Derek Helton knelt down at the 43 yard line. His roommate, best friend and placekicking partner, Josh Jasper, went through his usual pre-kick routine: three steps back and two over to the left. Joey Crappell stood over the football at the 36 yard line, flanked by eight teammates, four on his left and right-hand side.
It’s October 9, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. The LSU Tigers are trailing the Florida Gators 29-26 with 35 seconds left in regulation. Jasper lined up for a 53-yard field goal to tie the game and hopefully force overtime in The Swamp.
Or so Florida thought.
Instead, Crappell snaps the ball to Helton, while Jasper makes a mad dash up field. Helton catches the ball and flips it behind his back into what was supposed to be Jasper’s waiting arms. Instead, the football is short of its mark; but incredibly, inexplicably and fortuitously the ball bounces not diagonally and outside of Jasper’s hands, but upwards and falls in perfectly in place in Jasper’s grasp—almost as though it was exactly drawn up that way.
“The ball was supposed to go backwards about a yard,” Josh Jasper said reminiscing on that night ten years ago. “It went straight down. It happened so fast, I remember seeing it come off (Helton’s) hand and I knew it would come straight. I didn’t want to lunge for it. I knew my best bet was to let it bounce and make the best play I can after that.”
Jasper, with the football in his hand, and a flatfooted Gator special teams unit trying to catch up picked up five yards, the biggest five yards of the night; the fake field goal gave LSU a fresh set of downs and another chance to complete its game winning drive. But just as soon as the Tiger offense hurried back on the field the game stopped.
“The previous play,” referee Steve Shaw announced to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, “is under further review.”
LSU, led by the aptly named “Mad Hatter” Les Miles, had caught the Florida Gators totally by surprise in a crucial moment. With a perfectly called fake field goal, LSU seemed poised to use that momentum to drive down the remaining 31 yards and score a game-winning touchdown. But would the call on the field stand?
Ten years after one of the wildest games of recent LSU lore, Josh Jasper and Derek Helton reflect on The Flip II.
Before looking back on one of the craziest endings of the decade, LSU was involved in...well, another crazy ending just seven days prior.
At home inside the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium, No. 10 LSU lost to an unranked Tennessee Volunteers 14-10. That was until this happened:
With time running out, and LSU scrambling to try and get a play off, the ball was hiked while Tennessee had 13 players on the field. That resulted in one untimed down, which LSU used to score a game winning touchdown on a toss dive to Stevan Ridley.
Josh Jasper: We knew we got away with something. But we know a win is a win and it’s an SEC win. We’ll take it.
Derek Helton: That season was so, so wild. I don’t know if I’d say we got away with one, we were just more hyped to win that game.
Fortune favored the Tigers that Saturday in Baton Rouge, and the ugliness of the win sparked a completely focused week on the practice field in the days leading up to Florida.
Helton: The good thing about that team, we were really good about forgetting the week prior. So when we moved into Florida week it was intense all throughout football ops. We were laser focused.
Jasper: We were incredibly focused. I think it was the most focused that we had ever been. We knew playing that way against Tennessee would get us beat. Leading up to Florida there was no messing around at all. We can’t play like we did, we knew that going into Florida.
Helton: I can tell you from a coaching standpoint, Coach Miles was quite serious about beating Florida in Gainesville. Especially the year before when they had Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez, they had a stacked team. We felt like we should have won that game. If you were to tell anybody that Florida was going to score 13 points, you would have said LSU probably would have won that game.
Florida had given LSU fits in recent years. The Gators had won three of the previous four heading into the 2010 meeting, and the last time the two got together in The Swamp, Florida blew out LSU 51-21.
Jasper: It’s not like normal stadiums where the stands are 10 feet away. They are on top of you. It was horrible when I was warming up, the things I heard I can’t even repeat.
Helton: I remember just how loud it gets. That passion and that rivalry between LSU and Florida, you could feel that energy. There’s a big LSU-Alabama rivalry, but the stadiums just seem to be different playing in the Alabama stadium as opposed to The Swamp. It’s just so loud. And even trying to call plays there, like when we ran the fake, you couldn’t hear a thing. Like I couldn’t really hear myself call out the cadence.
LSU and Florida, as so often is the case, played a back and forth affair that night. Jasper got LSU on the board first with a first quarter field goal. Then there was a combined 31 points scored in the second quarter, capped off by a Jasper 39-yard field goal as the second quarter expired and LSU went into the half up 20-14.
The score remained at 20-14 heading into a wild fourth quarter. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson powered his way into the end zone early in the fourth quarter to put LSU up 26-14, which would surely be the knockout punch. But Florida’s Andre Debose returned Jasper’s ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score—the only kickoff return touchdown scored against Jasper in his LSU career—and Florida was right back in it at 26-21.
The Gators ultimately took the lead with 3:21 to play on a Mike Gillislee touchdown run, and a two-point conversion gave Florida a 29-26 lead. LSU took possession of the ball at its own 38 and 3:10 to work with.
And so LSU began its march down field. Facing a 2nd and 11, Jarrett Lee hit Terrence Tolliver for 18 yards to put LSU in Florida territory. A pass interference gave LSU a fresh set of downs and LSU went conservative: three straight runs, setting up fourth and three with 35 seconds to play. LSU takes a timeout and Jasper puts his head right in the facemask of Helton to let him know the call.
Helton: That was Josh letting me know we were going with Tiger.
LSU had run Tiger before, in 2007 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Matt Flynn was the holder and flipped the ball over his head to Colt David, the ball lands perfectly in David’s hands and David scores a touchdown.
Jasper, then a freshman, was David’s backup in 2007 and he had to convince Les Miles to keep Tiger in the playbook.
Jasper: He (Les Miles) didn’t know if we should keep that in since we had already done it. It’s really kind of unstoppable if they’re rushing hard. I told him that we should definitely keep it. People don’t know it’s coming. That’s the whole reason that we decided to do it.
The o-line that blocked for me said let’s do the fake. We’ve practiced it every single week, and they’re going to try to block it. But we did it in practice and it always worked. We wouldn’t tell the defense we were doing it to see if it worked, and it worked. That’s kind of the mindset of the players. That’s what they were talking about on the sideline.
Helton: We practiced this play every day for two years basically. So what better moment to run that play? Well they all get in the huddle and I assume we’re just kicking a field goal.
So I’m standing back aways and time’s running out. I don’t know how it happened because Josh was in the huddle with Coach Miles and everybody, but I could hear Coach Miles say “kick a field goal.” When we’re running back he was like “we’re running Tiger” and I was like “...what?”
I kid you not, I would say half of us didn’t know we were running Tiger. So when I was yelling it out, people were like “WHAT???” and it was a wild turn of events. You saw me get down, you see me kind of stand back up a little bit to kind of call out Tiger as loud as I could. I was like “holy shit we’re really going to do this.”
And so the ruse was in motion. Crappell hikes the ball to Helton, who in turn tosses it over his shoulder to Jasper. Florida, going all out to try and block a kick that wasn’t coming, was scrambling to catch up to Jasper.
Jasper: I know one thing, that Chase Clement kind of missed his block and that kind of scared me for a second and when I cut up field. There are so many things that happened to go that way. Once (Florida defensive back Janoris Jenkins) thought I got it, he thought I would try to go to the sideline. So when I cut, that kind of saved me as well.
Helton: It felt really good, I thought Josh was going to catch it. He comes off on a hard line typically. But the way that those guys rushed and the way that it happened, I think Josh got bumped outside and I threw it more on a line instead of behind me. It just kind of happened, it felt good, it looked good but it just happened to catch the line. It’s hard to know exactly where he’s gonna be, even if you run it for two years straight.
If you watch it, when that ball bounced those guys stopped and it stopped their movement. If Josh catches that in the air, it might have gone differently. As much as I’d like to say that I meant to do that, to have the ball bounced the way that it did...I did not. I couldn’t get it to bounce square like that again if I tried. I was kind of like “...ahh shit.” I threw it and it felt good and I remember I turn my head and I see it bounce and I think to myself “you’ve gotta be kidding me.”
The LSU offense ran onto the field with a fresh set of downs and all the momentum to work with. But before quarterback Jarrett Lee can get a snap off, play is stopped as the officials reviewed the toss for nearly five full minutes. The question: did Helton toss the ball forward, resulting in an incomplete pass and the ball going back to Florida? Or was it a lateral that Jasper could legally advance for the first down?
Jasper: It felt like an hour. I was sitting there with my fingers crossed. The offense was lined up on the sideline when I realized they were reviewing it. I thought they were making sure I got enough yards. My heart sank. People on the sideline were asking me if it was a forward pass and I told them I don’t know. Derek actually told me he didn’t think it was forward. As soon as he throws it he turns around to look. He was kind of confident but I was kind of panicking.
Helton: There’s a replay of a girl on tv praying and I felt like I was that girl. I was so nervous. I wasn’t that confident, I honestly had no thought besides “if this doesn’t go our way, this is gonna be a shitshow next week of answering that question.”
But the call would go LSU’s way. The play stood, Jasper picked up the necessary yardage and the offense had the chance to win the game.
Jasper: I went straight back to the net because I still might have to kick. But after that play? I was confident we were gonna score.
Which is exactly what would happen, Jarrett Lee would hit Terrence Tolliver over the middle for a 28-yard gain to set LSU up at the Florida three. LSU would spike the ball on first down, and on second down Lee threw a goal line fade to Tolliver, which fell incomplete. LSU would go with the exact same play on third down, only this time Lee and Tolliver connected for the go-ahead touchdown. Final score LSU 33, Florida 29.
The Flip II wouldn’t be the last time Les Miles faked out the Florida Gators. One year later inside Baton Rouge, punter Brad Wing called his own number and ran the ball in for a touchdown—before some meddling officials took the score off the board for taunting; and in 2015, again in Baton Rouge, Miles had Brad Kragthorpe run something similar to Tiger, but instead Kragthorpe threw it in front to kicker Trent Domingue, who broke a 28-28 tie in the fourth quarter and scored the game winning touchdown.
But all those plays don’t happen without Les Miles, Josh Jasper, Derek Helton and Tiger.
Jasper: To have that kind of faith in a kicker, without having him even kick the ball? That just shows what kind of coach Les Miles is.