LSU top Dawgs in SECCG
AP Photo - Stephen Morton
AP Photo - Stephen Morton
Dawgpost.com
Posted Dec 7, 2003


ATLANTA -- Georgia proved again Saturday night that it will fight. LSU proved again that it's the best team in the Southeastern Confere

The No. 3 Tigers beat the No. 5 Bulldogs for a second time this season, this time 34-13 in the SEC Championship game in front of 74,913 fans, the most ever to see the game in the Georgia Dome.

The win might be enough to vault the Tigers (12-1) into the national championship game. The final BCS rankings and bowl pairings will be announced today.

The Bulldogs (10-3), who lost 17-10 to LSU on Sept. 20, probably will play a Big Ten opponent in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. There is still a chance the Capital One Bowl will take No. 7 Tennessee, which would drop Georgia to the Peach Bowl on Jan. 2 back in the Georgia Dome.

Georgia kept the game interesting for more than three quarters despite being dominated by the Tigers. In the end, though, the day belonged decisively to LSU, which beat Georgia by its biggest margin under Coach Mark Richt and scored the most points by an opponent in the Richt era. It was just the second time the Bulldogs have been beaten by more than seven points in Richt's three years.

The game featured the nation's top two scoring defenses but still turned into a shootout in the second half when the teams combined to score 24 points in 7 minutes and 52 seconds.

LSU finally gained firm control on back-to-back series in the fourth quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Tiger running back Justin Vincent scored on a 3-yard run to put LSU up 31-13. Georgia moved quickly down the field but, on fourth-and-two from the 6-yard line, Richt called for a halfback pass back to quarterback Greene. LSU sniffed the play out and tackled tailback Michael Cooper for a 4-yard loss.

Vincent, a freshman, had runs of 87 and 62 yards and finished with 18 carries for 201 yards, the most in SEC Championship Game history. He was named the game's MVP. Entering the game, the Bulldogs hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in any game.

Overall, the Tigers had 444 yards, the most this season against Georgia. Georgia had 249 yards, marking the first time it hasn't gained more than 300.

The Bulldogs cut into a 14-point LSU halftime lead when Billy Bennett hit a 49-yard field goal with 7:46 left in the third quarter to pull Georgia within 11 at 17-6. Bennett's successful kick was his 29th of the season, tying the NCAA single-season record.

Linebacker Lionel Turner quickly put an end to that momentum by intercepting a Greene pass and returning it 20 yards for a touchdown that put LSU up 24-6 with 4:17 left in the third.

Georgia didn't wilt, answering on the next possession. Wide receiver Reggie Brown saved the possession with a 35-yard run that started as a reverse and ended up going back the original way when Brown reversed field. The Bulldogs scored on the next play when Greene found senior tight end Ben Watson for a 18-yard touchdown with 3:40 left in the third to get Georgia within 11 at 24-13.

With 9:37 left in the first half, the Bulldogs already faced their largest deficit of the three-year Richt era. Georgia trailed Kentucky 22-7 in 2001, but the Tigers topped that when Ryan Gaudet hit a 35-yard field goal to put LSU up 17-0.

LSU's starting place-kicker Chris Jackson had a field goal and an extra point blocked and missed another extra point in the first 16 minutes and then was pulled in favor of Gaudet.

Other than Jackson's miscues, LSU dominated the first half. Georgia had minus-18 rushing yards in the first 30 minutes, and they needed 18 in their final drive of the half just to manage that total.

By contrast, Vincent needed just one half to become the first player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game against the Bulldogs. He finished the first half with 108.

Vincent got most of his yards on the first play of LSU's third possession when he took a toss sweep to the right and raced 87 yards. Jackson missed the extra point, leaving LSU up 6-0 with 4:49 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers quickly added two points to their lead when Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso dropped a snap at his goal line and was tackled for a safety. That put LSU up 8-0 with 3:11 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers didn't let up, scoring on their next possession when quarterback Matt Mauck found Michael Clayton for a 43-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. A blocked extra point kept Georgia within two touchdowns at 14-0.

The Georgia offense had its hiccups, too. The Bulldogs got the ball first and appeared to have a big play but freshman running back Kregg Lumpkin dropped a pass, forcing Georgia to punt.

Later, after Sean Jones blocked a punt that Tony Taylor returned to LSU's 31-yard line, Greene threw a horrible pass that was picked off LaRon Landry.

The Tigers had 200 first half yards, compared to Georgia's 55.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board when Bennett hit a 51-yard field goal with 6:38 left in the half, leaving Georgia trailing 17-3 at halftime.


Related Stories
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 -by DawgPost.com  Dec 7, 2003
A view from the sidelines: SEC Championship
 -by DawgPost.com  Dec 7, 2003
More photos from the SEC Championship Game
 -by TigerSportsDigest.com  Dec 6, 2003

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