GAINESVILLE, Fla . — Dire Straits was somewhere under the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, tuning up to send LSU out of here as a three-time Southeastern Conference loser.
Follow the pinballing Jeff Driskel football from here, if you can:
The Tigers trailed 24-20 with 3½ minutes left, facing third-and-20 at their 38. Just to make it sporting, LSU committed an illegal substitution penalty to push the ball back to its 33.
Then things got, well, a little nutty.
A little Les Milesy.
First, Anthony Jennings, who hadn’t completed a pass longer than a yardstick all night, threw 41 yards to a wide-open Travin Dural (Note to Florida: Dural is Jennings’ default dude), with 13 yards of Gator personal-foul generosity tacked on the end.
Dural then caught a one-handed fade in the end zone to put LSU up 27-24 with 2:40 left.
Cue Driskel. He launched a 73-yard mortar shell that Demarcus Robinson took to the LSU 2, but the drive was a dud. Tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped a sure-fire touchdown ball from Driskel like it was ticking ominously, forcing the Gators to settle for a field goal. Game tied at 27, 1:49 left.
Back to LSU. The Tigers went nowhere. Punt. Florida started rolling, but then Driskel found his inner Driskel and threw a tipped interception (his third turnover of the game to zero for LSU) that Rickey Jefferson returned to the Florida 36 with 24 seconds left.
No timeouts, a tie game, no problem for The Great Leslie. Lucky Les Miles. The cat in the hat who yanked another victory from defeat’s drooling jaws, leaving both friend and foe staring in jaw-dropping disbelief.
LSU ran the ball. The clock, Les! The clock is running and you have no time outs! It spins down to :03 like some blurry VHS copy of the 2007 Auburn game. But the referee stopped said clock because Gators defenders were so slow to get up that it looked like they were going to camp there for the night.
The ref put the clock back to 10 seconds. Jennings spiked the ball like he was trying to dribble it, but stop it he did with :08 left.
Hero time for Colby Delahoussaye, who started LSU down this perilous road with a missed extra point in the third quarter. He line-drives a career-long 50-yard field goal attempt like a thinned wedge shot but it goes through, clearing the uprights with :03 left.
LSU wins 30-27, giving Miles his 100th win — his 23rd via a fourth-quarter comeback, how telling — and sending a torpedo into Will Muschamp’s teetering tenure as Florida’s coach.
That’s all. Pretty typical fare.
Strip away all the mind-bending drama, and you see a game that was going to be won or lost on LSU’s terms. Miles’ terms, to be precise.
LSU’s offensive approach to this game was, as is often the case, as predictable as a sunset. It’s an approach that drives LSU fans to drink. More.
With the Tigers having crippling issues at quarterback the past two games, and with the Gators offense shedding a trail of engine parts all the way back from last week’s win at Tennessee, LSU decided to do that LSU voodoo that LSU does (or did) so well.
Two tight ends. Power-I formations. Only enough passing to keep the Tigers offense from looking completely like a wishbone team.
For the most part, it actually worked, thanks in large part to the leadoff man.
Leonard Fournette came to LSU anchored by so many overheated expectations that there was nothing he could do to soar high enough. The first half of his freshman campaign was an uncertain, halting apprenticeship.
Saturday, he graduated to a leading role. Making his first start, Fournette ran for a season-high 140 yards on 27 carries, gliding, spinning, bulldozing — and driving Florida defensive back Marcus Maye from first contact at the 4-yard line to 2 yards deep in the end zone, embedding him there like a tent stake at the end of a 12-yard touchdown run.
The guy doing the handing off deserves praise as well.
Jennings looked like he was begging for Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to yank him two weeks ago when he turned the ball over three times in the first quarter against New Mexico State. He looked like he’d lost the job for good ... until Brandon Harris struggled so much in last Saturday’s 41-7 blowout loss at Auburn.
But there was no pressure that night in a game already lost. This was a different story. The Tigers’ season and the arc of Jennings’ future as a LSU quarterback may well have hung in the balance.
Whether Jennings’ growth, his chutzpah will carry LSU to any more victories this season — and again, what of Harris? — is debatable. But maybe it’s something for the Tigers to build on, something more than shifting Panama City sand.
Where does LSU go from here? Can you say? Can you really, honestly say?
It’s never boring, though.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter @RabalaisAdv