Hurricane Matthew, Tim Tebow’s cell phone, fourth down conversions and many more things embody the LSU-Florida rivalry. Saturday night in Tiger Stadium brings the 66th meeting between the two programs and tensions are higher than ever.
“We don’t like them, they don’t like us,” seems to be the motto for the entire LSU football team this week.
“Games like this are the reason you come to LSU,” has been echoed through the week.
“I’ve watched LSU-Florida,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “I remember when Tebow would come in, I remember when we upset them, we went for it on fourth down, I watched every one of those games. And even though we played them over there the last two years it was, it’s a great rivalry, it’s a great teams, it’s great players.”
The Gators will come into Death Valley on Saturday night to 102,321 screaming Tiger fans and an LSU team looking for revenge following a 27-19 loss in Gainesville last season.
“I think this is the biggest one,” said quarterback Joe Burrow on the rivalry.
“Against Florida, a team that we already hate — and they hate us, that’s okay — and it’s going to be a battle,” added punter Zach Von Rosenberg.
“I’m not even going to sugar coat it,” said edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson. “It’s something that comes with the history of the two teams. It’s bad blood colliding”
And while it doesn’t have the history of the Tigers’ rivalries with Auburn or Ole Miss or the betrayal fans feel with Alabama and Nick Saban, the Gators have climbed up the list of hated programs within the last decade. The rivalry may have cooled off in the years following Tim Tebow’s departure from Florida, but it returned in full force following the 2016 Hurricane Matthew debacle.
The game that season, which was originally scheduled to be in Gainesville, was moved to Baton Rouge following a slew of miscommunication between both program and Southeastern Conference leaders. That resulted in both 2017 and 2018’s games being back in the Swamp and a reignited rivalry.
The Gators came out of that game victorious, with Florida’s defense stuffing former LSU running back Derrius Guice on the goal line for a 16-10 victory.
“It just shocks me that someone would question the Gators,” said Flordia coach Jim McElwain after the 2016 Hurricane Matthew debacle and subsequent Gators win. “The way I see it, they got what they deserve. And it should have been worse,”
And there’s definitely no love lost for Florida from Von Rosenberg, who has been involved in his fare share of Twitter beef and such, calling out McElwain after LSU’s 2017 win in the Swamp.
And again earlier this week:
All I know is Death Valley will come alive on Saturday.— Zach Von Rosenberg (@ZVR09) October 8, 2019
-During their huddle
-When they try to audible
If you have a voice after the game you did it wrong. I won’t have mine. And yes I really h... don’t like UF. https://t.co/K8x3sgSBJG
The players are right. LSU doesn’t like Florida and Florida doesn’t like LSU. That dislike ranges from players to fans and everybody in between.
With tensions running high in 2016, a pregame “tussle” — as LSU coach Ed Orgeron put it — broke out at the 50-yard line
Florida players have stories of LSU fans throwing food at them on their way into Tiger Stadium at that same 2016 game. Von Rosenberg and long snapper Blake Ferguson have their own horror stories of the Florida student section, which Von Rosenberg calls “the worst in college football.”
“We got a lot of water bottles thrown at us,” Von Rosenberg said. “Maybe some urine bottles too. Blake got hit. They were calling him names that I can’t say out loud. If you look up in the stands, it’s a big mistake. I kind of wish Joe could play there one more time and give them the pageant wave if we beat them.”
Ferguson said he’s not sure if it was actually urine, but was still content to rile up the Florida crowd on his own.
“They didn’t like me very much there and I’m cool with it,” Ferguson said. “I live for that kind of stuff. I love it.”
Emotions are always running high between these two teams and they likely will on Saturday too. Both Burrow and Chaisson emphasize the importance of keeping your emotions in check going into a high-energy game like this, in order to avoid something like 2016 happening again.
“I don’t want (another pregame fight),” Orgeron said. “That distracts from the football team, that distracts from the task at hand, so we’re going to make sure that our guys understand that.
“For some reason this is a heated battle, emotions are flying high, we want to use those emotions in the right way, I don’t think there’s anything I can say today or this week or anything our players can say today or this week that will make us win the game, besides work hard, keep our mouth shut and be ready to play Saturday night.”
And Saturday will undoubtedly be the biggest crowd in Tiger Stadium this season, perhaps even one of the best atmospheres in recent memory.
“The Cajuns are gonna come out for this one,” Burrow joked.
Death Valley and the Swamp are two of the most hostile environments in college football. Orgeron admits his team was rattled in Gainesville last season, which was a huge part of the Tigers’ struggles. He knows LSU fans will show up and be loud, reminiscent of LSU’s win over Georgia last season.
Death Valley could give LSU the “winning edge,” Orgeron said, but it won’t come down to any emotional speeches or gimmicks. The game won’t be won on Twitter or in pregame scuffles.
“If you need a speech for this game, then you don’t need to be playing,” Chaisson said. “You know what it is, everybody knows what it is. We’re not going to make it bigger, but at the end of the day, we know how this game needs to go.”
Von Rosenberg said the game has progressively gotten more drama-filled during his time at LSU, but all that does it make it more special if you do win.
“I don’t know what caused it to be such a bitter rivalry because I would honestly rather beat Florida than almost every other team in the SEC expect maybe Alabama,” Von Rosenberg said. “The Florida victory is the sweetest one you can have because of the nature of what it’s become.”