win over Washington, Sept. 8, 2012).
The Gators had 11-, 12-, 13- and 14-play drives but managed only two trips into the LSU redzone and two field goals against a defense that lost eight players to the pros from its 2012 squad. The Tigers' had a season-high four sacks of Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy and eight tackles for loss.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill ran for a game-high 121 yards on 19 carries, while Kenny Hilliard added 28 yards and fullback J.C. Copeland had 20 including a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Backup quarterback Anthony Jennings scored his the first touchdown as a Tiger with a 1-yard run of his own that gave LSU its 11-point halftime advantage before halftime.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger managed the LSU offense efficiently despite a few hiccups and uncharacteristic dropped passes by his receiving corps. He overcame a fumble at the Florida 25 by completing 9-of-17 passes for 152 and wasn't sacked. Jarvis Landry had 58 receiving yards on four catches, while Odell Beckham Jr. had 47 yards on two grabs.
The Tigers return to action Saturday, Oct. 19, traveling to Oxford to face Ole Miss at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN or ESPN2.
Florida running back Mack Brown had a team-high 56 rushing yards on 15 carries. In his place, Kelvin Taylor added 52 yards on 10 runs. Starter Matt Jones left the game with an injury in the first half.
Florida won the toss and deferred its decision until the second half. The Gators kicked off to the Tigers to open the game.
Hill took the first handoff of the game for 16 yards to the LSU 35 and Landry moved the Tigers into Gators territory with a 12-yard catch to the 49. Mettenberger followed a 9-yard run by Hilliard with a keeper to the Florida 40. However, a tackle behind the line on first down and an overthrow of wide receiver Kadron Boone on third down forced LSU to punt on its first drive for the first time this season.
LSU's defense forced the Gators into third-and-short situations three times before getting off the field at its 29. Placekicker Francisco Velez made a 44-yard field goal and Florida led 3-0 with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Facing its first deficit at home this season, LSU's offense quickly rallied. A 17-yard catch by Terrence Magee to the Florida 48 was followed by a 25-yard grab by Beckham Jr. The Gators were flagged for roughing Mettenberger and later pass interference in the endzone on Beckham Jr. On the first play of the second quarter, fullback J.C. Copeland scored a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
On the ensuing possession, Murphy came up two yards short of a first down with a scramble to the Florida 33. On third-and 2, defensive end Danielle Hunter and Barrow combined to stop Taylor for a loss and force the Gators to punt.
After a first-down run by Hill, Landry peeled the ball away from Florida freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and completed a 29-yard catch and run to the Florida 25. On the next play, the first effect of an 88-degree afternoon came into play, as the ball slipped from Mettenberger's hands as he attempted to make a quick pass to his left. Florida's Leon Orr recovered the fumble at the Florida 29.
For the first time since the second game of the season, LSU's defense forced its opponent three-and-out on consecutive possessions. Safety Micah Eugene sacked Murphy for an 11-yard loss brefore Kyle Christy's 43-yard punt was fair caught by Beckham Jr. at the LSU 38.
LSU took advantage of the defensive stand and the positive field position to score for the second time in the quarter. A pass interference penalty against Florida defensive back Marcus Roberson put the Tigers at the Florida 40. Though its trickery - a double pass to Jennings - didn't do the trick, Mettenberger connected with Beckham Jr. over the middle for 22 yards to the 25. A 10-yard run by Copeland to the Florida 1 setup a touchdown keeper by Jennings.
LSU led 14-3 with 5:14 left in the half.
Florida crossed midfield with a 19-yard catch by Patton to the LSU 42, but consecutive incomplete passes forced the Gators to punt on fourth-and-5 from the LSU 36.
Pinned at its 1, LSU managed a first down and ran out the first-half clock with a 14-3 lead.
Florida started the second half with a 33-yard kickoff return to its 34 and Brown earned a first down with runs of 5 and 6 yards. However, two completions were stopped by Barrow and linebacker D.J. Welter for no gain. Christy's punt sailed into the endzone for a touchback.
A 30-yard run after a short catch by Hill moved LSU to midfield on its first drive of the second half. But, miscommunication between Mettenberger and his receivers led to an incomplete pass and forced the Tigers to punt. Keehn's 33-yarder was fair caught at the Florida 11.
Though the Gators weren't able to advance into field goal range, they changed field position. LSU went nowhere offensively and a 33-yard punt by Keehn fell out of bounds at the Florida 49.
The Gators used Taylor to earn a first down with 10 yards to the LSU 25. Then, Florida overcame a holding penalty with 14 yards on first down by Taylor and an 8-yard pass to Dunbar. Another eight yards by Taylor moved the Gators into the redzone and a face mask penalty on third-and-1 gave Florida a first down. The LSU defensive stiffened in the goal-to-go situation and forced a 27-yard field goal by Velez.
With 12:11 left to play, LSU led 14-6.
LSU leaned on Hill to answer the field goal with one of its own. The running back moved over 100 yards on the day with four runs totaling 45 yards. In the Gators redzone, a third-down pass into the corner of the endzone fell incomplete. Colby Delahoussaye entered for a 31-yard field goal that pushed the lead back to two scores, 17-6.
Florida moved the ball into LSU territory once again, converting a fake punt on fourth-and-5 from its 30 and another from the LSU 35. Again, the LSU defense applied the brakes. Two incomplete passes by Murphy were followed by a 12-yard sack by Jalen Mills and an 8-yard sack and forced fumble by freshman linebacker Kendall Beckwith.
LSU took over and ran out the clock.
A crowd of 92,980 was announced on a hot, humid afternoon in Death Valley.
LSU vs. Florida
October 12, 2013
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
Opening statement …
“First of all, I want to congratulate the Florida team. It’s a very talented team, very capable. I think Will [Muschamp] is doing a good job there. They required us to play better and challenged us. Certainly, we answered that challenge. Defensively, we’re getting off blocks, we’re tackling line of scrimmage plays, we’re getting in predictable third down situations in rushing the passer. When that happens, you’re not going to score a lot of points against us. I think our secondary is coming together. I’m liking Corey Thompson. As a matter of fact, [Craig] Loston was back. I think our young corners played better with those guys back there in the secondary, but again I think our defense is maturing. Offensively, Zach [Mettenberger] didn’t have his best night, but you know what, he didn’t have a bad night either. The tragedy is we get down there in that tight zone; we’re going to throw the ball and make a big play. It’s just wet and [the ball] comes right out of his hands. And I just want you to know something – that happens. As ugly as it is, that happens. But again, he threw the ball when we needed him to. He played extremely well, and he gave us every opportunity for victory. But really it was kind of the big men. The defensive line played well, and the offensive line played well. At the end of the game, we kind of got into a close-quarter scrum and rushed the football for first downs – kind of just what we needed to do. Special teams, I think Jamie Keehn would probably like to have a punt back, but I think our special teams were good. We covered kicks, returned balls – kind of what we were supposed to do. That’s kind of how it’s supposed to look. Kind of an average scoring night – a night that defense won, offense won, special teams won. At the end of the game if that recipe continues to hold up, we’ll be awfully good.”
On if their initial offensive game plan called for less passes and more rushes …
“Had we hit a couple more passes, we would’ve probably thrown it a bit more. We were rushing the football, minus a turnover on a pass. We were really in position to control the game. Controlling the game is a key piece. Defense did their job; offense ran it, but we missed a couple of throws and that happens.”
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
QB Zach Mettenberger
On LSU’s offense …
“We were so dominant up front running the ball. We pushed the ball vertically. (Florida is) very good in the secondary, and they showed that today. With the way we run the ball, there’s really no reason to pass the ball. Playing a secondary like that, passing the ball can be an easy turnover. With the way we run the ball, we felt very comfortable letting J.C. (Copeland), Connor (Neighbors), Jeremy (Hill), (Alfred) Blue, Kenny (Hilliard) and Terrence (Magee) do their part. The offensive line is pretty outstanding.”
On preparing for the game against Florida …
“There was a lot of talking leading up to this game. We just wanted to remind Florida who we were, and I think the offensive line really played great. If we can keep playing like that week in and week out and execute a little better in the passing game, we’re going to be a very tough team to beat.”
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
On Florida …
“Florida is a great team. They have some great guys, some very talented guys. We did everything we needed to do to get the win tonight. It was great to come back and get a W against them after the things that happened last year. I had this one marked on my calendar. I’m glad that we came out with victory.”
RB Jeremy Hill
On LSU’s victory …
“The way we (play) over here, we can win all types of games. We can win shoot-outs, and we can win tough, physical running games. That’s what kind of game it was today. It was a tough game. Each team’s running game had to be successful for them to win the game. I think our running game was a little more successful, and that’s why we won the game today. It was a hard-nosed game, and our defense did a great job. We knew those guys were going to play up to their potential. It was just a matter of pulling it all together, and they did a great job of doing that today.”
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
DE Jermauria Rasco
On the team’s play coming together…
“A lot of people say that started at the end of the Mississippi State game last weekend. This week Coach [Chavis] really got with us. We busted our tails all week. We really focused for this game.”
On the key to the last six quarters…
“We are all getting into a groove. Everyone is saying how young we are. We are not young, we are all just getting comfortable with each other and starting to play LSU football.”
DT Anthony Johnson
On the defense coming together…
“When you look at how we played today, everybody truly bought into each other. Coach Chavis put us in great positions. Everyone played so selflessly. We were out on the field playing as one unit. That is when we reach our potential.”
On defense being the identity of LSU…
“LSU has always been known for great defense; a great run defense and putting pressure on the pass. Honestly, we have been doing that the last couple of games. We just want to keep that up. Our offense has been playing spectacularly.”
On defense being the difference…
“Coach Chavis preached to us all week. He said, ‘big time players play in big time games.’ Coach Chavis told us all it is time to step up and do what we do best around LSU.”
CB Jalen Mills
On the defense’s performance…
“It is a great feeling. We preached it all week. We have not played our best football yet. We still have not. We still have some errors in this game, and we are going to get better.”
On Coach Chavis’ emotion before this game…
“Once you get a man like Chief, [John Chavis], emotional it means something. He really does not talk a lot. He came out of character and really hyped us up. It gave us more energy, and it showed in this game.”
FLORIDA HEAD COACH WILL MUSCHAMP
Opening Statement …
“I think it starts with consistently being able to run it and stop the run. You have to try to make it a one-dimensional game. (LSU) did a nice job running the ball which makes it difficult. We didn’t consistently control the line of scrimmage offensively. There were too many negative plays that put us behind in the down and distance which is very difficult to overcome against a good pass-rushing team. I thought we settled down defensively in the second half. The third-and-17 was a killer conversion in the first half. Guys fought hard, but we didn’t win enough on the line of scrimmage. We still have everything sitting in front of us as far as the SEC East is concerned. That is what we need to look forward to. We are disappointed that we didn’t get the win. (LSU) has a good football team. We knew that coming in. But we are just disappointed we didn’t play the run a little better defensively and we weren’t effective running the ball overall.”
On quarterback Tyler Murphy’s performance …
“I think we have to protect better. I think we had too many free runners at the quarterback. (LSU) did a nice job of pressuring us. (Murphy) just had too many guys in his face. We have to give him more time. We will watch the film, but my initial thought is there was too much pressure.”
On LSU’s success in the running game …
“They got movement up front. Our guys just didn’t get off blocks. There are going to be some situations when you play a team like that and other teams in the rest of the year when you have to get off blocks and make tackles. Our guys knew that coming in, but we didn’t do that enough tonight.”
On the team’s outlook on the rest of the season …
“We still have everything on the table as far as Atlanta (SEC Championship Game) is concerned. We need to take care of the SEC East. It is wide open, and it is all in our hands. We just need to watch the tape and improve on this Saturday.”
FLORIDA OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
QB Tyler Murphy
On his offensive performance against LSU’s defense…
“They did a good job of applying pressure to us. I didn’t do a good job of getting rid of the ball quick enough. That is something that I am really going to have to evaluate and get better at. Teams are going to do that all season, and I want to be successful. If you want to be successful on offense, that is something you are going to have to overcome.”
On moving on from his first career loss…
“I am just going to have to watch the film and learn from this game. We have to keep progressing as an offense. There were times when we did some things well, and there were times when we shot ourselves in the foot. We had a few drives when we were backed up. We didn’t execute very well to get first downs. We just have to keep getting better.”
On not successfully executing on the offense…
“It is definitely frustrating when you have a guy down field, and you can’t get to him. I just need to work on getting rid of the ball quicker. I thought my offensive line did a great job of holding guys up. My (running) backs did a great job of lifting the protection. My wide receivers did a good job of getting open. It was my fault. I really have to work on getting rid of the ball quicker.”
WR Trey Burton
On tonight’s loss to LSU…
“We played a really good team tonight. We just need to go watch film and improve from this game. We all want to get to Atlanta, and we still have a chance to do that. It is really frustrating, but we just have to improve. It seems like we have got stuck twice this year. We need to work on some stuff and find a way to get better.”
Florida Defensive Player Quotes
DL Damien Jacobs
On the game …
“They kind of beat us at our own game, so we have to go back to the drawing board and fix that. I had a couple of flashbacks on the opposite way of last year.”
On LSU’s offensive line …
“They played physical, which we expected them to do. We knew they would come out and play physical ball. They really didn’t do anything special. They were just physical.”
On LSU’s rushing attack …
“It’s frustrating, but you have to give credit to them, too. You can’t just take the ball away from them. It is LSU, and Jeremy Hill is the running back. He’s physical, and he has all the intangibles it takes. He has a lot of potential, a good future playing football.”
LB Michael Taylor
On the game …
“We didn’t hold them enough, and that’s the bottom line. There were a lot of third down situations. Sometimes we stopped them, sometimes we didn’t, so we have to be better on third down.”
On the pass rush …
“We went into the game knowing we needed to get pressure on him. He had a lot of time to throw sometimes. It was just something we will have to go back and watch and see what went wrong.”
On moving forward …
“After we lost to Miami, we said all of our goals were in front of us. This is a SEC team, a rivalry team, a team that we damn sure wanted to beat, but they’re not in the [SEC] East, luckily. We have all of our Eastern goals ahead of us, and I know we are very capable to beat all of them.”