Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Best Stuff of Season; Gators Deny Tigers on Final Play, Repeat as SEC East Champs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Best Stuff of Season; Gators Deny Tigers on Final Play, Repeat as SEC East Champs

Article excerpt

Byline: Patrick Pinak

BATON ROUGE, LA. | In the end, all the hype, noise and chatter in Florida's dramatic 16-10 victory over LSU came down to one play.

On fourth down with three seconds left and the ball on the one-yard line, the Gators knew what was at stake.

Stopping LSU meant winning the SEC East.

It meant winning a meaningful road game against a ranked opponent.

It also meant finally hushing the Tigers, who called Florida scared for weeks after their original Oct. 8 matchup was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew.

"Savage mode," UF defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson said of the mindset before lining up on the final play. "It's do or die."

LSU running back Derrius Guice took the carry and was met by Jefferson and company at the line. He leaped for the end zone, but was yanked back by UF safety Marcell Harris.

Guice fell short, and Florida's celebration was instantly on.

The No. 21 Gators (8-2, 6-2 SEC) hung on to silence the No. 16 Tigers in Death Valley Saturday, capturing a second consecutive SEC East title for the first time since 2008-09.

After the game ended and the post-game festivities concluded, UF coach Jim McElwain fired away at LSU. He was appalled the Tigers ever called his team scared.

"The way I look at it, they got what they deserved," he said. "And it should have been worse."

While the two teams pushed and shoved each other during pre-game warmups, the real punch that energized Florida's sideline wasn't thrown until the third quarter.

On the two-yard line down 7-3 at the time, the Gators needed a spark on offense.

That's when quarterback Austin Appleby launched a ball down the sideline to a streaking Tyrie Cleveland. The freshman receiver, who grew up in Jacksonville, stretched his arms out over his shoulder and hauled it in.

Cleveland then kicked free from LSU cornerback Donte Jackson and raced into the end zone for a 98-yard touchdown, the second longest passing play in Florida history and the longest in nearly 40 years when Cris Collinsworth caught a 99-yard touchdown against Rice in 1977. …

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