BATON ROUGE -- In a classic defensive struggle, top-ranked Florida handed the fourth-ranked LSU football team its first Saturday night loss in Tiger Stadium since Nov. 16, 2002, in front of a record crowd of gold-clad Tigers fans, 13-3.
LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) held the powerhouse Gators offense in check for the duration, bending but forcing field goal attempts and fourth-down tries. Florida's point total was it's lowest since beating Vanderbilt 13-6 in 1999.
But, the Gators' top-ranked defense was even better. The Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) sacked LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson five times in the second half and limited the Tigers to 44 net yards of total offense in the final 30 minutes.
Quarterback Tim Tebow made his much-ballyhooed return to the field of competition, but the Gators didn't need much from the Heisman Trophy winner. He ran 17 times for only 38 yards, with his most impressive play being a 24-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper with 50 seconds left in the first half. LSU cornerback Chris Hawkins' jersey was grabbed by Cooper during the play, and he never recovered.
Tebow finished 11-of-16 passing for 134 yards. It was Florida's ground game that put the Gators in position to win. The Gators rushed 48 times for 193 yards.
Jeffery Demps led Florida with 86 rushing yards on 16 carries, while Emmanuel Moody added 42 on six carries. Tebow's best target was tight end Aaron Hernandez who finished with six catches for 70 yards.
Meanwhile, the Tigers didn't enter Florida's side of the field in the second half and never threatened the scoreboard after being held to a field goal at the 2-yard line late in the second quarter.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson suffered all five sacks in the second half, and finished 11-of-17 passing for 96 yards and an interception on the final play of the first half -- LSU's last play on Florida's side of the field.
Running back Charles Scott led LSU's rushing attack with 53 yards on 13 carries. Jefferson ran 12 times and with a net of minus-1 yards rushing.
LSU was outgained 327-162. The Tigers committed nine penalties for 64 yards.
Florida won the coin toss and deferred its decision to the second half. LSU received the kickoff and began from its 29 after Trindon Holliday's 24-yard kickoff return.
The Tigers were able to pick up a first down on a check-down pass by Jefferson to Scott along the right sideline. However, Jefferson's third-and-2 pass to wide receiver Terrance Toliver was batted away by cornerback Joe Haden and the Tigers punted.
Josh Jasper's punt was downed at the 6-yard line.
Tebow handed off to Hernandez for a 16-yard gain around the left end to the Gators 22-yard line. Out of the shadow of his endzone, Tebow dropped back to pass for the first time and connected with Hernandez for eight yards despite taking a hit to the chest from LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
A 25-yard run around the left end by Demps put the Gators near midfield. Three LSU offsides penalties helped the Gators move to the LSU 13, where the LSU defense stiffened to force a 28-yard field goal by Florida placekicker Caleb Sturgis.
The 13-play, 82-yard drive took 8:11 and gave Florida a 3-0 lead with 3:50 to play in the first quarter.
Scott gained one first down for the Tigers on the ensuing drive, but a third-and-7 pass from Jefferson to LaFell gained only five yards. Derek Helton's 18-yard punt went off the side of his foot.
Starting at its 35, Florida again used LSU penalties to march into the Tigers side of the field. Two more offsides and a face mask by safety Chad Jones far from the action gave Florida second-and-3 at the LSU 22.
Again, the Tigers defense bend, but didn't break. A pass breakup on second down led to a short gain on third down by Demps. After initially lining up for a field goal, Florida called timeout and elected to put its offense back on the field. On fourth-and-3 from the LSU 22, an end-around run by Brandon James was stuffed by Jones and linebacker Perry Riley.
LSU used the momentum offensively to move deep into Florida territory. Jefferson scrambled for an 8-yard gain and a first down before connecting with LaFell for 26 yards to the Florida 43. This time, Florida penalities helped the Tigers move into scoring position. The Gators were charged with personal fouls on defensive stars Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Spikes, giving LSU first-and-goal at the 10.
An option pitch to Keiland Williams gained only two yards on first down before Scott ran to the 2-yard line on second down. However, Scott's run on third down ended at the 2, and LSU decided to tie the game with a 19-yard field goal by Jasper.
Tebow led the Gators into LSU territory once again, completing a 20-yard pass to James to the LSU 48. He plowed for three yards on third-and-2 from the LSU 27 before finding Riley Cooper wide open behind the LSU defense for a 24-yard touchdown.
At halftime, Florida led 10-3.
On the first drive of the second half, Florida looked to be stopped without a first down, but a face mask penalty on LSU defensive lineman Lazarius Levingston against Tebow allowed the Gators to stay on the field.
Tebow used Hernandez for gains of 26 and 13 to get to the LSU 4. Again, the LSU defense stepped up and forced a field goal attempt. A delay of game penalty moved Sturgis' attempt to 25 yards, which was pulled to the left.
With a light rain falling, Jefferson took a pair of sacks and the Tigers were forced to punt from the endzone. Helton's 51-yarder gave Florida the ball at its 41.
Tebow found Cooper for 9 yards on first down, but consecutive zero gains by Tebow put the Gators to a decision on fourth-and-1 at the Florida 39. The Gators tried to pull LSU offsides, but were unsuccessful and punted.
Early in the fourth quarter, Scott moved the chained and gained 16 yards on three carries. However, consecutive false start penalties stymied the drive and gave the ball to the Gators at their 41 again.
Three runs by Demps totalled 25 yards and put the Gators at the LSU 30-yard line. After picking up a first down to the LSU 17 on a shuffle pass to Hernandez, LSU's defense stopped three-straight runs -- the final two by Tebow -- and forced another field goal by Sturgis. The Florida placekicker converted from 32 yards to give the Gators a two-possession lead, 13-3, with 7:27 left.
Though the Tigers hopes looked to be dashed when Jefferson was sacked on fourth-and-1 in his territory, Tebow made a rare mistake and threw an interception to LSU cornerback Jai Eugene with 4:55 to play.
LSU advanced to midfield but was again stopped on fourth-and-13 when Jefferson was sacked for the fifth time in the half.
Tonight's attendance of 93,129 is a school record, breaking the previous high of 93,039 in 2008 again Alabama.
LSU Athletics also opened the Maravich Center across the street from Tiger Stadium for a viewing of the game, and approximately 2,500 fans were in attendance.
LSU vs. Florida
Oct. 10, 2009 – Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
1. LSU’s game captains were 8 Trindon Holliday, 70 Ciron Black, 84 Rahim Alem, 30 Josh Jasper, 32 Charles Scott and 3 Chad Jones.
2. Florida won the toss and deferred to the second half. LSU received the opening kickoff.
3. Tigers extending their notable consecutive starts streak tonight were: LT Ciron Black (46), OG Lyle Hitt (26), LB Harry Coleman (19), RT Joseph Barksdale (19), TE Richard Dickson (19), RB Charles Scott (19) and CB Chris Hawkins (19).
4. Tonight’s attendance of 93,129 is the largest in the history of Tiger Stadium, surpassing the 93,039 that watched No. 1 Alabama defeat LSU, 27-21, in overtime on Nov. 8, 2008. An estimated 2,500 fans watch the game in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center across the street.
5. LSU’s 32-game win streak on Saturday night games in Tigers Stadium ended. LSU had won 32 straight games since losing to Alabama, 31-0, on Nov. 16, 2002.
6. LSU’s record fell to 2-9-1 all time against No. 1-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll.
7. WR Brandon LaFell has now caught a pass in 34 straight games (33 of those multiple-reception games) dating back to the 2007 Sugar Bowl versus Notre Dame.
a. LaFell’s streak is the fifth longest streak in the nation. Central Michigan’s Bryan Anderson leads the nation with 46consecutive games with a catch.
b. LaFell caught four passes to bring his career total to 145, surpassing Craig Davis (2003-06) for eighth all time in LSU history and leaving him four passes short of tying Jerel Myers (1999-2002) who finished with 149 in his career.
c. LaFell had 44 receiving yards against Florida, which upped his career total to 2,051 surpassing Early Doucet (2004-07) for eighth place in LSU history.
8. TE Richard Dickson extended his streak to 17 consecutive games with a reception.
9. WR Terrance Toliver also extended his streak to 16 consecutive games with a reception by finishing with two catches for 14 yards.
10. CB Jai Eugene intercepted the first pass of his career with 4:55 remaining in the game, picking off a Tim Tebow pass at the LSU five yard line.
11. FS Chad Jones set a career high in tackles in a game with 12. His previous career best was nine tackles against Troy last season.
12. DT Drake Nevis set a career high with eight tackles. His previous high was six, which he had recorded twice.
13. DE Lavar Edwards set a career high with five tackles against the Gators, and he entered the game with only 5 career tackles.
14. LB Perry Riley set a career high with 12 total tackles. His previous best was 11 against Mississippi State this season.
LSU vs. Florida
October 10, 2009
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
“I thought that our effort was good. I felt like our team played a very talented football team today, and we didn’t play smart. There were times where initially we assisted offensive drives. We lined up offsides. We had two unintentional facemask penalties that gave our opponent easy first downs and field position. We moved the ball at times, and then, in the second half, we could not move the football offensively. In a game where we have just a few possessions, you have to move the football. You don’t have the opportunity to go three and out or take sacks. In the back half, the second half of this game, offensively we need to play better. If you look at some of the yards per carry, Charles Scott had four yards per carry, and Trindon Holliday had six (yards per carry). You think to yourself that maybe you should hand those guys the ball a little more. Then, you get behind two scores, and 10 points in a game like that with few possessions, it seemed like a lot of points. In the back half, we are trying to keep the ball, not squander the clock and make some throws, and we couldn’t protect the passer at that time. They had good pass rushers going up the field, and we’ve got to go back to it.
“Our football team is sick. They understand that it was a great opportunity, but they also understand that it counts one. If we improve, we can have a great season. We can do some special things, but we have to improve. It’s just that simple. We can’t come into the second half of a game and not move the football on offense. I thought our defense played like heck and played hard. We held a team that was scoring a lot of points and moving the ball routinely and held them down. They didn’t play perfect, so I think we are on the mend and looking forward to going back to work. That would be my suggestion.”
On the LSU offense’s inability to move the football...
“I can tell you that we played a good defense tonight. I can tell you that our protection was challenged by their up-the-field rush. We threw a couple of balls to Brandon LaFell, and they came out of the sky and started targeting him. We should well have had an over-the-top throw or two, and we would have gotten a big play, but when we called those, we didn’t have protection. We probably just needed to continue to move the football, and had we done that, we would have gotten some more first downs and put ourselves in position to make some play-action throws.”
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
Charles Scott, RB
On the lack of execution on offense ...
“That’s the No.1 team in the country right there, but when it’s your time to make a play you’ve got to make a play. That was our fault.”
On not converting third downs ...
“When you go two plays and then end up third and long, that’s not efficient football. That’s always going to hold you up, and keep the defense on the field more. That’s something I think we need to get better at.”
On LSU’s pass protection ...
“I know a few of those plays the back should’ve stayed in; I should’ve stayed in on some of those plays and helped out. It’s (the running back’s) responsibility to protect too. If you see somebody getting beat and you don’t help out it’s just as much your fault as the guy getting beat. The pass protection definitely needs improvement.”
Brandon LaFell, WR
On if LSU missed some opportunities early in the game ...
“Yes, I thought we missed some opportunities. Me personally, on the pass I caught my momentum took me out of bounds, but I felt like I could’ve gotten 10 or 15 more yards on that play. There were some more plays like that, but right now that’s all I can think about.”
On how close the offense is to putting it all together ...
“It feels like we’re really close, but not close enough. We need this bye week. We need it to go in there and focus, watch film and get better.”
On why they were unsuccessful to move the ball against Florida ...
“Florida has a good defense, but we needed to make more plays. When the play is called, the players have to make plays.”
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
On the defense’s performance ...
“We played all right, but obviously, it wasn’t good enough. We definitely played well. We feel good about how we played, but we also could have played better. That one touchdown gave them the extra boost that they needed to continue throughout the game. If that touchdown wouldn’t have happened, things would have turned out differently.”
On Tim Tebow’s performance ...
“I wasn’t surprised that he played the whole game. That’s the kind of guy he is. He wants to play in a big-time game. I know he likes to play in here. He definitely had a great game. He ran the ball a lot and broke a lot of tackles. He just showed how good of a quarterback he is.”
On defense’s improvement since the first game against Washington and feeling like the defense has to win game without offense ...
“No, we don’t feel that the defense has to win the game by ourselves. We definitely need to get off the field more with three-and-outs and more third-down conversions defensively. We also need to get more turnovers. Offense is always helping us out by holding on to the ball and letting us catch our breath and putting points on the board. They’re definitely helping us out. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”
On Florida’s offense and Tim Tebow’s performance ...
“He’s unbelievable. You have to keep your eye on him every play. Thinking about their offense, they run the play but they can also have two option plays. They did a great job executing, and they have a good football team.”
On spending majority of game on the field ...
“It’s tough. Basically, we got outplayed by their defense. Every week, Coach (John) Chavis tells us to outplay the other team’s defense. We should have gotten off the field more than we did. The penalties hurt. We need to fix that.”
On moral victory of holding Florida to 13 points ...
“We always want that ‘W.’ Hopefully we will face them again in the SEC championship.”
FLORIDA HEAD COACH URBAN MEYER QUOTES
Opening statement ...
“First of all, the game we just played, that was two sledgehammers just going at one another. Obviously it was as talented team as there is in the country, I thought it might not have been a high scoring affair, but it was good football. There were not a lot of turnovers and guys were coming running off the ball hard. Defensively, it was one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen containing athletes. The kicking game, I thought they did a good job of containing the athletes once again. To keep them in front of us was important. Brandon Spikes and the two corners both played very well. Obviously Tim (Tebow) came out and played his heart out. The offensive line did a good job of protecting him for the most part. We were somewhat conservative for the most part—somewhat. The management of the game is dependent upon how the defense is played and the special teams and I thought those two phases were tremendous.”
Florida Offense Quotes
QB TIM TEBOW
On the past two weeks...
“It was tough. I could see the stress it put on my family, friends, teammates, and different people who were worried about me not as far as football but just as a person. It was also frustrating because I wanted to be out there with my team practicing and playing and sometimes with this injury you feel like you can play, but you just have to be patient and listen to the doctors. I just tried to do that and they did a great job.”
On if he had any reservations about playing...
“No. All the tests that I went through and different environments they put me through, and then after a plane ride that had so much turbulence, I was like, ‘I am good to go.’”
On how big this win was because of the loss against LSU in 2007...
“It’s a big win. This place is one of my favorite stadiums to play in. It’s incredible. It’s just a lot of fun from the opening when they play that country song that they’re all singing. It’s just exciting and it gets your adrenaline going.”
On how the offense played tonight...
“To play against a good defense like that, those guys are really good and they come to play. We didn’t execute that great. We didn’t put the ball in the endzone when we should have, but I am very proud of our team and our offense. We played hard, and we played for four quarters. We just had so much confidence at the end that we knew we were going to get a shot and put this thing away.”
RUNNING BACK BRANDON JAMES
On the qualities of this year’s team...
“We’re a real tough team but we’re also kind of an older team. With everybody coming back, we’ve got a lot of leadership.”
On what kind of statement Florida made tonight...
“I feel like we made a statement that we’re a pretty good team and still number one in the country. We can come into a tough environment like this and get a win.”
FLORIDA DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
S Will Hill
On the execution of the defense ...
“We came out and we knew we would be challenged today. We came out and played with a lot of confidence. We knew what we had to do. We knew that odds were against us since they had won 32 games in a row, so we had to come out and play tough and we did.”
On when he found out QB Tim Tebow would start ...
“I didn’t. We knew that Tim would suit up but we didn’t know if he would play, but we didn’t really care. Tim doesn’t play defense. The defense knew what we had to do to come out and win this game.”
On what the secondary needed to do to win ...
“We knew they had two big receivers that we had to stop. If we could shut those guys down then we could win.”
LB Ryan Stamper
On the Tiger Stadium Crowd ...
“Just to come in and play in a hostile environment like this, I’ve never really played in an environment like this one at LSU. Their crowd is a lot like our home crowd. To come in and beat them in front of their home crowd says a lot about our team.”
On the play of the defensive line ...
“I just think we did a great job covering. Their quarterback wants to run the ball a lot and we noticed that. If we got good pressure on them we knew he would want to run the ball a lot, so we knew that we would get a lot of chances to sack him.”