Gators win SEC East with tenacious goal-line stand against LSU in 16-10 upset

Pineiro came up big for UF on Saturday with three field goals and an extra point.
Pineiro came up big for UF on Saturday with three field goals and an extra point.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Florida’s defense stuffed LSU’s Derrius Guice on a do-or-die run from the 1-yard line in the final seconds and the No. 21 Gators held on for a tension-filled 16-10 victory that clinched the Southeastern Conference East Division.

The stop capped a defensive struggle in which No. 16 LSU converted a fourth-and-10 play on its final drive, only to get stopped on back-to-back runs from the 1 to end the game. Fullback J.D. Moore came up short on third down.

Florida quarterback Austin Apppleby completed only seven passes on 17 attempts, but one of his connections went for a pivotal 98-yard touchdown to Tyrie Cleveland. Eddy Piniero scored the rest of Florida’s points on field goals of 36, 24 and 34 yards.

LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC, No. 16 CFP) controlled most of the game and held considerable statistical advantages, outgaining Florida (8-2, 6-2, No. 23 CFP) 423 yards to 270 and holding possession for 34:02. But on three occasions, the Tigers failed to score after driving inside Florida’s 10 – the first time because of Guice’s fumble in the first half and the second time because of a botched field goal in the third quarter.

The loss likely cost the Tigers a Sugar Bowl bid.

The Gators played with a lot of heart, relying heavily on their elite defense. LSU hurt its chances with two huge turnovers and botched field goal turned what could have been a fairly comfortable victory into a struggle.

The Tigers lost a key defender in the first half when middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith needed help off the field. He spent the rest of the game on the sideline with his left knee heavily wrapped. LSU star running back Leonard Fournette, who played despite being banged up last week, came out of the game for good after being stopped short on a third-and-goal play in the second half.

The SEC rivals scuffled near the middle of the field about an hour before kickoff. Several people viewing warmups captured video they posted on social media. It was mostly yelling and shoving as coaches and police working security converged quickly to break it up.

Some players also acted as peacemakers. One video captured Fournette pushing Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray away from a cluster of LSU players and coaches. During the opening kickoff, emotions were still running high for some, apparently.

Florida’s Joseph, blocking on the return, had his helmet ripped off by LSU’s Devin White, who was called for a personal foul.

Next weekend the Gators renew their non-conference rivalry with Florida State in Tallahassee while LSU travels to College Station for a Thanksgiving night matchup with Texas A&M.

 

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