Defense Sparks No. 13 LSU to 24-17 Win at USC

Curtis Taylor (27) and Darry Beckwith celebrate an INT
Curtis Taylor (27) and Darry Beckwith celebrate an INT (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- LSU came into the season with one of the top-rated defenses in the country, and lost its swagger and reputation in a lopsided loss at Florida. One week later, the Tigers allowed 42 yards in a second-half shutout to shutdown South Carolina and get back to its winning ways, 24-17.

LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) rebounded from the worst loss of the Les Miles era (51-21 at Florida). The Tigers will play host to Georgia on Oct. 25 at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

South Carolina (5-3, 2-3 SEC), which had its four-game winning streak snapped, lost by seven points for the fifth time in 2008. The Gamecocks are on bye next weekend.

The Tigers defense recorded six sacks for minus-49 yards, helping LSU allow only 39 yards rushing on 31 carries. USC was 1-of-9 on third down.

Offensively, once the defense changed the field position with a forced fumble on the opening drive of the second half, the Tigers began to gain momentum and roll up yards against the highly ranked Gamecocks defense.

Starting LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee finished 16-of-26 for 189 yards passing with an interception that led to a South Carolina touchdown just before the half.

Lee was spelled in certain situtions by backup Andrew Hatch, who was 2-for-3 passing for 10 yards including the game-tying 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Dickson with 44 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Hatch also ran for 19 yards on five attempts.

LSU's two-headed running attack of Keiland Williams and Charles Scott provided a powerful punch. Williams had 72 yards on 15 carries, while Scott pounded in touchdown runs of 5 and 2 yards. The second was the game-winner with 4:16 to play in the second half.

Wide receiver Demetrius Byrd led the Tigers with 65 yards on three catches. Brandon LaFell had four receptions for 55 yards, while Dickson had two catches for 24 yards and the TD.

The LSU offense held the ball for 34:32 compared to South Carolina's 25:28.

South Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia was 14-of-26 passing for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The Gamecocks' all-time receptions leader, Kenny McKinley, had a game-high 77 yards on four catches, while tight end Jared Cook added 74 yards on five grabs. Tight end Weslye Saunders had a 26-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 10-10.

LSU outgained South Carolina, 363-254.

Four double-figure gains by the Tigers led to their first score that ended the second drive of the game. A 10-yard scamper by Holliday moved the Tigers into Gamecocks territory with 9:16 to play in the first quarter.

After a 10-yard catch by LaFell, LSU forced a timeout with its no-huddle offense. However, a 7-yard loss on a bunch formation lateral from Hatch to speedy Trindon Holliday stalled the drive. David hit a 48-yard field goal to give the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.

A knock-out hit by LSU safety Harry Coleman on USC tailback Eric Baker jarred the ball loose in LSU territory. Unable to cleanly grab the loose ball, Coleman regained his footing, picked up the ball and returned 17 yards to the Gamecocks 42.

On the ensuing drive, LaFell dropped a perfect third-and-10 pass from Lee at the USC 25 that would have put the Tigers inside the redzone. LSU's punt went into the endzone for a touchback.

Late in the first quarter, preseason All-SEC tight end Jared Cook got involved in the offense for South Carolina, coming across the formation to make a 31-yard catch-and-run to the LSU 47. Garcia then overcame a sack by Jackson by scrambling 17 yards to the 23. A pass interference call against LSU cornerback Chris Hawkins gave USC first-and-goal at the 8, but LSU defensive end Kirston Pittman's sack of Garcia was too much for the Gamecocks to overcome.

Ryan Succup's 21-yard field goal tied the game at 3-3 with 12:56 left in the first half.

A quick three-and-out by the Tigers led to a short punt and excellent field position for USC. This drive ended with a missed field goal by Succup from 39 yards, giving LSU another opportunity to get its offense on the field and throw a different look at the Gamecocks defense.

The Tigers alternated quarterbacks Hatch then Lee to drive into Gamecocks territory on a 19-yard catch by LaFell from Lee. On first-and-10 from the USC 20-yard line, Lee tossed a middle screen to Keiland Williams who used downfield blocks by left tackle Ciron Black and left guard Herman Johnson to advance to the 5. Two plays later, Scott scored from 5 yards out to give LSU a 10-3 lead.

South Carolina was able to answer the score on its next drive, as Garcia used another broken-down pocket to gain 41 yards on a completion to McKinley at the LSU 26. Two plays later, Garcia again came under pressure in the pocket. This time, he stayed in and found tight end Weslye Saunders open coming across the middle for a 26-yard touchdown with 2:38 to play in the half. LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard ran into an official, allowing Saunders to run free and score.

The game was tied at 10-10.

LSU hoped to run its two-minute drill and add a score before the half. But, as he did at Auburn, Lee tossed an interception over the head of intended receiver Terrance Toliver and into the waiting hands of cornerback Carlos Thomas. Thomas had his sights on the endzone but stepped out of bounds at the 8.

On fourth-and-goal at the 1, an official's review confirmed that Davis was able to get the nose of the football over the goalline to give South Carolina a 17-10 halftime advantage.

On the opening drive of the second half, LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith made the game-changing play. With Garcia on the move again, Beckwith got a good shot on the quarterback and forced a fumble that was picked up by fellow linebacker Perry Riley at the LSU 47-yardline.

Though LSU's next drive ended in a punt, the play changed field position and ultimately led to the Tigers' next score after four-straight punts.

Starting at his 47-yard line, Lee connected with Dickson for the first time for a 17-yard gain to the USC 33-yard line.

Faced with third-and-11, Lee then found Toliver over the middle for a 13-yard reception to the 21. After a 9-yard pass to Williams, Scott gained the first down at the 7-yard line with a 5-yard run. Hatch entered in place of Lee and started the play to the right, before changing direction to find a wide-open Dickson in the left side of the endzone. The point after tied the game at 17-17 with 0:44 left in the third quarter.

The LSU defense continued to give the Gamecocks fits in the second half, recording their fifth and sixth sacks of the night by Rahim Alem and Curtis Taylor, respectively.

Lee and Hatch then led the offense 83 yards in 11 plays to post the game-winning touchdown. A 16-yard pass from Lee to LaFell gave the Tigers breathing room at their 33-yard line. Though another 35-yard connection between the pair was nullified by an illegal shift, the Tigers continued to work the running game and eat up the clock.

After three running plays netted 16 yards, Lee went over the top to find Byrd for a 35-yard gain along the left sideline. Williams and Scott then pushed the Tigers to a first-and-goal at the USC 5. Three plays later, Scott scored from 2 yards out to give LSU its final margin.

South Carolina took over with 4:16 to play, needing a touchdown to tie. Again, LSU's defensive came up with a big play. On second-and-15, Garcia's pass across the middle was intercepted by safety Curtis Taylor at the USC 42.

LSU rushed nine-straight times and milked the remaining 3:57, finishing the drive at the South Carolina goal line.

LSU returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 25, when the Tigers play host to Georgia at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

LSU vs. South Carolina
Oct. 18, 2008 Williams-Brice Stadium (Columbia, S.C.)
Postgame Notes
Team Notes

1. LSU’s game captains were 8 Trindon Holliday, 24 Harry Coleman, 6 Colt David and 32 Charles Scott.

2. South Carolina won the toss and deferred to the second half. LSU will receive the opening kickoff.

3. Tigers extending their notable consecutive starts streak tonight were: LT Ciron Black (33), DE Tyson Jackson (33), LG Herman Johnson (30) and C Brett Helms (24). 

4. LSU’s first offensive drive resulted in a punt. In six games this year on opening drives, the Tigers have punted three times, scored touchdowns twice and made a field goal.

5. LSU opponents have punted three times, turned the ball over on downs once, kicked a field goal and scored a touchdown on first offensive drives this season.

6. LSU’s six sacks tonight are a season high and the most in a game since 2007 vs. Tulane and the most in an SEC game since 2003 vs. Florida.  

Individual Notes

7. WR Brandon LaFell has now caught a pass in 21 straight games dating back to the 2007 Sugar Bowl versus Notre Dame.

8. WR Demetrius Byrd has now caught a pass in 16 straight games dating back to last year’s Tulane game on Sept. 29.

9. DE Tyson Jackson recorded two sacks in the first quarter and sits at 4.5 sacks for the season and 18.5 for his career.

a.  Jackson has now moved into the top 10 list of LSU career sacks. Jackson is in sole possession of eighth place surpassing Anthony McFarland (17 from 1995-98), James Gilyard (18 from 1992-95) and Michael Brooks (18 from 1983-86).

b. Jackson’s two sacks in the game tie a career high, matching the two sacks he had last week against Florida and at Alabama in 2007.

10. PK Colt David connected on his seventh made field goal of the season and the 45th of his career on a 48-yarder with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter. The kick was David’s 12th made field of 40 or more yards in his career.

a.  David is now ranks second in LSU career scoring with 316 points scored (1st -- Kevin Faulk (1995-98): 318).

b. David now ranks 10th in SEC career scoring (9th John Becksvoort (1991-94: 317).

11. SS Harry Coleman recorded his first forced fumble of his career with 3:28 in the first quarter. Coleman then picked up the fumble and advanced it 15 yards for his second career fumble recovery. His other fumble recovery came against Ohio State in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.

12. RB Charles Scott tallied his seventh rushing touchdown of the season and the 17th of his career on a 5-yard TD run with 3:58 remaining in the second quarter.

13. CB Chris Hawkins recorded the first forced fumble of his career in the third quarter, and LB Perry Riley recovered the fumble the first of his career.

14. DE Tremaine Johnson made his first sack of the season and third of his career in the third quarter.

15. TE Richard Dickson caught his third touchdown pass of the season and the eighth of his career on a 7-yard throw from Andrew Hatch with 0:44 left in the third quarter.

a.  Dickson is two TDs away from tying the LSU record for career TD receptions by a tight end held by Brad Boyd (1972-74).

16. QB Andrew Hatch fired his second TD pass of the season on a 7-yard throw to Richard Dickson with 0:44 left in the third quarter. It was his first TD pass since the 5:40 mark in the first quarter against Appalachian State in the season-opener.


South Carolina Postgame Notes

The Gamecocks’ 17 points in the second quarter were the most they’ve scored in a single quarter since the fourth quarter of the season opener against NC State.

South Carolina continued its trend of all its SEC games being decided by exactly seven points. Tonight was the third game with a 24-17 score as the Gamecocks topped Kentucky by that score and fell at Vanderbilt by that tally as well.

Kenny McKinley extended his school record for consecutive games with at least one reception to 38, catching an 18-yard pass in the first quarter. With 77 receiving yards tonight, McKinley moved past Zola Davis (1995-98) into second place in school history with 2,422 career receiving yards. He is 75 yards behind school-record holder Sterling Sharpe (1983-87), who amassed 2,497 receiving yards in his career.

Stephen Garcia threw for a career-high 215 yards tonight, attempting a career-high 26 passes and completing 14. His 41-yard pass to Kenny McKinley was the longest of Garcia’s career.

Carlos Thomas picked up his sixth career interception, tying him with Stoney Woodson for most of any current Gamecock.

Emanuel Cook tied his career high with 11 tackles, including eight solo.

With a one-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter, Mike Davis moved into a tie for eighth place in school history with 18 career rushing TDs. He shares the spot, which is four behind Jay Lynn Hodgin (1972-74) in seventh place, with Thomas Dendy (1982-85) and Mike Dingle (1988-90).

Davis also moved up a spot in career rushing yards, adding 23 to his previous total to move past Kent Hagood (1981-85) and into 13th place in school history. With 2,035 rushing yards, Davis is just behind Derek Watson’s 2,078 for 12th place and needs to get to 2,267 to reach Cory Boyd and grab a spot in the program’s top 10.

Adding 1.5 tackles for loss tonight, Eric Norwood needs just one more in his career to tie Andrew Provence’s (1980-82) school record of 35.0.

LSU Coach and Player Quotes

Head Coach Les Miles
"I want to congratulate South Carolina. They played awfully well. Hats off to them. The first half I felt like we were making some mistakes and shooting ourselves in the foot. We were trying to get a nasty taste in our mouth over with from last week. Our second half defense didn’t allow them to score. It was a very satisfying victor, ,and I look forward to getting home and playing several weeks in a row at Tiger stadium.

"The situation and how we played Florida didn’t settle well with us. It will be something we’ll remember for some time. I think this was certainly the way to put it in the rearview mirror. But we will have learned from both of these two games, how to play and what not to do. There were some real big hits in that first half. If you looked at the contact being passed on that field, there was some serious contact.

"The defense had a lot of swagger. They were awfully strong that second half. If we play like that - offense, defense and special teams - we will play anybody in the country. There isn’t any question, this was a big win. It was nice to put this one behind us. This team is a quality group of guys. I enjoy going to work with them. I enjoy my coaches. When you work this hard, you want them to achieve."

Jarrett Lee
"We fixed some things and came out in the second half with our heads up. That last drive we knew we had to watch the clock and be smart. It’s a great win after last week and everything that happened. We knew this week we had to keep our heads up and stay positive. Throughout the whole game, things were working for us. It was just a matter of executing it. During that last drive, we knew we had to go out there and have fun and just execute it."

Trindon Holliday
"This victory here was very important. I think it determines what our season is going to turn out to be. We are very excited for this victory. This one was kind of satisfying. It brings the character out in our team and that we are able to fight back."

Tyson Jackson
"We did what our coaches asked us to do. Run around and have fun out there. Something we haven’t done in a long time. I think it paid off. Regardless, especially on defense, you just have to have fun. We ran around and made some plays."




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