Sunday October 12, 2008No. 11 Florida Dominates No. 4 LSU, 51-21
In the 55th meeting of the University of Florida and Louisiana State University, the No. 11 Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) upset the No. 4 Tigers (4-1, 2-1), 51-21, in front of a crowd of 90,684 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night. Led by a stellar defense and an electrifying offensive charge, the Gators racked up 475 yards of offense, including 265 yards rushing against the Tigers.
Junior wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) sparked the offensive charge for Florida, leading all receivers with 102 yards receiving after just the first quarter on his way to 112 total receiving yards, complimenting 13 yards rushing on the evening. Freshman Jeff Demps (Okahumpka, Fla.) led all Florida rushers with 129 rushing yards, becoming the first true freshman to string together back-to-back 100-plus-yard rushing games since UF’s Ernest Graham in 1999.
Junior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) led a defensive force that only allowed 88 yards rushing from the LSU offense, while tacking on two interceptions for 55 yards, the first two of his career, one good for a touchdown.
The Gators wasted no time putting points on the board, striking on their first possession of the game. Following a three-play, 68-yard drive that took 1:38, Tebow connected with Harvin on a career-long 70-yard pass. The reception additionally marked the longest reception of Harvin’s career and marked the eighth-consecutive game that he had scored a touchdown. Senior kicker Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) converted on the extra point to put Florida ahead, 7-0.
Tebow and Harvin’s long-distance connection provided a spark for Florida, immediately swinging the momentum in favor of the Gators. UF went on to hold LSU scoreless until the last five seconds of the first half, only the third time in LSU head coach Les Miles’ tenure that the Tigers have allowed 20 or more points in the first half.
After holding the Tigers to a three-and-out situation on its first possession, the Gators drove the ball 77 yards, as Tebow connected with four different receivers, including junior Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) on a 10-yard pass, again with Harvin on a 25-yarder, with redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) for a four-yard gain, and with junior athlete Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) on an eight yard advance. Phillips topped the drive off by connecting on a 28-yard field goal to give the Gators a 10-0 advantage.
Led by a strong defensive front, the Gators held the Tigers to three-and-out on their second-consecutive drive, regaining possession of the ball following a 40-yard punt return from James. Under Tebow’s direction, Florida rallied for a seven-play, 41-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard touchdown lob from Tebow to Harvin, the second time the two hooked up for a Gator score on the evening. Harvin’s touchdown gave him 102 receiving yards at the time, the sixth game in his career he’s surpassed the 100-yard mark, while also tallying a career-high two receiving touchdowns. The score, combined with Phillips’ point-after attempt, marked the first time LSU had opened a game trailing 17-0 since 2004.
The Florida defense continued to hold LSU scoreless, halting the Tigers’ next drive after the first career interception by Spikes. While the Gators failed to convert for a score on the possession, a strong defensive stand by the Orange and Blue on LSU’s next drive led to a Tiger fumble, recovered by UF redshirt sophomore linebacker A.J. Jones (Tampa, Fla.).
LSU put its first points on the board with five seconds remaining in the half when redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee connected with LSU junior wide receiver Chris Mitchell on a six-yard pass after a 44-second drive. The extra-point attempt by senior kicker Colt David narrowed the margin to 20-7 to end the first half of play.
The Tigers, who received the ball to open the second half, narrowed the score margin by seven when LSU sophomore quarterback Andrew Hatch scored on a three-yard quarterback keeper, with the extra point conversion by David good, to bring the score to 20-14.
Tebow and the Gators retaliated with a 67-yard scoring drive, including a 37-yard gain by senior Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.), when Tebow punched the ball through the goal line on a two-yard quarterback keeper, with the extra point good by Phillips, to gain a 27-14 lead. The offensive spark carried over to the defense, who held LSU to three-and-out for the third time on the evening.
Florida capitalized on the strong defensive stance when Demps found the end zone on a 42-yard rush for his fourth TD run of the season. All four of Demps’ touchdowns have tallied 30 or more yards, giving him a 47-yard average per touchdown. After Phillips found the center of the uprights, the Gators led 34-14.
Spikes continued to haunt the Tiger offense, recording his second career interception on LSU’s next drive, taking the ball to the house on a 52-yard run to bring the margin to 41-14 after the extra point.
The Tigers capitalized on a Tebow sack and fumble midway through the fourth quarter when Lee hooked up with junior tight end Richard Dickson for a six-yard touchdown following the 31-yard drive. David’s extra point made the margin 41-21 in favor of Florida, but UF’s Phillips countered on Florida’s next possession with a 25-yard field goal to capture a 44-21 lead.
Freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee, Fla.) stepped it up for the Orange and Blue defense late in the fourth with a quarterback sack to force a Tiger punt. On UF’s next drive, Demps rallied for a 37-yard rush to total 129 yards on the day to lead the Gators on the ground as Florida scored once more when redshirt freshman quarterback John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) handed off a Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) two-yard touchdown run. The senior’s first touchdown of the season brought the final margin to 51-21.
Lee finished the day 23-of-38 for two touchdowns, while Hatch completed two-of-three for 32 yards, scoring on a quarterback keeper. Junior running back Charles Scott led all LSU rushers with 12 carries for 35 yards, while junior Brandon LaFell led the Tiger receiving corps with seven receptions for 59 yards.
The Gators will be back in action when they host the Kentucky Wildcats Oct. 25 for the University of Florida Homecoming game.