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BATON ROUGE – LSU football coach Ed Orgeron will not get fired this week.
The embattled Cajun and his Tigers upset 12-point favorite and No. 20 Florida, 49-42, in front of a sparse crowd of 68,000 inside 102,321-seat Tiger Stadium Saturday afternoon behind a suddenly dominant running game and big play defense.
“Our team went through a lot this week,” said Orgeron, who entered the game with an 8-8 mark since his 15-0 national championship in 2019 and a 6-7 SEC mark and kept losing key players to injury as a dumpster fire of a week went on.
“For them to beat Florida – we wanted to represent our players and everyone who played before us,” Orgeron said. “I think we did a good job of that. What a great win for out team. All week, I felt like they were going to play very well.”
The Tigers (4-3, 2-2 SEC) snapped a two-game losing streak after a quiet coaching replacement search may have already started. Orgeron has never lost three straight as LSU’s coach.
“It’s about the team. It ain’t never going to be about me,” Orgeron said. “I know I’m not going to play. You know what, I’m so proud of them.”
Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) lost for the third straight year to the Tigers, who upset the 22-point favored Gators, 37-34, last season in Gainesville, Florida.
“I can jump up and down on the table about some really good things we did,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “And I can jump up and down on some terrible mistakes that we made.”
His two quarterbacks threw four interceptions – two by starter Emory Jones and two by backup Anthony Richardson. Jones threw a pick six to LSU cornerback Dwight McGlothern, who returned it 37 yards for the touchdown and 28-13 lead on the third play of the second quarter. McGlothern has started the last four games in place of All-American Derek Stingley, who is likely out for the season with a foot injury.
LSU tailback Tyrion Davis-Price broke the school rushing record with 287 yards on 36 carries and scored three touchdowns. He broke Derrius Guice’s record of 285 set against Texas A&M in 2016. It was the most rushing yards ever allowed by Florida, breaking the mark of 238 by Georgia’s Herschel Walker in 1980.
The Tigers finished with a season-high 321 yards on 45 carries.
“To see us run for 321 yards, wow,” Orgeron said of an attack that had struggled all season until last week in the 42-21 loss at Kentucky.
“We didn’t stop the run and make the stops necessary in the second half,” Mullen said. “We couldn’t get over the hump.”
Davis-Price was equally surprised at LSU’s running game.
“I was just amazed at how good the offensive line was doing,” he said. “You could see those were big holes I ran through.”
And all that after LSU lost starting right guard Chasen Hines left early in the game because of an injury suffered in pre-game warm-ups. Sophomore Marlon Martinez replaced him and finished the game.
The Tigers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:30 to play on fourth-and-goal at the Florida 1-yard line when quarterback Max Johnson, looked left, scrambled right and found wide receiver Jaray Jenkins for the touchdown and 49-42 lead after the extra point.
“We had not worked that play all week, but we ended up scoring,” Johnson said.
Orgeron wanted to run it on the fourth down, but he let offensive coordinator Jake Peetz call the pass.
“It was a great call,” Orgeron said. “I thought Max did a great job avoiding the pressure. It could’ve gone either way, but Max made a great play.”
Johnson completed 14 of 24 passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns – all to wide receiver Jaray Jenkins. Johnson also threw no interceptions.
Davis-Price’s 25-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter put LSU up 42-35 and gave the junior tailback from Southern Lab in Baton Rouge 204 yards on 25 carries. LSU had not had a 200-yard rusher since Guice gained 276 on 22 carries in a 40-24 win over Ole Miss in 2017.
Florida tied it 42-42 on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Richardson to wide receiver Jacob Copeland with 9:14 to play in the game.
Florida scored two unanswered touchdowns to get within 35-35 after three quarters. The Tigers took a 35-21 lead with 10:08 to go in the third quarter on a 40-yard touchdown run up the Gators’ gut by Davis-Price, who went over 100 yards on the play and had 134 on 16 carries at the time.
LSU led 21-13 at the half, and it could have been by much more.
Jones completed a 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 wide receiver Justin Shorter with no time remaining in the second quarter despite the Tigers lining up with three players in the end zone. Shorter was in a crowd but ran uncontested under the ball to make the catch to get Florida within eight at the half. LSU safety Cameron Lewis had his back to the play and never turned around.
The Tigers, who outrushed the nation’s No. 3 rushing team (274 a game) in the first half 101 yards to 35, also had a touchdown and a long completion taken away by penalty. Johnson completed a 71-yard score to wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. for what could have been a 14-6 lead with 11:59 left in the second quarter. But left tackle Cameron Wire was called for holding on the play just before the pass.
With LSU leading 21-6 with about a minute to go in the first half, Johnson competed a 50-yard pass to Thomas to the Gators’ 25-yard line, but the Tigers had an ineligible receiver downfield. LSU had to punt four plays later.
Florida took a 6-0 lead midway in the first quarter on a 7-yard run by tailback Dameon Pierce, but the LSU defense forced a three-and-out punt. LSU, which had struggled to run the ball all season until last week in a 42-21 loss at Kentucky, then rushed six times for 38 yards in a 90-yard drive in 13 plays for a touchdown and 7-6 lead early in the second quarter. Davis-Price, who gained 147 on 22 carries at Kentucky, scored on an 18-yard run and carried five times for 48 yards on the drive.
LSU’s defense forced another three-and-out punt, then intercepted Jones and Richardson back-to-back in the second quarter to set up touchdowns for a 21-6 lead with 6:51 to go before halftime.
Linebacker Micah Baskerville picked off the first one after a tip by Cordale Flott and returned it 54 yards to the Gators’ 28-yard line. On the next play, Johnson found Jenkins for a 28-yard touchdown. Flott moved from safety to start at cornerback for the injured Eli Ricks, who was lost for the season last week because of a shoulder injury.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Richardson replaced Jones and threw an interception to safety Jay Ward, who returned that one 26 yards to the Florida. Four plays later, Johnson hit Jenkins for a 5-yard touchdown.
Richardson completed 10 of 19 passes fore 167 yards and three touchdowns, while Jones was 12 of 19 for 161 yards with two sacks outside of the interceptions.
“We dug too big of a hole to get out of there in the end,” Mullen said.
The Gators took over at their 25-yard line with 3:30 to play after LSU’s go-ahead touchdown, but after reaching their 37, LSU linebacker Damone Clark intercepted Richardson with 1:59 left. Davis-Price finished off Florida with three more rushes for 35 yards to kill the clock.
The Tigers play at Ole Miss next week at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS. The No. 13 Rebels (5-1, 2-1 SEC) won 31-26 at Tennessee Saturday night.
“We’re going to fight,” Orgeron said. “That’s our motto. We’re going to fight the rest of this season. I just told our kids, ‘Look, we just won one game. We want to finish strong. Our backs are against the wall. Let’s fight. Let’s see what’s going to happen. Let’s choose to fight every day.'”