Florida Shoe Toss Cost Gators a Game, CFP Playoff Spot and Lots of Ridicule

The Florida Gators put themselves into position to come from behind and beat the hapless LSU Tigers on Saturday night, and then head to the SEC Championship with a possible College Football Playoff spot on the line.

They weren't a shoe-in, but they could've gotten their foot in the door with an SEC title game win over Alabama. That's before a play near the end of the game kept LSU's drive alive, and the Tigers booted a 57-yard field goal that would eventually be the 37-34 game winner.

The play will be called the infamous "shoe toss" or "shoe throw" in this wacky SEC game of "natural" cross-division rivals.

Florida Gators Coach Dan Mullen
Head coach Dan Mullen of the Florida Gators coaches against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 21, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. Mullen said the shoe-throwing incident against LSU, by itself, did not cost the Gators their 37-34 loss on December 12, 2020. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

First, here's the setup. The game in Gainesville, Florida was tied at 34-34, and the Gators had just stopped LSU on a third down late in the contest. Florida's Marco Wilson helped teammate Kole Taylor tackle the LSU ball carrier, and an LSU punt was certainly coming next. However, during the tackle, Wilson wound up with an LSU cleat in his grasp—the cleat had come off the Tiger player's foot.

Then, out of the blue, Wilson flung the cleat downfield. The Gators were called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing the cleat 20 yards downfield, and LSU got a fresh set of downs. LSU moved the ball downfield, and sophomore Cade York booted a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining.

Here's the video of how everything went down at the end of the game Saturday night.

After the game, Florida coach Dan Mullen said that he never saw the action that resulted in the taunting penalty. On Sunday, during a teleconference call to preview this week's upcoming SEC Championship game in Atlanta with No. 1 Alabama, the gators coach said he spoke with Wilson late Saturday night, and that Wilson "was disappointed."

"It's a shame. It's pretty unfortunate in that situation. I don't think there was any intent to taunt, and it wasn't like he was throwing it at their sideline or doing any of that," Mullen said. "It was a huge play, he thought possibly a game-winning play, and he kind of threw the shoe and went to celebrate with his teammates, and unfortunately, it was a penalty. So, I think that (was) a mistake instead of somebody really trying to disrespect the game or taunt the opponent."

Mullen said that he didn't feel that one penalty cost Florida the game, and that Wilson probably felt the same way.

"I know for (Marco), he'll look at things and realize that's certainly not the reason that we lost the game," Mullen said. "There's many, many factors that went into that. That's just an unfortunate one in that situation because it was a key moment in the game."

Florida did get the ball back, and quarterback Kyle Trask put the Gators into position for a last-ditch effort to tie the game. However, a 51-yard field goal attempt missed slightly wide to the left, sending Florida to its second loss on the season. Their other loss came on a last-second field goal against Texas A&M, which is No. 5 in the country.

LSU, last year's national champion, needed a win Saturday to avoid a losing record. The Tigers (4-5) still need a win at home against Ole Miss this Saturday to avoid a losing record.

The SEC schedule has built-in "natural rivals" in the divisional crossover games. That means there is one team from the other division that teams will play every season. For East division Florida, their crossover West division rival is LSU.