GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Long before the 2008 season, anyone who knew anything about LSU football was aware of LSU's challenging road schedule. After passing its first test at Auburn, the No. 4-ranked Tigers fell behind 20-0 and were unable to recover. No. 11 Florida won, 51-21, on Saturday.
LSU (4-1, 2-1 SEC) cut the lead to 20-14 early in the second half but saw its unblemished record take a hit. The Tigers remain in control of their SEC destiny.
During the game, the SEC announced LSU's next game will kick off at 7 p.m. CDT (8 p.m. EDT) against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on ESPN.
LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee started and played most of the snaps, completing 23-of-38 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His second interception was returned for a touchdown that sealed the victory for Florida. Backup Andrew Hatch helped the Tigers offense get going in the second quarter. He finished 2-of-3 passing for 32 yards and rushed four times for 14 yards and a touchdown.
LSU's running failed to dominate as it has for the first four games of the season. Charles Scott ran a team-high 12 times for 35 yards, while speedy Trindon Holliday had two touches for 26 yards and setup Hatch's touchdown.
Wide receivers Demetrius Byrd (6 catches, 73 yards) and Brandon LaFell (7 catches, 59 yards) were LSU's leading receivers, while tight end Richard Dickson added six catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Chris Mitchell caught LSU's first touchown with five seconds to play in the first half.
LSU was outgained, 475-321, as Florida gained 265 yards on the ground.
Florida (5-1, 2-1 SEC) won the first regular-season matchup of defending national champions in 18 years.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow led the charge for the Gators, completing 14-of-21 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran in a score in the second half but was held to only 22 rushing yards on 12 carries with a long of six yards.
Tebow's favorite target, Percy Harvin, caught six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns to get Florida the early lead.
Jeffrey Demps led a potent rushing attack for the Gators, running 10 times for 129 yards with a touchdown. His backfield mate, Chris Rainey added 66 yards on 11 carries.
Florida took it to the Tigers in the first quarter, outgaining the Tigers, 186-4. The Gators used a varity of three-wide receiver packages with backs in motion to confuse the LSU secondary and give the Heisman Trophy winner open looks down the field.
Meanwhile, LSU's offense wasn't able to find a rhythm of any sort, running only eight plays including an interception just inside Gators territory on the Tigers final offensive play of the quarter.
On the opening drive, LSU bottled up Tebow on consecutive plays to force a third-and-12. However, his third-down pass deep to Harvin was slightly underthrown but then tipped by LSU safety Danny McCray into Harvin's hands.
The 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown was an omen that haunted LSU throughout the quarter.
On its second possession, Florida threw four consecutive passes to different targets for double-figure gains to the LSU 7-yard line. Two Tebow passes into the endzone were astray and the Gators settled for a Jonathan Phillips 20-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead after eight minutes of play.
Three plays later, James returned an LSU punt 25 yards to the Tigers' 41-yard line. After a face mask penalty moved Florida to the LSU 27, Tebow gave the Gators a first-and-goal with a 12-yard pass to Deonte Thompson. After two runs by Tebow came up short of the goalline, he decided to find Harvin again, this time matched up on linebacker Darry Beckwith. The 7-yard strike on the crossing pattern pushed the lead to 17-0 with 1:09 to play in the quarter.
LSU's next two drives ended in turnovers, including an interception by Lee on an out-route to tight end Richard Dickson and a fumbled on the Tigers' first play in Florida territory by Scott.
Scott's fumble on a high handoff from Hatch was LSU's first in 385 rushes.
The Tigers defense was able to force consecutive in its territory punts after these turnovers, keeping the game within reach.
Just before the half, Florida added a 34-yard field goal by Phillips to continue the shutout and lead 20-0 with 49 seconds left.
The ensuing kickoff was fielded by LSU returner Keiland Williams with one foot out of bounds at the LSU 10. However, by rule, the kick was ruled to be out of bounds, giving the Tigers great field position at its 40 with little time left.
Lee then guided his team 60 yards in six plays to the elusive Gators endzone in only 45 seconds. A 24-yard strike to wide receiver Terrance Toliver moved LSU into Florida territory for the second time in the half.
After a 12-yard catch by Brandon LaFell and an eight-yard catch by Dickson, LSU brought out its bag of tricks. Lee made a quick throw to LaFell, who spun and flipped the ball to a streaking Trindon Holliday for a 15-yard gain to the Florida 6. With 10 seconds left, Lee found Chris Mitchell in the right corner of the endzone for an important score.
Colt David's PAT cut the Gators' advantage to 20-7 going to the break.
The second half started with a pair of long scoring drives by each team.
LSU took the kickoff and marched 80 yards in 12 plays for a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Hatch. A 20-yard run by Holliday setup the touchdown.
Florida answered the score with two more to put the Tigers down 20 once again.
A 37-yard pass from Tebow to wide receiver Louis Murphy to the LSU 2-yard line setup a Tebow touchdown run. Florida led 27-14.
LSU had a chance to shave the lead back to six. On third-and-4 at his 30, Lee picked up a Florida blitz and found LaFell coming across the field uncovered. With plenty of room and no defenders behind him, the Tigers receiver was unable to hold on to the pass that was thrown hard and behind him.
The Gators took advantage of the opportunity, sprinting 60 yards on four plays including a 42-yard touchdown run by Demps on an option pitch from Tebow.
Florida took a 34-14 lead into the fourth quarter -- but needed only 12 seconds to add another touchdown. Lee threw his second interception to Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, and this one was returned 52 yards for a touchdown.
Despite the 41-14 deficit, LSU continued to fight. LSU defensive end Rahim Alem sacked Tebow and jarred the ball loose. Defensive end Tyson Jackson picked up the ball and returned 18 yards to the Florida 31.
Five plays later, Lee connected with Dickson in the middle of the endzone for a 6-yard touchdown. LSU trailed 41-21.
Florida tacked on another field goal with 6:47 to play for a 44-21 lead.
The Gators added another rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
LSU vs. Florida
Oct. 11, 2008 – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (Gainesville, Fla.)
1. LSU’s game captains were 93 Tyson Jackson, 70 Ciron Black, 45 Quinn Johnson and 6 Colt David.
2. LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. Florida will receive the opening kickoff.
3. LSU players making their first starts of the season tonight: DT Drake Nevis.
4. Tigers extending their notable consecutive starts streak tonight were: LT Ciron Black (32), DE Tyson Jackson (32), LG Herman Johnson (29) and C Brett Helms (23).
5. An LSU tailback lost a fumble for the first time in 385 carries when Charles Scott fumbled in the second quarter. It marked the first fumble lost by Scott in his career after 167 carries. (162 coming into the game, 5 tonight prior to fumble)
6. LSU players making their first career appearance include: 36 Derrick Bryant. Bryant saw his first career action on special teams in the third quarter. He is the eighth true freshman to play for LSU this season.
7. LSU saw its streak of consecutive Saturday night wins come to an end at 19 games. The last night game the Tigers lost prior to this one was against Georgia in the 2005 SEC Championship Game.
8. DE Tyson Jackson recorded two sacks in the game, one in the first quarter and one in the fourth. Jackson stands at 2.5 for the season 16.5 for his career, which is just shy of LSU’s top 10 career sacks list.
9. WR Brandon LaFell has now caught a pass in 20 straight games dating back to the 2007 Sugar Bowl versus Notre Dame. 10. WR Demetrius Byrd has now caught a pass in 14 straight games dating back to last year’s Tulane game on Sept. 29.
11. WR Chris Mitchell tallied his second touchdown reception of the season and the second of his career on a 6-yard pass from Jarrett Lee with 0:05 left in the second quarter.
12. QB Jarrett Lee tossed his seventh and eighth touchdowns of the season on a 6-yard pass to Chris Mitchell with 0:05 remaining in the second quarter and a 6-yard strike to Richard Dickson with 11:10 in the fourth quarter. Lee and Mitchell have connected for two touchdowns this season.
13. QB Andrew Hatch recorded his second career rushing touchdown on a 3-yard plunge with 8:41 left in the third quarter.
14. DE Rahim Alem recorded the second forced fumble of his career early in the fourth quarter.
15. DE Tyson Jackson tallied his second fumble recovery of the season early in the fourth quarter.
16. TE Richard Dickson caught his second touchdown pass of the season and the seventh of his career on a 6-yard throw from Jarrett Lee with 11:10 left in the fourth quarter.
a. With the score, Dickson moved into a tie for second place in LSU career touchdown receptions by a tight end, joining Robert Royal (1998-2001) with seven. He is three away from tying the record held by Brad Boyd (1972-74).