SEC CHAMPS: LSU Right on the 'Mauck' in Title Game, 31-20
LSU Sports Interactive
ATLANTA -- Redshirt freshman quarterback and game MVP Matt Mauck came in place of Rohan Davey to rush for two touchdowns and lead 20th-ranked LSU to a 31-20 victory over No. 2 Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship game on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.
The game was dedicated to the memory of former coach Charles McClendon (1962-79), who passes away on Friday morning while the Tigers were in route to Atlanta.
The Southeastern Conference outright title was LSU's first since 1986 and its eighth all-time.
LSU (9-3, 6-3) awaits an invitation to its first Bowl Championship Series, which will be announced on Sunday evening. Tennessee (10-2, 7-2), which beat LSU 26-18 earlier in 2001, fumbled twice and gave up the ball on downs in the fourth quarter to seal its fate.
Mauck entered the game in place of Davey, who was knocked out in the first half with a rib tip. The 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman ran for 43 yards on 11 carries with two scores, while completing key passes down the stretch to lead LSU to the win. Domanick Davis ran for LSU's final score while John Corbello -- with 45, 47 and 45 yard field goals -- became the first placekicker since David Browndyke to kick three field goals of more than 45 yards in a game.
Both quarterback Rohan Davey (rib tip) and running back LaBrandon Toefield (left ACL) were injured and left the game in the first half. Davey returned before being knocked out again on the second-to-last play of the half. In his place, redshirt freshman Matt Mauck scored LSU's only touchdown of the game, a 6-yard rush.
On LSU's first possession, Davey picked up a first down on an 11-yard rush, but the Tigers couldn't advance past their own 40 due to heavy pressure by the Tennessee line and good coverage in the secondary. A 53-yard Donnie Jones punt pinned the Vols at their own 8 with 12:36 to play in the first quarter.
The Tigers benefited from a pair of dropped passes by Tennessee on the first series, as LSU took over after three plays. A 39-yard punt by the Vols and a 9-yard return by Domanick Davis gave LSU excellent field position at the Tennessee 41.
On first-and-10, Davey was again flushed out of the pocket and then hit high as he was going out of bounds. Davey was down on the Tennessee sideline for more than a minute before being taken off the field with a rib injury.
Matt Mauck took over for Davey and marched the Tigers toward to goal with the help of three Tennessee penalties including a pass interference call on Tennessee against Josh Reed in the endzone.
On third-and-5 from the six, Mauck ran untouched over the right side for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The TD was the first by an LSU quarterback since Herb Tyler did so against Ole Miss in 1998.
The Vols were able to get into LSU territory for the first time, but only six-yards deep before they were forced to punt.
LSU took over at the 20 and went back to Davey at quarterback, but couldn't make it past the Tennessee 48 and punted to the 13. On the drive, Reed caught his first pass of the game for 12 yards, moving the junior Biletnikoff Award winner into sixth place on the NCAA single-season receiving list ahead of Manny Hazard of Houston with 1,692.
Tennessee found itself trapped deep in LSU territory and faced second-and-15 from their own 9-yard line at the start of the second quarter. The Vols were forced to punt again when Clausen's pass was nearly intercepted by Lionel Thomas on third down.
LSU again began in perfect field position at the Tennessee 27, but the Tigers couldn't recover from a sack by Demetrin Veal on first down and missed a 43-yard field goal with 11:49 remaining in the half.
In its best field position of the game, Tennessee and Stephens ran four straight times before Clausen hooked up with a wide-open Jason Witten for 28 yards to the LSU 31. On the next play, Clausen threw over the top to Kelley Washington for a 31-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:04 left in the first half. The six-play, 73-yard drive lasted 2:45.
On the ensuing drive, Davey was again a victim of the heavy rush by Tennessee and the Tigers weren't able to gain a first down. A 58-yard punt by Jones gave Tennessee the ball at the 42.
Just as he did in the first meeting on Sept. 29, Clausen found Washington open deep, hitting the speedy receiver for 47 yards to the LSU 3 before completing a pass to fullback Troy Fleming for a 14-7 lead.
Trying to answer the Vols's score, LSU went for a fourth-and-inches at its own 22 and was unsuccessful.
With a chance to widen the lead late in the second quarter, Tennessee was again bitten by penalties when Clausen was flagged for intentional grounding. Tennessee was forced to settle for a 51-yard field goal by Alex Wells, the longest field goal in SEC Championship game history.
LSU struck back just before the half, as Davey began to find his rhythm down the field. The senior leader connected twice with Reed for 39 yards and once to Clayton for 6 yards. Faced with a third-and-10 from the Tennessee 29 and 1:22 left in the half, Mauck returned after Davey was hit as he threw incomplete to Corey Webster in the endzone.
Corbello came in to kick a 45-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the half. The perfectly struck ball went through the uprights to cut the lead to 17-10 with 29 seconds left in the half.
Tennessee had 22 seconds from its 40, throwing deep to Stallworth and Washington three times before the half ended at 17-10.
The Vols took over at their 17 to start the second half and went nowhere.
Mauck, in again for Davey to start the second half, hit Clayton open over the middle for 20 yards to the Tennessee 37 and then rushed for 8 to the 29. However, a third-and-2 pass to Robert Royal was thrown low and dropped, forcing another field goal attempt. Corbello came in again and nailed a 47-yard kick to narrow the margin to four, 17-13, with 11:51 left in the third quarter.
Clausen led the Vols down the field through the air once again, completing four passes to get Tennessee to the LSU 38 and set up fourth-and-1. On the play, Jeremy Lawrence pressured Clausen from behind, forcing a poor throw down field and giving LSU the ball back.
The Golden Band from Tigerland ignited the crowd and the team in a media timeout. On the first play, Mauck saw Clayton wide open on a post but couldn't connect some 30 yards down the field for what would have been a runaway score. After an LSU timeout with 6:45 remaining in the quarter, the Tigers picked up a first down on an 8-yard catch by Royal and a 3-yard run by Davis.
After a 14-yard first-down run by Davis, Mauck ran for 9 yards to the 26 and Davis again convered the third down with a hard-fought yard to the 25. The drive then stalled, but LSU salvanged another 45 yarder to cut the lead to one, 17-16.
With the Vols driving hard in the air, Tennessee became the first victim of a turnover when Stephens fumbled at the 47 of Tennessee and Damien James recovered to the 39. Byron Dawson caused the fumble which bounced right into James' hand. James nearly broke free for a touchdown, but was tripped up by the last man in the Vol backfield.
Led by Davis' rushing, LSU turned and marched toward its purple "LSU" labeled endzone and the 20,000-plus Tiger faithful as the fourth quarter began. On third-and-4 from the 24, Mauck backed 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage before flipping the ball to Reed who was double covered. Reed caught the ball down low and then fought for nine yards and a first down.
On the next play, Mauck needled through the defense and ran for 13 yards into the endzone to regain the lead, 22-17. Up by five points, Mauck then converted the two-point play to Reed to put LSU up 24-17 with 14:20 left to play.
Again, Tennessee returned to the air to deflate the Tiger faithful, as Clausen found Washington for 18 and Stallworth for 17 twice to give the Vols a first-and-goal opportunity at the 4 after a pass interference penalty. However, faced with first-and-goal at the 4, the LSU defense stiffened and the Vols settled for a 21-yard field goal. True freshman cornerback Travis Daniels, playing his only two downs of the season, had a pass break-up in the endzone to stall the drive.
LSU gave up field position on the next drive, as Tennessee stepped up the coverage in the secondary and Mauck was unable to find anyone down field. Jones came in to punt to the Vol 48, where Tennessee looked to take the lead.
On the first play from scrimmage, Clausen found Stallworth down the middle of the field, but Demetrius Hookfin knocked the ball loose and Ryan Clark recovered to foil the Tennessee attack.
LSU took over at the 35 and ran the ball into Tennessee territory. On third-and-7 from the Vol 45, Mauck composed himself in the pocked and hit Clayton over the middle for 21 yards to the 24. A pass interference call on Tennessee gave LSU first-and-10 from the 13.
After using its final timeout, Davis rushed for 9 yards to the 4 and Mauck converted the first down to the 2. Unable to make a first down in three rushing attempts, LSU went for a fourth-and-goal from the 1. Davis dived over the top of the pile for the game-winning score. LSU led 31-20.
The 13-play, 65-yard drive took 6:04 off the clock and left Tennessee only 2:26 on the clock. Tennessee only managed midfield and the Tigers took over on downs to end the game.
LSU Game Notes
LSU vs. Tennessee
SEC Championship Game
- LSU wins its first SEC Championship since 1988 (8-4, 6-1) and first outright conference title since 1986 (9-3, 6-1). The Tigers tied with Auburn in 1988.
- The Tigers clinch their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 1986 season (1987 game).
- LSU became just the second team from the SEC Western Division to win the SEC championship since the conference began playing the SEC Title game in 1992. Alabama (1992, 1999) is the other team.
- LSU won for the first time when being outgained in total yards since Oct. 14, 2000, when the Tigers beat Kentucky 34-0. In that game, the Wildcats had 397 total yards to LSU’s 339.
- LSU won for the first time since a 28-13 win over Houston on Sept. 9, 2000, when amassing fewer than 300 total yards. The Tigers had 297 in that contest.
- LSU recorded its second fourth-quarter comeback of the season and their fifth in the past two seasons. The Tigers trailed Tennessee 17-16 heading into Saturday’s fourth quarter. LSU trailed Kentucky 25-22 in the final minutes earlier this season in Lexington before scoring with 13 seconds remaining for a 29-22 win.
- The Tigers moved to 3-0 all-time in the Georgia Dome. LSU won the 1996 and 2000 Peach Bowls over Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively.
- LSU coach Nick Saban became just the fifth coach, joining Florida coach Steve Spurrier, former Tennessee coach Bowden Wyatt, former Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught and former LSU coach Mike Archer to win the title in one of their first two seasons. Vaught is the only coach to win it in his first season.
- On a 15-yard reception in the second quarter, Josh Reed became the SEC’s all-time leader in receiving yardage, passing Boo Williams of Vanderbilt, who recorded 2,964 yards from 1985-88. The catch gave Reed 2,968 yards at the time.
- Josh Reed moved into the top five in NCAA history in single season receiving yardage on the same reception, tying Troy Edwards of Louisiana Tech, who recorded 1,707 yards in 1997 for fifth place. He took sole possession of fifth place on a 9-yard reception in the fourth quarter. He finished the day with 1,720 yards this season.
- Rohan Davey broke the LSU single season record for completions on his second completion of the day. The throw gave him 210 at the time, breaking the previous mark of 209 by Jeff Wickersham in 1985.
- The 4-yard touchdown run by Matt Mauck was the first rushing touchdown of his career and was the first rushing touchdown by a Tiger quarterback since Herb Tyler ran for a 3-yard touchdown on Oct. 31, 1998 in a 37-31 overtime loss to Ole Miss. Mauck added a second touchdown on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter becoming the first Tiger QB since Tyler on Oct. 17, 1998 against Kentucky to rush for more than one TD in a game.
- LSU scored first for the ninth time in 12 games this year and for the fifth straight week. LSU entered the game with a 7-1 record this season when scoring first, with their lone loss coming on Sept. 29 at Tennessee.
- LSU trailed at the half for only the third time this season – Florida and Ole Miss, both losses.
- LaBrandon Toefield left the game in the second quarter with an injury to his left knee and missed the remainder of the game. The injury left Toefield just eight yards shy of 1,000 for the season, as he will finish the year with 992 yards and 19 touchdowns (bowl stats do not count towards regular season stats). The 19 rushing touchdowns ties for the most in SEC history with Garrison Hearst of Georgia (1992) and Shaun Alexander of Alabama (1999).
- Rohan Davey also left the game in the second quarter after suffering a rib injury. Matt Mauck came into lead the Tigers the rest of the way.
- Domanick Davis went over 1,000 all-purpose yards for the third consecutive season on his 23-yard punt return in the second quarter. The return gave him 1,021 at the time. He posted totals of 1,052 and 1,435 in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively.
- John Corbello’s 47-yard field goal in the third quarter matched his career long in a regular season game – also against Tennessee in the Tigers’ victory over the Vols in 2000. The longest kick of his career was a 49-yarder in the 2000 Peach Bowl, ironically, on this same Georgia Dome turf.
- It also marked the first time in his career that he had more than one field goal of more than 40 yards in the same game. The last Tiger to hit two field goals of better than 40 yards in the same game was Andre Lafleur on Sept. 30, 1995 at South Carolina.
- It was the first time since the Georgia game in 1999 that Corbello had three field goals in the same game. It was the first time a Tiger kicker hit three field goals of better than 45 yards since David Browndyke hit field goals of 48, 49 and 50 in a win against Mississippi State on Nov. 18, 1989.
- Domanick Davis scores his third rushing touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter. He also scored last week against Auburn and earlier against Mississippi State.
- With a 12-yard reception in the first quarter, Josh Reed extended his team-leading streak of consecutive games with a catch to 26, dating back to the Alabama game in 1999, his first as a receiver. In addition, Jerel Myers extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 13 on the very next play, the second longest streak on the Tigers. Myers has now caught at least one pass in 34 of 35 career games with the lone exception being the Tigers’ 20-9 victory at Ole Miss in 2000.
- Kyle Kipps’ third quarter sack of Casey Clausen was his second in the last three games and third of his career.
Free safety Ryan Clark made his 35th consecutive start dating back to the 1999 season opener against San Jose State. Trev Faulk made his 32nd consecutive start dating back to the Georgia game in the fourth week of his freshman season. Jerel Myers made his 34th start in 35 career games with the only exception being the 1999 season finale against Arkansas when the Tigers opened in a three tight end alignment.
- The Tigers started in a three-wide alignment for only the fifth time this season, giving true freshman Michael Clayton his fifth start of the season.
- Captains for the Tigers were permanent captains QB Rohan Davey, LB Trev Faulk, TE Robert Royal and honorary game captain DE Kyle Kipps.