By Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- Georgia head coach Mark Richt said after Saturday's game that the team that makes the most big plays at the right time usually wins.
Richt then pondered and said it wasn't his team that made the most.
In a game filled with dropped passes, tipped and batted balls, fumbles, missed field goals and missed opportunities, LSU managed to eclipse Southeastern Conference rival Georgia 17-10 in front of 92,251 now-hoarse fans in Tiger Stadium. LSU improved its record to 4-0, 1-0 in conference play while Georgia fell to 3-1, 1-1 in the SEC.
Both teams struggled to score throughout the game but managed to each score a touchdown with less than 5:00 left making what had been a defensively dominated game worth screaming about.
LSU's big score just happened to be the last as Tiger quarterback Matt Mauck found Skyler Green deep in the north endzone from 34 yards out with 3:03 left in the game.
That touchdown was necessitated by Georgia's huge strike less than a minute and a half earlier. Bulldog quarterback David Greene, while standing in his own endzone, found back-up tailback Tyson Browning just past the line of scrimmage for a 93-yard throw and catch to tie the score at 10-10 with 4:25 to play.
Georgia moved the ball down the field again after LSU's last score, but the fate of the game was sealed when Tiger cornerback Corey Webster tipped a Green pass to himself at the Tiger 32-yard line with less than a minute to play.
"Well you can't really say enough about both teams, the way they competed out there," said Tiger coach Nick Saban. "It was about as physical a football game as I've seen in a long time and I'm proud of the way our players competed in the game."
Both teams moved the ball well in their first offensive possessions but were stopped just out of field goal range.
Georgia's Damien Gary, one of the best kick-returners in the country, set up the opening scoring drive of the game with a 19-yard punt return putting the Bulldogs in Tiger territory. Gary hauled in a 13-yard pass three plays later to set up a 33-yard Billy Bennett field goal with 6:20 left to play in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs appeared primed for another score after intercepting a Mauck pass at the LSU 40-yard line. Georgia drove the ball easily on the ground until Bulldog QB David Greene fumbled at the LSU eight-yard line on the fourth play of the drive after being chased out of the pocket.
Mauck finished the game with 14-29 passes complete for 180 yards a touchdown and an interception. Greene countered with 20-44 passes complete for 314 yards one touchdown and two interceptions.
Tigers couldn't capitalize on the Georgia gaff and punted the ball away after just three plays later setting up another Bulldog drive in LSU territory. The drive ended with Bennett seemingly connecting on his second field goal of the quarter but offsetting penalties nullified the down. The second attempt sailed wide right and the quarter ended with the Bulldogs leading, 3-0.
Georgia stayed in LSU territory for its first drive of the second quarter after the Tigers failed again to move the ball on offense. Again, Bennett was called upon as the drive stalled at the LSU 25, and again he missed wide right leaving the score at 3-0 with 11:25 left in the first half.
The Tigers anemic first-half offense finally received an infusion late in the second quarter as Mauck led his team down the heart of the Georgia defense with the help of Green and tailback Shyrone Carey. Mauck connected with Green for a 31-yard pass down the middle of the field on the fourth play of the drive and Carey capped the drive with a 21-yard touchdown run giving the Tigers their first score. The PAT made it 7-3 Tigers with 3:10 to play in the first half.
Carey finished the contest with 73 yards on the ground on 18 carries and the touchdown. Green ended the game with 78 receiving yards on four catches and his game-winning touchdown.
The Tiger drive awakened the Bulldog offense as well as Green connected on five out of eight passes setting up another Bennett field goal attempt. But Bennett failed for the third time in the first half, this time hitting the left upright from 36 yards out.
LSU stopped the Bulldogs short of the 50-yard line on the first drive of the second half and used the momentum from the end of the first half to go on a 10-play, 51-yard drive culminating in a 47-yard Ryan Gaudet field goal. Gaudet's career-long effort gave the Tigers a 10-7 lead with 6:23 left in the third.
On the ensuing drive the Tiger defense knocked Greene out of the game on a near sack and then knocked the Bulldogs back to their 2-yard line when back-up quarterback D.J. Shockley was called for intentional grounding on third down.
The LSU offense took over at the Georgia 49 but was stopped after three plays. Shockley felt the LSU wrath again as he was sacked by tackle Chad Lavalais on the first play of the next drive for a loss of eight yards forcing the Bulldogs to again punt from their own endzone.
LSU punted the ball back to Georgia with Greene back at quarterback but the Bulldog starting signal caller turned it back to the Tigers when linebacker Lionel Turner picked off a deflected pass at the Bulldog 40. Turner's pick broke Greene's streak of 176 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, tying a Georgia record.
The Tigers failed to convert on their chance to extend the lead however, as a 48-yard field goal attempt by Gaudet was blocked.
Georgia attempted a fake punt at mid-field after its next drive stalled but the Tigers dragged upback Joe Tereshinski off his feet one yard shy of the first down marker. LSU drove the ball down to the Georgia 15-yard line but Mauck took his turn to turn over the ball, fumbling after picking up a first down on a quarterback draw.
The Bulldogs then stunned all on-lookers as Greene connected Browning on the long screen pass for a touchdown. The PAT tied the score at 10.
But the Tigers were not knocked down as Devery Henderson returned the kick-off to midfield giving Mauck the chance to connect with Green six plays later for the winning score.
LSU returns to action next week at Mississippi State. Game time is set for 8 p.m. CDT and will be televised by ESPN2. Georgia takes next week off before hosting Alabama in Athens.
LSU vs. Georgia
Sept. 20, 2003 -- Tiger Stadium
- LSU's game captains are OT Rodney Reed, LB Eric Alexander and DT Chad Lavalais.
- LSU won the toss and elected to receive to open the game.
- OT Rodney Reed (38 straight), DT Chad Lavalais (25 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (23 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (17 straight), WR Michael Clayton (17 straight), DE Marcus Spears (9 straight) and SS Jack Hunt (9 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- By holding Georgia without a touchdown in the first half of this afternoon's game, LSU has not allowed an opponent to score in the first half during a regular season (non bowl) game since Ole Miss scored a touchdown with 1:02 left in the first quarter on Nov. 23, 2002. The streak extends to 11 straight quarters, including all eight first half quarters this season.
- The announced attendance of 92,251 at this afternoon's game is a Tiger Stadium record. The previous record was of 92,141 was Dec, 1, 2001 against Auburn. This is the fourth time in LSU history the attendance at Tiger Stadium has exceeded 92,000 and the 11th time over 91,000.
- WR Michael Clayton's 21-yard reception on the opening drive of the game extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 30 games, every game of his career.
- DE Marcus Spears' forced fumble and fumble recover late in the first quarter are the first of his career in each of those categories.
- RB Shyrone Carey's 21-yard touchdown run with 3:10 left in the second half was his fourth of the season and he now has one rushing touchdown in each game of the season.
- TE Eric Edwards' 3 receptions is a career-high for the senior. His previous career-best was set twice, the last time came against Alabama on Nov. 16, 2002.
- PK Ryan Gaudet's 47-yard FG with 6:23 left in the third quarter tied his career-high, hit earlier this season against Arizona.
- LB Lionel Turner's interception on the first play of the fourth quarter was the second of his career.
- WR Skyler Green's 34-yard touchdown reception gave him 4 receptions in the game, a career high for the sophomore.
- CB Corey Webster's interception late in the fourth quarter was his third of the season and the 10th of his career moving him into a tie for sixth place on the all-time career interceptions list.
GEORGIA POST-GAME NOTES
- The Bulldogs lost for the first time on an opponent's home field in the Mark Richt era. Coming in, Georgia was 9-0 on opponent's home fields. Overall, the loss today broke an eight-game winning streak dating back to the Florida game last year, a 20-13 Gator win in Jacksonville's Alltell Stadium.
- The 93-yard game-tying TD pass from David Greene to Tyson Browning tied the school record for longest TD pass in school history, sharing the mark of a 93-yarder from Grey Talley to Kevin Maxwell versus Vanderbilt in 1989 and Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott versus Florida in the national championship season of 1980.
- Junior QB David Greene (20-for-44, 314 yards, 2 INT, 1 TD) had his first interception of the season coming on a tipped pass in the fourth quarter. It snapped a streak of 176 pass attempts dating back to last season without one which tied the school record also held by Eric Zeier. He threw another one later in the final quarter, also tipped, which marked his first two interception game since the 27-25 win over Alabama last season.
- For the first time this season, Georgia trailed in a game, falling behind 7-3 in the 2nd quarter. On its next drive, Georgia drove to the Tiger 19 before missing a field goal. It marked the first time Georgia has trailed in a game since a 7-3 deficit in the 2nd quarter to Florida State in the 2003 Nokia Sugar Bowl. Today, Georgia trailed at the half for the first time since the Auburn game last season by a 14-3 score. Unlike today, Georgia ended up winning both of those games.
- Senior Damien Gary set the school record for career punt returns, getting 3 for 24 yards, giving him 91 for in his career. His first return which tied the mark, went for 19 yards and led to a 33-yard FG and an early 3-0 advantage, Georgia's only lead of the day. Gary's career punt return yardage is now 1,053 yards, which ranks second all-time behind Scot Woerner's 1,077 (1977-80). Gary also notched seven catches for 80 yards today.
- For the first time in his career, senior Billy Bennett missed three field goals in a game. He came in to today's game as Georgia's most accurate kicker in school history at 78.75 percent (63-for-80). Before today, he had missed two against Florida last year and 2 versus South Carolina and Arkanas in 2001. The last time a Bulldog kicker missed 3 field goals in a game was in 1993 by Kanon Parkman (0-for-3) in a 23-21 loss to South Carolina.
- Senior ROV Kentrell Curry and sophomore RB Tyson Browning saw their first action of the season. Curry was recovering from a stress fracture in his leg while Browning was suspended for the first three games due to a violation of team rules. Browning and Greene hooked up for a record-tying 93-yard TD pass in the 4th quarter. Browning ended with a career-high two catches for 104 yards.
- Points Off Turnovers: Georgia got no points off an INT, which led to a David Greene fumble inside the red zone. LSU got no points off the Bulldog fumble; LSU got no points off UGA interception as Sean Jones blocked a field goal attempt. It was Georgia's first block of the season after a school record nine last season (5 punts , 4 Fgs). It was Jones first career block of a FG although he blocked a punt vs. Northwestern State last year. Georgia recovered an LSU fumble in the 4th quarter and it led to a game-tying TD on the 93-yard completion from Greene to Tyson Browning.
- Georgia was just 1-for-3 in the Red Zone today with a field goal, a fumble and a missed field goal.
- Opening Possession: LSU won toss, took the ball, resulted in punt; Georgia's 1st drive resulted in punt. No opponent has scored on its opening possession this year while the Bulldogs failed to score on their first possession today for the first time this season. The other three games Georgia managed a TD and 2 Field Goals on its first drive of the contest.
LSU HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
"Well you can't really say about enough about both football teams the way they competed out there. A heavy weight fight. A real street fight. Both teams competed their heart out. It was about a physical a football game as I've seen in a long time and I'm proud of the way our players competed in the game. I don't know if we were a little bit anxious in the beginning of the game. We were a little out of sorts at the start then in the second quarter we started to come around. To compete in the game, to overcome the adversity we had in the first half, to have then have an 85 or 87 yard screen pass when we were playing zone for one of the first times of the day. Then to come right back with the kickoff return and to make the plays to get right back ahead in the game. We told the players that regardless of what happened in the game, the leadership of this team would show what its roots really were. There would be good thing to happen and we would have to stay focused and there would be bad things to happen and we would have to support each other and stay together and go play the next play and I'm proud of the way they competed and did that.
"That was a tough game. Georgia's a good team. My hat is off to them. But I can't tell you how proud of all the people who are responsible for allowing us to get the football players that we have here, the way they competed today. I'm just proud that we can just give a great win for our players and all those who support the program. I know how happy it makes them when we have success and it makes me happy that it makes them happy.
"It wasn't a pretty game for us all the time, but you can't fault the effort, you can't fault the competitive spirit, you can't fault the three or four stops in the red area by our team and you can't fault the way the offense came back when it had to. There's obviously some things we can improve on from this game and we've got to build on it. We want our players to focus on what we have to do week in and week out. We have no expectations about what we are going to try to accomplish long term, we are worried about the next game that we play. We enjoy this victory for 24 hours and then we need to focus on the next game. Anything else they thing or do is going to be poisonous to how we compete with consistency and we don't want to do that. So don't ask me about those kinds of things."
LSU Offensive Player Quotes
RB Shyrone Carey
"It's a big win, but it's early in the season so every SEC game is important. It was a big win for us. We've got next week so coach says we get to enjoy this for 24 hours and then we got to get back on the road next week for Mississippi State."
Whether he was nervous when UGA tied the game
"Not really because our whole four quarter program, running program is to finish the game in the fourth quarter so we're used to it. We were ready. That's the kind of game we're used to."
QB Matt Mauck
on the last touchdown play
"He had some drops earlier, I had some fumbles, but we just connected at the end so I guess it was a little bit of a makeup for both of us for early in the game.
On the team's play at the beginning of the game
"I think their defense did a lot of different things that made it difficult for us to have success but I think a lot of the times, I think myself I was trying too hard to make some plays. I realized that if I could just relax then maybe we get some touchdowns."
WR Skyler Green
"I came over a lot of adversity in this game, dropped a couple of passes, couldn't give up. The team needed a big play, so we had to come through, we had to get over a lot of things. The dropped passes I had at the beginning, I had to get over that and come through just this one time and make a play."
On the final touchdown play
"I was looking at Matt (Mauck) and Matt came up to the line of scrimmage like he was going to run and he bit for it. When he bit back I just looked at Matt whole way and just laid it up there."
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
CB Corey Webster
On pressuring Georgia quarterback David Greene
"We just wanted to come out and kind of confuse him, you know, stuff like that. That's basically what we did. We wanted to kind of hit him and knock him around."
"Well, it worked because our front seven got to the quarterback and affected him. After they hit him in the mouth a couple of times, you know, a quarterback is going to start thinking the next time the line gets so close to him."
On his fourth quarter interception
"Well, you know, basically the defense helped put pressure on the quarterback. It makes it easier when the front seven puts pressure on the quarterback. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
LB Lionel Turner
On confusing Georgia quarterback David Greene
"On some of the schemes we were running we would act like we would blitz and he would check off to other plays. We just disguised a lot of things. But David Greene, you know, he's a great quarterback. He knew where we were coming sometimes, and he was able to check off to other plays. He played a great game, but we just did a little extra thinking on defense to end up making some big plays."
DT Chad Lavalais
On Georgia's three missed field goals
"They missed three field goals, you know, that's nine points right there. That could have helped them as the game went on. But we were just lining up and thinking that we should just get after them, you know maybe we could just block a kick, put pressure on the kicks, you know, affect the kicks in some way."
DE Marcus Spears
On the crowd affecting the game
"I want to say thank you to the fans because it was such a lift for us. We could feel the vibrations running through our bodies when they started hollering. We couldn't hear anything. We couldn't even get our defensive calls out there, so I know they had a problem with running their offense. It was just a great showing for us, and we thank them a lot."
GEORGIA HEAD COACH QUOTES
"I have to first of all give a lot of credit to Coach (Nick) Saban and LSU. I thought those guys had a great plan without question and had the athletes to pull it off. In the final analysis, big games like this usually comes down to whose going to make the most plays and they did that. I've got to give them credit. I feel good about the fight of our team. I feel good about the effort of our team. We certainly didn't execute as well as I would have liked us to execute. I worry about a team that doesn't have enough heart at the end of the ballgame to fight and that's not a problem with us. We would worry if we didn't have enough talent to get it done, but that's not a problem with us. I'd be worried if I had a bunch of coaches that didn't put together a good plan. That's not a problem with us either. The problem was that it just came down to us not making the plays that they made. "
"We've got to get through the pain of this and then begin to get a plan for Alabama. Alabama is not going to feel sorry for us. They'll be coming into Athens in a couple of weeks, so we have to get ready for that. After that we have Tennessee so we have all kinds of fun here coming down the road. We just need to make sure we correct our mistakes and heal our wounded and get ready to play Alabama."
GEORGIA DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
FS SEAN JONES
"The whole game we said that we were going to win the game because we never quit at Georgia. Today they were the better team. They executed better on both sides of the ball. It is a tough pill to swallow but you have to move on because it is a long season."
On whether or not the defense got tired
"We were not tired, they just made good blocks and made good plays. That is a good team. Some plays we just did not do it, and it was not really because we were tired. We did not quit and we just need to get ready for Alabama."
LB THOMAS DAVIS
"We just went out today and played a good team in LSU. We went out and gave great effort but unfortunately we came up on the short end. It is a tough thing because we know what type of game football is, where you cannot take any plays off. We know we just have to go out there and not take any play lightly because we know that they are trying to score just as well as we are trying to score. Also our defense is trying to stop them just as ours is their defense is trying to stop us. LSU just came out and made the plays."
On the effect of the crowd
"I do not feel like the crowd was a big factor, I just feel like we did not execute at all like we knew we could."
GEORGIA OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
TB Tyson Browning
On his touchdown in the fourth quarter
"Our offense had not been clicking all night, but finally we made a big play. I thought that our defense had played a great game all day."
On Georgia's plan to use Tyson Browning as an extra receiver
"I am categorized as a scat back, and they just try to use me where they can today. We had a good plan coming in. It is that we just did not execute. "
On the crowd noise in Tiger Stadium
"I don't think it affected us on the field as much as our fans do."
SE Reggie Brown
On not scoring a touchdown in the first half
"I don't think anyone got frustrated. We just tried to keep a level head and stay calm and just go out there and execute."
On the LSU defense
"They had a great scheme and they kept blitzing. LSU is very athletic and they played with us."
On missed opportunities
"We just tried to put it out of our minds and go on to the next play, but obviously it did come back to haunt us."
On the crowd noise in Tiger Stadium
"The noise was never a factor. We know the signals, and we could hear it in the huddle."