No. 11 Tigers outslug No. 8 Georgia in matchup of SEC heavyweights

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045;Many an index finger was pointing toward the bayou country skies Saturday.

Some before the game, hopelessly longing for a ticket to a sold out Georgia-LSU afternoon delight that hours later became the largest-attended gridiron affair ever inside Louisiana boundaries at 92,251.

But most of the digits could be found on the hands of Tiger fans, whose No. 11 boys are sure to ante up in the college football world after a thrilling 17-10 defeat of the defending Southeastern Conference champions and No. 7 Bulldogs.

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&uot;The big picture is that this is just one win,&uot; LSU head coach Nick Saban said. &uot;I know it’s good for the players to beat a nationally-ranked team on national TV, but really it’s just one win in the SEC. Next week, it won’t matter what we did today.&uot;

Can you believe this? The gamewinning touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Mauck to sophomore receiver Skyler Green was a busted play.

It was simple. Third and 4 from the Bulldogs 34, hit your star receiver Michael Clayton on a 5-yard pass in the flat and move the chains.

Luckily, however, Green got his signals crossed up, sneaked past cornerback Tim Jennings, waved his hand in the air and ran under a magical pass in the end zone from Mauck, who threw off his back foot with a red helmet in his facemask.

&uot;I saw Matt the whole time,&uot; said Green, who led Tiger receivers with 4 catches for 78 yards, while Clayton was bottled up all day. &uot;I saw (Mauck) lay it up there, and I knew I had to make that play.&uot;

The loss was the first road defeat Georgia (3-1, 0-1) has endured in nine tries during head coach Mark Richt’s and quarterback David Greene’s two-plus year tenures.

&uot;We certainly didn’t execute as well as I would have liked us to execute,&uot; Richt said. &uot;I worry about a team that doesn’t have enough heart at the end of the ballgame to fight and that’s not a problem with us. The problem was it just came down to us not making the plays that they made.&uot;

Stick and move, stick and move. Jab to the body, slap in a combination here and there. Cliches or not, the Tigers and ‘Dawgs slugged it out like a pair of streetfighters.

For LSU’s defense much of the first half was spent holding the fort for an offense that was at one time mired in a slump, which included no first downs in six consecutive drives.

Not so coincidentally, it was a defensive interception from cornerback Corey Webster that sealed the victory for LSU.

On a first down from the LSU 43, Greene, who finished the night 20 of 44 for 314 yards and two picks, sailed one high intended for Reggie Brown.

&uot;I looked up for the ball, and it was there,&uot; Webster said. &uot;I was reading (Brown’s) eyes, and when he turned I turned. The front seven put pressure on (Greene), and I tipped it up and tried to catch it.&uot;

It was an acrobatic and athletic catch, and it left many Bulldogs more than apathetic after it had just done the impossible minutes earlier in the fourth.

After losing Greene briefly with a hyperextended knee, the junior returned, but was ineffective in the fourth until he hit Tyson Browning on a 93-yard touchdown pitch and run to draw the Bulldogs even 10-10 with 4:25 left.

&uot;Our offense had not been clicking all night, but finally we made a big play,&uot; said Browning, who caught just one other ball. &uot;We had a good plan coming in. It is that we just did not execute.&uot;

Time and time again, the Tigers punted back to Georgia on their own side of midfield in the first half, and each time the LSU defense bent, but did not break.

Senior placekicker Billy Bennett, who came into Saturday 7 for 8 in field goals this season, missed three kicks from 36 yards or more after putting Georgia on the board first, 3-0, with a 33-yard attempt with 6:20 left in a first quarter that lasted longer than Ben and J. Lo.

&uot;I don’t think anyone got frustrated,&uot; splint end Reggie Brown said. &uot;We just tried to put it out of our minds and go on to the next play, but obviously it did come back to haunt us.&uot;

LSU’s offensive ineffectiveness sucked the life out of the purple-and-gold crazies, allowing the Bulldogs to take control of the momentum of the game.

But all that was about to change on the Tigers final significant push of the half. From their own 15, Mauck found tight end Eric Edwards for 13 yards and LSU’s first first down since the initial effort.

&uot;That’s the great thing about this team. Nobody gets in each other’s face,&uot; said Mauck, whose numbers totaled 180 yards passing on 14 of 29 attempts. &uot;We were more like, ‘What’s going on?’ You have to realize we were playing last year’s SEC champion. There’s a reason they allow something like 4 points per game.

Two plays later Addai scampered for 11 yards and another first. Mauck followed Addai’s rush with a deceptive play-action fake to hit Green in Bulldog territory at the 39.

After a Shyrone Carey run of 9 yards, the 5-6 junior got the call again on the proceeding play, busting loose for a 21-yard gain, and, more importantly, a touchdown

to give LSU the 7-3 lead at halftime.

&uot;It wasn’t pretty, but you can’t fault the effort; you can’t fault the competitive spirit; and you can’t fault the offense coming back when we had to,&uot; Saban said.

&uot;I can’t tell you how proud I am for all the people who are responsible for getting these football players here. It’s a great win for those who support the program.&uot;