Florida pulls even in second half before falling to LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Florida overcame the suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier and another big game from Leonard Fournette to hang with LSU into the fourth quarter at Tiger Stadium.

But the Gators could not overcome another bit of trickery from LSU coach Les Miles.

After No. 8 Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC) rallied from a 28-14 halftime deficit to tie, LSU kicker Trent Domingue scored a touchdown on a fake field goal with 10:40 left, and the sixth-ranked Tigers (6-0, 4-0) held on to win 35-28 on Saturday night.

"It’s a badge of honor," said first-year Florida coach Jim McElwain, who lost for the first time in seven games. "They had to fake a field goal to beat us. They made a hell of a play, and they got it. Give them credit. It was a gutsy call."

Miles dialed up a fake field goal to set up the winning touchdown when LSU beat Florida in Gainesville in 2010, but none of these Gators were around for that one. This time, they thought they had forced the Tigers to settle for a 33-yard field goal on fourth-and-13 when holder Brad Kragthorpe took a snap and lateraled to Domingue on his left.

Domingue bobble the ball, then ran untouched into the end zone.

Florida sophomore quarterback Treon Harris threw for a career-high 271 yards and two touchdowns — both to tight end Jake McGee. But on Florida’s last three possessions, he went 5 for 15 while taking two sacks and getting called for intentional grounding. His final desperation pass sailed out of bounds close to the goal line as time ran out.

Harris started for the first time since the season opener because the Gators announced Monday Grier was suspended for the next 12 months for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Fournette rushed 31 times for 180 yards, the most Florida had allowed all year. The Gators kept him from one of his signature breakaway runs, though, limiting him to a long gain of 25 yards.

Box score

"I can’t take anything away from the Florida defense," he said. "They are tremendous. They move fast to the ball and they did a great job tonight. It was the most physical defense I have faced thus far this season."

The Gators pulled even on a 72-yard punt return by Antonio Calloway and almost tied it again when Treon Harris threw for the end zone on third-and-22 from the LSU 35 midway through the fourth quarter.

Calloway, who also had made a spectacular one-handed grab to set up a first-half touchdown, got both hands on the ball, but safety Dwayne Thomas knocked it loose.

Despite getting the ball back two more times, Florida never came close to scoring again. The Gators had rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat Tennessee at home in September and put themselves in position to do it again.

"It’s something we’ve had all year, as you’ve seen in previous games," McGee said. "We have a no-quit attitude and play all out until the end."

The Gators were beaten on the ground and in the air in the first half, when Fournette rushed for 100 yards and both of his touchdowns. He scored untouched from 2 yards out after taking a direct snap and untouched from 6 yards out on a conventional play.

His second score came one play after he took a handoff and lateraled back to Brandon Harris, who hit Malachi Dupre for 52 yards as cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III fell for the deception.

Dupre beat cornerback Quincy Wilson for a 9-yard reception in the corner of the end zone for LSU’s third touchdown, and he had a 51-yard scoring reception with 15 seconds left in the half after Brandon Harris scrambled to his right, shed a tackler and launched the ball.

Brandon Harris finished 13 of 19 for 202 yards, two TDs.

"We’re better than that, and our guys know it," McElwain said. "Instead of just doing their job, they were just a little out of sorts."

Florida then held LSU without a first down in the second half until the final minute of the third quarter. Brandon Harris completed only one 3 of 6 passes for 16 yards after the break.

"They won the game, so we didn’t do well enough," McElwain said. "We are disappointed. We expected to come in and win."