BATON ROUGE -- On Saturday at Tiger Stadium, the 10th-ranked LSU football team re-found its defense that was mostly lost to the NFL. Despite the obituary written about the 2013 defenders at halftime a week ago, the Tigers held No. 17 Florida to 240 yards of total offense and led LSU to a 17-6 victory.
LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) became bowl eligible for the 14th-straight season by building a 14-3 halftime lead and then stopping Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) nearly every time it entered LSU territory. For the first time since 1979, LSU held Florida out of the endzone.
The Tigers return to action Saturday, Oct. 19, traveling to Oxford to face Ole Miss at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN or ESPN2
Led by linebacker Lamin Barrow's career-best 13 tackles and safety Craig Loston's nine, the Tigers held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time in 18 games (41-3 win over Washington, Sept. 8, 2012).
The Gators had 11-, 12-, 13- and 14-play drives but managed only two field goals against a defense that lost eight players to the pros from its 2012 squad. The Tigers' had a season-high four sacks of Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy and eight tackles for loss.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill ran for a game-high 121 yards on 19 carries, while Kenny Hilliard added 28 yards and fullback J.C. Copeland had 20 with a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Backup quarterback Anthony Jennings scored his the first touchdown as a Tiger with a 1-yard run of his own that gave LSU its 11-point halftime advantage.
quarterback Zach Mettenberger managed the LSU offense efficiently despite a few hiccups and uncharacteristic dropped passes by his receiving corps. He overcame a fumble at the Florida 25 by completing 9-of-17 passes for 152 and wasn't sacked. Jarvis Landry had 58 receiving yards on four catches, while Odell Beckham Jr. had 47 yards on two grabs.
Florida running back Mack Brown, who left the game with an injury before halftime, had a team-high 56 rushing yards on 15 carries. In his place, Kelvin Taylor added 52 yards on 10 runs.
Florida won the toss and deferred its decision until the second half. The Gators kicked off to the Tigers to open the game.
Hill took the first handoff of the game for 16 yards to the LSU 35 and Landry moved the Tigers into Gators territory with a 12-yard catch to the 49. Mettenberger followed a 9-yard run by Hilliard with a keeper to the Florida 40. However, a tackle behind the line on first down and an overthrow of wide receiver Kadron Boone on third down forced LSU to punt on its first drive for the first time this season.
Jamie Keehn's 45 yard punt and a loss of 1 on the return after Alfred Blue's tackle gave Florida possession at its 13.
LSU's defense forced the Gators into third-and-short situations three times before getting off the field at its 29. Placekicker Francisco Velez made a 44-yard field goal and Florida led 3-0 with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Facing its first deficit at home this season, LSU's offense quickly rallied. A 17-yard catch by Terrence Magee to the Florida 48 was followed by a 25-yard grab by Beckham Jr. The Gators were flagged for roughing Mettenberger and later pass interference in the endzone on Beckham Jr. On the first play of the second quarter, fullback J.C. Copeland scored a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Murphy came up two yards short of a first down with a scramble to the Florida 33. On third-and 2, defensive end Danielle Hunter and Barrow combined to stop Kelvin Taylor for a loss and force the Gators to punt.
After a first-down run by Hill, Landry peeled the ball away from Florida freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and completed a 29-yard catch and run to the Florida 25. On the next play, the first effect of an 87-degree afternoon came into play, as the ball slipped from Mettenberger's hands as he attempted to make a quick pass to his left. Florida's Leon Orr recovered at the 29.
For the second time in as many drives and the first time since the second game of the season, LSU's defense forced its opponent three-and-out. Safety Micah Eugene sacked Murphy for an 11-yard loss and Kyle Christy's 43-yard punt was fair caught by Beckham Jr. at the LSU 38.
LSU took advantage of the defensive stand and the positive field position to score for the second time in the quarter. A pass interference penalty against Florida defensive back Marcus Roberson put the Tigers at the Florida 40. Though its trickery - a double pass to Jennings - didn't do the trick, Mettenberger connected with Beckham Jr. over the middle for 22 yards to the 25. A 10-yard run by Copeland to the Florida 1 setup a touchdown keeper by Jennings.
LSU led 14-3 with 5:14 left in the half.
Florida crossed midfield with a 19-yard catch by Patton to the LSU 42, but consecutive incomplete passes forced the Gators to punt on fourth-and-5 from the LSU 36.
Pinned at its 1, LSU managed a first down and ran out the first-half clock with a 14-3 lead.
Florida started the second half with a 33-yard kickoff return to its 34 and Brown earned a first down with runs of 5 and 6 yards. However, two completions were stopped by Barrow and linebacker D.J. Welter for no gain. Christy's punt sailed into the endzone for a touchback.
A 30-yard run after a short catch by Hill moved LSU to midfield on its first drive of the second half. But, miscommunication between Mettenberger and his receivers led to an incomplete pass and forced the Tigers to punt. Keehn's 33-yarder was fair caught at the Florida 11.
Though the Gators weren't able to advance into field goal range, they changed field position after another punt into the endzone. LSU went nowhere offensively and a 33-yard punt by Keehn fell out of bounds at the Florida 49.
The Gators used Taylor to earn a first down with 10 yards to the LSU 25. Then, Florida overcame a holding penalty with 14 yards on first down by Taylor and an 8-yard pass to Dunbar. Another eight yards by Taylor moved the Gators into the redzone and a face mask penalty on third-and-1 gave Florida a first down. The LSU defensive stiffened in the goal-to-go situation and forced a 27-yard field goal by Velez.
With 12:11 left to play, LSU led 14-6.
LSU leaned on Hill to answer the field goal with one of its own. The running back moved over 100 yards on the day with four runs totaling 45 yards. In the Gators redzone, a third-down pass into the corner of the endzone fell incomplete. Colby Delahoussaye entered for a 31-yard field goal that pushed the lead back to two scores, 17-6.
Florida moved the ball into LSU territory once again, converting a fake punt on fourth-and-5 from its 30 and another from the LSU 35. Again, the LSU defense applied the brakes. Two incomplete passes by Murphy were followed by a 12-yard sack by Jalen Mills and an 8-yard sack and forced fumble by freshman linebacker Kendall Beckwith.
LSU took over and ran out the clock.
A crowd of 92,980 was announced on a hot, humid afternoon in Death Valley.