The Swamp was rocking, Tim Tebow was being honored, the national championship trophy was in the building and Florida football, at least on Saturday afternoon, was great again. The No. 22 Gators used a stifling defense and a few late offensive drives to deliver a 27-19 knockout blow to No. 5 LSU and give Dan Mullen his biggest win at the school as head coach.
Defense was the name of the game though as expected whenever these two programs square off. UF linebacker Vosean Joseph was making plays from sideline-to-sideline with 14 tackles (3.5 TFL) plus a pair of sacks. Defensive end Jachai Polite was also quite active as his group held LSU to just 4-of-15 on third down and saw Brad Stewart record a pick-six that all but sealed the deal with under two minutes to go.
On the other side of the ball, every yard was earned on the ground against that stout Tigers front. Tailbacks Lamical Perine (two touchdowns) and Jordan Scarlett combined for 150 yards and picked up numerous first downs between the tackles. Their efforts took some of the pressure off quarterback Feleipe Franks, who flashed some nice touch on key throws down the field on his way to a solid 161 yard, one touchdown (one interception) day. Perhaps his biggest asset was his athleticism though, rushing for 42 yards and catching a 15 yard pass on a trick play that setup a second half touchdown.
Even with that kind of performance and a huge win on the scoreboard though, the day belonged to another quarterback in blue as the school inducted Tebow into the Swamp’s Ring of Honor and honored the national title team from a decade ago that included a 51-21 win over LSU back in the day. As you could expect, the famous signal-caller-turned-broadcaster, gave a rousing speech to the crowd and seemed to spark a nice jump in energy for his team heading into the second quarter.
Nick Brossette led the way for the visitors with 95 yards and two touchdowns rushing but it was another one of those ugly-looking offensive performances for the Tigers that did enough to keep the game close but ultimately proved to be their undoing. Quarterback Joe Burrow picked a bad time to throw his first ever interception (it was returned for a touchdown) and he was sacked five times in the game and tossed another pick to seal the loss. He did make a few clutch throws to extend drives and managed 191 yards through the air but it just wasn’t enough as his team took a loss for the first time this season.
That result will not only knock the team out of the top five in the polls but also puts them a tick further behind Alabama in the SEC West race. With Florida’s loss to Kentucky not looking quite as bad in retrospect, perhaps it’s the Gators, after a special day in the Swamp, who are now back on the right course and a threat to be taken quite seriously heading into that game against Georgia in a few weeks.