Although his team seemed to listen
and fans acted accordingly, gaudy pregame prognostications and overconfidence
clouded the Tigers vision – much like the weather Saturday – as the Gators
delivered head coach Ron Zook a much-needed victory in Tiger Stadium.
“We are obviously very disappointed
in the way we played in the game,” Saban said. “Obviously, I'm responsible for
that. We didn't have the type of intensity that we needed, didn't have the sense
of urgency about what we were doing. We didn't play very smart in the
A sputtering offense coupled with
an uncharacteristic 13 penalties would spell certain doom on the Tigers on this
day. LSU’s rushing attack was limited to just 56 total yards and usually
efficient quarterback Matt Mauck tossed a pair of interceptions as the Tigers
(5-1, 2-1 in SEC) fell from grace in front of 92,077 fans – the third largest
crowd in school history.
“We had 13 penalties and I swear we
had more than that,” Saban said. “It was very disappointing.”
Mauck ended the day completing
19-of-33 passes for 231 yards, statistically not a bad outing except for two
costly interceptions and a number of misreads and errant passes.
"We put ourselves behind the eight
ball every time and it's hard to convert first and 20, second and 30 and things
like that,” Mauck said. “Really it was just penalties. For some reason we just
could not execute at all and it's really disappointing as a team.”
On the flip side, Florida (4-3, 2-2
in SEC) did nothing outstanding, but took advantage of LSU mistakes and scored
when they needed points leaving the Tigers and their fans in a state of
"It is a big win but it is not like
we are shocked or that we thought we could not win,” said Florida wide receiver
O.J. Small. “We came into this game with the attitude that we could win. That
was a good team, but I guess things just went our way tonight. This was a good,
LSU’s intricate blitz packages,
which worked so effectively against Georgia, were exploited by the Gator
offense. Although Florida did not produce Spurrier-like numbers, true freshman
quarterback Chris Leak was efficient in the pocket, completing18-of-30 passes
for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"This is a great win,” Leak said.
“We came in here to win. LSU is a great team, an awesome team, but we just came
in here and played our hearts out and had fun.”
Leak must have had fun, time and
again beating the Tiger defense over the middle. Three times Leak beat the LSU
blitz for big gainers, twice being touchdowns. However, it was not without
consequence. The freshman signal caller was sacked six times and was hit hard
numerous other times, but he remained poised.
“I will be good tomorrow, I will
not be to sore,” Leak said. “I feel the same after every game, but being sore is
just part of football.”
The win was redemption for Florida
after LSU trounced the Gators 36-7 a year ago in Gainesville. It also served as
a cushion for Zook, whose critics were at their loudest a week ago in the wake
of a 20-17 loss to Ole Miss.
"We knew we were playing a very
dangerous team, like playing a caged animal in terms of what was on the line for
their season so you have to give them a lot of credit for the intensity they
played with and the way they played,” Saban said.
A lifeless Tiger Stadium came to
life early in the first quarter when sophomore wide receiver Skyler Green took
Florida’s first punt of the game 80 yards for a touchdown. A 7-0 lead seemed to
many as if the rout was on, however it would be the only points of the
Green's return, combined with his
62-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arizona earlier this season, made
him the first Tiger to have two punt returns for scores in the same season since
Todd Kinchen had two in 1991.
On Florida’s next possession, Leak
tossed a pass into the right flat, which LSU safety Travis Daniels broke on
perfectly. The ball went in and out of Daniels’ arms thwarting what could have
been an easy touchdown.
“We looked ready to play early in
the game,” Saban said. “Some critical things, It's a funny game. Maybe if we
intercept the ball that we drop and run it back it might be a different game
because their confidence is a little shaken. But we didn't make the play and
they went in and scored.”
Leak capped an impressive 80-yard
drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to tailback Ran Carthon with 6:51 to play in
the quarter. The point after tied the score at 7-7. It was the first touchdown
surrendered by the Tiger defense in the first half this season.
LSU blitzed on the play and a
missed assignment in the secondary allowed Carthon to dance into the end zone
without a Tiger within 30 yards on him.
Things could have gotten worse just
A 44-yard interception return by
Gator cornerback Keiwan Ratliffe gave Florida a first down inside the LSU 30.
But the defense stiffened on three straight plays from the Tiger 10-yard line
and held Florida to a 29-yard field goal with 3:17 left in the first
The Gators were sure to get into
the end zone again early in the second quarter.
Leak led his team from its own 26
to the LSU 1-yard line. But Florida tailback DeShawn Wynn fumbled while trying
to leap into the endzone. Linebacker Adrian Mayes recovered the ball at the five
giving the Tiger offense a chance to move the ball beyond the shadow of its own
After the Tiger offense fizzled
again, Gator place kicker Matt Leach drilled a career-long 50-yard field goal
with 5:37 left in the half to cap a six play, 32-yard drive and give Florida a
LSU’s defense finally began
affecting Leak late in the first half. However, the play of the Tigers
opportunistic defense could not affect the offense positively as LSU continued
"I think for the most part
everybody's making mistakes every other play,” said junior wide receiver Michael Clayton. “One play it's one guy making the mistake, the next play it's another
guy. It's the team. It's hurting the team. Minimizing bad plays has to be the
great thing we have to work on.”
Trailing 13-7 at the break, the
mood was an unsettling one in Tiger Stadium, however the feeling was LSU would
eventually get in sync offensively. It never happened.
Penalties and poor passes knocked
the Tigers back while starting tailback Joseph Addai sat on the sidelines with
an injured knee.
Florida managed to find just enough
holes in the Tiger defense adding one final score. The Gators scored first in
the second half as Leak found a wide open Ciatrick Fason over the middle of the
field for a 35-yard touchdown with 5:21 left in the third. The touchdown pass,
his second of the game, capped a six-play, 48-yard drive. The try for two failed
giving the Gators a 19-7 lead.
LSU drove the ball inside the
50-yard line early in the fourth quarter but that drive stalled at the Gators 39
as the Tigers turned the ball over on downs after Mauck was stopped a yard shy
on an option run on fourth down.
The Tigers had another chance with
8:00 left in the game to move the ball into scoring range as Mauck completed
consecutive passes for first downs to move the ball past midfield. But Ratliff
ended that threat with his second interception of the game giving the Gators the
ball at their own 37-yard line.
"We sensed it early on because we
came out with a whole new game plan this week,” Ratliff said about affecting
Mauck. “I mean, we started from scratch in practice this week. We wanted to come
out and try to confuse him and try to make him beat us with his arm instead of
them running the ball. We took away the run early so we forced them to throw the
LSU had one more opportunity late
in the fourth to score but wideout Devery Henderson fumbled at the Florida
31-yard line after hauling in a 42-yard pass from Mauck. Leak ended the game by
taking a knee inside the LSU 30-yard line.
“We've got to do a better
job as coaches,” Saban said. “The players will respond in the right way to this
and too bad you've got to have something bad happen to get you moving in the
right direction but hopefully our wiliness to learn and responsibility that
everyone needs to take to become a good football team will be how we respond to