The LSU-Florida rivalry is one that usually is predictable on the fact that it always promises craziness on the field. Saturday morning in Death Valley was no exception as the Tigers gained the momentum with game altering plays and a career performance from Tyrion Davis-Price to knock off Florida 49-42.
LSU had no business being competitive in this game. The purple and gold were down seven starters on defense and one of the best receivers in the country on offense and had reached an ultimate low in the 2021 season. But all week we had heard the preparation for the Gators had been exemplary and three plays really dictated the tone in LSU's favor early.
Led by Davis-Price's 287 yards and three touchdowns, the purple and gold were able to dictate the game on the ground. The 287 yards are the most by an LSU running back since 2017, fourth most all time and the first LSU back to ever rush for 200 yards against Florida.
Both teams got off to rocky starts offensively but in the middle of the second quarter, an interception from Micah Baskerville, a touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins and a second pick by safety Jay Ward all occurred in a three play stretch to help the Tigers take a commanding 21-6 lead.
As much as those three plays dictated the momentum for the Tigers early, LSU had a hard time getting out of its own way. Three killer penalties against the offense wiped out three explosive plays including a 71-yard touchdown to Brian Thomas, a 24-yard run by Davis-Price and a 50-yard catch by Thomas that were all called back.
To add insult to injury, the defense, which had played so well for most of the first half, allowed an inexcusable Hail Mary at the very end of the first half to help Florida get right back into the game, making it a 21-13 halftime Tiger lead.
LSU was able to get the run game going on offense as Davis-Price rushed for 94 in the first half. Max Johnson, after a slow start to the contest, would capitalize when given a short field, completing 14-of-24 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. Jaray Jenkins was a highlight at receiver for LSU, hauling in three touchdown passes, including the go ahead score in the fourth.
How the Tigers would respond out of the halftime break, particularly after such a disappointing finish to the half would ultimately dictate the tone of the second half.
An opening pick six from cornerback Dwight McGlothern was an absolutely perfect response as the Tigers immediately regained the lead. McGlothern's pick was just one of four the Tigers would have on the afternoon, the last of which was made by Damone Clark to seal the game.
The second half turned into a good old fashioned shootout as the Tigers and Gators combined for 36 points in the third quarter to make it a 35-35 score heading into the fourth.
Florida switching to Anthony Richardson at quarterback proved effective as the Gators marched down the field three straight times in the third to tie the score on a gassed LSU defense. When LSU took a 42-35 lead in the fourth, Richardson marched Florida right down the field on 13 play answer that included three third down conversions and a fourth down conversion, capped off by a tremendous touchdown throw to tie the game up.
LSU's offense would respond, sticking with what worked all game long and riding Davis-Price all the way to the goal line until a nifty fourth down play call from Jake Peetz was executed to perfection on the touchdown pass to Jenkins.
It was one of those season defining wins for a program looking for something to go right.