Florida coach Dan Mullen did not want to talk about it.
His Gators were 8-1 last season and ranked No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings going into a home game against 3-5, 22-point underdog LSU. A bit overconfident, Mullen decided to sit out tight end Kyle Pitts, who would become a consensus All-American and fourth round pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pitts, who had 36 catches for 641 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, had missed two games with an undisclosed injury before catching seven passes for 128 yards the previous week in a 31-19 win over Tennessee. The Gators had No. 1 Alabama the next week in the SEC Championship Game.
And Florida lost, 37-34, in the fog on an LSU-record 57-yard field goal by Cade York with 23 seconds to go that he could not see go through the uprights. Florida kicker Evan McPherson missed a 51-yard field by a foot left as time expired.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw for 474 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw two interceptions, including one that Eli Ricks returned 68 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. The Gators outgained LSU, 609 yards to 418.
LSU’s game-winning field goal drive was aided by a 15-yard penalty before a fourth-and-six play at the Tigers’ 29 because Florida cornerback Marco Wilson threw the shoe of LSU tight end Kole Taylor 20 yards in celebration of the Tigers not converting a third-and-10. Taylor had just been tackled after a 4-yard reception by Wilson and safety Tre’vez Johnson.
“I didn’t see that,” a flustered Florida coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “I don’t know. I guess that’s a penalty. I have no idea what happened. I didn’t see it. Did you guys see it?”
A Florida reporter answered, “Yeah, he threw a guy’s shoe.”
With no flag and a punt by LSU, Florida would have had likely a minute and 30 seconds to drive to a game-winning field goal shorter than 51 yards.
The Gators lost to Alabama, 52-46, a week later with Pitts catching seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, and they did not reach the Playoff. A win over LSU with a close loss to the Tide perhaps could have achieved that.
Mullen was asked about the LSU foot game Wednesday.
“Those guys aren’t on the team any more,” he said.
Trask, a second round pick of Tampa Bay, Wilson, a fourth round pick by Arizona, and others are in the NFL now.
“It’s just a rivalry game,” Mullen said.
The No. 20 Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) meet LSU (3-3, 1-2 SEC) in Tiger Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN after two straight losses to the Tigers.
“That was a crazy environment,” Florida senior linebacker Jeremiah Moon said this week. “It was even foggier the next day. We came up short at the end, but this week we’ve really been trying to be detail oriented.”
Like, no throwing opponents’ shoes.
“I would say you always try to forget those,” Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “But you always come back to remember them, unfortunately. It would be one that you obviously want to educate your team on.”
It was a gift out of the sky for LSU.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game when someone threw a shoe,” LSU oach Ed Orgeron said after that game. “This can be the building block for turning this team around.”
The Tigers did beat Ole Miss the next week to salvage the season at 5-5, but the turnaround has not continued. LSU has lost two straight and have lost eight starters to injuries, including Ricks. And Orgeron is in danger of losing his job.
“I’ve known Ed for a long time. I like Ed, great coach,” Mullen said. “Obviously, he won a national championship just a couple of years ago (in 2019). He hasn’t forgotten how to coach in that time frame, so I just think in today’s world with coaching, your rating as a coach is week-to-week, if not play-by-play on Saturdays. That’s not just him. That’s all of us, you know what I mean?”
Mullen is coming off a 42-0 win over Vanderbilt after a 20-13 upset loss at Kentucky, which was a touchdown underdog by FanDuel.
“You go to anybody in the SEC, and they’ll tell you it’s pretty much the same,” Mullen said. “You’re either really smart or really dumb. And there’s nowhere in between.”
Florida is a 12.5-point favorite Saturday to avoid another shoe-toss loss.
“I guess that’s going to go down in Gator history,” Florida defensive end Zachary Carter said. “They might ask that every year for LSU. But it was just a crazy play. He got caught up in emotions, excitement, and that happened. We just know this year, heading into this game, those little things like that can’t happen. Can’t do it.”