theknightswhosay

Spurrier and LSU-Florida Revisited

In College Football, General LSU, History, Rivalry on October 16, 2015 at 3:39 PM

I don’t want to go too much into ancient history in this blog because my rivalry blog has all that stuff, but I have to say a couple of things about Spurrier in addition to my comments Wednesday.  His last game on Saturday was 25 years and four days after his first game against LSU with the Gators.

{Late edit: I wanted to add this about the South Carolina game and relief efforts.  Worth the read.}

Not only did LSU fail to beat Spurrier’s Gators except for the 1997 upset in Tiger Stadium, but that was one of only three games where the Tigers came within two touchdowns of the Gators in Spurrier’s tenure.  Before Spurrier took the helm in 1990, LSU had a 19-15 lead in the series.

So in large part thanks to Spurrier, Florida still has a lead in the series of four games, 31 to 27 with 3 ties.  Spurrier had zero success against LSU with the South Carolina Gamecocks, however.

I mentioned that game in 1990 was also in October. I like that this game has occupied a fairly consistent spot every year.  With only one exception, the game has been played in the first three playing weeks of October since 1973.  In fact, there have only been four times in the entire history of the series when the game was played in a month other than October.

With that out of the way, I’ll turn my attention exclusively to things that have happened this century.

The recap of the games and seasons below is also part of my rivalry blog, but that was more of a big-picture focus than some of the game stories below.  I’ll probably re-organize this at some point, but an exception was last year, where the full game story is part of the rivalry blog and not reproduced in any way below.

2001 to 2006 

Of course there have been a lot of years where the winner of the LSU-Florida game went on to win the SEC, and there were also of course a few years where the winner won the national title.  Given where the game takes place on the calendar, there can still be time for the loser to rebound.  This occurred in both 2001 and 2003.  LSU lost both games, both at home, and won the SEC in both years.  In 2003, the Tigers also won the BCS championship.

LSU won in the Swamp in 2002, having worked out its frustrations with a 36-7 win over Ron Zook’s first team.  Both teams finished 8-5 that year.

2004 was a similar year, and LSU won in a close game (I actually watched it about a year ago on ESPN Classic).  JaMarcus Russell (who also started in 2005 and 2006) struggled in his first start with the Tigers, but he was successfully relieved by the veteran Marcus Randall.  Also, the defense stepped up and held the Gators scoreless for the entire second half.  Apart from the first four minutes or so, LSU did not lead or tie until 27 seconds remained in the game.  Randall managed the game well, but RB Joseph Addai accounted for 44 yards of total offense on the 50-yard winning drive.

In 2005 (the first season for both Les Miles and Urban Meyer), LSU got only its second win at home against Florida since 1987, but it was another good game, 21-17. LSU had stormed out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, then Florida took the lead in the third quarter before the Tigers scored the winning touchdown early in the fourth. Neither team was able to generate any offense to speak of after that point. This frustration caused Urban Meyer to cry after the game.  LSU went on to win the division with a 9-game winning streak but lost the SEC championship game to Georgia.

Not 100% sure this is the right game, but Meyer was occasionally upset in his tenure at Florida despite a lot of wins.

Not 100% sure this is the right game, but Meyer was occasionally upset in his tenure at Florida despite a lot of wins.

LSU would have an 11-win year that culminated with winning the Sugar Bowl in 2006, but it wasn’t quite as good as Florida’s 13-1 BCS championship season.  So according to plan, the Gators won without too much drama in the Swamp that season, 23-10.

The only player to score a touchdown for LSU in the 2006 game was a man named Jacob Hester, who averaged nearly five yards per carry.  Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton must have realized that former OC Jimbo Fisher may have been in error not handing it to him more often in that game, because Florida sure was sick of him after the 2007 game.

2007

Feel free to skip to the bottom of this section or the next heading, but I have not told the full story of this game on this site, and what better time than with undefeated LSU against undefeated Florida at night in Tiger Stadium coming up tomorrow?

Miles actually mentioned the 2007 game in his Wednesday press conference, and for me that’s the iconic game of Miles’ tenure so far.

LSU and USC were the consensus #1 and #2 teams in the early part of that season.  The Tigers had not even had a competitive second half yet and went into the game 5-0.  Florida had just suffered its first loss the week before in a close game against Auburn, so they went into the game looking to redeem themselves.

Except for the first four minutes of the game, Florida had led for the entire night, going back up by 10 (the Gators had also led by 10 at halftime) with five minutes left in the third quarter.

After one drive that ended in a punt and another that ended in a missed field goal, it just was not looking like LSU’s night.  Then something started happening.  Some say Tiger Stadium is haunted, and the ghosts only come out at night.

Tim Tebow, who went after the fans after someone had gotten a hold of his cell phone number and disseminated it on campus, had a chance to put the game away.  The ghosts especially don’t like opposing QBs who attack the fans (as Bo Wallace would also find out in 2014).  For some reason, on second and 6, Tebow took a chance and threw an interception.

It was right about this time that an announcement came over the PA system. FINAL SCORE: STANFORD 24, USC 23.  This was one of the biggest upsets for several years.  Mighty USC—who had won an AP title in 2003, nearly accomplished BCS titles in the next two seasons, and then followed with an 11-2 season in 2006—lost to Stanford, who had only won a total of three games from October 2005 to that night nearly two years later.

The crowd went nuts.  It didn’t hurt that a few years before LSU had been forced to share its first national major title in 47 years with USC.  Miles recalled wondering why the crowd was so excited when LSU was still behind in the game.

Later in the ensuing LSU possession, the Tigers faced a fourth down, seemingly a good time to take the three easy points.  Not so fast.  LSU had missed a field goal, as I mentioned, even though this one would have been shorter.  Both of the Tigers’ previous touchdowns had been enabled by going for it on fourth down.  The first was a fairly routine goal-line situation, but the Tigers’ third-quarter touchdown drive to stay in the game was kept alive by a fourth-and-5 scramble.  Whatever it was, something told Les Miles to go for it again on fourth and 3.

QB Matt Flynn had started only 10 for 21 with an interception, but I guess something said that the Tigers needed to throw it on that play.

The Florida offense had apparently been thrown off course by the interception and sputtered on its next possession.  After a punt, LSU took over with 9:20 left on the clock.

Due to a penalty, LSU faced a 2nd and 18.  The smaller, quicker back Trindon Holliday only managed two yards to set up a third and very long.  Maybe LSU would have to try for the winning drive in the next possession…

On the third and long, Flynn was stopped about a yard short of the first down after a desperate scramble when no one was open.  Maybe Florida needed a more bruising back to get the first down on yet another fourth down.  Jacob Hester provided it.  LSU still trailed by three near midfield though.

Three plays later (including a first-down pass), Hester rushed for another 19 yards, then he picked up 4 yards.  Then Ryan Perrilloux, the backup running quarterback, ran for another 5 yards.  Hester was surprisingly stopped for no gain on third down.  Once again, Miles had the chance to take the field goal and a tie game.  Once again, he refused and instead called a handoff to Hester on fourth down, which once again succeeded.

Three plays later, Hester had apparently lost his patience for fourth downs and ran for a touchdown on third down.

Jacob Hester extends the ball for the winning touchdown in 2007.

Jacob Hester extends the ball for the winning touchdown in 2007.

Not only did LSU have its only lead of the game; but the 15-play, 60-yard drive had chewed up all but 69 seconds of the clock.  Florida would get a couple of first downs, but Tim Tebow was sacked on the second-to-last play and threw an incomplete pass on the last play.

Although the Tigers converted fewer than half of the third downs they had faced, LSU went 5/5 on fourth downs for the game.  LSU had converted almost as many fourth downs as Florida had converted third downs (6).  That includes a third-down scramble by Tebow on the final drive.

Despite a few other crazy games, two of which ended in losses, LSU would end the season as BCS Champions after defeating Ohio St.  This time, the AP went along with it.  Florida finished only 9-4 but would win the BCS the following season.

2008 and 2009

I’ve already given you a hint about what happened in 2008.  It wasn’t even close, as Florida won 51-21.  This was basically a throwback to the Spurrier era.  LSU struggled that season in part because the aforementioned Ryan Perrilloux had been the heir apparent at quarterback, and LSU’s pocket passer Jarrett Lee had a terrible habit that year of throwing touchdowns to the wrong team.  Later that year, he was relieved by Jordan Jefferson, a more mobile quarterback who better suited LSU’s playbook and didn’t turn the ball over so much.

LSU improved a bit the next season, but Florida would not lose again until the SEC championship in 2009.  LSU hung in there but couldn’t generate much offense in the 13-3 loss.  This was one of only four home losses for LSU from the beginning of the 2009 season to today.

2010

In 2010, LSU was a good bit better, while Florida was in rebuilding mode again.  After LSU’s opening field goal, the teams traded touchdowns and leads to go along with them.  LSU finally extended its lead to 6 at the end of the half.  The third quarter was scoreless, but LSU went up 26-14 after a failed conversion attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Florida then ran back the ensuing kickoff to get within 5.  After the teams traded punts a few times, new QB Jeff Brantley led Florida on a 10-play, 80-yard drive to give the Gators the lead with only 3:21 left in the game.

LSU basically had to put in Lee at quarterback because Jefferson was not a reliable enough passer for the two-minute drill.  LSU only needed a field goal, so Tiger fans held their breaths and hoped Lee didn’t do anything crazy.

LSU faced a third-and-1 just outside of normal field-goal range and RB Stevan Ridley was absolutely stuffed for a loss of two.

LSU lined up for a field goal, but Florida should have known how Les felt about tying field goals, especially from 50+ yards away.  Anyway, the holder flipped the ball over his shoulder to kicker Josh Jasper, who ran an end-around and got what appeared to be a first down.  The play didn’t quite go according to plan, however, as the ball hit the ground and bounced up to Jasper instead of his being able to catch it in the air.

K Josh Jasper runs for a first down in the final minute in 2010.

K Josh Jasper runs for a first down in the final minute in 2010.

After an extensive review and after Urban Meyer threw a fit on the sidelines, repeatedly signaling first down for Florida, the play stood as a lateral.  I have some suspicions that stress induced by Les Miles alone played a major role in Meyer’s departure from Gainesville (though I suppose Nick Saban helped too), but that’s getting off-topic.

Also, according to Miles, the play should have resulted in a touchdown without the bounce (as a similar play did against South Carolina in 2007); but instead the Tigers still had 31 yards to go with about 30 seconds left.

Lee handled it surprisingly well.  On first down, Terrence Toliver (I looked him up, and he’s now a starting WR for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) found a seem up the middle and Lee connected to set up first and goal.  After an incompletion, the ball again went to Toliver on a fade route to the left side for the winning touchdown with just six seconds left. LSU won, 33-29.

Comments after 2012 and 2013 games (see here for full blog): In the last 11 years, LSU leads 6-5, with half of the wins coming in Gainesville (2002, 2004, and 2010). Since LSU lost in 2001, this means that in the last 12 years, LSU has gone 6-6, with three home wins and three road wins, and obviously Florida has done the same. The two teams often knock each other out of the SEC championship game, and although a rematch has been often discussed as a possibility, it has never happened. However, as mentioned below, in both 2001 and 2003, LSU lost to Florida before winning SEC championship games over Tennessee and Georgia, respectively.

I thought of this later even though it was unrelated to the 2012 game in Gainesville. LSU has won 22 consecutive home games (as of 10/14/12), the longest in school history, since losing to Florida in 2009. LSU’s win over Florida in 2005 (which was payback for the 2003 loss) began a 19-game home winning streak. So the two Florida wins at LSU from 2003 to present are two of only seven wins at LSU by opposing teams in that time. Three of those LSU losses were in 2008, when Florida beat LSU in the Swamp.

2012 and 2013 were consecutive games where the overall point total was below 24 points. This also took place in 2009, Florida’s last win at LSU (and the last win of anyone apart from the 2012 Alabama team at LSU), when the Gators won, 13-3.

There were 16 games before 1974 where the two teams combined for fewer than 35 points, which isn’t too remarkable as passing was fairly rare before that time, but the frequency of such games hasn’t decreased as much as is typical in other series. It happened three games in a row from 1979 to 1981. Then Florida won 20-0 in 1985, 19-6 in 1988, 16-13 in 1989, and 16-0 in 1991. Meanwhile, LSU won 13-10 in 1987.

The Spurrier era at Florida put the brakes on all that defense, but there was an exception in 1998, when Florida only won 22-10. The best win of the Ron Zook era was the 19-7 win at LSU in 2003. That LSU team would win the BCS Championship. Then in 2006 (a championship year for the Gators), Florida won 23-10.

Even though many of the particularly bad losses were in the 1990s. something else I noticed was that only 5 times in the 14 years from 2000 to 2013 did LSU lose by more than 21. Three of those were to Florida (2000, 2001, and 2008).

(This was originally on the main rivalry blog I linked to earlier:)

2014 Summary and Comparisons

2014 was a more exciting game.  It reminded me of a couple of previous LSU wins.

LSU’s previous win at Florida, in 2010, was very similar.  If you don’t remember, LSU had the fake field goal where the holder flipped the ball and the kicker (Josh Jasper) picked it up off the bounce and ran for a first down.  This eventually set up LSU’s go-ahead touchdown on a fade in the corner of the end zone, the second lead change in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the game.  In that game, the Tigers struggled with kick returns, giving up an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that kept LSU in the game.  LSU had taken the lead in the second quarter after falling behind early on.

For posterity, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the 2014 game. I shouldn’t have to explain the similarities.  A guy named Andre Debose (who scored on the kickoff return in 2010) opened scoring with a touchdown on a punt return, helping Florida to an early 17-7 lead.  The Tigers chipped away at the lead and eventually had the lead going into the fourth quarter. LSU didn’t have a fake in this game, but they did opt to go for it on a fourth and goal in the first half.  This lead to a touchdown.

Turning your attention to the fourth quarter, Dubose had another important return which gave Florida the ball at the LSU 9.  This lead to a touchdown and a lead for the Gators.

When LSU took over possession with just over 6 minutes remaining, QB Anthony Jennings had only thrown one pass for over 10 yards, earlier in the fourth quarter.  So it looked like Florida was in good shape when LSU was down by 4 at their own 38 and facing a third and 25.  Someone forgot to guard Jennings’ favorite receiver for these situations, Travin Dural.  He got the first down and another 16 yards for good measure.  That combined with a Florida personal foul helped set up an LSU touchdown (on a fade pass to the back corner of the end zone) to go up 3.

The mutual struggle of the two teams to lose the game wasn’t over though.  Florida’s Jeff Driskel threw a 73-yard pass to give Florida the ball at the two.  After a couple unsuccessful runs and dropped virtually undefended pass by Florida, Will Muschamp opted not to go for it and the Gators kicked the tying field goal.

Not knowing if Florida may take the lead, LSU had called a timeout to keep time on the clock.  That became a double-edged sword when the LSU drive was abruptly ended by an incompletion and sack in consecutive plays.

Then Florida called a timeout.  This gave the Gators good field position (at the Florida 42… the LSU punter finally had the good sense to kick it out of bounds) and a chance for a potential winning field goal.  Jeff Driskel, who had recently looked like a hero of the game and was moving Florida downfield yet again, threw the ball to the wrong team, giving LSU a chance to win.  Surely the LSU kicker who missed an extra point earlier in the day wouldn’t have a career long from 50 to win, right?  This is a Les Miles team, you learn to just shake your head and laugh.

The other game this reminded me of was actually before Les Miles though.  It was in 2004 and was the last time Saban faced the Gators as LSU head coach.  Saban was only 1-3 against Florida going into the game and had one of his worst losses (at least among the games not played against Florida) on the road the previous week.  Even though they had changed starting quarterbacks, LSU also fell behind early, 14-0.  The first score was set up by an interception return deep in LSU territory.

LSU shrunk the Florida lead over time but they still trailed by four with just over 2 minutes remaining and had not done much on offense since the field goal drive that opened the second half.  Another potential field goal had been blocked in the interim, but nothing had come very close to the end zone.

This crazy offensive coordinator named Jimbo Fisher decides to call three running plays in the first four plays of a two-minute drill.  But the man who got the ball in those three plays was Joseph Addai, who ran for a total of 34 yards in those plays.

Then Marcus Randall, the QB who had been benched to start the game, was sacked, bringing up a third down from the Florida 10 with LSU needing a touchdown to take the lead.  After a play action, none of the LSU wide receivers were open; but in rushing the passer, Florida forgot to guard an eligible receiver named Joseph Addai, who had sneaked through the line.  Addai caught the ball at about the 8 and went all the way into the end zone to give LSU its only lead of the game, which it held onto for the remaining 30 seconds.

The 2014 win was the second in three LSU games at Florida and the fourth win in seven games at Florida, the latter run following seven consecutive losses.

Next week, some time before Wednesday, I will also have more to say about the Pete Carroll USC teams, as I had some comments to share in reaction to the “30 for 30” entry “Trojan Horse”.

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  1. […] 2011 to present (for more in-depth details, see here) […]

  2. […] updated my two LSU-Florida blogs, the one I did last week that focuses on the last 15 years and the full rivalry blog that covers the entirety of the […]

  3. […] updated my two LSU-Florida blogs, the one I did last week that focuses on the last 15 years and the full rivalry blog that covers the entirety of the […]

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