by Chris Macaluso
special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- LSU's last hurdle to its first undefeated home record since 1972 seemed like an easy one to leap on paper. According to the stat sheets, 3-6 Ole Miss was supposed to lose big. But, 91,413 fans in Tiger Stadium Saturday were treated to a 27-24 LSU victory that proved as difficult as any of the other seven wins for the Tigers this season.
LSU's record improved to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference and it now moves on to face Arkansas next Friday in Little Rock and eventually a bowl game. Ole Miss' season continued a downward spiral as the Rebels fell to 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the conference. Their lone bowl will come next week against intrastate rival Mississippi State in what fans affectionately call "The Egg Bowl."
The Tigers dominated statistically amassing a season-high 360 yards rushing against a Rebel defense that entered the game surrendering an average of 177.9 yards on the ground.
On the night Tiger fans saluted some of their most decorated seniors in school history, including All-Americans Cory Webster, Marcus Spears and Ben Wilkerson, it was sophomore tailback Alley Broussard who gave the fans a glimpse of how bright the present is and the future could be.
Broussard ran with a fervor never-before seen in Tiger Stadium, compiling a school record 250 rushing yards on 26 attempts and all three Tiger touchdowns. Joseph Addai, who should return for his senior season next year, picked up 108 rushing yards on 14 attempts. The Tigers continued to struggle in the passing department as JaMarcus Russell and Marcus Randall combined for just eight completions for 81 yards.
LSU's 360 rushing yards eclipsed Ole Miss' total yardage by more than 100 as the Rebels amassed 254 yards during the game. Vashon Pearson led Ole Miss with 86 rushing yards while one-time LSU commitment Robert Lane, who played most of the game at quarterback, earned just 43 yards rushing and one touchdown and 23 yards passing after completing just four out of 13 attempts.
Despite the disparity in yardage, the outcome of the game remained in doubt well into the fourth quarter. LSU took an early 14-3 lead but saw that lead shrink to just one point with 7:10 to play in the first half. The Tigers stretched that lead to 17-13 but saw that lead dry up to one point as well at 17-16 after a very questionable officiating decision gave the Rebels time to kick a field goal with less than three seconds to play in the half.
Ole Miss took an early second half lead on a interception return for a touchdown but LSU fought back as the Tiger defense kept the Rebels well out of scoring range the rest of the game and the Tiger ground attack penetrated the Ole Miss front. Broussard sealed the win for LSU with a seven-yard touchdown run with 10:51 remaining. Tiger defensive back Travis Daniels helped as well with two second-half interceptions, including one on Ole Miss' last offensive possession.
LSU took the opening possession with Russell calling the signals and marched through the unobtrusive Rebel defense with relative ease. A 44-yard run by Broussard highlighted the eight-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 3:25 of the first quarter clock and gave LSU a 7-0 lead after Ryan Gaudet booted the extra point.
The Rebels dug themselves a hole deep in their territory on the ensuing kickoff when returner Larry Kendrick fumbled the kick inside the five-yard line and was tackled there by a host of LSU defenders. The Rebels moved the ball out to the 24-yard line on the drive's second play thanks to a questionable pass interference penalty on Webster and continued to move the ball thanks in large part to the legs and arm of Lane, who ran for one first down and threw for another.
But, the Ole Miss drive eventually stalled at the Tiger 31-yard line giving Jonathan Nicholls a chance to drive a 49-yard field goal through the north endzone uprights and cut the LSU lead to 7-3 with 7:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Addai gave the Tigers an excellent shot to add to their lead when he returned Nicholls' kickoff to the LSU 43 after dodging and sliding and simply running over Rebel defenders. But, the Tigers could manage just one yard after the offense returned to the field, forcing Chris Jackson to punt the ball back to Ole Miss.
Rebel punt returner Mike Espy put on a bit a of a show on his return as well while dodging tacklers inside his five-yard line before dashing up the east sideline to near mid-field. But his efforts were for naught as two illegal blocking penalties pinned Ole Miss just four yards away from its goal line. Four plays later, Cody Ridgeway punted out of the endzone, giving the Tiger offense another shot, this time at the Rebel 45.
Russell completed two noteworthy passes during the ensuing nine-play, 45-yard drive, the first a 14-yard completion over the middle to Craig Davis that gave LSU a first down at the 29-yard line and the second an 18-yard strike to tight end David Jones, who made a sliding grab at the 1-yard line. Broussard bounced out of the pile and into the endzone three plays later for his second touchdown and the Tigers took a 14-3 lead on the last play of the first quarter.
Kendrick gave the Rebels a chance to cut into the Tiger lead by returning the kickoff all the way to the Tiger 35-yard line. The Rebels received additional help when an unusual block in the back penalty against LSU during the return added 10 more yards. But, Lane and the Rebels could not find the endzone and Nicholls returned to the game to successfully kick a 27-yard field goal with 12:29 remaining in the half.
LSU took control of the ball at its 20-yard line to start its next drive, but the view from that point lasted just one play as Broussard exploded through the Rebel defense on a 30-yard run. But, LSU picked up just one additional first down on the drive and Jackson punted back to Espy, who called for and made a fair catch at the 12-yard line.
The Rebels worked out to their own 36-yard line before Ridgeway entered the game for what appeared to be another punt. But, he instead sprinted around the right side of the line and all the way to the LSU 42 before being chased out of bounds. Pearson then gave the Rebels a first and goal chance on the next play with a 37-yard scamper. Lane took advantage of Pearson's effort three plays later by sprinting through the middle of the Tiger defense and into the endzone. Nicholls added the extra point and LSU's lead was cut to a tenuous one point with 7:10 remaining in the half.
Randall lead the Tigers on the next drive, one that was filled with momentary successes because of Broussard but more failures because of continued weakness in the passing game. Eventually the drive stopped at the Rebel 33-yard line and Jackson launched a 50-yard field goal into the north endzone stands to give LSU a 17-13 lead with 1:07 remaining in the half.
Ole Miss changed quarterbacks as well when it took over after Jackson's long field goal. Ethan Flatt entered the lineup and marched the Rebels deep into LSU territory with no timeouts and less than one minute remaining in the half. Two long pass plays set the Rebels inside the Tiger 10-yard line with less than 10 seconds to play. Flatt then completed a pass to Bill Flowers at the LSU 4-yard line as the clock seemed to tick down to .06 seconds remaining. But, the referee asked that the clock be reset to 3.1 seconds then, inexplicably gave Ole Miss enough time to run its field goal unit on the field after the ball was set for the first and goal play. Nicholls short kick was good as time expired and the Rebels and officials left the field to a rain of boos after the Tiger lead was cut to 17-16.
The Rebels took the opening possession of the second half no further than their 33-yard line and, after a swift, 18-yard return by Skyler Green, LSU took over on offense at the 50-yard line with Russell calling the plays. But Russell made a freshman mistake as he tried to softly lob a screen pass to Addai on third down and 11 that was intercepted by Rebel cornerback Trumaine McBride and returned 48 yards for a touchdown. Lane skipped into the endzone for a successful two-point try and Ole Miss took a 24-17 lead with 11:15 left in the third quarter.
Green again gave the Tigers good field position with which to work as he returned the ensuing kickoff to the LSU 38. Broussard picked up three yards on the drive's first play but Russell was befuddled again by the Rebel defense on the next two plays and LSU was forced to punt.
Ole Miss took control at its 29-yard line with Lane under center, who, after a short running play on first down was sacked deep by Melvin Oliver on second down which eventually forced the Rebels to punt back to the Tigers. Green fair caught the punt at his 32-yard line.
Russell found Davis wide open for a 23-yard gain on the drive's first play and then turned to the churning legs of Broussard for 13 more yards. But Russell cost his team 14 yards on the next play when he took committed an intentional grounding penalty at the 46-yard line. But, the Rebels gave the Tiger drive a second wind with a personal foul facemask penalty on the next play as Russell attempted to scurry out of the Ole Miss blitz. LSU could move no further beyond the penalty yards and Jackson entered to attempt a 42-yard field goal that bounced off the right upright.
Ole Miss managed just three plays on its next drive giving Ridgeway the chance to pin LSU back at its 10-yard line with a 51-yard punt. Broussard smacked the Rebels right back with a 58-yard run on the first play of the drive, bringing the Tiger Stadium crowd back into the fray. But LSU picked up just seven more yards on the drive giving Jackson the chance to cut the Rebel lead to 24-20 with a 42-yard field goal with less than 5 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Rebels punted again after a three-play possession on their next drive, giving LSU decent field position at its 39-yard line. The Tigers then proceeded to pound at the heart of the Rebel defense with the tandem of Broussard and Addai and the help of a questionable pass interference call. Broussard capped the drive on its seventh play when he accelerated through the Rebel defensive front from the seven-yard line for his third touchdown. Gaudet added the point after and the Tigers regained the lead at 27-24 with 10:51 remaining.
Ole miss took over after the kickoff at its 31-yard line and faced a third down and 10 with Lane set in the shotgun. In what seemed to a blink of the eye, Lane was surrounded by three Tiger defensive linemen, all of whom dragged him to the turf, and the Rebels were forced to punt again.
Broussard opened LSU's possession with a 14-yard run but the drive seemed in trouble two plays later after Russell was sacked at the 26-yard line. But, on third down and 24, on a draw play to Addai that seemed like a safety measure, the Tiger tailback busted through for 52 yards and gave his team a chance to extend its lead again. Gaudet's first field goal try of the game sailed left from the 14-yard line and the Tigers handed the ball back to Ole Miss at the 20-yard line.
Flatt needed just three plays to throw his first interception to Daniels, a diving grab that landed the Tiger defensive back in the mud in front of LSU's bench on the Ole Miss 48- yard line. Daniels intercepted Flatt again with less than 1:00 remaining at the Tiger 46 to end any Rebel threat.
LSU vs. Ole Miss -- Nov. 20, 2004
- LSU's game captains are 12 Marcus Randall, 13 Corey Webster and 84 Marcus Spears.
- Today's honorary captains for LSU are Jay Michaelson (TE from 1969-71), Chad Kessler (P from 1994-1997) and Bert Jones (QB from 1970-72).
- Ole Miss won the toss and deferred to the second half. LSU will receive to open the game.
- Tigers extending their consecutive starts streak tonight were: OT Andrew Whitworth (37), DE Marcus Spears (29), LB Lionel Turner (25), CB Travis Daniels (24), FS LaRon Landry (19) and DT Kyle Williams (18).
- LSU's sack of Ole Miss QB Robert Lane with 9:58 left in the first quarter (sack by DE Marcus Spears) extended the Tigers streak of recording at least one sack in a game to 35 straight.
- Tonight's attendance of 91,413 is the 24th time Tiger Stadium's attendance is over 90,000.
- With that figure, LSU broke the home attendance mark for a season with an average of 91,208 (638,462 total attendance for seven games). The old record was 90,974 set last year.
- LSU under Nick Saban ... LSU is now 38-3 when leading after three quarters ... LSU is now 43-3 when scoring 20 points of more.
- LSU has now won 10 straight games in Tiger Stadium, including a 7-0 mark this season. It is the first perfect record at home in a season since going 7-0 in 1972. NOTE -- LSU was 6-0-1 in 1976.
- The comeback victory was the ninth time under Nick Saban that the Tigers have rallied to win a game despite trailing in the final quarter.
- LSU is now 21-0 under Nick Saban when a player rushes for over 100 yards in a game.
- The 360 total rushing yards are the most by LSU in a contest since collecting 400 yards versus Kentucky on Nov. 1, 1997.
- LSU recorded two 100-yard rushers in game for the first time since Sept. 11, 1999 versus North Texas. Rondell Mealey rushed for 118 yards, while Domanick Davis added 109 yards in that contest.
- RB Alley Broussard's 250 yards set the school record for rushing yards. The previous high was 246 yards by Kevin Faulk against Houston on Sept. 7, 1996.
- Broussard's 58-yard run late in the third quarter was the sophomore's career long. His previous high was 44 yards accomplished earlier in the game.
- Broussard has now recorded a run of at least 32 yards in three straight games.
- With Broussard's 250 yards, he became the eighth different player to rush for over 200 yards in a game and it is the 12th time a player has accomplished the feat. Teammate Justin Vincent was the last player to rush for at least 200 yards with 201 yards against Georgia in the 2003 SEC Championship game.
- Broussard's 26 carries are also a career high for the sophomore. His previous high was 19 at South Carolina last season.
- Broussard tied his record with a third rushing touchdown with 10:51 left in the fourth quarter. He also scored three touchdowns against Mississippi State earlier this season. The 7-yard score was the 13th of his career. It is the second multi-touchdown game of his career.
- DE Marcus Spears' recorded two sacks during the game, moving the senior into eighth-place on LSU's career sack list. He is now tied with Anthony McFarland with 17 sacks.
- WR Craig Davis has now caught at least one pass in all 10 games this season. The sophomore pulled down a reception late in the first quarter.
- PK Chris Jackson's 51-yard field goal with 1:07 left in the second quarter was a career-high and the longest made by a LSU kicker since Wade Richey kicked a 54-yarder against Kentucky in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 19, 1996.
- The 51-yarder ties Jackson for the fifth longest field goal in LSU history.
- DE Melvin Oliver recorded the 11th sack of his career and the first of the season in the middle of the third quarter.
- Skyler Green recorded 32 punt return yards in the game and is now 27 yards shy of eclipsing Joe Labruzzo's 687 yards for fifth place in career punt return yards. Green entered the game with 629 yards and finished with 661 yards.
- SS Jessie Daniels recorded the first multi-interception game of his career, making his second and third career picks.
- He became the first player to record two interceptions in a game since Corey Webster pulled down two interceptions versus Arkansas in the home finale last season.
- RB Joseph Addai finished with a career high 107 yards rushing on 14 carries. His previous career best was 99 yards against Alabama last weekend.
Opening Statement of Nick Saban, LSU head coach
"The thing I'm most happy about is that our senior went out victorious in their last game in Tiger Stadium. I think it meant a lot to our guys who have done a lot to contribute to the success of this program in the four years or the five years that they've been here not only in the way they played on the field and the victories they got for this team but also for the way they represented LSU. I'm very pleased about that.
"I think it says a lot about the character of our team with the mistakes that we made in the game, that we did not play our best game. But give a lot of credit to Ole Miss who played a very good game in terms of the plays that they made, in terms of the things they did on special teams. They had a good plan against us offensively. We shot ourselves in the foot. They never really stopped us when we had the ball on offense in terms of running the football. When you got to run and you get a holding penalty and it's second and 20 and you don't have a lot of confidence in a close game about how you are going to do passing the ball especially after you've had an interception for a touchdown, it made it difficult. We played good position. I think we played smart. I think Jimbo played smart and it was a great win for us."
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
OT ANDREW WHITWORTH
On getting the win over Ole Miss...
"It was a big game for us. We wanted to go out there and do this for the senior class and more importantly what they've represented the past years. It was a good win for us. We didn't execute like we wanted at times--we killed ourselves a little bit--but we played hard and that's all you can really ask."
On getting another come-from-behind win...
"We're getting good at those. But I guess you know our team is tough and we don't quit. Offensively we moved the ball very well tonight and we're proud of that."
On the play of the offensive line...
"We played well. We played hard and ran the ball well. We had some success with that this week in practice and carried it to the field, and we're really proud of that."
RB ALLEY BROUSSARD
On the win over Ole Miss...
"I'm just proud of everybody. We're all happy because we all played hard."
On his 250 rushing yards...
"I feel great; I can't even describe it. I was doing things out there I didn't even know I could do. I was spinning and making cuts. I thought I was a power back, but I just had confidence in the game and I have to give credit to my offensive line."
QB JAMARCUS RUSSELL
On what made the difference in Alley Broussard tonight...
"I think it's that urge in his body. You have to want it. There were times when he could have easily been down, but got an extra five, six or seven yards."
On not playing consistently...
"Most teams are like this. Even when you're good you have your ups and downs. You just have to be ready for anything and react to it."
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
DE Marcus Spears
...On not playing the last few plays
"It just felt like my leg couldn't go. So, I had to nudge those guys and tell them to finish it out for me. They did a great job. Kyle (Williams) made a play. Kirston (Pittman) made a play as he always does. It just feels good to walk off this field knowing that you left it all out there and you were able to have a perfect season at home."
...On the emotion he felt playing in his last home game
"It was emotional because it's been so long. There have been some great memories in this place, and I'll never forget them. I want the fans and the crowd to know that I appreciate everything they did for me. The motivation factor that they give us week in and week out is unmatched anywhere in the country."
SS Jessie Daniels
...On how he made his two interceptions
"Basically on the interceptions, I just had a few keys that I noticed in the game when the quarterback would check and the hand signals that he was doing and the routes they would run. I made adjustments from that, and every time that he made an adjustment I pretty much knew the play that they were running by the check."
Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe
"It proved to be a tough pill to swallow. We came up short against a good football team. We played better, but not good enough. We made some plays at times, and gave ourselves a chance to be in the game. The goal is to win, and we have got to find a way to pick ourselves back up, work hard and get ourselves prepared to play our final game."
...On the quarterback situation
"We were just working on tonight, a rotation. We thought we had to have the mobile quarterback in the game because of their defense, and because of the game plan was more suited. So that is why we played Robert (Lane) most of the way. Ethan (Flatt) came in, and he is our quarterback in our two minute operations and he came in, into those situations."
...On the rushing defense
"They are good. We just didn't tackle very well or get off of blocks. That combination is a bad combination. We had times where people were in position to make the play for a minimal gain. Don't make the play and their backs will make you pay."
Trumaine McBride DB
On losing this game...
"That is how it has been all season. We've just got to bounce back next week for our state rivalry and get us a win. In the Arkansas game, we got beat bad. We came out this time and played a pretty good game, but we just didn't just finish. So for the game next week, that will give us a lot of confidence."
Robert Lane QB
On playing in Death Valley
"It is a great place to come to play. They've got some great fans. It was a great game and we couldn't ask for better."
On changes made in the half...
"They made some adjustments at half time and so did we. They just got a down when they needed to and we didn't. That was the difference in the game."