BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — From now on, Florida defensive tackle Cece Jefferson will think of LSU’s Tiger Stadium as “Swamp West.”
It’s not simply because the Gators were supposed to host LSU this season before Hurricane Matthew blew ashore in October. There was also the matter of all the chatter suggesting Florida had tried to dodge LSU some six weeks ago — and had used the storm as an excuse.
But when time expired on Saturday, the orange-clad Gators were storming the field in euphoria after a dramatic goal-line stand preserved 16-10 triumph over the heavily favored, 16th-ranked Tigers — and wrapped up Florida’s second straight the Southeastern Conference East Division crown.
“There was a lot of buildup coming into the game,” Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson said. “The East was in our hands. The whole thing with the little hurricane and they were saying we were scared or whatever. Clearly, we ain’t scared. We came into their place and handled business.”
Florida had balked at initial offers to move the game to LSU as Hurricane Matthew approached in early October, or to play at home one or two days after the originally scheduled time. That left the SEC little choice but to postpone the game until both teams could buy out non-league opponents more than a month later. But LSU refused to give up a home game, forcing Florida to travel if it wanted a shot to play for a conference title.
“The way I look at it, they got what they deserved — and it should have been worse,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said about LSU.
There was trash talking during warmups — and ultimately a pre-game scuffle. Florida’s Wilson was in the middle of it.
“One of their guys was in my way and I bumped into him on purpose to set it off,” Wilson said. “It gave us a lot of juice. Because, you know, they were disrespecting us and they disrespected us on the field. So just to send a little message that we’re not just going to take whatever y’all trying to do.”
Wilson found it fitting that the scuffle began among defensive backs from the two teams. Both programs like to boast that they are “DBU,” because of all the NFL prospects they seem to have annually in their respective defensive backfields.
With that in mind, Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor delighted in the fact that Florida’s lone touchdown came on a 98-yard passing play from Austin Appleby to Tyrie Cleveland.
“DBU?” Tabor said incredulously, referring to the longest scoring pass LSU has ever allowed in Tiger Stadium. “Oh, wow!”
Several Gators made reference to their 6-0 record at home this season, even thought they’d played only five true home games in the real Swamp.
It was also a special moment for veteran Gators who had yet to beat LSU. The Tigers had won the previous three meetings.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world man, because we just felt disrespected, you feel me?” Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley said. “Like, you’re going to come at us and say we’re scared, when y’all didn’t want to come to Gainesville? So, you know what I’m saying? We just going to come whoop y’all in y’all’s stadium. Straight, like that.”
Brantley called the raucous celebration that erupted after LSU running back Derrius Guice was stopped inches short of the goal line on the final play “one of the best feelings I ever had as a Gator.”
Someone then asked about another rivalry game notorious for trash talking that is next on the schedule: Florida’s visit to Florida State next Saturday.
“I’ll look at Florida State tomorrow,” Brantley said. “Right now, I’m enjoying this.”
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