Joshua Hammond

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No. 5 LSU strikes first, No. 22 Florida strikes back in back-and-forth first half

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Every matchup between ranked teams in the SEC feels like a heavyweight fight and that was certainly the case in one of the league’s marquee games as No. 5 LSU struck first and No. 22 Florida threw a counterpunch later to take a 14-10 lead going into halftime.

The Tigers needed 10 plays and just over three minutes to find the end zone on their first drive of the game, going 75-yards before Nick Brossette (10 yards total) punched it in for a heck of an opening statement from the visitors that quieted the fired up crowd down just a bit. Despite crossing the goal line, it was still a relatively quiet first half for the tailback as quarterback Joe Burrow (11/14, 127 yards) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (53 yards rushing) were the more consistent sources of offense in a game where yards were hard to come by with a pair of swarming, physical defenses making you earn every play.

The Gators took the opposite track — starting slow in the first quarter before finally getting going a bit offensively in the second. They took advantage of a short field to mount an initial 43 yard scoring drive, tying the game on a bruising run between the tackles by Lamical Perine (53 yards) for the touchdown. QB Feleipe Franks had to escape pressure several times but rebounded to make some big throws on both of the team’s two scoring drives, including hitting a huge pass to Joshua Hammond for 35 yards that setup an easy toss to the back of the end zone to tight end Moral Stephens for the go-ahead score.

Defensively, Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph felt like he was all over the field with 10 tackles and two sacks by the break while Grant Delpit was the star of the show for LSU with six tackles and what seemed like a hand close to nearly every ball that was in the air.

This has been a rivalry game that has almost always come down to the final few minutes (with a key red zone play or two) and we’ve seen nothing in the first half to dissuade us from thinking that will be the case again in Gainesville.