GAINESVILLE -- Murphy’s Law strikes again.
Beleaguered quarterback Jeff Driskel appeared poised to rally Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to a nail-biting win over LSU, only to see a potential game-winning touchdown dropped, and then later, a ball tipped for an interception to setup the Tigers’ winning score.
Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a controversial but dramatic 30-27 win over UF and increasing the temperature on Florida coach Will Muschamp’s already scorching hot seat.
“It’s a really tough loss,” Driskel said. “Hat’s off to LSU.”
With 26 seconds remaining, Driskel forced a throw over the middle to Latroy Pittman, who tipped the ball to LSU defensive back Ricky Jefferson.
Pittman was scarily injured on the play and was carted off the field. Although the wideout was completely immobilized by medical personnel, he gave the crowd a thumbs up with his right arm as he left the field.
“We think Pittman will be fine,” Muschamp said.
Still, it was surreal scene that marred an ugly but entertaining game.
And ultimately a gut-wrenching loss for the Gators.
LSU ran the ball on first down, but a scrum at the end of the play forced the officials to put seven seconds back on the clock -- even though LSU had no timeouts remaining.
With new life, Delahoussaye drilled the long kick.
Muschamp said he’s never seen officals put time back on the clock in that situation and would have a discussion with Steve Shaw, the conference’s head of officals, Sunday.
The Gators held the game’s momentum late in the quarter, pinning LSU deep in its own territory and forcing a 3rd-and-25.
But Florida (defensive backs Brian Poole and Keanu Neal) badly blew a coverage, and Anthony Jennings found Travin Duval for 41 yards up the sideline.
“Just poor communication,” Muschamp said. “10 guys got it [the defensive call] and one didn’t. … You cut a guy lose on a play like that and you don’t deserve to win.”
Jennings (10-for-21, 110 yards) wasn’t any better than Driskel (14-of-25, 183 yards), as LSU leaned on explosive freshman tailback Leonard Fournette.
The 6-1, 230-pound back ran wild, displaying his special blend of size, speed and video-game moves. He powered for a career-high 140 yards and two scores.
Fournette ran over, past and through UF’s defense, injuring All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on a thunderous run in the second quarter. Florida’s top defensive player did not return.
The Gators’ offense was largely stagnant without workhorse tailback Matt Jones, who barely played with a bum ankle.
Florida tried to run the offense with Driskel as the power runner -- without a ton of success. Florida’s 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback bruised his way for 71 yards on 21 carries.
He rumbled for a first down early in the game and delivered a fiery, emotional reaction historically reserved for Tim Tebow. Otherwise, it was another forgettable night for the third-year starter.
Driskel turned the ball over three times, negating many of his finer moments -- a beautiful 11-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson -- during Florida’s comeback.
LSU went up 27-24 on a splendid 11-yard, one-handed touchdown reception by Duval.
The Tigers then dared Driskel to beat them deep. And he did.
But Florida wasted the perfect 73-yard pass to Robinson, stalling on the 3-yard-line and settling for the tying field goal.
Tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped an easy go-ahead score with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Although the offense struggled (306 total yards), Andre Debuse flashed his best Percy Harvin impression, sparking three Florida touchdowns.
The sixth-year senior jumpstarted a frenzied crowd, igniting The Swamp with a 62-yard punt return touchdown early in the first quarter. It was Debose’s fifth touchdown return of his career, setting a school record. Later, he added a 53-yard return to setup a score late in the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 35 yards on a jet sweep.
Despite the team’s usual shakiness, Florida didn’t play like a group distracted by the turmoil from the Treon Harris fallout.
On Friday, Harris’ accuser withdrew her sexual assault complaint, and the university and the UAA quickly reinstated Florida’s freshman quarterback.
Harris wasn’t on the sideline Saturday night, with The Associated Press reporting Florida didn’t want the freshman to be the game’s storyline and the constant focus of TV cameras.
“It was a very taxing week for him. I’m very proud of the way he’s handled the situation,” Muschamp said. “Everybody is a victim in this situation. No one wins in this situation.”
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