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Florida shakes up SEC with win over No. 4 LSU

The SportsXchange

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It might be worth a thought for the Florida Gators to see if there's any way to simply skip past the first half from now on this season and take the field with the third quarter on the clock.

That's when the Gators really start playing their best football.

For the third time this season in an SEC game, No. 10 Florida flipped a game on its head and dominated the opponent, and this time that foe was the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers.

Sparked by a revitalized offense and a defense that refused to let the Tigers up for air, Florida stunned LSU 14-6 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"You saw two very physical football team go at it," Florida coach Will Muschamp said after the biggest win of his two-year tenure. "We made some adjustments in the second half and we felt like the running game was there. We just had to stay patient with it."

Patience paid off in the form of tailback Mike Gillislee delivering the biggest game of his career.

The junior slashed through the Tigers for a career-best 146 rushing yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to ignite an offense that seemed dead in the water in the first 30 minutes.

The Gators (5-0, 4-0 SEC) couldn't do much of anything right with the ball in the first half, with only 47 total yards on 32 plays. LSU (5-1, 1-1) sacked quarterback Jeff Driskel five times for minus-66 yards, the last sack forcing a fumble that Barkevious Mingo smothered to set up Drew Alleman's second field goal of the day from 21 yards out to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead.

After halftime, with The Swamp as electric as it has been in several years, Florida delivered a huge performance and a statement heard around the SEC and the country.

Following a punt on the initial series of the third quarter, the Gators went to work on offense.

Mixing in some effective misdirection plays with Gillislee's bulldozer-like running style, Florida peppered LSU with back-to-back touchdown drives of 85 and 77 yards -- both possessions surpassing the Gators' first-half total yardage.

After getting beat up in the first half, Driskel rarely dropped back to throw. Instead, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease moved him around and dared the Tigers to rush by mixing in screen and sprint-draw plays.

"The vertical passing game wasn't there because (LSU is) really good, and a lot of these guys will be first-round picks," Muschamp said.

Gillislee ran 10 times on those two series for 71 yards and capped each with a 12-yard touchdown run.

Between those two marches, the Tigers had a glimmer of hope when Zach Mettenberger uncorked a bomb to Odell Beckham Jr. down the left sideline for a 56-yard gain. Before LSU could bask in any momentum, though, Beckham lost the ball on a fumble -- the Tigers' second giveaway of the day and fifth in the last two games.

LSU never recovered after that, running 12 plays for 50 yards in the fourth quarter but gaining only two first downs after Beckham's giveaway.

"If I can avoid two turnovers, I like my chances at a different score," LSU coach Les Miles said. "That's the game. You've got to make sure you put the ball away and throw the ball where you're supposed to."

The Beckham fumble was huge because LSU's offense was a dysfunctional mess most of the day after a nicely executed opening drive.

The Tigers went three-and-out five straight times after starting the game with a 64-yard drive that culminated with Alleman's 31-yard field goal.

Following that opening salvo, LSU managed only 17 more yards in the first half and 139 in the game, finishing with a season-low 203 yards. The Tigers had four first downs on their opening drive and four more the rest of the game, two of those on Florida penalties.

Now the Gators are very much alive and well in the SEC East race, tied with South Carolina for the division lead with a showdown against the Gamecocks looming on Oct. 20.

Meanwhile, 2011 SEC champ LSU is suddenly in danger of the wheels coming off a team that began the season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll.

Four starters lost for the season and an ineffective offense that reached a new low Saturday have created more uncertainty than confidence for the Tigers.

"We've just got to keep plugging away," Mettenberger said. "We played with great effort, but our execution has to get better.

"This team has the potential to be a great team. If we don't let this loss affect us, we've still got a lot of football to play."

NOTES: The loss snapped LSU's 18-game regular-season winning streak that dated back to the final game of the 2010 season. The Tigers had also won nine consecutive SEC games ... Former Florida swimmer and Olympic star Ryan Lochte was recognized at halftime and drew a standing ovation ... LSU went without a third-down conversion for the second consecutive first half. The Tigers had seven chances and never carved out a new set of downs. They finished the day 1-for-13 ... Already down one starting offensive lineman, LSU lost right guard Josh Williford to an ankle injury when he was hurt on Mettenberger's first-half interception and did not return ... Florida snapped a two-game losing streak to the Tigers, which had been the Gators' longest in the series since they dropped four in a row from 1977-80.
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