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
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
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
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