ATLANTA -- Freshman running back Justin Vincent set a Southeastern Conference Championship Game record with 201 rushing yards including an 87-yard touchdown run to lead the No. 3-ranked LSU Tigers (12-1) to a 34-13 victory over No. 5 Georgia (10-3) in front of a championship game record 74,913 in the Georgia Dome.
Vincent, who became the seventh player in school history to rush for more than 200 yards, was unanimously named the game's Most Outstanding Player. He carried 18 times with two touchdowns, and broke the record of 169 yards set by Florida's Ernest Graham in 2000.
The victory game head coach Nick Saban's Tigers their second SEC Championship in three seasons and may vault LSU ahead of No. 1 Oklahoma (lost to Kansas State, 35-7) and No. 2 USC (won against Oregon State, 52-28) for its first No. 1 ranking since 1959.
A teleconference will be held on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 7, in Baton Rouge to announce the Tigers' postseason fate. Live streaming audio from the teleconference will be available on LSUsports.net at a time to be determined.
An announcement on postseason bowl tickets will be made late on Sunday once the Tigers know their destination.
The Tigers, looking to impress the computers and pollsters who ultimately control the Bowl Championship Series, outgained Georgia 444-249 and dominated the line of scrimmage defensively for most of the game. LSU rushed for 293 yards, its best output since amassing 400 against Kentucky in 1997.
Quarterback Matt Mauck was 14-of-22 for 151 yards including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton. He was intercepted once. Clayton led the Tigers five catches for 81 yards.
In spite of two missed extra points and a blocked field goal, LSU tacked on field goals of 35 and 22 yards backup Ryan Gaudet and a safety by Alley Broussard after a muffed punt snap by Georgia.
Georgia starting quarterback David Greene completed only 17-of-41 passes for 199 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown. One of Greene's interceptions was returned 18 yards for a touchdown by LSU linebacker Lionel Turner.
The Bulldogs rushed 25 times for 50 yards including six sacks for minus-53 yards.
LSU, the home team based on conference record, won the toss and elected to defer its decision until the second half. Georgia took the ball and defended the East endzone.
Georgia picked up a first down deep in its own territory before runningback Kregg Lumpkin missed what would have been a huge gain into LSU territory. Greene found Lumpkin behind the LSU linebackers, but the freshman from Lithonia, Ga., dropped the ball at the Georgia 40 with at least 20 additional yards of open space ahead of him.
LSU's Green took the Georgia punt 11 yards to the Georgia 46-yard line, however, the Tigers were forced to attempt a long field goal. Freshman placekicker Chris Jackson's 48-yard attempt was blocked by free safety Sean Jones and returned 38 yards to the LSU 31 by linebacker Tony Taylor.
On the next play from scrimmage, Greene's underthrown pass in the direction of a double-covered tight end Ben Watson was intercepted by freshman safety LaRon Landry at the LSU 8-yard line.
Neither the Tigers nor the Bulldogs were able to pick up a first down on consecutive possessions, and each were forced to punt after sacks by Georgia defensive end David Pollack and LSU's Marquise Hill.
Georgia punted the ball to the LSU 13-yard line, where the Tigers were able to strike first. On first down, Vincent ran 87 yards around the right side for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. Despite Jackson's first missed extra point in his LSU career (21 straight entering the game), the third-longest touchdown run in school history and the longest in SEC Championship game history gave LSU the momentum with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
The run was the longest for a touchdown since Sal Nicolo ran 94 yards to pay-dirt against Rice on Oct. 4, 1952. Vincent also passed Harvey Williams (700) and Garry James (710) into third place in single-season rushing yards as a freshman. Dalton Hilliard (901) and Kevin Faulk (852) remain ahead of the Parade All-American from Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La.
Georgia's kickoff return to the 15-yard line put the Bulldogs in its first difficult field position of the evening, which worked right into the hands of the top-ranked LSU defense. After going three-and-out, Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso attempted to punt from the goal line but muffed the snap and took a safety when tackled by Alley Broussard.
The safety was the first by an LSU individual since James Gillyard did so against Auburn on Sept. 16, 1995.
LSU led 8-0 with 3:11 to play in the quarter.
After Green returned the kickoff to the LSU 29, the Tigers marched into Georgia territory with an 11-yard pass from Mauck to Clayton on third-and-3. On the next play, Mauck chose Clayton from a virtual buffet of receivers behind the Georgia secondary for a 43-yard touchdown.
LSU led 14-0 when Jackson's second PAT of the game was unsuccessful. This time, it was blocked by nose tackle Kedric Golston with 14:51 to play in the half.
With the catch, Clayton became the fourth receiver in school history to record 1,000 yards in a single season.
Georgia punted from its 5-yard line after going three-and-out, setting up another short field for LSU.
With the recent kicking troubles, the Tigers elected to attempt a fourth-and-2 from the Georgia 29. After converting and pushing to the Georgia 17, LSU then settled for a field goal by backup redshirt freshman Ryan Gaudet. Gaudet's high kick was good from 35 yards to give LSU a 17-0 lead with 9:29 to play in the half.
Through 20 minutes of play, LSU had a 196 to minus-8 advantage in total offense.
Georgia was able to break through the LSU defense and into Tigers territory after a 29-yard reception by split end Reggie Brown to the LSU 34. However, they would go no further before Billy Bennett tied a SEC Championship Game record with a 51-yard field goal.
The SEC-record 28th field goal of the season by Bennett cut the lead to 17-3 with 6:38 on the clock.
The Tigers took the ball to start the second half, however, Mauck pass to tight end Eric Edwards was tipped into the air and intercepted by Bruce Thornton on third-and-7 from his 34.
Georgia took over at the LSU 44 but went nowhere after a sack by linebacker Eric Alexander on first down. Ely-Kelso's punt was fair caught by Green at the LSU 12-yard line.
The Tigers, too, were unable to move the ball and punted from their 9-yard line after a sack of Mauck. The Bulldogs took over at the LSU 43 and gained one first down, but were forced to settle for another Bennett field goal. The 29th of his career from 49 yards tied an NCAA record and brought the Bulldogs within nine, 17-6.
Georgia was able to stop the Tigers short of Bulldogs territory and force a Donnie Jones punt that was fair caught at the Georgia 11.
Two plays later, Greene was intercepted by LSU linebacker Lionel Turner who bobbled then returned the ball 18 yards for a touchdown. LSU led 24-6 after the Gaudet PAT with 4:171 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs answered the score with their first touchdown of the game, an 18-yard pass from Greene to Watson only 37 seconds later. The score was set up by a 35-yard end-around by Brown and a 15-yard face mask tacked onto the end of the play.
Georgia trailed 24-13 after the PAT with 3:40 to play in the third quarter.
Undaunted, LSU continued the scoring with another touchdown drive of its own that was highlighted by a 33-yard catch by Devery Henderson to the Georgia 5-yard line and two acrobatic catches by Clayton. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Vincent ran around the left side for a 3-yard touchdown for a 31-13 lead with 14:54 to play in the game.
Georgia's attempt to answer the Tigers' score came up short on fourth-and-2 from the LSU 6-yard line. The Bulldogs' tried a quarterback thrown-back pass, but failed when linebacker Adrian Mayes stayed with Greene to keep Cooper from throwing the ball.
A 62-yard run by Vincent put him over 200 yards for the game and set up LSU's final score, a 22-yard field goal by Gaudet with 7:12 to play. LSU led 34-13.
LSU vs. Georgia
Dec. 6, 2003 -- Georgia Dome
- LSU's game captains are WR Devery Henderson, QB Matt Mauck, P Donnie Jones and DT Chad Lavalais.
- LSU won the toss and deferred. Georgia will receive to begin the game.
- OT Rodney Reed (47 straight), DT Chad Lavalais (34 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (32 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (26 straight), WR Michael Clayton (26 straight) and DE Marcus Spears (18 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- With LaRon Landry's interception in the first quarter, LSU has now intercepted at least one pass in five straight games. The Tigers' victory over Auburn on Oct. 25 was the last game with out a pick.
- With the victory ... LSU improved to 5-0 in the Georgia Dome ... Won its ninth straight game in a domed stadium ... Became the first team in school history to win 12 games ... Won its second SEC title in three years.
- FS LaRon Landry's first-quarter interception was the second of the freshman's career.
- RB Justin Vincent's 87-yard touchdown run with 4:49 left in the first quarter was the freshman's longest run of his career, the longest run from scrimmage by an LSU player this season, and the third longest rushing touchdown in school history (longest since a 86-yard run by Jeff Burkett against Georgia Navy on Nov. 24, 1942).
- Vincent's 87-yard run gave the freshman RB 778 yards this season, moving him into third-place on LSU's single-season freshman rushing record list. He finished the game with 201 yards on 18 carries, his fourth 100-yard rushing game and third straight. Vincent scored again on a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth-quarter for his third two-touchdown game of the season and his career. His 201 yard total is a career-high and he is the first LSU player to rush for over 200 yards since Kevin Faulk ran for 201 yards against Alabama on Nov. 3, 1998.
- Alley Broussard's tackle of Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso in the endzone with 3:11 left in the first quarter was LSU's first safety since a holding call in the endzone at Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2001.
- WR Michael Clayton's 11-yard reception at the end of the first quarter extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 39 games, every game of his career.
- WR Michael Clayton's 43-yard touchdown reception with 14:51 left in the second quarter was the junior's 10th touchdown of the season, moving him into a tie for second-place on LSU's single-season receiving touchdown list. Clayton's touchdown reception also put the receiver over 1,000 yards for the season, making it the fifth 1,000 receiving season in school history. Clayton joins Josh Reed (1,740 yards in 2001 and 1,127 yards in 2000), Wendell Davis (1,244 yards in 1986) and Eric Martin (1,064 yards in 1983) with 1,000 yard seasons. He finished the game with 5 catches for 81 yards and has 1041 yards this season.
- DT Chad Lavalais recorded a tackle early in the second quarter to extend his streak of recording at least one tackle in each of the last 42 games.
- LB Lionel Turner's interception return for a touchdown with 4:17 left in the third quarter was the junior's second interception of the season and his career. As a defense unit, LSU has now scored six defensive touchdowns this season, four interceptions returned for scores and two fumbles returned for TDs.
- QB Matt Mauck moved into second-place in single-season passing yards in LSU history with his 151 yards in tonight's game. He passed Tommy Hodson's 2,655 yards from the 1989 season during the third quarter of the game and ended the game with 2701 yards for the season.
- SS Jack Hunt's interception with 3:35 in the fourth quarter was the fourth of his career.
SEC Championship Notes
FINAL SCORE: LSU 34, Georgia 13.
LSU wins its second Southeastern Conference Championship in the last three years.
- Georgia game captains are Thomas Davis, David Greene, Tony Taylor and Ken Veal. LSU game
captains are Devery Henderson, Matt Mauck, Donnie Jones and Chad Lavalais.
- LSU won the toss and will defer to the second half. Georgia will receive.
- Both teams get first first down of games on opening possession on third down conversions.
- First flag of game at the 11:09 mark, illegal procedure against LSU on a second and 10 play.
- Second straight championship game that Georgia has had a kick block in the SEC Championship game. Last year, Georgia blocked a first quarter Arkansas punt. This year, Georgia blocks an Arkansas field goal attempt. Both blocks came on the opponents' first offensive drive.
- Sean Jones' third field goal block this season for Georgia, ties school record of Boss Bailey who
had three a year ago. The PAT block later in the quarter was by Kedric Golston, who was playing his first game after missing the last six due to a broken shoulder blade.
- LaRon Landry's interception for LSU was his second of the season, fourth LSU player with multiple interceptions. That was Georgia's David Greene's first interception in the last 110 attempts.
- LSU's Justin Vincent's 87 yard rush for a touchdown in the first quarter was an SEC record for the longest single rush, breaking the mark of Freddie Milons of Alabama who had a 77-yard rush in 1999. It was only the second rush in a championship game over 37 yards to that point. It was also the third longest rush in LSU history, the longest rush in the SEC this year and the second
latest first score in SEC championship game history. The latest was in 1998 when Mississippi State scored with five seconds remaining in the first quarter.
- First safety in the championship game since 1996 when Alabama recorded a safety in the game
versus Florida in 1996. Second safety this season given up by Georgia, Vanderbilt had the other, tackling Green in the end zone.
- This is the sixth straight year that only one team scored in the first quarter after six straight years of both teams scoring in the first 15 minutes.
- Second quarter (14:51) touchdown catch puts LSU receiver Michael Clayton at 1,014 yards for the season.
- In the second quarter LSU's Justin Vincent went over 100 yards rushing and is the fifth back in championship game history to rush for 100 yards or more in the game. Earnest Graham in 2000 was the last who had the present game record of 169.
- Billy Bennett's 51 yard field goal in the second quarter (6:38) tied the mark for the longest field goal in SEC championship game history set by Alex Walls of Tennessee in 2001. Second 50-plus yard field goal in game history. For Bennett that was his 28th field goal of the year setting an SEC record for most field goals in a season, the old mark was 27 held by the Fuad Reveiz of Tennessee in 1982.
- The 20 combined points by the two teams in the first half is the fewest scored in the game since the 1997 game when the teams combined for 19 points in the first half (Alabama 12, Florida 7).
- The 17 points is the most Georgia has given up this year and the 17-0 deficit is the biggest Georgia has faced this year.
- AT THE HALF: In the Dr. Pepper shootout at halftime, Chuck Bartlett of Natchez, Miss., made the one throw from 40 yards that was worth $400,000.
SECOND HALF NOTES:
- LSU will receive to open the half after deferring to open the game.
- Bennett's third quarter field goal of 49 yards (7:46) tied for the third longest in championship game history. It was his 29th of the season and that now ties the NCAA record also held by John Lee of UCLA in 1983. Earlier he had broken the SEC mark on his 28th field goal in the second quarter.
- Lionel Turner with an 18 yard third quarter interception return (4:17) was the first interception return for a TD when Reggie Grimes of Alabama returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown in the 1999 game. It was the fifth time in the championship game history that an interception was returned for a touchdown.
- The Turner interception marked the sixth time this season LSU has scored a defensive touchdown.
- Greene finished the game with three interceptions, the second quarterback to throw three interceptions in an SEC championship game, equaling the three by Jesse Palmer of Florida in 1999.
- LSU's Vincent's second touchdown starting the fourth quarter (14:54) makes him the second LSU player to score two rushing touchdowns in a championship game. Matt Mauck rushed for two scores in the 2001 championship contest. At that point in the game, Vincent had 139 yards, second most in championship game history.
- LSU's Vincent added a 62-yard carry inside 11 minutes of the game to push his total to 201 yards, the most rushing yards by an individual in the championship game. The old mark was 169 by Earnest Graham of Florida in the 2000 game.
- LSU's Justin Vincent now has the two longest rushes in one championship game with runs of 87 and 62 yards and he owns the first and third longest rushes in championship game history.
- The attendance for tonight's game is 74,913, a record crowd for a Georgia Dome hosted SEC Championship game.
- The 34 points by LSU ties the second most in a championship game set by Florida in 1995 and Alabama in 1999. Florida is the all-time scorer in a single game with 45.
- LSU finishes with 293 yards rushing and that is second all-time in an SEC championship game to the 300 yards that Alabama recorded in 1999.
- LSU's completion percentage of 63.6 percent (14-of-22) ranks third all time for a team in an SEC Championship team behind the 72. 4 of Florida in the 1995 game and the 65.4 percent in the 2000 game.
- LSU's total yards of 444 was the fourth best in an SEC championship game. Tennessee had 502 in 1997, Florida 470 in 1996 and 462 in 1999.
- The MVP of the 2003 SEC Championship game was Justin Vincent.