LSU was down to 54 scholarship players against Florida on Saturday. Minutes before kickoff, Derek Stingley was ruled out of the game with a lingering leg injury and the Tigers were facing one of the hottest offenses in the country. Add in the opt outs and a week of negative headlines and there wasn't much going for LSU leading up to kickoff.
There was no reason that this team should've been in this game yet a depleted, youthful Tiger squad played with the energy and inspirational effort of an undefeated team to hang tight with the No. 6 Florida Gators, winning on a legendary 57-yard, school record field goal by Cade York.
As the fog rolled in for the second-half of Saturday's game, that's when the Tigers elected to pounce. It was the thrown shoe heard round the world as a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Florida set LSU up for a legend defining 57-yard field goal from Cade York to spoil Florida's chances at a College Football Playoff berth.
"Coach O told us that one player was gonna win this game for us. And Kole Taylor lost his shoe and the defender threw it," true freshman quarterback Max Johnson said after the game.
But the game wasn't won on that final drive but rather a full 60-minute effort on both sides of the ball.
A combination of some truly game changing plays on defense and redzone defense not only kept the Tigers in the game but with all of the momentum in the first half. It wasn't that the defense was getting stops in the conventional sense.
The Tigers did surrender 346 first-half yards but stops in the redzone and four turnovers by the Gators was the difference. There was the pick six from true freshman Elias Ricks. Then there was the absolute whackiest interception from Jay Ward in the redzone as the Gators were driving.
A forced fumble in the closing seconds forced by Ray Thornton and recovered by BJ Ojulari led to more points right before the half. In a week filled with negative headlines and disruption, it was exactly the kind of start the Tigers hoped for on the defensive side of the ball.
“Turnovers are the big key. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing. I’m so proud of them," Ed Orgeron said at halftime. "We can win but we’ve got to play well in the second half. We’ve got to eliminate the three-and-outs.”
Johnson looked the part in his first start with the program, leading the offense on two touchdown drives in the first half alone, passing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes. The freshman would finish the game with 239 yards and three touchdowns while running for 52 more, proving that LSU might have a future star behind center.
Kayshon Boutte added 108 yards receiving that included a touchdown while the running backs totaled 126 yards on the ground.
LSU rode the start to a 24-17 halftime lead over the Gators, the first halftime deficit Florida had faced all season.
The Tigers came out of the locker room looking to chew clock and did exactly that, taking up 6:31 of the third quarter clock to push the lead to double digits but Trask and the Gator offense wouldn't stay down for long.
Trask and company came out firing in the second half, scoring two touchdowns on nine plays as the explosive plays continued to be woeful to the Tigers defense. Drives of 75 and 81 yards set the Gators up with a 31-27 edge heading into the final 15 minutes.
LSU would respond in the early going of the fourth quarter with an 84-yard drive capped by Johnson's third touchdown of the evening and first career touchdown of Kevontre Bradford.
Three straight three and outs kept the Florida offense at bay for much of the fourth quarter until those crucial final minutes.
The Tigers will look to close the 2020 season off with a bang and get back to .500 when Ole Miss comes to town next weekend.