LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye hit a 50-yard field goal with three seconds left to hand Florida football a heart-breaking 30-27 defeat at home in The Swamp on Saturday night.
The game-winning field goal was made possible after LSU safety Rickey Jefferson hauled in a tipped interception throw from Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tried to force a slant pass into slot receiver Latroy Pittman. Jefferson returned it to the UF 36-yard line to set up the game-winner that perhaps never should have happened.
Why you ask?
LSU had no timeouts, but decided to run it on first down with 24 seconds remaining and it appeared as though the clock was going to run out and the game was headed for overtime. However, in bizarre fashion, the officials stopped play for some unexplained reason and re-set the game clock to eight seconds. That gave LSU a chance at a game-winner and they made it count. The victory gave LSU head coach Les Miles his 100th win.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp was just as perplexed as everyone else as to why the referees put more time on the clock at the end.
“Down there at the end, I’m not real sure exactly what happened with the clock. I’ve never been in a situation where they put seven seconds back on the clock. I’ll call Steve Shaw [SEC coordinator of officials] for an explanation, I don’t know if I’ll ever get any, but certainly will call to try and find out. I never got an explanation on the sideline.”
Driskel said it was a crushing way to lose.
“It’s a really tough loss. We would’ve liked to pull it out, but all our goals are in front of us. Hats off to LSU, they played a great game. We did a lot of nice things and a lot of things that obviously we need to get corrected. We’re gonna be down for today, watch the film and move forward and focus on Missouri and not look back.”
Florida wide-receiver/returner Andre Debose got the scoring started in the first quarter after he took a 62-yard punt return to the house. It was his first career punt return for a touchdown. On the second drive of the game for the Gator offense, quarterback Jeff Driskel fumbled deep in Florida territory and LSU recovered. LSU promptly ran two running plays for running back Leonard Fournette who bulldozed his way into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with just over six minutes to go in the first quarter.
Florida’s offense would respond on its very next drive, putting together a nice eight play 75-yard drive that ended with a nine yard TD run by Driskel. A key play that kept the drive alive came when Driskel kept it on fourth-and-one to pick up the first down at the LSU 24-yard line. Florida led 14-7 after a quarter.
The Gators would tack on three more at the start of the second quarter to make it 17-7, after kicker Frankie Velez knocked in a 34-yard field goal.
LSU would cut it to 17-14 on a 12 play 75-yard drive punctuated by a one yard TD run on fourth down by Kenny Hilliard. The Tigers only threw one pass on the drive. Instead, they gave it to their assortment of running backs who combined to rush for 70 yards on the scoring march.
Driskel threw his first interception of the game right before the half, but the Gators took their 17-14 lead into halftime. On the night, Driskel finished 14 of 25 for 183 yards yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also had 71 yards on the ground and a score. LSU scored 10 points on all three of Driskel’s turnovers.
On LSU’s second possession of the second half, they had an eight minute 65-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run from Leonard Fournette, who finished with 27 carries for 140 yards and two TD’s. The Gators had two costly defensive penalties called on them on two crucial third downs, giving the Tigers extra chances to take the lead. However, LSU missed the extra point to give them a 20-17 advantage which they would take into the fourth quarter.
Debose came up big for the Gators again late in the fourth when he returned a punt 53 yards to set the offense up for a go-ahead score at the LSU nine yard line. Two plays later, Driskel connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide-receiver Demarcus Robinson. That gave the Gators a 24-20 lead with six minutes to go in the game.
It looked like the Gators were going to get the stop they needed after LSU had a third-and-25, but Jennings found a wide-open Travin Dural for a 41 yard completion. He hooked up with Dural again two plays later for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Tigers out in front 27-24.
“Had our opportunities, countless,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. “Third-and-25 and we had a miscommunication on an empty-check. You cut a guy loose in that situation you don’t deserve to win.”
Then Florida answered right back when Jeff Driskel hit Demarcus Robinson on a 73-yard pass that put the Gators at the LSU two yard line. The Orange and Blue had three chances to punch it in but couldn’t get it done. Florida tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped a sure catch in the end zone that might have been the game winning touchdown. Instead, the Gators had to settle for a game-tying field goal to make it 27 all with 1:49 left in the game.
After stopping LSU, the Gators got the ball back and drove to the LSU 45 before the big interception that gave the Tigers their first SEC victory of the season.
Despite the brutal loss, Debose says the team won’t let it keep them down.
“This team is a well-knit team, we’re as close as they come. This won’t bother us much. We’re anxious to get back to work Monday or Tuesday. We’re just going to look forward, we can’t dawn on the past. We fought our hearts out, we left it all the line, so that’s we can ask for.”
Florida defensive lineman Alex McCalister still thinks the team can make it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
“We still control our own destiny. We lost to a team in the [SEC] West. We got four more games in the East. So it’s still on the table, being in the SEC championship at the end.”
Next up, Florida plays Missouri in Gainesville for its Homecoming game Saturday at 7.
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