Daniels’ big day helps LSU top Florida for 4th straight year

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jayden Daniels may have run out of touchdown celebrations on Saturday night.

After outrunning Brenton Cox to the end zone for his final one of the night, Daniels stopped and stared into the stands with the football under his left arm and his right hand on his hip.

There was little left for him to do beside revel in the adulation. Beating Florida may have been new for Daniels, a transfer from Arizona State, but it’s something LSU has grown accustomed to experiencing.

Daniels accounted for six touchdowns — three passing and three rushing — and the Tigers beat the Gators 45-35 at The Swamp for their fourth consecutive victory in the series and 10th in the last 13 years.

Daniels finished with 349 yards passing — 115 of them to Kayshon Boutte — and 44 more on the ground. He helped the Tigers (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) rebound from a 27-point loss to Tennessee a week earlier and match their longest winning streak against the Gators since 1977-80.

“We wanted him to be more assertive with the football, pushing it down the field,” first-year LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s seeing it better. This is a new offense and it’s slowing down for him. … He showed his ability to move this offense.”

This game, like so many of the recent matchups in series history, came down to the final minutes. Trailing by a touchdown, Florida (4-3, 1-3) got a rare third-down stop with a little less than two minutes remaining. But freshman Damian Ramos kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:52 to play to essentially seal the victory.

Anthony Richardson tried to rally Florida, but his fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and LSU ran out the clock.

“We’re going to be sick when we watch the tape,” Florida coach Billy Napier said.

Richardson opened the game with a 51-yard touchdown pass and added a highlight-reel, 81-yard scoring run to start the fourth quarter. He played turnover-free football for the first time in six weeks, but the Gators needed him to play defense to make a difference in this one.

LSU scored touchdowns on its first six possessions. The Tigers rolled up 469 yards on those drives, picking apart Florida’s much-maligned defense, especially on third down. They moved the chains eight times in their first nine third-down attempts. The one miscue? Well, Daniels and the Tigers converted on fourth down.

“I liked the rhythm we had, and we were just having fun,” Daniels said.

Florida finally forced a punt with about 13 minutes to play and followed with an 80-yard drive that ended with Trevor Etienne’s 1-yard plunge. Trailing 42-35, the Gators looked like they had a game-changing interception with a little less than six minutes to play. But Jason Marshall’s pick was negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty on teammate Gervon Dexter. Dexter drove Daniels to the ground and landed on top of him after he released the ball.

“Officiating wasn’t the issue tonight,” Napier said. “They let them play, and that’s what I always want them to do.”

THE TAKEAWAY

LSU: That 40-13 drubbing by Tennessee at home last week looks a lot better now, after the Volunteers upset No. 3 Alabama earlier Saturday. The Tigers, though, need to minimize special teams gaffes.

Florida: The Gators have dealt with defensive lapses all season but nothing quite like this. LSU’s six scores came on drives of 75, 73, 75, 83, 75 and 88 yards.

TOM PETTY NIGHT

Florida honored late music icon Tom Petty, a Gainesville native, throughout the game as part of the program’s inaugural “Tom Petty Day at The Swamp.” About a dozen of Petty’s family members were on hand in the north end zone as the Gators played “Won’t Back Down” between the third and fourth quarters, a game-day tradition Florida started days after Petty’s death in 2017.

LSU didn’t seem to respect the moment. The Tigers’ band started playing late in the rendition and drew boos from most of the 90,585 fans in attendance.

UP NEXT

LSU: The Tigers start a three-game stretch against SEC West teams, beginning at home against No. 9 Ole Miss next Saturday.

Florida: The Gators get a bye week before facing top-ranked Georgia in nearby Jacksonville.

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