The Florida Gators had scored what should’ve been the game-tying touchdown against the LSU Tigers late in the third quarter on Saturday before nearly 90,000 fans belted out “We Are the Boys” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” in unison, after three quarters of a game spent figuring out LSU’s motion-heavy offense, after finally getting things going — on the ground, again; on the ground, as usual — and after the first halftime deficit of the season.
And then it wasn’t a game-tying touchdown.
And that turned out to be the difference.
Redshirt junior kicker Eddy Pineiro slid the 46th point after of his Florida career wide left — thanks in part to holder Johnny Townsend appearing to fail to get the ball fully set — leaving Florida down 17-16 to the Tigers.
The game would end at that same score, despite Florida’s best efforts.
The Gators made a good one against an LSU team that came out with the exact sort of inventive offensive gameplan it eschewed early on against Troy in a stunning upset a week ago, ultimately gumming up an offense that ran all over The Swamp in the first quarter on a variety of sweeps and end-arounds. After a touchdown drive out of halftime — made possible by a controversial call of simultaneous possession that gave DJ Chark a reception rather than awarding Duke Dawson an interception — the Tigers would not gain 30 yards on any one possession.
But Florida’s offense sputtered when it mattered, despite averaging better than five yards per carry on the ground and churning out three scoring drives, with Feleipe Franks struggling to find any rhythm as a passer with favorite target Tyrie Cleveland out with an injury. Malik Davis had 90 rushing yards, and Lamical Perine had 70 yards and two touchdowns, but Franks threw for just 108 yards, and Florida’s longest completion on the day went for just 18 yards.
Florida had a chance to drive the length of the field with just more than four minutes left, too, but failed on a fourth down, as Franks threw a pass over the middle that was tipped and fell incomplete.
And so the Gators lost for the first time in a month — and to the team they beat a year ago in an emotional triumph in Baton Rouge, and by the exact score that they prevented with a goal-line stop in Death Valley.
The job for Jim McElwain and company from here? Preventing that loss from sending the Gators free falling through the rest of a schedule that gets harder as it goes.