Tigers Win West Showdown, 17-14; Game Away From Title
LSU Sports Interactive
BATON ROUGE -- Matt Mauck shook off two first-half interceptions in LSU territory, including one returned for a touchdown on his first play, to lead the third-ranked Tigers to a 17-14 victory over No. 15 Ole Miss on Saturday in front of a Mississippi record 62,552 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Mauck threw touchdown passes of 9 and 53 yards and freshman placekicker Chris Jackson connected on a season-long 45-yard field goal to give LSU (10-1, 6-1 SEC) its first 10-1 start since 1961.
The junior quarterback paced LSU with 16-of-29 passing despite three interceptions. LSU's ground attack came up 22 yards short of its season average, but tallied 152 yards on 47 carries.
Freshman running back Justin Vincent posted his second 100-yard rushing game (105) on 22 carries. Wide receiver Michael Clayton had nine catches for 83 yards, while Devery Henderson caught the game-winning touchdown pass and finished with three catches for 74 yards.
Ole Miss (8-3, 6-1 SEC) watched junior Groza Award candidate Jonathan Nichols miss two field goals from 47 and 36 yards, the latter could have tied the game late in the fourth quarter.
Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Eli Manning, struggled against the nation's No. 1 scoring defense. He completed only 16-of-36 passes for 200 yards and an interception.
Ole Miss rushed for only 27 yards on 21 carries. Manning was sacked three times for 37 yards.
LSU won the toss and deferred its decision until the second half. Ole Miss elected to receive and defend the South Endzone.
The Rebels picked up a first down on their first play from scrimmage when Jack Hunt missed a tackle behind the line and Mike Espy ran for 10 yards to the Ole Miss 37. However, a run from negative yardage was followed by consecutive incomplete passes that forced the Rebels to punt.
A 57-yard punt by junior Cody Ridgeway sailed over Green's head and landed out of bounds at the LSU 7-yard line. Deep in a hole to start the first drive, Mauck rolled out to his right and threw wide of Clayton into the hands of Ole Miss defensive back Travis Johnson.
Johnson ran six yards into the endzone for a 7-0 lead with 13:54 to play in the quarter. The interception by Mauck was the first returned for a touchdown against the Tigers since Arkansas' Quinton Caver on Nov. 24, 2000, in Little Rock.
LSU responded on the ensuing drive by controlling the ball and working its way into Rebel territory. The 15-play, seven-minute drive resulted in a Chris Jackson 45-yard field goal at the 6:44 mark of the first quarter. Mauck led the Tigers to three third-down conversions on the drive before being put in a third-and-10 situation.
The field goal was a career long for the Tigers freshman from River Ridge, La.
The teams traded five punts before Mauck was intercepted in LSU territory with 6:48 to play in the half. Mauck, looking for Clayton toward the right sideline, didn't see 6-6 defensive end Jayme Mitchell who dropped into coverage and threw it into his chest hard enough to drive the 280-pounder to the ground.
With excellent field position at the LSU 35, Manning was unable to generate any offense and the Rebels were forced to settle for a field goal attempt. The 47-yard attempt by Lou Groza Award Finalist Jonathan Nichols sailed wide right to keep the score 7-3 with 5:13 to play in the half.
LSU took over at its 29-yard line and went to work on its ground game. Vincent took consecutive carries for 6 and 44-yards -- a season long for the freshman -- to bring LSU to the Ole Miss 16. An 11-yard pass from Mauck to Clayton then set up a 9-yard touchdown to give the Tigers the lead, 10-7, with 2:42 on the first-half clock.
On the play, Clayton broke a series of tackles after receiving the ball at the Ole Miss 8-yard line. It was his 19th-career touchdown reception, tying former Tiger Wendell Davis for the school's all-time list. The touchdown was also Mauck's 22nd of the season, tying Tommy Hodson for the school's single-season record.
LSU held Ole Miss to only 79 yards of total offense in the half and possessed the ball for 20:06. The Tigers picked up 222 yards on 44 plays, including 109 on the ground and 113 through the air.
Each team punted once to start the second half before Mauck and Manning traded interceptions in LSU territory to give the Tigers the ball at their 16-yard line.
After two first downs, an intentional grounding penalty buried LSU into a third-and-34 situation and the Tigers were forced to punt once again. Again, the teams traded punts as the field position battle intensified.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Mauck converted on third-and-7 from the his own 47-yard line by tossing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Henderson to take a 17-7 lead with 14:50 to play.
With control of its SEC championship rights in the balance, Ole Miss pushed their way into LSU territory after taking advantage of a defensive holding penalty on third-and-2 at their 31-yard line.
The Tigers stopped Manning on first and second-and-goal situations, but the heralded senior found running back Brandon Jacobs on a middle screen out of the backfield for a touchdown.
Ole Miss trailed 17-14 with 10:51 to play.
With the Ole Miss crowd in a frenzy, LSU went three-and-out in its attempt to answer the score. However, a 49-yard Donnie Jones punt pushed the Rebels back to their 14 with 8:34 to play in the game.
The Rebels again rumbled down into LSU territory, but this time the No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the nation stopped Ole Miss in its tracks. Nicolas' second missed field goal of the day, this time from 36 yards to tie the game, was wide right.
LSU again went three-and-out, but relied on a 58-yard Jones punt to give Ole Miss the ball at their 32-yard line for one final drive with 2:16 remaining.
Three Manning passes fell incomplete to set up a fourth-and-10 with under two minutes to play. Manning dropped back for the most important pass of his season, Heisman campaign and career, but was stepped on by his guard to turn the ball over on downs.
LSU took over with 1:50 to play and ran all but nine seconds off the game clock.
Manning and the Rebels took over on downs, but had only one final heave before the horn sounded.
The attendance of 62,552 broke the previous school and state record of 61,140 set against Florida in 2002.
LSU returned to Baton Rouge immediately after the game on a charter flight. The Tigers return to action on Friday, Nov. 28 when they play host to Arkansas (8-3) on Senior Day at Tiger Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. CST on CBS.
LSU vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 22, 2003 -- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
- LSU's game captains are LB Eric Alexander, TE Eric Edwards and DT Chad Lavalais.
- LSU won the loss and elected to defer. Ole Miss will receive to open the game.
- OT Rodney Reed (45 straight), DT Chad Lavalais (32 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (30 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (24 straight), WR Michael Clayton (24 straight) and DE Marcus Spears (16 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- LSU's defense has not allowed a point on the road in the first half in 2003, as a team the Tigers has allowed 26 points in the first half all season, including the seven by Ole Miss today.
- LSU is 10-1 for the first time since 1961.
- Nick Saban is the second coach in LSU history to record two 10-win seasons. Paul Dietzel won at least 10 games in each of the 1958 and 1961 seasons.
- LSU won all of its regular season road games for the first time since 1997.
- WR Michael Clayton's 11-yard reception in the first quarter extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 37 games, every game of his career.
- PK Chris Jackson's 45-yard field goal with 6:44 left in the first quarter was the freshman's career long. He had hit field goals of 20 and 33 last week at Alabama.
- DT Chad Lavalais recorded a tackle midway through the first quarter to extend his streak to recording at least one tackle in each of the last 40 games.
- RB Justin Vincent's 44-yard run late in the second quarter was the freshman's longest of his career. His previous best was a 38-yard scamper against Mississippi State on Sept. 27.
- QB Matt Mauck's 9-yard touchdown pass to WR Michael Clayton with 2:42 left in the second half tied both for LSU records. Clayton caught his 19th touchdown pass of his career, tying the junior with Wendell Davis. Mauck's pass was his 22nd of the season, tying the junior with Tommy Hodson (1989) for the single season record. Mauck later broke the record with his 53-yard pass to Devery Henderson with 14:50 left in the fourth quarter.
- WR Michael Clayton's finished the game with nine catches for 83 yards. He has 66 receptions for the season and sits in fourth place on LSU's single season list. He also sits in second place in the career receptions list with 170 receptions.
- CB Corey Webster intercepted his fourth pass of the season with 10:15 left in the third quarter. It was the junior's 11 of his career, moving him into a tie for fourth on LSU's career interceptions list.
- WR Devery Henderson's 53-yard touchdown reception with 14:50 left in the fourth quarter was the senior's 18th of his career and 10th of the season, moving him into a tie for third in LSU's career record book and tied for second in the second record list.
- The LSU Defense was named "Player of the Game" by CBS Sports.