BATON ROUGE -- Never before in LSU football history has a comeback of such magnitude been witnessed. What looked to be the lowest moment of the 2008 season turned into the highest, as LSU came from four touchdowns down to defeat upstart Troy, 40-31, on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
A miserable first-half performance by the Tigers on both sides of the ball allowed Troy (6-4) to take a 24-3 halftime lead. The Trojans then scored on their first drive of the second half and led 31-3 until the waning minutes of the third quarter.
LSU (7-3), coming off a heartbreaking defeat to No. 1 Alabama, was beaten in every aspect of the game in the opening 40-plus minutes.
Then, those who were left in Tiger Stadium witnessed the largest comeback in school history -- and a majority of those in attendance on the cool fall evening were at home on their couch when it happened. Though records were only available from the modern era of LSU football (since 1958), the previous record was 21 points most recently against Ole Miss in 1977 (trailed 21-0 in second quarter).
The Tigers scored 37 points in the game's final 16:26 to stun Troy.
LSU's maligned starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, shook off a dismal first half to lead his team to victory.
Without the efforts of the LSU defense – which held Troy without a first down for six-straight drives in the second half – Lee may have been held most accountable for an unexpected loss.
After allowing a 79-yard scoring drive to start the second half, LSU gave up only 46 yards on 30 plays for the duration.
Lee overcame another interception for a touchdown to complete 18-of-26 second-half passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. For the game, he was 20-of-34 passing for 216 yards.
Lee's backup, freshman Jordan Jefferson, saw spot duty and completed 1-of-6 passes in the first half. Jefferson also ran for LSU's first touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 late in the third quarter. He had seven runs for 17 yards.
Running back Charles Scott paved the way on the ground for LSU, running 24 times for 90 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He also eclipsed the 1,000-yard total for the season (1,071).
Troy quarterback Levi Brown threw the ball more than any player in Tiger Stadium history, completing 34-of-72 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. His only interception deep in his own territory allowed the Tigers score a field goal and cut the lead to 31-27.
Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan led Troy with 10 receptions for 63 yards, while Kennard Burton added 74 yards on five catches. Running back DuJuan Harris caught four passes out of the backfield including a touchdown. Harris led the Trojans with 65 yards on 14 carries.
Troy couldn't have asked for a better first half, forcing LSU to punt on the opening drive before scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions. The Trojans added a field goal and an interception for a touchdown to take a 24-3 halftime lead.
The Trojans marched 88 yards on 16 plays -- including 15 passes -- on their opening possession. Troy used mostly five-wide receiver formations to spread the Tigers defense, meeting little resistance along the way. A 10-yard catch by Jernigan on third-and-10 at the LSU 17 setup a 7-yard touchdown reception by Patrick Cherry.
LSU was able come away with its first points on the next drive, a career-long 52-yard field goal by Colt David which was setup by a 16-yard run by Scott into Troy territory.
The Tigers trailed 7-3 with 6:16 left in the first quarter.
Troy's continued its passing attack on its second drive, gashing the LSU defense for double-digit gains and moving to LSU's side of the field. Again, LSU had a chance to stop the Trojans on third-and-10 at the LSU 38, but Troy came up with a 35-yard catch by Austin Silvoy. An LSU substitution infraction moved the ball to the 1, allowing Kennard Burton to take an end-around for a touchdown.
Troy led 14-3 with 4:00 left in the first quarter.
After the teams traded punts on its next three possessions, Troy again began its offensive march from its 42. The Trojans converted three third downs on the drive but were unable to punch it into the Tigers endzone. A 22-yard field goal by Sam Glusman pushed the Troy lead to 17-3 with 10:08 left in the first half.
Lee's seventh interception for a touchdown gave Troy a 24-3 lead, as Terence Moore tipped a pass in the air and came down with it. He ran 22 yards untouched for a touchdown with 6:46 left in the half.
After failing to convert on fourth-and-8 from its 38 late in the half, LSU got a second chance at cutting into the lead when defensive tackle Drake Nevis forced and recovered a fumble in Troy territory.
However, the Tigers moved only nine yards in three plays, and were unable to attempt a 42-yard field goal when the snap was fumbled by punter Brady Dalfrey as time expired.
LSU trailed 24-3 at the half.
Troy's first drive of the second half was no different. An efficient 10-play, 79-yard drive was punctuated with an 8-yard touchdown catch by Harris out of the back field.
Troy led 31-3 with 11:13 left in the third quarter.
That's when things changed for the Tigers. Everything that had gone wrong for LSU went right and vise versa for Troy.
Though LSU's next drive ended on downs, the Tigers showed life on offense for the first time. Troy went three-and-out and punted, giving the Tigers possession at their 34.
Needing to pass to get back into the ballgame, Lee guided the Tigers on a 13-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a fourth-and-3 touchdown run by Jefferson.
With 1:26 left in the third quarter, the comeback was on. LSU trailed 31-10.
Another three-and-out by Troy gave LSU another chance to get its offense on the field. This time, the Tigers wasted no time getting back into the endzone. After a 9-yard completion to Byrd, Lee found Toliver for 33 yards to the Troy 33. Then came the big strike LSU needed, a 33-yard catch by LaFell who got behind the defense.
The lead was reduced to 14, 31-17, only 2:26 later with 14 minutes to play.
After a 38-yard kickoff return, Troy started at LSU's 49 and looked to regain momentum that was clearly lost. However, faced with a fourth-and-1 at the 40, the Trojans elected to go for the first down rather than punt and pin LSU deep.
The gamble failed and the Tigers offense returned for another scoring drive.
Lee again went to the air, finding Toliver for 9 yards and Dickson for 6. Dickson was taken down by his facemask, giving LSU 15 yards to the Troy 30. After consecutive completions of 6 and 15 yards to LaFell, the Tigers used their ground game to pound the final nine yards. Fullback Quinn Johnson scored from the 1 to cut the deficit to a touchdown, 31-24.
Troy continued its wide-open passing offense, giving LSU opportunities slow the game and stop the clock often.
An interception at the Troy 21-yard line by LSU nickel back Chad Jones gave the Tigers a perfect opportunity to tie the game. However, three plays yielded only four yards and the Tigers settled for a 27-yard field goal by David.
LSU still trailed, 31-27, with 7:51 to play.
With its defense rolling, LSU got the ball back quickly but three plays went for no yards. However, good fortune shined on the Tigers when Dalfrey's short punt hit Troy's Jorrick Calvin in the leg and was recovered by LSU safety Danny McCray at the Troy 20.
Four plays later, Scott scored from the 4-yard line to give LSU an improbable lead, 33-31. David's point after touchdown was missed to the right, bringing a moan from the chilled crowd.
LSU's defense stopped Troy without a first down for the sixth-straight drive, as the Trojans ' fourth-and-14 pass attempt fell incomplete with 3:35 to play.
Scott opened the drive with a 30-yard run to the Troy 4-yard line. Three plays later, Johnson scored his second touchdown from a yard out for the final margin.
The announced crowd was 92,103.
LSU returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 22, when Ole Miss comes to Baton Rouge for the Tigers’ final home game.
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
“I blame me for the way we started that game. I felt like we didn’t show confidence in our quarterbacks, and we tried to hamstring them. We played really into our opponent’s strength. We told them we were going to run the football, and they loaded up the line. We ran the football, and we went back and tried to get into the tempo of the play. The quarterback (Jarrett Lee) wasn’t in rhythm, and he couldn’t make plays, so we fall way behind. We go in at halftime, and we tell that defense that you have to come out and play like you finished the first half, and in fact, you’re our chance to win this game, and that you guys play just like that for the remainder of this game while we get it fixed on offense. We talked about the quarterback decision to play in the second half, and Jarrett Lee was the only opportunity that we had to win the game. We turned to him and said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ He responds. He has a great second half. I know that the statistics are 20-of-34 for 220 yards passing, virtually all in the second half. I know it’s the greatest comeback, in terms of point deficit, to take the lead in LSU history.
“I give great credit to fighting hard in this football game. I think Troy came in at just the right timing for us. They are a very talented football team. They had a great game plan. They knew that we were going to handcuff our quarterbacks. They played the run hard and scored and put real pressure on us. It speaks to the character of this football team. It really does. At halftime, they could have said, ‘No, coach. We’re going to play defense, but someone else is going to have to win this one.’ But, they didn’t. They played their tails off. I’m proud of them. That certainly was not the recipe for victory we prescribed, but victory is sweet, and I promise you our football team is enjoying it at this moment.”
On any defensive adjustments at halftime...
“They attacked us with certain routes and leverage on routes had to be addressed, but by and large, the game plan was there. It just needed attention to detail.”
On why he thinks his team got the momentum at the end of the third quarter...
“With our defense, it was three and out, and our defense got turnovers. Our defense showed just great effort and energy. Offensively, our quarterback (Lee) starts hitting some passes. As soon as we start hitting some passes, now suddenly the run is wide open, and we are going up and down the field like we’re used to doing. The great news for the finish of this game is that our opponent threw the football. If our opponent doesn’t throw 72 passes and doesn’t stop the clock for us, it would be very hard for us to come back. I look up, and we’re down 31-3. Then, I look up, and it’s 31-24, and we have eight minutes left on the clock. It’s a brand-new game. We have the opportunity to get the ball back, and here we go. That football team has no quit in them. They’re fighters.”
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
WR Terrance Toliver
On what Miles said during halftime...
“Coach Miles told us during halftime that we needed to come back. We needed to make some plays on offense and defense, so that’s what we did.”
On the comeback...
“It’s very hard to believe. We told each other we were going to win this game no matter what it took.”
On the win...
“It was a big win. I can’t explain losing by that much in the first half and coming back. It’s a real big win for us.”
On reaching over a 1,000 yards...
“I feel good, then again I don’t like to talk about myself. I thank and give all the credit to the offensive line. I thank the other 10 guys on the field. They help me out so much. They’re a great group of guys and I’m happy to play with them. I give all the thanks to them.”
QB Jarrett Lee
On being that far behind and coming back...
“That doesn’t happen a lot. I’ve never been part of a come back that big. That shows you a lot about our team tonight. We played hard and fought back. Not one time in our minds did we think we were going to lose this game.”
TROY HEAD COACH LARRY BLAKENEY QUOTES
Opening statement ...
“The game was a tale of basically two halves for us. We had our way in the first half and the first drive of the third quarter and had 31-3. Someone woke (LSU) up. I don’t know whether it was us or the fans leaving at halftime. It shocked me when I came back out from the locker room and about half of the people had left. LSU executed and played well and were coached well and were able to get the job done. It’s a heck of a game. I told the guys at half time, we played a half of football and we won that half 24-3. I knew getting to play the other half was going to be an important thirty minutes. We weren’t able to close the book on it and get the last nail in there. They got some things done and some big plays in the passing game really hurt us more than anything as far as getting some momentum back. I thought they did a good job rotating their quarterbacks and getting some young guys some good looks and No. 12 (Jarrett Lee), he made most of the throws. They are a good football team, one as well-personelled position-by-position as anybody in the country. They are young at quarterback and that is probably the reason that they aren’t at the top of this western division and the SEC.”
TROY DEFENSIVE QUOTES
DB Terence Moore
On interception for a touchdown...
“We were in a zone coverage. I was playing like a cornerback, and when my man went out, I was able to read the general direction that he (Lee) was going to throw the ball, and I got an interception.”
On how the interception motivated the team...
“Honestly, we thought we had it in the bag, but at the same time, it wasn’t over. We still had 30 more minutes to play.”
On the heartbreaking loss...
“With this being my senior year, this has to be the toughest loss. We wanted to win at least one of our three big games. This was the last chance we had.”
TROY OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
RB DeJuan Harris
On if a win would’ve gotten Troy’s program national respect ...
“I think we earned a lot of respect in this game. We’re a really good team, but sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot, but if we would’ve come out with a win we would’ve gained even more respect.”
On the difference in Troy’s offense in the second half ...
“We just didn’t execute like we should. I think we should’ve kept the tempo up in the second half.”
On how the team has to get over an emotional loss ...
“We have to let it go as soon as possible. We have to let it go before next week and focus on the big conference game we have at home.”
On if his team thought they had the game won after their first score in the second half ...
“If we would’ve gotten one more score, I think it would’ve been in the books. We can’t relax based on the situation of the game though. We always have to look at it like its zero-zero and keep trying to score.”