The LSU Tigers and Florida Gators had October 6th circled on the calendar entering the 2007 season. The midseason SEC matchup not only featured two historic programs with a storied past, it had national championship implications.
LSU came into the game as the No. 1 team in the college football while Florida was fresh off a heartbreaking loss to Auburn. Even with a loss on their resume, the Gators, led by Heisman winning quarterback Tim Tebow, would still be firmly in the hunt with a win in Death Valley.
They were nearly there, too.
Florida held the lead the entire game until LSU kicked it into gear in the fourth quarter. Down 24-14, defensive end Kirston Pittman picked off Tebow to set Matt Flynn and the Tigers offense up at Florida's 27-yard line. Flynn led a five-play drive that was capped with a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demetrius Byrd to bring the Tigers within three.
After the defense forced another punt, Flynn and the offense took over at their own 40 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. However, it wasn't Flynn who was the focal point of the drive. It was running back Jacob Hester, who made the game-defining play.
Jacob Hester's 4th-Down Conversion Was the Make or Break Play of LSU's Comeback
The final possession was all Hester. Throughout the 15-play drive, in which LSU was trying to milk as much clock as possible, Hester had eight carries. Eight! The most important one was on a fourth-and 1 at Florida's seven-yard line. Backup quarterback Ryan Perilloux, who head coach Les Miles brought in intermittently for short-yardage situations, handed the ball to Hester on the left side. The running back bulldozed his way through a Gator defender and narrowly crossed the sticks for the first down.
Four plays later, Hester punched in a two-yard touchdown to give the Tigers their first and only lead of the night. On the ensuing possession, Tebow threw an unsuccessful Hail Mary as time expired.
LSU 28, Florida 24.
It's only right Hester finished the drive. He carried them there, of course, but he was also the heart and soul of the team. He finished the game with 23 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.
As for Florida, their national title hopes were shot, but LSU would go on to win the whole thing even though they lost to Kentucky and Arkansas. Hester's run took guts that night in Tiger Stadium; the same guts LSU channeled to win the national championship.
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