OFFENSIVE FRUSTRATION: Dawgs Humble Tigers, 52-38
Tigers get 50 hung on them for the second time this season.
by Matt Reynolds
Tiger Rag Assistant Editor
(At left, Jarrett Lee (Photo by J. Sam Frake)
If you like offense, on Saturday you were delighted.
LSU and Georgia combined for the highest SEC point total in a regulation game in Tiger Stadium history combining for 90 points in all. Unfortunately, the visiting Bulldogs split that total and then some.
Georgia came out on top in an offensive avalanche of points, and got some defensive digits as well as the No. 9 Bulldogs outgunned 11th-ranked LSU 52-38 in front of the second largest crowd (92,910) in Tiger Stadium history.
“It’s very disappointing; we never like to lose in our own house,” said LSU running back Charles Scott. “It’s a real deep gut feeling. We have to turn around and look at ourselves and figure out who we really are. It’s about pride and it really hurt our pride with them coming in our house and beating us like that. ”
In a game that had 940 total yards of offense, the Bulldogs backfield duo of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno guided the way for Georgia, as both players put forth stellar performances in the offensive barrage.
Moreno ran for 172 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries on the afternoon.
Stafford completed 17-of-26 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and also pitched in a 7-yard score in the fourth while improving to 24-5 as a starter.
“(Knowshon) Moreno hit some holes out there tonight that no one else could have hit,” LSU coach Les Miles said after the Tiger loss. “Stafford made some great throws to those big athletic receivers too.”
With the loss, LSU is out of the race for a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game. Also, with Alabama (8-0, 5-0) winning at Tennessee 29-9 on Saturday, the Tigers are most likely out of the race for the SEC Western Division title. Three SEC games remain for the Tigers, including contests versus Alabama and Ole Miss at home and on the road at Arkansas on the day after Thanksgiving.
“Of course we are (disappointed),” Scott said. “We have some games left in the season. The season is not over for us. We are going to put it behind us, it will be hard but we are a good team and we will learn from our mistakes.”
Much like the game at Florida, the Tigers (5-2, 3-2 SEC) fell behind early against Georgia. A costly Jarrett Lee interception, which was returned for a touchdown by Georgia’s Darryl Gamble on the first play from scrimmage put LSU behind the eight-ball.
After responding with a touchdown of their own – a 10-yard pass from Lee to Brandon LaFell to tie the game 7-7, the Tigers slipped behind 21-7 early in the second quarter.
But LSU wasn’t going away quietly.
The Tigers rallied for 10 straight points closing the gap to 21-17 on a career-long 51-yard field goal by Colt David and a two-yard, Scott touchdown run. Scott led all Tiger rushers with 144 yards on 21 carries.
But another Lee interception just before the half led to a 50-yard Blair Walsh field goal and a 24-17 midway advantage.
The Bulldogs took advantage of big plays early in the third period opening up a 38-17 lead on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to A.J. Green and a 68-yard Moreno run.
In the end the deficit proved too much for LSU to overcome.
“I like the fight in this team,” Miles said. “When I watch the film, I’ll see some good efforts out there. But we have to have overall consistently better play.”
Stafford, who had his struggles early on in his career, played his best game of the season in handling LSU’s pass rush and finding open receivers with pinpoint accuracy.
Georgia coach Mark Richt liked Stafford’s play and that of his offense as a whole.
“His first pass of the day, he had an open receiver and missed him and was a little down about it, but he got right back in the saddle and started throwing strikes,” Richt said. “I think our line did a fantastic job of allowing only one sack throughout the game as many times as we threw it, which is fantastic considering who they were trying to block. Matt is really mature. He is staying in there when everything is flying around him and focusing downfield and throwing strikes.”
While Stafford seemed to shine under the spotlight, LSU’s Lee continued to produce costly turnovers.
Lee threw three interceptions on the day raising his season total to six in all. The redshirt freshman did toss a trio of touchdown passes, but his ever-growing total of four interceptions returned for touchdowns this season is growing by the game. On the day, Lee was 14-of-28 for 287 yards.
“It’s just part of football,” Lee said. “You win some and lose some. Unfortunately, we lost today and we need to put it behind us. We need to stay positive but keep this in the back of our minds. We need to get back to work and prepare for the next games.”
After the Tigers spotted Georgia seven by way of Gamble’s pick-six on the first play of the game, Scott carried four times for 41 yards on the very next LSU possession, setting up the tying touchdown on a middle screen from Lee to LaFell on third-and-goal from the 10.
Georgia’s offense needed only one series to make its marks. Stafford converted two third-down passes and Moreno cleaned up a third, third-down conversion helping complete a 78-yard drive that ended with Georgia fullback Fred Muzenmaier’s 1-yard plunge for a 14-7 advantage.
Moreno ran for 47 yards on the first play of Georgia’s following drive, setting up a touchdown on a five-yard fade to Kenneth Harris that Stafford made look easy for a 21-7 lead.
The Tigers answered back with Colt David’s 51-yard field goal, which gave David an LSU-record 320 career points, passing former Tiger running back Kevin Faulk’s 318. Fittingly enough, the field goal was the longest of David’s career, trumping his previous career-high of 49 yards.
After stopping Georgia for the first time, Scott’s rumbled off a 48-yard scamper that brought LSU down to the 2-yard-line. Scott would punch it in on the next play to cut Georgia’s lead to 21-17.
The teams traded punts to start the half. Stafford and the Bulldogs second drive started at their 28-yard line. A false start put Georgia behind in down-and-distance, but Stafford recovered with throws of 10 and 6 yards for a first down.
On third-and-10 from midfield, the Tigers came with a blitz, but Stafford released its pass just in time and found Green behind the Tigers’ man coverage for a 49-yard catch and run.
Georgia pushed its lead back to two touchdowns, 31-17, with 8:21 to play.
After a fake punt by Josh Jasper kept, Hatch and the Tigers went to the ground game to move into Georgia territory, but an intentional grounding penalty on the LSU quarterback cost 17 yards. David’s 49-yard attempt after a false start was missed to the right and the Tigers came up empty.
On the next play, Moreno couldn’t find a hole in the middle of the line, but bounced to the left and found daylight. He broke two tackles near the line and then dashed 68 yards for a touchdown that put the Tigers down by three touchdowns, 38-17, with 3:55 to play.
“Certainly, there is work to do,” Miles said. “Our quarterbacks and the tackling of Moreno, who in my opinion should have gotten stopped, and some mistakes in the secondary are what cost us.”
Despite a 48-yard pass by Stafford to tight end Aron White, Georgia was stopped without points. Rather than attempting to pin LSU deep with a punt, Georgia tried a 55-yard field goal that was missed short and right.
The Tigers took over at the 38 but went backward and punted.
Once again, Georgia took advantage of the situation, marching 63 yards to another touchdown and putting the game out of reach with 10:49 to play. Stafford ran for a 7-yard touchdown on third-and-6 to put the Bulldogs ahead, 45-24.
Though a long run by Williams was taken away by penalty, the running back came out of the backfield and got behind the Georgia defense for 66 yards to the 6-yard line. On the next play, Williams took another pass from Lee and scored to bring the Tigers within 14, 45-31, with 8:47 to play.
A quick three-and-out by Georgia gave the Tigers a chance to get within a touchdown with 6:24 to play.
Though Georgia was denied a first down and punted, Lee threw his third interception on the next play, again to Gamble, as he returned it 53 yards for his second defensive touchdown of the game.
With 2:22 left in the contest, a 43-yard touchdown pass from Lee to LaFell inched the Tigers closer, but would not change the inevitable Bulldog victory.
LaFell almost recovered the onside kick, but Georgia recovered to cement the victory.
No. 15 LSU will host Tulane next weekend, as the No. 7 Bulldogs will meet up with Florida in the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.