Originally appeared on CrescentCitySports.com
BATON ROUGE – All the ingredients were there for another epic Saturday night in Death Valley; homecoming, ESPN College Gameday, and most importantly, the visiting and seventh-ranked Florida Gators.
The game lived up to the hype, as a capacity crowd of 102,321 watched an instant classic, as LSU held off Florida 42-28. The two teams turned in another fantastic chapter in this storied rivalry.
The Tigers earned their sixth victory in their last seven games against Top 10 foes, and their second of the season.
Derek Stingley Jr.’s end zone interception, Joe Burrow’s touchdown strike to Ja’Marr Chase, and a second straight red zone stop for the Tigers’ defense were the difference.
LSU was brilliant offensively, moving up and down the field seemingly at will. For the Tigers, that’s been the story all season long.
Burrow was Heisman-worthy, going 21-for-24 for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Chase and Justin Jefferson were his primary targets, combining for 17 catches, 250 yards, and all three scores.
They typically steady Clyde Edwards-Helaire was uncharacteristically explosive with 134 yards on 13 carries and a pair of TDs on the ground.
But the first time since visiting the Texas Longhorns, LSU absolutely needed every point they scored as Florida was able to match the Tigers point for point for most of the game.
LSU got on the board first with a quick strike. Edwards-Helaire burst through the line for a 57 yard run, taking the ball all the way down to the Gators’ nine yard line. The Tigers lined up quickly and Burrow hit Chase on a slant for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The “drive” took 32 seconds.
Florida responded with a 12 play, 75 yard drive, featuring seven rushes and five passes. Dan Mullen used both of his quarterbacks, Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, to keep the Tigers off-balance. Trask finished it off with a touchdown pass to Trevon Grimes in the back of the end zone that tied the game at seven.
In the second quarter, the teams alternated touchdown drives on four consecutive possessions.
The Tigers’ two scoring drives needed a total of nine plays and took only 3:38. Meanwhile, the Gators were far more methodical, taking more than 10 minutes off of the clock and using 24 plays.
After the first thirty minutes LSU and Florida had taken very different paths to end up at the same place; tied at the half, 21-21.
Florida took advantage of having the ball coming out of the locker room, as they opened the third quarter with an eight play, 76 yard drive to go up 28-21. Trask was 4-of-4 passing for 51 yards, including his two yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson.
The Tigers responded with their longest scoring drive of the game to even the score at 28. Burrow went 4-for-4 himself, alternating between Chase and Jefferson to get LSU into the red zone. Edwards-Helaire took a handoff at the five yard line to his right and made a defender miss before finding his way into the end zone for the second time.
LSU’s defense pitched a shutout from there, finally applying the pressure they had struggled to find all game long.
After they forced a three and out on the ensuing Florida possession, LSU took the lead on a 33 yard scoring run by freshman Tyrion Davis-Price with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter.
The Gators would find their way back into the red zone two possessions later. On third and one from the LSU 16 yard line, Trask faded back to pass but Rashad Lawrence forced a hurried throw that fell short of its target and was instead picked off by Stingley Jr.
Burrow and the LSU offense wasted no time in going for the jugular. Four plays later, he found Chase streaking down the right sideline for a 54 yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 42-28 with just under six minutes remaining.
Florida would not go away, making one last effort to get a score and give themselves a chance at an onside kick.
Trask led them inside the five yard line before the defense stiffened once more. On fourth and goal from the two, as Trask ran to his right, trying to set up an option pitch, K’Lavon Chaisson stepped up and stuffed him for a two-yard loss with 49 seconds left on the clock.
From there, all LSU had to do was allow time to run out on one of the most important and exciting games of the Ed Orgeron era.
LSU (6-0, 2-0 SEC) won and kept its dreams of national championship glory alive. The Tigers also allowed Florida (6-1, 3-1), playing with an injured backup quarterback and a suspect offensive line, to rack up 457 total yards on their home field.
The Tigers are talented, and they are resilient, but are they champions? Though there are steps to take before they get there, it seems as if the only answer to that question will be found in Tuscaloosa about four weeks from now, when LSU faces the Alabama Crimson Tide.
In the meantime, we’ll just continue to enjoy the show.