LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) fakes a handoff to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) before throwing a pass in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern State, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Patrick Dennis)

Florida captures first loss at LSU, 42-28

The Florida Gators’ loss column is finally filled.

LSU avenged its 2018 heartbreaker in The Swamp in its own Death Valley and stained the Gators’ perfect record after winning 42-28 Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Evening the score

A speedy first half almost perfectly illustrated the top-tier capabilities of both teams.

The Tigers were the first to decorate the scoreboard with the quickest drive of the quarter. A two-play combo by a 57-yard rush by Clyde Edwards-Helaire and a 9-yard endzone grab by Ja’Marr Chase put up the first seven.

The Gators quickly responded with a less flashy, but respectable drive. A 7-yard Trevon Grimes touchdown sealed the deal and ended the first quarter evened out.

Things seemed even-keeled, but Gators’ defensive staple Jonathan Greenard exited the first quarter quickly with an aggravated ankle.

And the Gators defense felt it, too, against the toughest offense they had played all season.

The fast-paced drives continued for the Tigers, with a Justin Jefferson 7-yard reception putting the Tigers ahead once again.

But nevertheless, the Gators’ own offense inexplicably continued to step up. The developing Kyle Trask-led offense responded in every way. The drives were tedious, yes, but the rewards were monumental. Though the completion rates weren’t as high as they normally are, Trask fought his way through to find his receivers.

Contributions by the ever-consistent Kyle Pitts, who caught four receptions for 85 yards by halftime moved the chains plenty. Every succeeding drive seemed to show adjustment after adjustment, with LaMical Perine flexing the receiving muscle further with an airborne 1-yarder delivered by Emory Jones.

The Tigers spun Florida’s secondary on its heels. Clyde Edwards-Helaire escaped cornerback CJ Henderson for a 39-yard touchdown to take the lead once again.

But the Gators offense wouldn’t let the Tigers have the last score; senior wide receiver Van Jefferson grabbed his first touchdown of the season.

Both teams entered the second half tied, 21-21.

Second half slip-up

Jefferson would start the second half the same way he ended the first, but not without a scare. Jefferson caught a two-yard touchdown reception but took a hard hit to the head to come down with the Gators’ final score of the night.

The Tigers offense roared back with two consecutive rushing touchdowns, exploiting Florida’s defense in every way. Joe Burrow’s adaptability and communication with his targets further proved his Heisman candidacy. Burrow finished the night with a 231.3 quarterback rating, completing 21 out of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

Tackles were missed. Defensive backs were left scrambling. Somehow, the Tigers defense picked up where Florida left off. Trask’s completion rate only worsened, with the Tigers defensive line eating away at the quarterback’s comfort. He overthrew and made plenty of questionable throws, including an interception early in the fourth quarter.

On the subject of questionable, playcalling on both sides of the ball hurt the Gators in crunch time.

Florida not only gave up the win but the most points against any team they have faced this season.

On the road again

Florida continues its SEC stretch with a visit to the South Carolina Gamecocks for Week 8. Adjustments and a thorough look at Florida’s offense is absolutely necessary in order for Florida to finish out strong — especially competing against a team that stunned No. 3 Georgia in overtime.

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