Three days before LSU upset Florida, offensive coordinator Jake Peetz approached Tyrion Davis-Price after practice. Peetz had to form a plan for the first game without LSU’s best offensive player, and the rushing attack finally looked effective in the last game.
“I’m going to lean on you,” Davis-Price recalled Peetz saying.
“No problem,” Davis-Price said. “Feed me.”
So that’s what LSU did, handing Davis-Price the ball throughout a 49-42 win Saturday afternoon inside Tiger Stadium.
The junior running back broke LSU’s single-game record with 287 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 36 carries. LSU also intercepted four passes, and sophomore quarterback Max Johnson threw a go-ahead touchdown as LSU avoided losing three straight games for what would have been the first time under coach Ed Orgeron.
“They came to fight today, and that’s our motto,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to fight the rest of the season, one day at a time, one game at a time.”
As his players ran about with youthful delight, Ed Orgeron huddled, heads bowed, with Florida coach Dan Mullen near midfield.
The outcome seemed improbable considering the state of the team. The Tigers (4-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) had to play without six defensive starters and star receiver Kayshon Boutte as season-ending injuries depleted the roster. LSU had not scored more than 30 points against another Power 5 team this year. Orgeron sat on an increasingly hot seat after two straight losses. The Tigers entered as double-digit home underdogs.
But midway through the fourth quarter, LSU was tied with the No. 20 team in the country. Peetz called nine straight runs — eight of them for Davis-Price — and soon the Tigers stood at the 1-yard line with three minutes remaining.
“Coach,” Orgeron recalled Peetz asking him, “do you want me to run?”
“No, it’s your call,” Orgeron said. “Call what you want.”
Peetz had dialed up 16 straight runs dating back to the third quarter, using Davis-Price to wear down Florida’s defense. This time, when everyone expected another run, Peetz called a play-action pass.
Johnson faked a handoff to Davis-Price, avoided pressure and threw to junior wide receiver Jaray Jenkins, who was open in the flat. Jenkins scored his third touchdown of the game. It was Johnson’s only attempt in the fourth quarter.
Going into Saturday’s game with Florida, LSU junior wide receiver Jaray Jenkins had just two touchdown catches in 23 career games — both comin…
"The reason why I didn’t throw a ball the whole fourth quarter was because our o-line was dominating," Johnson said. "Shoutout to those guys. Shoutout to Ty. Shoutout to the coaches for calling the run plays."
Florida (4-3, 2-3) had a chance to tie the score, but five plays later, redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson lofted a throw into tight coverage.
Senior linebacker Damone Clark turned around as the ball dropped toward him and intercepted the pass to seal the highest-scoring game in the 68 ever played between these teams. It was the first time both teams scored more than 40 points in the same game.
“We knew that was a play they were going to come to,” Clark said. “I ran stride for stride with him and turned around at the right minute, and the ball fell into my hands.”
Clark celebrated near the student section after he caught the interception — the first of his career — and as the offense returned to drain the clock, Davis-Price stood in the middle of the field motioning for more noise as the crowd chanted “L-S-U.”
Florida used its timeouts, trying to regain possession. But Davis-Price gained another 35 yards on three carries and set the new record. He broke the mark of 285 once held by Derrius Guice, who LSU no longer acknowledges in the record book.
Davis-Price had been criticized by parts of the fanbase throughout the season as LSU’s rushing offense struggled behind a battered offensive line. He had 140 total yards rushing and no touchdowns through five games. The Tigers approached historic lows.
But the rushing attack had shown improvement a week earlier against Kentucky. With an offensive line that was finally healthy, LSU used gap schemes and committed to running the football again, helping Davis-Price eclipse 100 yards for the first time this season.
“We’ve definitely had our struggles,” senior center Liam Shanahan said, “but it felt like we’ve been right there.”
Orgeron showed the offensive linemen clips of them playing well in practice, trying to raise their confidence. He continually told them they had improved more than any other position group. And one schematic tweak came from director of performance innovation Jack Marruci.
Junior running back Tyrion Davis-Price saw the gap open up behind his left guard, senior Ed Ingram — and with the wind to his back, Davis-Pric…
“He works with a lot of data, and he went up to the coaches showing them a few of our formations and telling them what runs would be best for certain people and creating better blocking schemes for the o-line,” Davis-Price said of the former athletic trainer. “As you can see, it worked.”
LSU used similar gap concepts against Florida, relying heavily on counter runs even though its best pulling offensive lineman, right guard Chasen Hines, was injured during pregame warmups. Davis-Price had 94 yards at halftime.
“Those were big holes I ran through,” he said.
Similar to LSU’s upset of Florida last year, the Tigers won with a depleted roster. A string of season-ending injuries had struck the team over the past two weeks, leaving the Tigers without most of their stars. They filled the lineup with players who hadn’t contributed much this year.
Defensive tackle Glen Logan played in his first game since recovering from a broken foot. Cordale Flott shifted from nickel safety to cornerback. Freshman defensive back Sage Ryan made his first career start. Sophomore BJ Ojulari and freshman Maason Smith took on more responsibility at defensive end. Marlon Martinez filled in for Hines.
Despite so much suggesting LSU should lose, Flott tipped an Emory Jones pass to linebacker Micah Baskerville and then safety Jay Ward picked off Richardson on back-to-back possessions in the first half. Johnson threw a touchdown to Jenkins after each turnover.
The Tigers led 21-6 as they controlled the first half, but then Jones launched a 42-yard pass as time expired. LSU had multiple defenders around the ball. None of them deflected the pass. Justin Shorter caught the heave in the corner of the end zone, pulling Florida within eight points.
Sophomore cornerback Dwight McGlothern picked off another pass by Jones on the first possession of the second half and scored. As the Gators returned to the field, Jones stood on the sideline.
Richardson took over, and the redshirt freshman changed the dynamics of Florida’s offense, which suddenly picked up large chunks of yardage and found gaping holes in LSU’s secondary. Florida scored on four straight possessions to tie the game at 42-42 with nine minutes left.
But the Tigers leaned on Davis-Price. The junior cut through holes and churned his legs, carrying defenders on his back. The Gators hadn’t allowed more than 148 yards rushing in a game this season. Davis-Price topped that mark by himself.
Davis-Price scored twice in the second half, and when LSU needed a sustained drive to win the game — something it had struggled to complete so often this season — Peetz gave him the ball again.
At one point on LSU’s final possession, Davis-Price pretended to eat with an invisible utensil as he waited for the next play.
LSU had fed him.