BATON ROUGE, La. -- The SEC championship game matchup is set -- and it might seem awfully familiar.
A dramatic goal-line stand in the final minute helped Florida upset LSU 16-10 on Saturday and clinch a rematch against Alabama on Dec. 3 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Gators and Crimson Tide will meet for the SEC title for the ninth time since the game was established in 1992.
Florida’s Jordan Sherit and Marcell Harris stuffed LSU running backs J.D. Moore and Derrius Guice from the Gators’ 1-yard line on the game’s final two plays, clinching the dramatic upset and the Eastern Division championship.
Despite getting outgained 423 yards to 270 on Saturday, the Gators (8-2, 6-2 SEC) capitalized on red zone lapses and special-teams mistakes by LSU (6-4, 4-3) -- plus a 98-yard completion from Austin Appleby to Tyrie Cleveland -- to win a game full of chippiness on both sides.
The teams engaged in a pregame shoving match, with LSU running back Leonard Fournette -- initially expected to sit out against the Gators -- twice pushing Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. Fournette suited up, but the star running back didn’t look like himself on a gimpy left ankle.
Fournette ran 12 times for 40 yards, turning over lead-back duties to Guice. The sophomore finished with 112 total yards (83 rushing and 29 receiving) and a touchdown, but also lost a fumble inside the Florida 10 and failed to dive over the pile on the game’s final play.
In fact, it was a series of LSU miscues near the Florida goal line that proved to be the Tigers’ undoing. On top of Guice’s lost fumble, the Tigers also botched a field goal try, as holder Josh Growden bobbled a snap and then floated an incomplete pass into the end zone.
Florida’s beaten-up defense stood tough in the red zone throughout, allowing just 10 points on LSU’s five trips inside the Gators' 20.
That, and a second straight 100-yard game by Gators running back Jordan Scarlett, proved to be enough for Florida to pull off the upset. Scarlett followed last week’s 134-yard effort against South Carolina with 22 carries for 108 yards against LSU.
Scarlett ran seven times for 36 yards on Florida’s go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, which Eddy Pineiro capped with the second of his three field goals in the game, this time from 26 yards out.
LSU was not done, however. Tigers quarterback Danny Etling completed a fourth-and-10 pass to D.J. Chark for a 30-yard gain to move LSU deep into Florida territory in the closing minutes. The Tigers advanced all the way to the goal line, but could not push the ball in at the end.
The Gators held again, and they earned another opportunity to play in Atlanta because of it.