As they had done previously against Texas, LSU’s offense delivered the knockout blow with the arm of senior quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow found sophomore wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown with 5:43 in the fourth quarter to seal No. 5 LSU’s 42-28 victory over No. 7 Florida (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conferencce) on Saturday.
“I told Joe this what great quarterbacks are made of and we’re going out there to score,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
“Pedal to the metal. We’re going as hard as we possibly can every play. I know there’s going to be a time when we have to run out the clock, obviously. We feel like we can score. We feel like we have athletes in space, and we’re not going to stop.”
The Tigers (6-0, 2-0 SEC) led 35-28, and Florida found themselves with third-and-1 at LSU’s 16-yard line. Quarterback Kyle Trask faked a handoff and tried to force a pass into the end zone, but LSU freshman cornerback Derek Stingley made a diving interception in one of the game’s most crucial moments.
Stingley had been the victim of Trask and wide receiver Van Jefferson on the opening drive of the second half. Trask targeted Jefferson four times on the drive, completing all four for 51 yards and a two-yard touchdown, which gave Florida a 28-21 lead.
Burrow and the Tiger offense responded as they have done all season. Burrow connected with Chase and junior wide receiver Justin Jefferson twice each for a combined 47 yards, and junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished the drive off with a five-yard touchdown, his second of the night.
LSU’s defense had struggled to stop Trask and Florida’s offense for most of the night, but a holding penalty erased a 27-yard gain by running back Lamical Perine on Florida’s first play from scrimmage.
It was the shot in the arm LSU needed, and on third-and-19, freshman safety Marcel Brooks sacked Trask to force a punt. The sack led to LSU getting the ball at midfield, and freshman running back Tyrion Davis-Price capitalized with a 33-yard touchdown run, extending LSU’s lead to 35-28.
“When we made that stop and we started to get pressure on the quarterback, our crowd came alive and our guys got juiced on the sildeline,” Orgeron said.
The clutch plays by a trio of freshmen – Brooks, Davis-Price and Stingley – gave LSU the momentum they needed, and Burrow’s touchdown to Chase, who had 127 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, swiped away any hope from Florida.
Burrow finished 21-of-24 for 293 yards and three touchdowns, and Edwards-Helaire, who broke a 39-yard touchdown and a long run of 57 yards, wound up with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Elsewhere on the offense, Jefferson totaled 123 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches in 10 targets.
Defensively, junior safety Grant Delpit had a team-high eight tackles and sophomore outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson led LSU with three tackles-for-loss and one sack.
After allowing 21 points and 246 yards in the first half, Delpit and Chaisson were big reasons for LSU’s defense flipping the switch. Schematically, LSU shifted to a man-to-man, blitz-orientated defense, and Delpit was used to limit Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who had four catches for 85 yards in the first two quarters but only had one catch for 23 yards after that.
After the game, Burrow had a few words for his teammates, saying "don't let good enough get in the way of greatness."
"We just can't get complacent," Burrow said. "We have so many areas to improve, so much to accomplish."