Junior tailback’s 124 sparks Tigers to win over Western Illinois

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045; Here he came to save the day.

Despite the absence of a cape, an &uot;M&uot; plastered across his chest or an English accent, LSU junior tailback Shyrone Carey did his best Mighty Mouse impersonation &045; all 5-6, 198 pounds of him &045; to rescue the Tigers from another installment of Upset Saturday.

Carey ran for a career high in rushes (21) and yards (124) with a score to help No. 12 LSU prevail against a pesky Division I-AA Western Illinois, 35-7.

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&uot;I don’t look at it as a disadvantage for me,&uot; Carey said of his diminutive size. &uot;I was always taught to run high and not to give them anything to hit. I’m always ready to be called upon.&uot;

The banging on Carey’s door came early in the second quarter after starting back Joseph Addai fumbled twice in successive possessions in the Leathernecks red area, negating possible points.

Carey, who returned three punts for 27 yards additionally, was more than willing to relieve his roommate Addai, punching in from a yard out with 42 seconds left before halftime to give the lethargic Tigers a 13-0 lead.

&uot;We have all the confidence in the world in Shyrone, and he played pretty well tonight,&uot; LSU head coach Nick Saban said. &uot;Joe didn’t have that look in his eye in pregame that I usually see from him.&uot;

From the moment No. 1 Western Illinois began popping like lottery balls underneath a white canopy that guarded the path from its locker room to the field, the Leathernecks looked like your grandmother’s mink stole.

Their 63-man roster that trembled &045; anticipation or anxiety is anyone’s best guess &045; on the east sideline before kickoff paled in comparison to the more than 100 purple-people eaters who breathed fire across the 40 yards of Bermuda grass that separated the two teams.

&uot;It’s easy for a I-AA team to be motivated to play a program as good as LSU,&uot; Western head coach Don Patterson said. &uot;The tougher assignment is how well they might prepare to play us. We threw everything we could at them to try to find a way to turn the game in our favor.&uot;

That said, the Leathernecks had the 87,000-plus in attendance aghast to begin the third quarter when they recovered an onsides kick to begin the final 30, and drove half the field for a score.

The fourth and goal call from the Tiger 3 saw quarterback Russ Michna roll left, buy time and hit a diving Terrence Hall for the touchdown to cut the deficit to a one possession game, 13-7.

But the LSU offense that sputtered, coughed and then broke down on the side of the road in the first half, was nowhere to be found in the second.

&uot;Sometimes it’s hard to teach people this young when they think they already know it,&uot; Saban said. &uot;They got spanked around a little bit, and I think they began to listen better. Just because you’re winning doesn’t mean what you’re trying to teach changes.&uot;

After the Tigers drove again into Western territory, only to see another drive halted due to a fumble, the juggernaut that put up 108 points its first two games began to roll.

Quarterback Matt Mauck capped a nine-play, 59-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Green to make it 21-7, when Mauck scored on a run for the 2-point conversion, with 5:00 to play in the third quarter.

On the next drive Mauck threw his best pass of the night when he rolled right and hit Green in stride for a 40-yard score to put the Tigers up 28-7.

LSU’s opponent next Saturday, defending Southeastern Conference champion Georgia Bulldogs could hardly be accused of looking past SEC East rival South Carolina, which it digested and spat 31-7 Saturday.

The same, however, cannot be said for the Bayou Bengals, which looked nothing like the team that devoured a hapless Arizona team a week before.

&uot;That team we played tonight was as hard as anybody we’ve played since I’ve been here,&uot; Saban said. &uot;I told the players we won’t play anybody who wants to beat us more than they do. They took it to us.&uot;