BATON ROUGE -- On Senior Night in Tiger Stadium, a young and beat up LSU football team used a tremendous defensive effort and a gutsy offensive performance to bring itself within one game of the Southeastern Conference's Western Division title, beating Ole Miss, 14-13, in front of 91,613 on Saturday evening.
LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) trailed until the 6:34 mark of the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Marcus Randall connected with wide receiver Michael Clayton for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 13-13. Placekicker John Corbello's extra point proved the game winner.
Ole Miss lost its fifth straight game and fell to 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the SEC.
Stymied for most of the first half by the Ole Miss defense, the LSU offense finally showed signs of life with 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Randall completed 6-of-7 passes for 76 yards on a touchdown drive, culminated by a 19-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson. The score cut Ole Miss' lead to 10-7 at the break.
It was not without a cost, however, as Henderson suffered a broken arm on the play and did not return
LSU was its own worst enemy offensively, as the Tigers fumbled the ball five times and lost three. Add in an interception and four turnovers led to six Ole Miss points.
The Tigers finished with 324 yards of total offense, including 136 rushing and 188 passing. Randall was 13-of-20 for 179 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He added nine rushes for 31 yards. Starter Rick Clausen played only the first quarter and was 2-of-6 for nine yards and an interception.
On the ground attack, LSU was led by Domanick Davis, who ran 17 times for 87 yards. LaBrandon Toefield fumbled twice on 17 carries for 35 yards.
Clayton led LSU with six catches for 77 yards, while senior Jerel Myers added four for 40 yards.
For the Rebels, quarterback Eli Manning was able to pick at the LSU secondary during the first half, but never got settled in the second. In the second half, Manning was only 8-of-21 for 81 yards and two interceptions. The New Orleans native finished 19-of-38 for 218 yards and a touchdown.
The LSU defense held Ole Miss to 61 net rushing yards including only 24 in the second half, as the Tigers racked up a pair of critical sacks by Norman LeJeune. Ole Miss finished the game with 279 yards of total offense.
LSU lost the toss and was given the ball to start the game. The Tigers earned a first down on the ground before Clausen fumbled a snap to push the Tigers back to their 18-yard line. Three plays later, LSU was forced to punt the ball away.
Ole Miss drove into Tigers' territory on a 26-yard reception by Jason Armstead to the 40. However, two plays later, Rebel running back Tremaine Turner fumbled the ball at the LSU 25.
LSU gave the ball right back to Ole Miss on third down of the ensuing possession, as Clausen was intercepted by Von Hutchins at the 40.
Manning and Ole Miss were able to gain two first downs -- one on a personal foul -- to the LSU 23, but the drive stalled and the Rebels settled for a 36-yard field goal from Jonathan Nichols with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Another fumble by Clausen after two rushing first downs gave the Tigers a third-and-16 predicament, leading to another Jones punt to the Ole Miss 8-yard line. Ole Miss was able to get out of the shadow of its endzone and to their 41, but elected not to go for a fourth-and-inches and punted to the LSU 21.
Faced with a fourth-and-1 from its 30 as the first quarter came to an end, the Tigers returned the favor as Jones hit a 54-yarder to the Ole Miss 16 on the first play of the second quarter.
A fourth-straight drive ended in a punt, this time a 46-yarder that was returned 7 yards by Davis to the LSU 41 with 13:38 on the second-quarter clock.
Randall, who started four-straight games after Matt Mauck broke his foot in the Florida game, entered as LSU's quarterback after Clausen struggled to a 2-of-6 passing performance with an interception in the first quarter. LSU managed one first down rushing before Randall completed a 24-yard pass to Reggie Robinson to the Ole Miss 23 on third-and-8 from the 47. After two rushes by Toefield gave the Tigers a first-and-goal at the 6, he fumbled at the 8 to give Ole Miss the ball at the 14.
Toefield, who returned last weekend from a broken radius in the UL-Lafayette game, was hit by Ryan Hamilton as he ran around the right side, spitting the ball out of Toefield's grip and back to Ole Miss' Josh Cooper.
Ole Miss picked up two tough third down and short conversions to take the ball into Tigers' territory with five minutes remaining in the half. Three incomplete passes by Manning including a dropped interception attempt by LSU safety Jack Hunt led to another Ole Miss punt to the LSU 7-yard line.
A three-and-out by the Tigers forced Jones to punt for the fourth time in the half, but this time it was returned into Tigers territory with 2:30 to play in the half. Manning connected with Rick Razzano out of the back field for 16 yards to the LSU 27 before Ole Miss was faced with a third-and-3 from the LSU 20 with 1:06 on the clock.
Manning then threw the ball to Mike Espy, who was flanked to the right, ran to the first down marker and broke inside of Demetrius Hookfin. Espy broke Hookfin's tackle and fought through the arms of Bradie James to score a 20-yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the half.
LSU began its final drive of the half with only 56 seconds to play on its 24-yard line. Randall sparked the Tigers by completing 6-of-7 passes to four different Tigers for 76 yards, capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass to Henderson in the right corner of the endzone with 2.3 seconds to play. The point after was successful by John Corbello and LSU trailed 10-7 at the half.
Ole Miss was again able to drive into LSU territory to start the half, but the Rebels were forced to punt. On the first offensive play of the half for LSU, Davis took the handoff and looked to be one move away from breaking off an 89-yard run. However, Davis fumbled the ball and Ole Miss recovered at the LSU 24.
As LSU came with defensive pressure on Manning, Ole Miss was only able to move ahead three yards before Nichols tacked on a 39-yard field goal. Ole Miss led, 13-7, with 9:08 to play in the third quarter.
After a 25-yard kickoff return by Davis, Randall connected with Clayton for 15 yards to the 40 before rushing to the Ole Miss 45 on an 8-yard run for a first down. Toefield added another first down to the Ole Miss 34. Three passes fell incomplete, leading to a fake of a 51-yard field goal attempt. Holder Blain Bech rolled out to the right and tossed the ball just outside the reach of fullback Solomon Lee to give the ball back to Ole Miss.
A 13-yard sack by Norman LeJeune forced Ole Miss to punt from its 23. Although the Tigers benefited from a personal foul on Ole Miss to start the drive on its 36, a holding penalty on a first-down run by Randall left the Tigers in punting formation for the first time in the half.
LSU forced Ole Miss to punt once again, however, Toefield fumbled on the first play from scrimmage once again to give Ole Miss the ball on the LSU 30. With the Rebels knocking on the door of the endzone at the LSU 8, Manning's pass to Turner out of the backfield bounced off his back and into the hands of Hookfin at the 3. Hookfin returned the ball to the LSU 48.
The Tigers failed to capitalize on the momentum, going three-and-out as Randall overthrew a wide open Davis sprinting alone along the right sideline at the Ole Miss 8.
Another defensive stop without a yard gained handed LSU the ball back at its 26 with just more than 10 minutes left to play.
Finally, the Tigers' offense was able to convert the hard work of the defense with points on the board, as Randall led LSU to a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that ended in a 27-yard touchdown reception by Clayton with 6:34 to play.
With the crowd electrified, LSU's defense showed why it has been ranked in the Top 5 in the nation throughout the 2002 season. LeJeune sacked Manning on first down before LSU's secondary stopped two passes, leading to a Rebel punt.
LSU was unable to move the ball despite great field position at the Ole Miss 40 and Jones had to punt for the seventh time in the game.
Ole Miss drove to its 48 before Manning was intercepted for the second time by Corey Webster. Webster came down with an under thrown pass intended for Chris Collins.
A conservative running game after a Davis first down gave Ole Miss one final possession with 8.3 seconds remaining from its 21. A hook and latter play failed to end the game.
LSU Game Notes
- LSU's 22 seniors were honored before the game, their last in Tiger Stadium.
- LSU's captains for the game were permanent captains Bradie James and Domanick Davis as well as Kenderick Allen and LaBrandon Toefield.
- Ole Miss won the toss and elected to defer. LSU received to start the game and defended the North endzone.
- The attendance for the game was 91,613, which is the second largest crowd this year and the eighth largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history. It is the 19th consecutive game the attendance has been more than 85,000 and the 13th time the crowd has exceeded 90,000.
- Recording artist Britteny Spears made an appearance in the PA booth and the press box during halftime to watch the festivities.
- LSU forced a turnover for the 24th consecutive game, every one dating back to the 2000 Peach Bowl.
- For the fifth straight game, LSU's opponent scored first.
- LSU faked a kick for the second straight week and third time this year. The Tigers were previously successful in faking a field goal (Florida) and a punt (Alabama).
- LSU finished a home season 6-1 for the second time in three year and moved to 17-5 at home under Nick Saban.
- The Tigers clinched a share of the SEC West title, their fourth in seven years and second straight.
- LSU beat Ole Miss in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1995.
- The Tigers won their eighth game, marking the third straight year they have won eight. It is the first time since 1984-88 LSU has won eight games in three straight years.
- For the eighth time in 11 games, LSU held an opponent to 275 total yards or less. The streak would be 250 or less, but twice an opponent has cracked the plateau on the games final play (South Carolina, Ole Miss).
- With the win, LSU set up a showdown with Arkansas next Friday that will decide the SEC West representative in the SEC Championship game.
- The 14 points is the fewest by LSU in a Tiger victory since a 7-6 win at Vanderbilt in 1997.
- LSU won a game when trailing after three quarters for the first time since trailing Tennessee 17-16 after three in the 2001 SEC Championship game.
- Jerel Myers extended his team best streak of consecutive starts to 36 while Rodney Reed pushed his streak to 32. Bradie James has now started 19 straight games and Norman LeJeune and Stephen Peterman have each started 17 straight.
- Redshirt freshman Rick Clausen made his first career start at quarterback. He is the first freshman to start at quarterback for LSU since Craig Nall against Arkansas in 1998.
- Michael Clayton caught a pass in his 23rd straight game, every one of his career. His streak is the longest on the team.
- Devery Henderson caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season, moving him into sole place of seventh in LSU history for receiving touchdowns in a season.
- Devery Henderson had each of LSU's past six touchdown receptions at the time.
- Norman LeJeune recorded his third and fourth sacks of the season.
- Demetrius Hookfin intercepted his fifth pass of the season to tie for 10th in school history for interceptions in a season.
- Skyler Green made his first career reception on a 7-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He is the 13th LSU player to catch a pass this season.
- Michael Clayton caught his fifth touchdown of the year and the 11th of his career. The 11 places him 10th in LSU history.
- Corey Webster intercepted his sixth pass of the year, moving him into a fifth place tie at LSU for picks in one season.
Domanick Davis Notes
- With 156 all-purpose yards, Domanick Davis passed Dalton Hilliard for second in LSU history and fifth in SEC history for career all-purpose yards.
- Domanick Davis moved into third place in LSU's single-season history for all-purpose yards passing Charles Alexander (1977) and Josh Reed (2001).
- With 156 all-purpose yards, Domanick Davis moved into 14th place in SEC single-season history for yards in a year.
- Domanick Davis passed his 2001 total for eighth place on LSU's single-season kickoff return yardage list.
- On an eight-yard run in the third quarter, Domanick Davis passed Billy Cannon for 10th in school annals for career rushing yards.
- Domanick Davis moved into sixth place for total kick return yardage in a season in SEC history, passing Tony James' (MSU) 1989 total.
- On his 7-yard return in the fourth quarter, Domanick Davis took over eighth in SEC history for single-season punt return yards. He passed Scott Woerner's (UG) 1980 total.
- OLE MISS POSTGAME NOTES
GAME #11 AT LSU * NOVEMBER 23, 2002 * 7:00 P.M.
- Tonight's meeting was the 91st all-time between the two schools dating back to 1894. LSU holds a 50-37-4 advantage in the series.
- LSU is Ole Miss' second-most played opponent besides Mississippi State, who the Rebels' will host for the 99th time Thursday night.
- Tonight's loss breaks the three-game Ole Miss win streak over LSU in Baton Rouge.
- The Rebels are now 24-34-1 all-time versus LSU at Tiger Stadium.
- Ole Miss is now 5-1 this season and 24-7 under David Cutcliffe when leading at halftime.
- Ole Miss has lost five games in a row. The five game losing streak is the longest since dropping five-straight in 1991 (Georgia, Vanderbilt, LSU, Tennessee and Mississippi State).
- The Rebels have lost six-straight road games, their longest road skid since dropping eight-straight from 1992-1994. LSU was the last team Ole Miss defeated away from Oxford, winning 35-24 last year on Oct. 27 in Baton Rouge.
- The Rebels are 1-3 against ranked opponents this season, defeating Florida (#6 AP/#8 ESPN/USA Today), 17-14 on Oct. 5 in Oxford, and losing to Alabama (#24 AP), 42-7 in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 19, Georgia (#7 AP/#8 ESPN/USA Today), 31-17 in Athens on Nov. 9, and LSU (#20 AP/#21 ESPN/USA Today), 14-13 in Baton Rouge on Nov. 23.
- The Rebels are 5-3 following an off-week under head coach David Cutcliffe.
- This season, Ole Miss was idle on Sept. 28 following a 45-38 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 21, and returned to action by upsetting No. 6 Florida, 17-14, in Oxford on Oct. 5. Ole Miss was idle on Nov. 16 following a 31-17 loss to No. 7 Georgia on Nov. 9, and returned to action with a loss to No. 20 LSU, 14-13, in Baton Rouge on Nov. 23.
- Ole Miss has an all-time record of 186-154-13 during the month of November. Ole Miss is 110-64-5 in home games in November and 76-90-8 on the road.
- 19-of-38 passing, 218 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
- Manning's 20-yard TD pass to redshirt freshman Mike Espy in the second half was the 49th of his career.
- With 19 completions, Manning moved past Romaro Miller (1997-2000) for second place on the school's career list for completions with 513. Miller finished his career with 497 completions. Kent Austin (1981-85) is the Ole Miss career-record holder for completions with 566.
- Passed John Fourcade for third place on the Ole Miss career list in passing attempts. Manning now has attempted 849 career passes. Fourcade attempted 819 in his career.
- Redshirt freshman WR Mike Espy recorded his first career rush on an end-around in the first quarter, gaining six yards.
- Senior RB Toward Sanford's 18-yard reception in the first quarter was his longest of the season.
- Junior WR Chris Collins' rush on an end-around in the third quarter was his first rush of the season, the sixth of his career.
STREAKING REBELS: Three Rebel receivers continued streaks of 10 or more games with a catch in junior Chris Collins (20), sophomore Bill Flowers (16) and senior Jason Armstead (15).
Receiver Streak Tonight
Chris Collins 20 5 rec., 39 yards
Bill Flowers 17 1 rec., 10 yards
Jason Armstead 15 2 rec., 45 yards
- Junior Von Hutchins' interception was his fourth of the season, tying senior DB Matt Grier for the team lead, and the fifth of his career.
- Junior DE Josh Cooper's fumble recovery in the second quarter was his team-leading second of the year, and the third of his career.
- Redshirt freshman CB Travis Johnson's fumble recovery in the third quarter was his second of the year to tie Cooper for the team lead. He also recovered fumbles in back-to-back games as he recovered his first career fumble during the Nov. 9 game at Georgia.
- LSU's five fumbles tonight was the most by an opponent against the Rebels this season, and Ole Miss' three fumble recoveries tied its season high. The Rebels also recorded three fumble recoveries against Vanderbilt on Sept. 21.
- Ole Miss' four takeaways tonight tied a season high set against Florida on Oct. 5.
SPECIAL TEAM NOTES
- Sophomore PK Jonathan Nichols was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts tonight, making a 36-yarder in the first quarter and a 39-yarder in the third quarter. He has made 10-of-11 since the Vanderbilt game on Sept. 21.
- Nichols has converted 43 consecutive PAT attempts since Nov. 22, 2001, the fourth longest streak in school history.
LSU HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
OLE MISS GAME
NOV. 23, 2002
"Well first of all I would like to say that I am extremely happy for the senior players on our team, the 22 seniors who were introduced before the game and played their last game in Tiger Stadium. It was certainly a great atmosphere out there for them to finish their career in and the crowd did a fantastic job of helping us win this game. We needed the emotion that we played with in the end to overcome a lot of adversity which they (Ole Miss) had a lot to do with. I was extremely, extremely happy, as happy as I have ever been because we have a great bunch of seniors, guys that have been here for three years and have had a lot to do with turning this program around. They are responsible for getting us to where we are today relative to winning a championship last year and being a part of a season so far where at least we have an opportunity to play for the championship again and win the West. I was very pleased and happy for all the seniors on the team. I think it was a great team win. We wanted to re-establish our identity out there and compete in the game for 60 minutes tonight. If that happened, no matter what the circumstances were, which I thought was the trademark of our team this year but wasn't the last three weeks and I think our players did that."
"To intercept the ball on third and six inside the 10 or whatever and getting out of that situation was big. To make the interception at the end of the game and to make the play before the half were important. Marcus had two drives today which were both no-huddle drives and did an outstanding job. I was really proud of how our players competed in the game and a lot of guys did well. We made a lot of mistakes in the game, there is no doubt. We fumbled the ball five time and lost three which all hurt us. We had one other interception but had three on defense and we probably got our hands on a few more balls. I was really pleased with how our team competed and I was happy we were able to win the game. Ole Miss played a really good game and I am just proud of how our players competed in the game today."
LSU Defensive Player Quotes
Strong Safety Norman LeJeune
"It took us coming together as a team to come out with a win. The togetherness on the field helped us out a lot. We pressure the quarterback a lot. You have to take your hats off to our defense. The offense got into the endzone when they needed to. It was just a team effort. I think we came together tonight and did it for 60 minutes."
"Our backs were against the wall, but primetime players make primetime plays when it is time to make them. That was something we wanted to do to find ourself and we found ourself tonight. We want to continue that and be a dominant defense in the next game."
"I just gave it my all tonight, knowing it was my last night in Tiger Stadium. I gave those guys 110 %. Whatever was going to happen, happens. I played a good game and thank everyone this season. It feels good."
Middle Linebacker Bradie James
"We had to answer the question tonight about what is our identity. Before the last few games, we had our identity and that was a dominant defense. We were able to be dominant tonight, but Ole Miss came in and played well. We were able to overcome all the adverse situations and keep playing. We wanted to make plays tonight."
"It hadn't really hit me yet that I played my last game here. I haven't really thought about it because I am still playing. I really won't miss it until it is all over with. As long as the season is still going, I am going to still be trying to win the next game. Tiger Stadium has not only been good to me but the rest of the seniors. To go out with a bang like that is what we needed."
LSU Offensive Player Quotes
LSU WR Michael Clayton
On the touchdown
"It's called a whip-out. You fake like you're going to run the slant and then you stop. I read that it was wide open, so I just sat down and Marcus (Randall) made a good throw. I turned around and the outside receiver had run his guy off and I just dashed into the end-zone."
On wanting the ball
"I wanted the ball in my hands. I think everyone wants it. It's just a matter of who gets it and when they get it, they have to make a play. We did that tonight."
On the defense
"The defense was awesome tonight. All week we've been preaching of overcoming our mistakes. In the past, we just kind of shut it down a little bit and tonight we decided we weren't were going to shut it down and we were going to fight for 60 minutes."
LSU QB Marcus Randall
On not starting
"By not starting, I got to sit back and see what the defense was doing. I was out there and I was still focused and in the game. I knew I would get my chance and when I did, I had to take advantage of it."
On running the two-minute offense
"I like the fast pace of a two-minute offense. Between the plays, you don't have such a big break and you keep moving. You stay more active during the plays and during the game, and it helps keep me focused and in the game."
On being told he wouldn't start
"This past week we practiced really hard. Rick (Clausen) and I took the same amount of reps, and it was really just going out there and playing. When coach Saban first told me (he wasn't going to start) I was down a little bit because I knew it was the seniors last game and I wanted to contribute to that aspect. I knew I was going to get my chance to play and I just had to stay focused during the game and just come out and play."
QUOTES FROM OLE MISS HEAD COACH DAVID CUTCLIFFE
"First, let me just say that it was a tough loss for us. The players played extremely hard and we made a lot of plays that allowed us to maintain the lead for a big part of the game. Give LSU credit. They made the plays when they needed to make them. They were big plays and it was a hard-fought ball game."
"We have very little time to get ourselves ready for our next one and we have no choice but to pick ourselves up and move on."
On the turnover inside the 10-yard line
"Well, we called a real conservative, little flat pass and the player never looked and it just bounced off of his head. Their player made a good break on the ball and I knew that the points were big, the three points, even though there was still 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the way that the game was going, we just wanted a conservative call."
"That's just the way that our season's gone. Whatever could possibly go wrong does go wrong."
On Eli Manning and the hit he took to his throwing arm
"It was a tough, tough game and he got beat up pretty good. He has a pretty good bruise on his throwing arm and elbow. I kept checking with him and we'll just have to see what the night brings and how he is tomorrow."
"They (LSU) did a good job with their pressure package I thought. They did a good job of keeping the pressure on him (Manning) all night long. On that one particular play he got hit pretty good."
On if Eli Manning wanted to come out of the game
"No, he didn't. I mean, he's a competitor. He's not looking for reasons why, it just didn't work out. Some throws didn't work out the way that we would have liked them to work out."
On the importance of LSU's crowd and its affect on the game
"It's a great crowd down here and I'm sure it affected LSU's team. I thought our team handled the crowd well, but it's a great atmosphere to play and they have great fans."
Quotes from Ole Miss Players
Quarterback Eli Manning
"I took a hit on the elbow. I will see how it goes tomorrow, and hopefully I will be able to practice tomorrow. It was early in the third quarter, and we were driving down. They did a blitz and I got a helmet on the elbow, and we kicked the field goal to make 13-7.
On the two interceptions
"The first one had a little flood package to the tailback, and I saw him and I thought he was open and I saw the corners were kind of sitting out and I did not see the guy behind him. I just threw it, and it hit him in the helmet and it popped up. It was a bad decision, and it was a situation where we just needed a field goal. We needed some points, and it was just a bad play by me. I didn't see the guys. I should have kept rolling and made sure that the guy was open before I threw anything."
"The next one was late in the game. I had a post to Chris (Collins), and their safety really dropped deep in strong. I had him open and Chris was behind him. I had him, but I just did not get enough on the ball. The guy just caught it. It was a bad throw."
On the his injury
"It was not hurting. I felt fine throwing the ball. I was throwing the ball on the sideline 30 yards on a line. I just threw a bad ball. I did not put enough on it. It was badly under thrown. The guy made a play. Chris tried to knock it down, but it was just too bad a thrown ball."
"It was kind of hard to squeeze the ball at one point. It just takes time to get your strength back. I am kind of lucky that they had a long drive, and I kept throwing on the sideline, and my strength just came back."
Flanker Mike Espy
"There was not an individual moment that cost us the game. We had ample opportunities to take care of LSU and put this game away. We had a couple of mistakes here and there that just killed us."
"During our losing streak I think that we have let a lot of them slip away. This one hurts though. We had those guys right where we wanted them, but they took care of business."