Florida LSU Football

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) warms up before Saturday's game against Florida in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 12, 2019.

The LSU defense produced the stop the Tigers needed against Florida: an interception by true freshman Derek Stingley in LSU's end zone to preserve a touchdown lead in a top 10 showdown between undefeated teams with less than eight minutes to play.

The sellout crowd shook the Tiger Stadium press box like a roller coaster, their powerful noise threatening to bring the full moon down from the night sky.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron later said he turned to his Heisman-candidate quarterback at that moment, telling Joe Burrow: "This is what great quarterbacks are made of. We're going out there to score."

It was a sense of the moment for Orgeron, a 58-year-old who draws on his 35-year career in pursuit of the first national championship in his head coaching career.

Perhaps he thought of Southern Cal in 2004, when he was defensive line coach under Pete Carroll, the undefeated champs who battled teams closely all game until delivering the back-breaking score.

Stalled in a commercial break, leading No. 7 Florida 35-28, Orgeron paced around LSU's offensive huddle and told them that's exactly what they needed to do.

"Told them to look around," Orgeron said. "This is what we're here for. We're built for this. A championship team is going to go out there and score. I challenged them. And they did."

Four plays later, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase broke free down the far sideline, and Burrow hit Chase in stride for the 54-yard touchdown that set the game's final score.

So ended a night in which LSU trailed in the second half for the first time all season.

Florida broke a tie on its first drive of the second half, gashing the defense with four plays of 10 yards or more. Kyle Trask threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson to give the Gators a 28-21 lead.

The game was playing out almost exactly as Orgeron had predicted.

On Thursday evening, he spoke about how LSU was still forming its identity, how the Tigers really had played just one tough game so far (a 45-38 win at then-No. 9 Texas) and still had yet to be fully tested.

"We're going to find out about this team," Orgeron said then. "Maybe Saturday night. We're going to be behind. We're going to have to come back and win from behind, and it's not going to be pretty. We're going to have to find out if we have the true grit that this football team had last year. I do believe they have it."

Orgeron said he saw that grit on the sideline after Trask's touchdown pass to give the Gators the lead. He saw strength coach Tommy Moffitt rallying the players on the sideline: We're going to win the game. Focus on winning. Keep on chopping wood.

"There was no panic," Burrow said. "We felt like we had been executing all night, and we felt like we'd go down and score. That really shows the toughness of our team. We faced adversity and now we power through."

So what is this LSU team's identity?

The Tigers offense constructed by passing game coordinator Joe Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger does appear to be that good, now that it's been battle-tested by a Florida defense that entered the weekend ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense (9.5 points allowed per game).

The Gators defense hadn't allowed more than 21 points to any opponent all season, and the Tigers doubled that total and produced 511 total yards of offense, 218 of that total on the ground.

"You can't make us that one-dimensional team and say all they can do is run the ball, all they can do is pass the ball," said LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. "Now we're displaying everything we need to display."

And the LSU defense, although it gave up its fair share of yards (457) and points, showed that it could make the adjustments and make the crucial stops when it needs to.

Turnovers are still being left on the field: safety Cameron Lewis had a tipped pass fall through his hands; safety Grant Delpit broke twice on passes that were nearly intercepted; linebacker Patrick Queen tipped an interception attempt in the end zone that became a Florida touchdown reception for Lamical Perine; an interception returned for a touchdown by Kristian Fulton on Florida's final drive was called back on a late-hit penalty on Marcel Brooks.

But the defense has returned key starters from injury: defensive ends Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan, plus linebacker Michael Divinity.

"I feel like we're slowly coming together, slowly getting everybody back healthy again," LSU defensive end Breiden Fehoko said. "Now the offense doesn't have to worry about slowing down and giving the defense a rest. Now, we can really be two, three-deep at every position and the offense can do their thing."

The core of LSU's SEC schedule has begun.

The Tigers will travel to Mississippi State on Saturday, host Auburn the following week, then spend an open week before traveling to Alabama.

Burrow said he told the team in the locker room: Don't let good enough get in the way of greatness.

"That just means come back to work on Monday ready to go," Burrow said. "We still have a lot of room to improve. ... We just can't get complacent. We have so much more room to improve. So much more to accomplish, and I really think we can get there."

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Video: Here's what LSU's Ed Orgeron had to say after big win over Florida

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.