GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU can put the accusations of being overrated to rest now.
The biggest question as the previously fourth-ranked Tigers trudged out of The Swamp at dusk Saturday was whether they’ll be rated at all.
But welcome back, anyway, Florida, after ending the nation’s longest regular-season winning streak at 18 games.
The unbeaten Gators (5-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) dominated the second half against a hapless LSU offense and a tiring Tigers defense for a 14-6 victory.
“We’ve got to get a lot better,” said LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who certainly did his part with 20 tackles (one shy of the school record) including two sacks, another for a loss, and a forced fumble.
There was only one of him, however.
“I think our football team is sick — sick with the knowledge that they could have played better,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
They didn’t look well, for sure, and it was only partly because of a second-half epidemic of cramps that kept the training staff busy carting off Tigers left and right.
But that was about the only way the Tigers’ defense could get off the field after a dominating first half in which they managed a 6-0 lead.
“Sadly, our stamina did not hold up,” said defensive end Sam Montgomery.
The Gators, who’ve trailed at the half of three of their four SEC victories, controlled the ball for just over 20 minutes of the second half and outrushed LSU 160-12 after halftime while getting a pair of 12-yard scoring runs from Mike Gillislee.
“We just gave up too many yards and couldn’t get off (the field),” defensive end Barkevious “KeKe” Mingo said.
Neither team moved it much in the first half, although the Tigers opened the game with their best of drive of the day to get one field goal and got another just before halftime.
Then it was all Gators, who sandwiched two long scoring drives around the pivotal LSU mistake of the game to take complete control.
The Gators drove 85 yards midway into the third quarter, mostly on the ground, for Gillislee’s first score and had LSU backed up after the ensuing kickoff.
But Zach Mettenberger escaped the ever-present Gator pressure to connect on a 56-yard pass to Odell Beckham to apparently get LSU back in the game after he was ruled down near the Gators’ 25-yard line.
But only for a moment. A replay review showed Beckham was stripped of the ball by Matt Elam with Gators teammate De’Ante Saunders recovering.
End of rally.
Florida put together another ground-oriented 77-yard drive for Gillislee’s second touchdown.
“The opportunities we had, if we had kept possession on the (Beckham) reception in the second half, certainly could have made a difference in the game,” Miles said.
“Potentially, yeah,” said Mettenberger. “But at that point we should have already had more points on the board.”
So maybe not.
The Tigers, who managed eight first downs and were 1-for-13 converting third downs, would still have had to get into the end zone.
LSU hasn’t scored a touchdown in its last seven quarters against SEC teams and has one in the last 12 dating to the last year’s Bowl Championship Series fiasco with Alabama.
LSU was plagued with poor field position most of Saturday’s game, but didn’t do much with a golden opportunity just before halftime.
The Tigers’ fifth sack of Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel jarred loose the ball and Mingo tracked it down at the Florida 7-yard line.
But LSU settled only for Drew Alleman’s second field goal and a 6-0 lead after a gain of 3 yards, an incompletion and a trick play that was blown up from the start.
Backup running back Terrence Magee was apparently going to recreate the jump pass that former Gators Tim Tebow made famous here against LSU six years ago. But tight end Nic Jacobs couldn’t get off the line and Magee was smothered.
“There’s no excuses,” said Mettenberger, who under heavy duress completed 11 of 25 passes for 158 yards. “We’ve got to execute better offensively.”
Florida had 16 yards rushing at the half, but Gators head coach Will Muschamp, noting that it was skewered by losses on sacks, made the decision to stay on the ground in the second half.
“The vertical passing game wasn’t there because they are really good,” Muschamp said. “We needed to run the ball first and then (if needed) we’ll move on to other things.
“We never really had to get to that.”