Davis-Price, LSU stun turnover-prone No. 20 Florida, 49-42

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BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price and the Tiger’s offensive line apparently have figured something out.

That could improve LSU’s prospects for the balance of what has been a turbulent season.

Davis-Price rushed for an LSU-record 287 yards and three touchdowns, and the Tigers’ banged-up defense came up with four interceptions in a 49-42 victory over No. 20 Florida on Saturday.

First-year offensive coordinator Jake Peetz “challenged us the last few weeks to go in and create a running game,” Davis-Price said, alluding to earlier struggles that had LSU ranked 127th nationally in rushing entering this weekend. “The offensive line has been busting their tails with extra work and I couldn’t be more proud of them. I love doing work for them.

“There were big holes for me to run through; they deserve all the credit in the world,” he added.

The stirring performance produced thunderous roars from a less-than-capacity Death Valley crowd that came in with low expectations after unranked LSU (4-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) had dropped its previous two games against Auburn and Kentucky, fueling speculation that coach Ed Orgeron‘s hold on his job was tenuous at best.

“I’m not going to blink until the day I die; but our team didn’t blink today,” Orgeron said. “Our backs are against the wall, but we took a big step.”

After Damone Clark’s interception of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, Davis-Price literally and fittingly ran out the final 1:59 on Florida (4-3, 2-3). He ran for two more first downs and broke the previous LSU single-game rushing record of 285 yards by Derrius Guice.

Max Johnson passed for 133 yards and three touchdowns – all to Jaray Jenkins. The last one came on fourth and goal with 3:30 left.

The highlight-filled game, replete with big plays, wild momentum swings and even a successful Hail Mary pass by Florida at the end of the first half, was the latest chapter in a rivalry that has produced high drama and unpredictable outcomes.

“The one stat to me stands out a lot is we’re minus-4 turnover ratio,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “We didn’t stop the run and make the stops we needed to in the second half when we started to gain momentum. Every time we’d get that kind of fix to get ourselves out of the hole we kind of couldn’t get the stop to get over the hump.”

Emory Jones threw two interceptions, including one returned by Dwight McGlothern 37 yards for a touchdown on the Gators’ first series of the second half. Earlier, Jones’ deflected pass was intercepted by linebacker Micah Baskerville and returned 54 yards to the Florida 28, setting up Johnson’s first scoring pass to Jenkins.

Richardson was intercepted by Ward on the first play of Florida’s next series, leading to Johnson’s 5-yard TD pass to Jenkins to make it 21-6.

“I told the defense we have to play together,” Clark said. “It’s now or never.”

Florida appeared to be regaining momentum on the final play of the first half, when Jones heaved a Hail Mary pass from 42 yards out that was caught by Justin Shorter between three Tigers defensive backs to cut LSU’s lead to 21-13.

But McGlothern provided a measure of redemption with his pick-six on the opening series of the third quarter. That was the first of four TDs scored in a span of 6:13, including Richardson’s 5-yard run, followed by his run for a 2-point conversion, Davis-Price’s 40-yard run and Richardson’s 5-yard pass to Shorter.

Florida tied it at 35 on Richardson’s 11-yard pass to Dameon Pierce with 3:45 left in the third.

After Davis-Price’s 25-yard scoring run and Richardson’s 33-yard scoring pass to Jacob Copeland, it was tied at 42.

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida: The Gators came in favored by 11 1/2 points by FanDual SportsBook. But their turnovers and surprising inability to defend LSU’s running game not only led to their third loss, but also likely knocks them out of the AP Top 25. Meanwhile, Richardson outplayed Jones, leading to questions about who might start at QB going forward.

“We’re going to look at that, obviously,” Mullen said. “You saw some good things from both quarterbacks today, saw some mistakes from both.”

LSU: After rushing for a season-best 147 yards in a loss at Kentucky on Oct. 9, LSU still was averaging just 83.3 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers rushed for 321 yards against a Florida defense that came in allowing 108.5 yards rushing per game. LSU’s defense also had its interceptions without their top two cornerbacks (Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks), along with sacks by B.J. Ojulari and Maason Smith.

UP NEXT

Florida gets next weekend off before meeting Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 30.

LSU visits No. 13 Mississippi on Oct. 23.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.