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Sunday, October 12, 2003
LSU stumbles to first loss of the season

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The smattering of Florida fans that filled seats around the Gators' band in Tiger Stadium started the chant as the clock ran down.

"Overrated, overrated," they cried, after Florida' 19-7 victory knocked LSU from the undefeated ranks and the top of the Southeastern Conference Western Division on Saturday.

Never mind that Florida once played LSU expecting to win. This time it was a different matter for both teams.

LSU, ranked No. 6 and riding in with its first 5-0 record in 30 years, made mistakes, committed 13 penalties for 99 yards and failed to cope with a talented bunch of Gators who had their backs to the wall.

The loss dropped the Tigers to No. 10.

Off to its worst start since 1987 and a week after dropping out of the Top 25 for the first time since 1990, Florida handled LSU easily.

The Tiger defense, which expected to pressure Florida freshman quarterback Chris Leak, sacked him six times but twice blew coverages to allow him to complete two touchdown passes.

"That defense was tough, but I just had to keep playing and keep my composure and keep going," Leak said. "You just have to try to keep trying to make positive plays."

While Leak was completing 18-of-30 for 229 yards, LSU quarterback Matt Mauck and his receivers rarely connected in their worst showing of the season.

The LSU offense, No. 1 overall in the SEC going into the game, was inept. On 12 possessions, LSU punted eight times and had two interceptions and a fumble, and failed to pick up a first down on fourth-and-2.

Mauck, who was 10-1 as a starter, completed 19 of 33 passes for 231 yards. He was sacked three times. It was the first time in 10 games Mauck did not throw a touchdown pass.

"We put ourselves behind the 8 ball every time and it's hard to convert first-and-20, second-and-30, and things like that," Mauck said. "Really, it was just penalties. For some reason we just could not execute at all."

LSU's touchdown came when Skyler Green returned the first punt of the game 80 yards. It was the third punt return in Green's career; two of them have gone for touchdowns.

The Tigers' deepest penetration was the Gators 38-yard line until Mauck's 42-yard pass to Devery Henderson, who caught it at the Florida 31 but fumbled the ball back to the Gators inside the 20. That came with 2:20 left in the game, as a fine mist turned into a steady drizzle.

Saban had been concerned about how the Tigers would come back from a bye week, was unhappy with a lack of intensity in practice last week.

"It's too bad that in this life something bad has to happen for people to be willing to learn and actually change what they're thinking and how they're thinking in terms of how they need to go about things," Saban said.