by Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- Weary LSU fans forced by nature's wrath to wait nearly a month to watch their team play at home hoped for better as the first Monday night football game in LSU history became more memorable for the opponents' comeback overtime win than the respite provided.
Tennessee, who had been outscored by LSU 21-0 in the first half, outscored the home-standing Tigers 23-3 after halftime to claim a 30-27 victory in front of 91,986 stunned fans.
LSU's record shrank to 1-1 with the loss while Tennessee improved to 2-1. Both teams have short weeks to prepare for Southeastern Conference games with LSU traveling to Mississippi State and Tennessee preparing to host Ole Miss.
The Volunteer's game-winning second-half charge was led by an unlikely hero in quarterback Rick Clausen, who completed 21of 32 mainly second-half passes for 196 yards and one touchdown. Claussen, once a back-up quarterback for LSU, was taken out of the starting line up last week by Tennessee Head Coach Phillip Fulmer in favor of Erik Ainge. He was forced into action when Ainge was injured late in the first half.
Clausen said after the game he was so upset by losing his starting job he didn't want to make the trip to Baton Rouge for Monday's game.
To the chagrin of Tiger fans, Clausen swallowed his pride enough to pick apart a Tiger defense that allowed just 90 yards in the first half but 205 in the second. Tennessee negated the same LSU blitz that confused and perplexed the Vols in the first half with a second-half barrage of short passes and well executed runs.
Meanwhile, the Vols' defense staggered LSU in the second half allowing just 44 yards after the Tigers gouged 200 passing and running in the first half.
Tennessee won the coin toss to start the overtime period and chose to play defense in the north end of the field. After Jospeh Addai ran 11 yards for a first down on LSU's first overtime play, the Tiger offense shut down again and Colt David was forced to give the Tigers a 27-24 lead with a 31-yard field goal.
But that lead was tenuous at best as the Tennessee offense, spurned by the monumental second half comeback scored a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge by Gerald Riggs on the sixth play of its possession.
Riggs finished the game with 74 yards and his winning touchdown. Addai was LSU's leading rusher with 73 yards and one touchdown. Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell finished the game with 14 completions on 26 attempts and one especially costly interception that allowed the Vols to cut the LSU lead to 24-21 with 7:15 to play. Tennessee tied the score 24-24 on a 28-yard field goal with 2:02 left in the contest.
Clausen awakened the Tennessee offense on its first drive of the second half, leading his team 61 yards down the field with an array of short passes. The time consuming-drive ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bret Smith in the back of the north endzone to cut the lead to 21-7 with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Clausen completed six of the seven passes attempted during the drive and finished the third quarter with nine completions in 12 attempts.
LSU took back a chunk of its halftime advantaged at the end of the third quarter when Chris Jackson line-drove a 42-yard field goal with 13 seconds to go in the quarter. Jackson's boot extended the Tiger lead to 24-7 and capped a six-play 25-yard drive highlighted by 10 and 11-yard runs by Addai.
Clausen responded with another relentless attack of short accurate passes that kept the Tiger defenders on their heels. He ended the 13-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard leap on fourth and goal to cut the Tiger lead to 10 points with 9:35 remaining in the game.
The Vols whittled the lead further just 1:20 later thanks to a Russell interception that set up a first down and goal for Tennessee at the LSU 2-yard line. Two plays later, Riggs skipped untouched into the endzone and the Tiger lead was cut to 24-21 with 7:15 to play.
LSU again was markedly unproductive on offense on the ensuing drive and punted the ball to the Vols after losing two yards. Tennessee took over at its 37-yard line with 5:24 remaining in the game.
Riggs opened the drive with a 32-yard run and the Tiger fans gasped loudly on the next play as a wide-open tight end dropped a sure pass at the LSU 30-yard line with open field ahead of him. The Tennessee advance stopped at the LSU 11 but that was plenty close enough for Wilhoit to launch the tying field goal that sailed into the south endzone with 2:02 remaining
LSU won the coin toss before the game and elected to defer, unwittingly setting up the first score of the game for LSU. The Vols were stopped at the 12-yard line on the kick return and needed just three plays to fumble the ball to LSU. Ainge rolled left out of the shotgun and was stripped from behind by a blitzing Jesse Daniels from his safety position. Tiger linebacker Ken Hollis quickly jumped on the loose football at the Tennessee 19, giving Addai the chance to score his third touchdown of the season on the next play.
Addai first ran into a crowded line off-tackle before bouncing to the outside and outrunning two Tennessee defensive backs to the endzone. David's extra point gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 12:44 to pay in the quarter.
LSU started the second quarter with the ball at the Volunteer 30-yard line. Four plays later, Russell was lying in the South endzone. Addai started the drive with a 21-yard run through the heart of the Tennessee defense. The Tigers followed that with a 47-yard flee-flicker pass from Russell to Craig Davis, setting up a first and goal at the 5. Addai powered to the 1-yard line on first down then Russell followed left guard Brett Helms into the endzone on second down, giving the Tigers a two-touchdown lead with 13:31 left in the half.
LSU's special teams set up the next Tiger score as Jackson lofted a spiraling punt that Ronnie Prude wrangled dead at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, with linebacker Cameron Vaughn hanging from his shoulders in the back of the endzone, Ainge, trying to avoid a safety, lobbed the ball underhanded to the 3-yard line where Hollis was waiting. Two big strides later, Hollis gave the Tigers a three-touchdown lead. David's extra point ran the tally to 21-0 LSU with 6:55 remaining in the half.
Ainge was replaced on the ensuing drive by Clausen on the ensuing drive, who piloted the Vols past midfield. But, that drive ended when Riggs fumbled at the LSU 47- yard line. Chevis Jackson hopped on the loose ball and LSU took over on offense again.
The Tigers threatened to score again at the end of the half, but Russell was forced to scramble out of the pocket from the Volunteer 13-yard line to the 5 with less than 25 seconds remaining. The half ended with the umpire holding the ball as LSU attempted to line up for a field goal.
LSU vs. Tennessee
Sept. 26, 2005 - Tiger Stadium
1. Tonight's game is the latest home opener for LSU since 1961. That year, the Tigers opened at home with a 16-7 win over Texas A&M on Sept. 30.
2. LSU's game captains are 41 Chris Jackson, 46 Cameron Vaughn and 76 Andrew Whitworth.
3. LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. Tennessee received the opening kickoff.
4. Tigers extending their consecutive starts' streak today were: OT Andrew Whitworth (41), FS LaRon Landry (22) and DT Kyle Williams (22), LB Cameron Vaughn (14) and SS Jessie Daniels (14).
5. LSU extended its sack streak to 39 straight games with a sack on Tennessee QB Erik Ainge by 31 Jessie Daniels early in the first quarter.
6. LSU scored on its first play from scrimmage (Joseph Addai's 19-yard run) for the first time since the game against Tulane on Sept. 1, 2001 (LaBrandon Toefield's 28-yard run).
a. That game against Tulane was the Tigers' home opener in 2001.
7. LSU returned an interception for a touchdown (Ken Hollis late in the second quarter) for the first time since Marcus Spears returned a pick for a score against Mississippi State in 2004.
8. LSU shutout an opponent in the first half for the first time since the Tigers led 34-0 at the break against Mississippi State on Sept. 25, 2004.
9. Tonight's attendance of 91,986 is the eighth largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history.
10. With the score tied at 24 at the end of regulation, it marked the fourth overtime in Tiger Stadium history and the second with Tennessee. In the last meeting between the teams in Tiger Stadium in 2000, Tennessee scored 16 fourth quarter points to force overtime in game LSU would eventually win, 38-31.
11. The tie score at the end of regulation also marks the second straight home opener that has gone into overtime. Last year, LSU rallied from an eight-point deficit against Oregon State on Sept. 4 to force overtime. The Tigers eventually won the game 22-21.
12. Tennessee won the toss in overtime and deferred to the second possession.
13. LSU fell to 3-2 in overtime in its history and lost in overtime in Tiger Stadium for the first time. LSU had previously owned wins in overtime against Tennessee (Sept. 30, 2000) and Mississippi State (Oct. 21, 2000). The Tigers' only other overtime loss came at Ole Miss on Oct. 31, 1998 (37-31).
14. With the loss, LSU's league-leading home winning streak came to an end at 10 games. It is the Tigers' first loss in Tiger Stadium since losing to Florida, 19-7, on Oct. 11, 2003.
15. LSU's six-game SEC winning streak also came to an end. The Tigers last lost to an SEC opponent at Georgia on Oct. 2 of last season.
16. LSU lost its SEC opener for the second straight season. Last year, the Tigers dropped a 10-9 decision at Auburn on Sept. 18.
17. OT Andrew Whitworth started his 41st straight game, moving the senior closer to fifth-place on LSU's all-time starts list. He now trails Chad Lavalais by one start for fifth place and the career record held by Jerel Myers and Rodney Reed with 48 starts.
18. SS Jessie Daniels recorded the first fumble of his career on the sack early in the first quarter.
19. LB Ken Hollis recovered the fumble forced by Daniels for the first recovery of his career.
a. Hollis returned an interception three yards for a touchdown with 6:55 left in the second quarter. It was the first touchdown of his career as well as the first interception of his career.
20. RB Joseph Addai scampered 19 yards for his 12th rushing touchdown of his career on LSU's first play from scrimmage.
21. WR Craig Davis pulled in a pass with 6:29 left in the first quarter to extend his consecutive games with a reception streak to 14.
a. Davis pulled down a 47-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell early in the second quarter marking the longest reception of his career. That pass was also Russell's career long.
22. QB JaMarcus Russell collected his second rushing touchdown of his career on a one-yard rush with 13:31 left in the second quarter. His other rushing touchdown came on an 8-yard run against Mississippi State in 2004.
23. CB Chevis Jackson recovered a fumble late in the second quarter for the first of his career.
24. TE Keith Zinger's 21-yard reception late in the second quarter was the longest of his career.
25. PK Chris Jackson kicked a 42-yard field goal with 0:13 left in the third quarter, the first of the season and the 17th of his career.
a. That field goal marked Jackson's sixth straight successful FG attempt with four of the six from at least 40-yards out.
26. Three Tigers (Jessie Daniels, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey) recorded the first sack of their careers during tonight's game.
TENNESSEE POSTGAME NOTES
Tennessee at LSU -- Sept. 26, 2005 -- Tiger Stadium -- Baton Rouge, La.
Tennessee improved to 2-1 (1-1 SEC); LSU fell to 1-1 (0-1 SEC)
The Vols entered the game ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the USA Today rankings; LSU was ranked No. 4 in both polls.
UT outscored LSU 30-6 after halftime of tonight's game. The Vols totaled 90 yards of total offense in the first half before posting 230 yards of offense after halftime.
Tennessee's five all-purpose plays of 20-yards or longer were more than it had in its previous two games combined (4 plays).
Tennessee returns to action Saturday vs. Mississippi at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. (12:30 p.m. ET on JP Sports)
Tennessee leads the all-time series vs. LSU 20-5-3 and has won five of the last seven games vs. the Tigers.
The Vols are 8-3-2 all-time in Baton Rouge.
Today's contest marked the first meeting between UT head coach Phillip Fulmer and LSU head coach Les Miles.
Phillip Fulmer's Record
Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer improved his record to 125-32 (.796) in 14 seasons with the Vols.
Fulmer now owns a 3-2 record against LSU and a 32-9 record vs. SEC Western Division teams.
Tonight' win was the 125th head coaching victory of Fulmer's career.
By overcoming a daunting 21-point halftime deficit, the Vols posted their largest come-from-behind win since they spotted Kentucky a 21-point lead on Nov. 17, 2001. Tennessee rallied to defeat Kentucky 38-35 in Lexington, Ky.
Riggs Provides Winning Rush
Senior TB Gerald Riggs Jr. was solid all evening, finishing the day with 89 yards on 24 carries. He scored his first two TDs of the season, including the game-winner -- a 1-yard run in overtime.
On the season, Riggs has rushed for 285 yards (three games) and a 95.0-yards-per-game rushing average.
Vols in Overtime
The Vols are 5-1 all-time in overtime games (2-1 on the road). Before tonight, Tennessee's most recent overtime game was a 51-43, five-OT victory at Alabama (Oct. 25, 2003).
Prior to tonight, the Vols' last regular-season game at Baton Rouge also went to overtime (Sept. 30, 2000). The Tigers posted a 38-31 win in that contest.
Clausen's Triumphant Return to Tiger Stadium
Senior QB and Vols co-captain Rick Clausen began his collegiate career at LSU, playing in three games -- and starting one -- for the Tigers as a freshman in 2002.
Clausen came off the bench in the second quarter and led the Vols' offense the rest of the game, finishing 21-of-32 for 197 yards and one TD. He was under center for all of UT's scoring drives.
Clausen scored on a 1-yard QB sneak in the fourth quarter. The play marked UT's first rushing TD of the season and Clausen's second career rushing TD.
Smith Scores Again
Junior WR Bret Smith caught his eighth career TD pass tonight. Among the players on UT's 2005 roster, Smith trails only senior WR Chris Hannon (10) for career TD catches.
Smith also recorded a TD reception last week at Florida.
Fayton Leads Vols' Receiving Efforts with Eight Catches
Senior WR C.J. Fayton gained 61 yards on a career-high eight catches tonight.
Fayton's eight catches were the most by a UT player in a single game since Kelley Washington caught 11 passes vs. LSU Sept. 29, 2001.
Big Orange Firsts
Redshirt freshman center Anthony Parker made his first career start, as did sophomore offensive tackle Eric Young.
True freshman wide receiver Lucas Taylor -- a native of Carencro, La. -- made his collegiate playing debut tonight. His first career touch was a first-quarter kickoff return, on which he gained 20 yards. The play marked UTs' longest return of the season to that point. He returned a kickoff 26 yards later in the game.
True freshman tailback Montario Hardesty also made his playing debut, logging two carries for four yards.
Redshirt freshman DE Robert Ayers saw the first game action of his career. True freshman DB Adam Myers-White and true freshman WR Austin Rogers also made their college debuts.
Junior DT Tony McDaniel saw his first action of the 2005 season.
Fumbles: Senior DE Jason Hall recovered a Tigers fumble in the first quarter. It was Hall's first career recovery. In the second quarter, senior DB Jason Allen forced a Tigers fumble that was recovered by junior DB Jonathan Wade. It was Allen's fifth career forced fumble and Wade's first career recovery. Wade was credited with a forced fumble on LSU's first drive of the third quarter.
Interceptions: Sophomore DB Jonathan Hefney intercepted an LSU pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 25 yards to the LSU 2-yard line. It was Hefney's second career interception.
Vols, Tigers Meet After Another National Disaster
Tennessee's 2001 regular-season game against LSU marked UT's first home contest after the terrorist bombings on Sept. 11, 2001. The Vols won that nightcap at Neyland Stadium 26-18 (Sept. 26). Tonight marked LSU's first home contest since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.
Tonight's game was Tennessee's first contest played on a Monday since the 2001 Cotton Bowl (UT lost 35-21, Jan. 1, 2001). The Vols' last Monday game prior to the Cotton Bowl was the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, in which UT defeated Florida State 23-16 to win the 1998 National Championship.
For the first time in his career, sophomore QB Erik Ainge did not throw a TD pass in a game in which he played. Ainge started the game and completed 7 of 19 passes for 54 yards and one interception.
The Vols have played multiple quarterbacks in 12 of their last 16 games.
Tonight's attendance of was 91,986 was the eighth-largest crowd in the history of LSU's Tiger Stadium.
Tennessee officials estimated that less than 500 UT fans were present this evening. The Vols had previously sold their entire 7,000-ticket allotment while the game was scheduled for its original date of Saturday, Sept. 24. The contest was moved back two days to Monday as a result of Hurricane Rita.
LSU head coach Les Miles
"We played well to a point. It was a sloppy first half. We got nicked up a little bit in the offensive line. We came out the second half and lost our push. We couldn't stop them and did not move the football on offense. They were a good team. They rallied. You've got to give them some credit as well, and they played awfully well down the stretch. In the first, penalties had them backed up. We played well in the kicking game. We had penalties that kept drives alive for them. We had a big return by Skyler Green that was called back, and just before the half threw an incompletion on a scramble. That was three points we could have used at the end of the game, certainly. When you're into your second game, you wish you would have played with the ability to finish, and we didn't, that's why we lost that game. The thing that we are going to have to do is not dwell on this game. For all intents and purposes, it's Tuesday and we'll prepare for Mississippi State. As much as we'd like to mull it over and recoach and get it fixed, we have to prepare to play the next game and get this team back and get them healthy. We're all disappointed about it. We're all miserable. I know you guys are as well but we'll get better and we'll fight to do so."
What contributed to the lack of offense in the second half...
"More than anything, I think it was a loss of poise. We're ahead, certainly in control of the game and we're not moving the football and we're not converting on first downs. We either punt or turn it over and when you turn it over to a good team, you're not going to win.
"We threw one and it ended up on the two yard line and that certainly gave us concern. We ran the football early on and turned it over a couple of times. We had three turnovers and certainly if you eliminated those, it would have made a difference. It would have given us the feel that we were moving the ball as opposed to hanging in there, understanding that we're making mistakes and not controlling the game."
LSU Player Quotes (Defense)
LB Kenneth Hollis
About the first play on defense when Erik Ainge fumbled....
"Coach had called a blitz and I was just running to the quarterback and the ball was there and I just jumped on it and tried to make a play."
On why Tennessee was able to move the ball so well in the second half...
"They just came out and had the better half and we made a couple of mistakes on defense but it's nothing that we can't turn around and adjust to."
On the interception...
"It was a face coverage. I saw Cameron (Vaughn) about to get that sack and I was actually going up to hug him and the ball just landed in my hands."
DT Kyle Williams
On why Tennessee was able to win...
"We came out and got after them. We shut them down in the first half, but there are two halves."
On switching to Clausen at QB...
"I think he brought in some things for them offensively that Ainge couldn't do, and made some plays when he needed to. We didn't make any."
Tennessee Player Quotes
RB Gerald Riggs Jr.
On the improvement in the running game in the second half...
"In the 2nd quarter our running game started picking up. The runs in the 1st quarter were going two or three yards; in the 2nd quarter runs were going five to ten. We were just able to get a rhythm going in the running game. Once we established that we were able to make some plays later on in the game. It was crucial that we got the running game going and we kept that confidence going in the second quarter on in."
On what was said at halftime...
"Nothing much, we have been down before we have an experienced team a lot of veterans on this team we knew what it was going to take. We just had to settle down and execute our plays. We just had to make things happen and don't get too caught in what the score was. We just kept our heads level and stayed the course and played the game."
On the confidence the team had in overtime...
"It didn't matter if it was in the air or on the ground. We knew if we got the ball with a chance to score that we were going to. We knew that we were going to make a play some how some way. We had the utmost confidence. We just played like we were not going to be denied."
QB Rick Clausen
On the game and staying with the team...
"You saw it. It was a tough one, but that's what you expect in the SEC. I'm so thankful for those guys in the locker room. It was a tough week for myself. I called home a few times; I didn't really want to be here. [My family] said you got to stay, you never know what might happen. I'm so thankful to those guys and the 70 guys in the locker room. Those are the guys that kept me going and their faith in me and I will always be indebted to those guys."
On playing with the crowd in Death Valley...
"If we had an opportunity to make plays we were going to make them. We just needed to get back to basics; catching the football, throwing the football. Death Valley is a great place to play. I've been here and it's been pretty ruckus. It was loud and I enjoyed it."
Tennessee Head Coach Phillip Fulmer
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this football team and this staff, and the fight that they had. There was absolutely no panic at half time. We talked about the heart, the toughness, representing the orange and white of Tennessee and taking charge of the football game. Obviously the first five minutes were going to be really important. We got out there and got a stop."
"I don't know if there has ever been a better story than Rick Clausen. I really don't; in all of college football. He is a tough minded guy. He obviously had to handle the disappointment at the beginning of the week, and he handled it with toughness and class. His teammates rallied around him, and obviously him coming in and getting done what he got done was just unbelievable."
"I am so thrilled with this win. I take my hat off to LSU, but our football team played really hard. We're a really well condition football team. Physically it took us a while, but once we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot we got it done."