Rapid Reaction: Stunner! LSU's dramatic win over No. 6 Florida changes a lot
No. 6 Florida was going to play in the SEC Championship Game next week no matter what happened Saturday night.
LSU was not going to go to a bowl game no matter what happened Saturday night.
But what happened in the Swamp on Saturday night changed a whole lot.
Freshman Max Johnson threw three touchdown passes in his first college start as the Tigers stunned — a more than 3-touchdown underdog — the SEC East Division champion Gators 37-34.
Cade York won it with a dramatic 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.
An unsportsmanlike penalty on Marco Wilson kept LSU’s game-winning drive alive. The Gators had stopped LSU on 3rd down, but Wilson grabbed the LSU player’s shoe and threw it in celebration.
Florida quickly drove to LSU’s 33-yard line to set up a 51-yard attempt to tie it, but Evan McPherson’s kick drifted left.
LSU’s dramatic victory salvaged significant pride and respect for the short-handed defending national champions (4-5 going into their finale against Ole Miss next Saturday in Tiger Stadium) and wiped out any hope Florida (8-2) had of reaching the CFP – regardless of what it does against Alabama next week.
Kyle Trask damaged his Heisman candidacy with 3 first-half turnovers, then led 2 3rd-quarter touchdown drives to put the SEC East Division champions ahead and a late drive that resulted in a field goal to tie it at 34.
But Johnson, succeeding fellow freshman TJ Finley as the replacement for injured Myles Brennan, was more efficient.
He gave a huge lift to an offense jolted by the departure of leading receiver Terrace Marshall two weeks ago and second-leading receiver – freshman tight end Arik Gilbert – earlier this week.
LSU led 24-17 and held the ball for 17 plays on the first possession of the third quarter, reaching the Florida 2 before a holding penalty set it back. Cade York’s 30-yard field goal gave the Tigers a 10-point lead.
Trask brought the Gators right and ran 1 yard for his second rushing touchdown to pull Florida within 27-24 midway through the quarter.
After an LSU punt, Trask threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kadarius Toney give the Gators a 31-27 lead.
But the Tigers kept fighting.
Johnson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass that put LSU back on top, 34-31, with 13:14 remaining. The Gators’ offense largely sputtered until driving 72 yards to set up Evan McPherson’s tying field goal with 2:51 left.
The Gators’ offense suffered a blow during pregame when star tight end Kyle Pitts was ruled out of the game because of a “lingering injury” from the win against Tennessee last week.
Even without him they appeared headed to a score on the game’s first possession as Trask drove them to the LSU 3, but he threw an incompletion on third and goal. The Tigers jumped offside on McPherson’s field-goal attempt and coach Dan Mullen accepted the penalty.
On 4th-and-goal Malik Davis was stopped for no gain.
The missed opportunity didn’t matter much because Florida forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at its 48. Five plays later Trask ran 1 yard for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Johnson wasn’t fazed as he drove the Tigers 75 yards, tossing a 5-yard touchdown to Jaray Jenkins that produced a 7-all tie at the end of the first quarter.
LSU freshman cornerback Eli Ricks, making his first start in place of injured Derek Stingley Jr., intercepted Trask and returned the ball 68 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
McPherson kicked a 23-yard field goal and Trask threw a 19-yard touchdown to Jacob Copeland to give Florida a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter.
Johnson drove the Tigers to his 34-yard touchdown pass to Kayshon Boutte for a 21-17 lead.
Florida tried to salvage something from the final seconds of the quarter, but Trask fumbled while being sacked and B.J. Ojulari recovered for LSU at the Gators 19 with 10 seconds left.
That set up York’s 39-yard field goal for 24-17 halftime lead.
The Gators outgained the Tigers, 348-190, but Trask had 2 interceptions and a fumble while LSU had no turnovers