No. 6 LSU uses trick play to edge No. 8 Florida in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. — Perhaps someone at Florida should have reminded first-year coach Jim McElwain about Les Miles’ propensity to gamble against the Gators.
Leonard Fournette ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns, Miles victimized Florida with a fake field goal for the second time in five years, and the No. 6 Tigers beat the No. 8 Gators 35-28 on Saturday night.
Kicker Trent Domingue’s 16-yard touchdown run on the fake was LSU’s only scoring play of the second half, breaking a 28-all tie in the fourth quarter.
Miles, who also once kept his offense on the field for five fourth-down conversions in a 2007 triumph over Florida, said his latest unconventional call in this series between these old Southeastern Conference rivals was very much a calculated risk.
"We studied it and kind of felt like it was there," Miles said, adding that during practice this week, his field goal unit "did everything they could do to sell us on running it. We are not going to run it if they are not just great at it. They were great at it all week."
The Tigers’ defense held from there — barely. Florida receiver Antonio Callaway, who had a 72-yard punt return for a score, also had his hands on a long pass to the end zone from Treon Harris in the middle of the fourth quarter, but LSU’s Dwyane Thomas punched it out to prevent a tying touchdown.
Harris, starting for the suspended Will Grier, passed for 271 yards and two touchdowns for Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC), with both scoring passes to tight end Jake McGee. Brandon Harris threw for 202 yards and two scores for LSU (6-0, 4-0).
The fake field goal had to be a bad case of deja vu for Florida fans, even if not for McElwain, who still probably should have known Miles’ reputation for such gambles.
Instead, McElwain called Miles’ call "a badge of honor."
"They had to fake a field goal to beat us," McElwain said. "They made a hell of a play."
In 2010, LSU completed a fourth-quarter comeback by converting a fake field goal for a first down. Then-kicker Josh Jasper had to scoop the pitch off the ground to complete the play, which allowed the Tigers to win on a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver.
"You know they call him the Mad Hatter for a reason," Domingue said. "He has confidence in everybody and everything that we practice."
Domingue bobbled the lateral pitch as he ran at full speed, but was able to gather it in as he sprinted around the left end.
"I was pretty nervous. I guess my hands were shaking," said Domingue, a former walk-on who is 7 for 7 on field goals this season. "My whole body was shaking. I kind of did black out a little bit in the middle of it. It happened, so I guess I’ll just realize it tomorrow when I wake up."
Fournette finished with 195 yards from scrimmage, including 15 yards on a screen pass. His rushing total was the highest by any player this season against Florida, eclipsing the 136 yards gained by Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs. The Gators entered the game allowing only 99.2 yards rushing per game.
Fournette called the Florida defense "tremendous," and the most physical he’d faced, but also said the Gators delivered what felt like cheap shots, such as poking him in the eye, as tacklers piled on him.
LSU also proved it could hit on explosive plays through the air against a strong SEC defense.
Brandon Harris hit Malachi Dupre, who was covered by Vernon Hargreaves III, for a 52-yard gain on a flea-flicker that began with Fournette taking a pitch from Harris and lateraling it back. That play set up Fournette’s second touchdown on a 6-yard run.
In the final half-minute of the first half, Brandon Harris escaped Florida defensive end Jordan Sherit’s grasp, and launched a deep pass to Dupre, who made the catch in front of Marcus Maye and scampered a final few yards for a 50-yard TD that made it 28-14 at halftime. That was Dupre’s second touchdown catch of the game.
"I got outside the pocket and Malachi knows, just keep running," Brandon Harris said. "Wherever he’s at on the field, I’ll be able to reach him."
Sophomore Treon Harris had a tough task in his eighth career start. Tiger Stadium was packed with more than 102,000 fans amped up for the showdown of unbeaten teams. LSU routinely got into the backfield, registering five sacks, three by Lewis Neal.
"The key for tonight was preparation and knowing what Treon was going to do before he did it and baiting him (into scrambling) sometimes as well," Neal said.
Still, Florida wasn’t out of it until Treon Harris’ long desperation throw fell incomplete as time ran out.