By Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- A rain-thinned crowd at Tigers Stadium had to wait an additional four minutes for the start of Saturday’s game pitting Fresno State against LSU because of lightning and torrential rain.
But, the soaked die hards didn’t have to wait long to see LSU score once the game commenced and the Tigers kept scoring on big plays throughout the contest on their way to a 38-6 final score.
The win improved LSU’s record to 6-2 with an extra week in front of it to rest and prepare before traveling to face seventh-ranked Tennessee in Knoxville Nov. 4. Fresno State sank to a disappointing 1-6 overall and receives a long rest as well before facing its next opponent, taking on 18th-ranked and undefeated Western Athletic Conference rival Boise State on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
The game was punctuated by five LSU touchdowns on plays of 21 yards or more. Highlighting the group was a 77-yard punt return by Craig Davis in the first quarter and a 58-yard catch by Dwayne Bowe early in the fourth quarter that erased any chance for Fresno State to catch up.
Despite entering the game as a pronounced underdog, the Bulldogs held their own statistically in the first half, giving up just 114 total yards to the highly touted and high powered Tiger offense that had throttled its other five opponents this year in Tiger Stadium by a combined score of 236-30.
But the Bulldogs could not hold their own on the scoreboard as LSU held a 17-3 advantage at halftime and more than doubled that spread by the end of the game. The Bulldogs also struggled to find any rhythm offensively against the quick Tiger defense, gaining just 211 total yards.
LSU’s offense eventually heated up by turning to the players that had provided the spark to this point. Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed long touchdown passes to Bowe and Davis in the second half as part of a 15-of-19, 210 yard two touchdown performance. LSU also benefited from hard running from tailback Alley Broussard, who finished the contest with 67 yards and a touchdown on five carries and all-around athlete Trindon Holliday who carried the ball three times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
The Tigers gained 394 yards in all, 184 of them on the ground.
Fresno State quarterback Sean Norton made his first career start and performed admirably completing 13-of-20 for 134 yards while falling prey to four sacks.
LSU scored on their first possession for the sixth time in six home games, this time by reaching deep into the playbook. Holliday lined up at tailback for the first time this season and ran a toss sweep from the Fresno State 38 up the east sideline and into the north endzone. The touchdown run was the fifth play of LSU’s first drive and gave LSU a 7-0 lead with 10:52 to play in the first quarter after the point after.
Fresno State picked up a first down on a 16-yard screen pass on the ensuing possession. But that was the only first down the Bulldogs managed in their first two chances. Four plays after that mild feat, Kyle Zimmerman booted a 50-yard punt to Davis who dodged a couple of tacklers inside the LSU 25 before sprinting past all others clad in red and white on his way to the endzone. The 77-yard return gave LSU a 14-0 advantage with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter.
The LSU offense slowed down late in the first and early in the second quarter giving the Bulldogs chances to cut into the 14-0 Tiger lead. Place kicker Chastin West gave Fresno State its first points by drilling a 35-yard field goal with 6:19 remaining in the first half. The score ended a sharply executed 36-yard drive that consumed 3:42.
But the Bulldog score just lit a spark under the LSU offense, who drove 53 yards in nine plays on the next possession to give Colt David a chance to add three points to the scoreboard. David’s 44-yard field goal into the south endzone with 2:21 remaining in the half reclaimed LSU’s two-touchdown advantage.
The second half started inauspiciously for the Tigers as LSU managed no yards on the first drive of the game and were forced to bring Chris Jackson in to boot a mediocre punt to the Fresno 48.
The Bulldogs moved the ball inside the LSU 10-yard line in three plays before the LSU defense stiffened and forced a field goal try thanks largely to a five-yard tackle for a loss by cornerback Chevis Jackson on a third-and-goal at the 7-yard line. Chastin then cut the Tiger lead to 17-6 with a 29-yard field goal with 8:30 to play in the third quarter.
But, again, the Fresno score only seemed to inspire the Tiger offense to respond. This time, it was on a 21-yard touchdown run by Broussard, who cut through the Bulldog line untouched before running over a defensive back at the 15-yard line. The bruising touchdown run ended a six-play, 67-yard drive that ate 2:39 and gave LSU a 24-6 lead with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Fresno claimed possession at its 11-yard line on the ensuing drive and moved into LSU territory in six plays. But, LSU sacked Norton on three-straight plays starting at the Tiger 44 and the Bulldogs were forced to punt giving LSU another offensive chance starting at its 27 to start the fourth quarter.
Facing a third-and-15 at his 42 on the next drive, Russell found Bowe on a deep slant pass 20 yards down the field and Bowe dodged tacklers on his way to the south endzone. The 58-yard touchdown grab was the 21st of Bowe’s illustrious career, tying him with current Tampa Bay Buccaneer and former Tiger standout Michael Clayton for first place in career touchdown receptions at LSU. It also gave his team a 31-6 advantage with 13:13 remaining in the contest.
Another deep touchdown pass on LSU’s next possession put the game farther out of reach as Russell calmly retreated into the pocket at his 30-yard line, set his feet and delivered a bullet to Davis in stride in the endzone with 9:28 remaining in the contest. David added the point after and LSU held a 38-6 lead as the thin crowd grew ever thinner. The touchdown ended a five play, 77-yard drive.
LSU vs. Fresno State
Oct. 21, 2006 – Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
1. Tonight’s game was delayed four minutes due to weather. The original kickoff time of 8:12 p.m. CDT was moved back to 8:16 p.m. CDT.
2. LSU’s game captains were 3 Craig Davis, 41 Chris Jackson, 80 Dwayne Bowe and 93 Tyson Jackson.
3. LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. Fresno State received the opening kickoff.
a. LSU has won the toss in all eight games this season.
4. Tigers extending their consecutive starts streak today were: FS LaRon Landry (43), CB Chevis Jackson (21), DE Chase Pittman (14).
5. With Trindon Holliday’s 38-yard run on the first possession for the Tigers, LSU has now scored on its first possession in seven of the eight games this season. The loss at Auburn was the only game this season the Tigers did not score on their first possession.
6. With Craig Davis’ punt return in the first quarter, LSU has now returned a punt for a TD in six straight seasons. The last year the Tigers failed to return a punt for a score was 2001.
7. LSU has recorded at least one sack in 14 straight games after a first quarter sack by Ali Highsmith in tonight’s game. The last time LSU’s defense did not record a sack was against North Texas last season.
8. LSU has outscored its opponents 101-7 in the first quarter this season. Florida is the only team to dent the scoreboard in the first quarter against LSU.
9. LSU has outscored its opponents 94-0 in the first quarter of home games this season.
10. LSU has outscored its opponents 160-9 in the first half at home this season, including the 17-3 score tonight.
11. LSU failed to record at least one interception tonight, snapping a streak of eight straight games of at least one pick. The last time the Tigers failed to intercept a pass was against Georgia in the 2005 SEC Championship game.
12. The Tigers have outscored their opponents in home games this season by a margin of 274-36.
13. LSU upped its non-conference home winning streak to 18 straight games, and the Tigers have won 16 of their last 17 non-conference games overall.
14. Defensively, the Tigers have allowed only two touchdowns in 24 quarters in Tiger Stadium this season.
15. Trindon Holliday scored the first touchdown of his career on a 38-yard run with 10:52 left in the first quarter.
16. With four PATs tonight, PK Colt David has extended his consecutive successful PAT streak to 66 straight. The streak puts him into third place in school history.
a. David kicked a 44-yard FG with 2:21 left in the second quarter. The FG is his eighth of his career and fourth of the season. He improved to 3-5 in kicks from 40 or more yards with the successful 44-yarder tonight.
17. WR/PR Craig Davis returned a Fresno State punt 77 yards for a touchdown with 8:17 left in the first quarter. The return for a score was LSU’s first since Skyler Green returned an Auburn punt 66 yard on Oct. 22, 2005. Davis’ return is the longest punt return by an LSU player since Green returned a kick 80 yards against Florida on Oct. 11, 2003.
a. Davis pulled in a 30-yard pass for a touchdown from JaMarcus Russell with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter. The score was Davis’ fifth of his career and second of the season.
18. WR Dwayne Bowe pulled in a 16-yard reception in the first quarter to extend his consecutive games with a reception streak to 20 straight games.
a. Bowe’s 58-yard touchdown reception with 13:13 left in the fourth quarter tied the senior for LSU’s career receiving touchdown record with 21. He tied Michael Clayton. The TD reception was Bowe’s seventh of the season.
b. Bowe became the sixth player in LSU history to collect at least 2,000 career receiving yards with his 58-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 106 yards, which is 2,033 in his career. He sits sixth on LSU’s career receiving yards list.
c. Bowe recorded the fourth 100-yard receiving game of his career and the second of the season with 106 yards on four catches.
19. With a tackle in the first quarter, FS LaRon Landry extended his tackles in consecutive games streak. The senior has now made a tackle in 47 straight games.
20. WR Craig Davis pulled in a 8-yard reception in the third quarter to extend his consecutive games with a reception streak to 31 (every game in which he has played).
21. RB Alley Broussard scored the 18th rushing touchdown of his career and the fourth of the season on a 21-yard run with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
22. QB JaMarcus Russell tossed the 38th and 39th touchdown passes of his career and 14th and 15th of the season with a 58-yard hook-up with Dwayne Bowe and a 30-yard strike to Craig Davis in the fourth quarter.
23. S Craig Steltz, making the fourth start of his career, recorded a career-high 11 tackles in tonight’s game.
24. LB Darry Beckwith tallied a career-high 11 tackles, eclipsing his previous best of nine.
LES MILES QUOTES
Opening Statement ...
"I do everything I can to get here as quickly as possible. I know the writers are on deadline. I want to give some credit to our field crew. Our field is really in good shape. As much rain as came down, the footing was crisp, you could run and catch ...I can't tell you how well that field held up.
"The defensive played well, offense played well to a point. (Fresno) made a change at quarterback, and I thought he was really efficient. He gave them some mobility. They are much better than their record indicates. I liked the way we played. It was the kind of game we have to have when we go forward from here.
"Dwayne Bowe ... what a wonderful night for him. He made some nice plays late in the game. The defense has gone nine quarters without a touchdown...They are playing extremely well. It was nice to see Buster Davis play well. (Fresno) was probably better than teams we've played here and beaten significantly. I feel like going into the open week was just what we need. I liked Alley Broussard. I like Jacob Hester and the things that he gives us. Not a bad outing."
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
WR Dwayne Bowe
On the offensive’s improvement in the second half...
“We came in the second half more focused. The offensive line did a great job giving us time to make plays and we executed well. We try to do that every game. We always stay focused and try to finish strong.”
On his touchdown reception that tied for most in school history...
“It feels great but I am always setting bigger goals. That one (touchdown record) is over now and now I am going for the bigger goals. I was able to make a great route and some nice moves. You can expect to see some more of that in the future.”
WR TRINDON HOLLIDAY
On his touchdown run...
“It felt like I was back in high school playing tailback. I had to make some nice moves to be able to get outside and get in the end zone.”
On if the upcoming bye week comes at a good time...
“I think it comes at a good time because our next game is against Tennessee. That is a really important game because it is an SEC game. We just have to play hard and make sure we overcome and obstacles we face.”
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
On the weather...
“You just have to do what you have to do, it was raining on them too. We were inside a couple days this week, but we were still practicing. We came out here and played.”
On the defense...
“That’s just the way coach Pelini coached us at practice. Practice hard and fly around to the ball, and it shows on the field.”
On next week’s the off week...
“We have been playing a lot of games in a row the past couple of weeks and it feels good to be able to rest our legs.”
On the upcoming Tennessee game...
“It’s a huge game for us. We need a victory to continue to keep our goals that we want for the future.”
On the weather...
“It’s always hard when there is a delay of the game you have to focus on keeping your mind focused. It’s hard to sit around in the locker room and just wait, but coach did a great job of keeping us focused.”
On Fresno State...
“The offense played great and special teams played great. We had a chance to return a punt, Buster did a great job. The defense also played great. We knew we couldn’t take Fresno State lightly. I think 4 of the 5 loses were only by a touchdown or so. We just had to come out in the wet and play our game.”
On next week’s the off week...
“I think it comes at a great time, a little past the midpoint of the season. It gives our guys a chance to recover and it always gives us a chance to refine a few things.”
LSU VS. FRESNO STATE
OCTOBER 21, 2006
FRESNO STATE HEAD COACH PAT HILL QUOTES
Opening Statement ...
“First of all I’ve watched a lot of film on these guys. I think they’re a heck of a football team. I really respect their defense, and it’s just a shame that a team with a 6-2 record like that in the way football is right now is considered not being in it. That’s a shame because that team can play with anybody in the country, and I watched their game against Florida. I watched their game against Auburn, but that’s how were judged. We’re judged by winning and losing, but I think they have a very talented football team, the best vertical passing game we’ve played against since we’ve been here. We gave up that punt return right off the bat, really sort of broke our back as far as just getting some momentum. It didn’t break our back in the game. That number 9 (Early Doucet), and number 3 (Craig Davis) and number 80 (Dwayne Bowe), I don’t really remember names that well, but I sure know numbers. They’ve got a lot of skilled athletes. Talking about our team now, our defense after the first series went about five series in a row where we just 3-and-outed them. We were playing good defense, and the one that broke our back was that bunch sweep. We worked a lot on it, but that bunch sweep really hurt us. They got the edge so quick on us. Their linemen did a good job of getting us on that bunch sweep package. The third-and-fifteen to number 80 (Bowe), just watching him in the open field was a sight to be seen. And then on the fourth-and-two, the big play down the field was a good one, but even if they don’t make that play we’re lined up a half a yard offside and we would have had a defensive offside. I told our defense after the game that they played very hard, but we gave up some big plays tonight. When you play football games, I still think football is a game of big plays, and they made some tonight on us. I was happy with the performance of our defense for most of the game except for the ability to stop the big play. I thought we got good pressure on number 2 (JaMarcus Russell). I think our kids battled really hard on the pass rush because we were playing with a seven man box most of the night to try to take away the vertical passing game. Then on offense, that’s tough sledding in there against that defense. Late in the game when we started moving the ball they brought in 72 (Glenn Dorsey), and 93 (Tyson Jackson) and all those guys back into the game and our freshman running back was still pounding it up in there pretty good, so I was happy that our offense kept playing. I think the series that really hurt us was the start of the second half at 17-3 we had a nice drive, and we took it down and we had an illegal procedure call on a bootleg where we overthrew a guy open in the flat, but that’s football. You have to make those plays. We had the big catch with Paul Williams on the deep ball. I was talking to Marlon (Moore), our freshman receiver, early in the game. We had a down the sideline streak open, and we were a little bit off on it. But you’ve got to make those. They made some great hits. Number 16 (Craig Steltz), the safety, made some great hits on the sail route at the 45 late in the game on a fourth-and-two, and also the one to Paul Williams. Williams did a really good job; we thought we had a big play with Paul and 16 (Steltz) came out of nowhere and just made a great play from inside the hash. He has great range. I told our kids after the game that we can build on that. This is not the type of season we envisioned with this team, but I think we’re going to grow from this. We wanted to come out and really win this football game. We felt we could come in if we made some plays, compete and win. I knew we had to play physical tonight. I didn’t doubt the way we played physically. I thought we physically held our own in there. I think some athletic ability showed. I think LSU’s got great athletes.
FRESNO STATE OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
QB Sean Norton
On the game...
“There are a lot of things we can take out of this game. They have a heck of a defense, but offensively we have to execute better. We need to make better plays, make better throws obviously.”
On the crowd in Tiger Stadium...
“It was exciting. They have a good energy in the stadium and it was fun.”
On the punt return for a touchdown by LSU WR Craig Davis...
“Even with that said, we still had plenty of chances to win the game in the second half. We come out and our first shot at the second half, we didn’t punch it in, we got a penalty called against the offense that pushed us back five yards. Even then we were in a position to win the game, so there were a lot of things we could have done.”
On LSU’s defense...
“They did everything we thought they were going to do. They executed a lot better. They are a heck of a football team, that’s all I can say.”
FRESNO STATE DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
Dwayne Andrews LB
On what took place early on against LSU...
"We had to stop the run; we knew that it was a big key coming in to this game. We really focused on stopping the run, but they got some big plays off of us."
On the adjustment made to put the fire back in the team...
"We always had fire, we never lost the fire. We were never down and we were never out. We have to keep getting better each week and keep working hard at practice and go out there and prove it on the game field."
On learning from a loss...
"Yes, we played a good defense out there. We made some plays. We never worry about offense on my side of the ball, we know that offense is all going to get it going. We need to keep playing defense because we can win games by playing good defense."