Ole Miss Capitalizes on LSU Mistakes, 35-24
by Chris Macaluso
LSU’s chance to gain ground in the race for the Southeastern Conference Western Division went by the wayside Saturday night as 91, 941 fans shivered and watched the Tigers fall 35-24 to Ole Miss in a chilly Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers fell to 4-3 overall, 2-3 in conference play despite one of the greatest single game performances in LSU history. Dominick Davis, who played most of the game at tailback for an injured LaBrandon Toefield, used rushing yards, receiving and some fantastic returns to total 266 all-purpose yards for the contest.
Three Eli Manning touchdown passes and 249 yards helped Ole Miss improve its record to 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the SEC.
“We just made a lot of mistakes,” LSU head coach Nick Saban said. “You have to give Ole Miss a lot of credit. They did a good job. We’re just going to retool and reload.”
Ole Miss scored the game’s first points when fullback Toward Sanford plunged into the endzone with 6:41 to play in the first quarter capping a seven-play 36 yard drive. Rebel linebacker Matt Grier set up the drive with an interception at the LSU 43.
LSU answered the score with a 26-yard John Corbello field goal with 42 seconds left in the first. The Tigers set up the field goal with 13 play, 71-yard drive all on the feet of tailbacks Davis, Toefield and quarterback Rohan Davey, who had a big 13-yard scramble to pick up a first down. Davey finished the game with just nine completions on 23 attempts and 183 yards.
The Tigers then took the lead at the 7:00 mark of the second quarter when freshman wide receiver Michael Clayton showed off his open-field running skills with a 29-yard reverse for a touchdown. Clayton’s nifty scamper capped a six-play, 75-yard drive made possible when Tiger cornerback Randall Gay picked off Rebel QB Eli Manning at the LSU 25.
But the interception didn’t distract Manning for long as he guided the Rebels 80 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. Manning beat an LSU blitz on fourth and 10 at the LSU 30-yard line for a 26-yard completion to wide receiver Chris Collins. Rebel tailback Joe Gunn dove over the pile two plays later, giving Ole Miss a 14-10 advantage with 2:25 to play in the half.
Ole Miss stunned the LSU crowd on the next drive by turning a blocked punt into a four-yard TD pass with :27 left in the first giving the Rebels a 21-10 advantage at the half. LSU was forced to punt after three-straight running plays netted five yards. Ole Miss took the ball back with just :37 left in the half. Wide receiver Omar Rayford hauled in the Manning pass five plays later for the touchdown.
Manning finished the first half completing 13-21 passes for 126 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Davis was LSU’s top yard gainer in the first half with 58 rushing yards on 13 carries and 63 yards on three kick returns.
Davis really showed off his return skills early in the second half taking a 41-yard Cody Ridgeway punt for a 71-yard touchdown, cutting the Ole Miss lead to 21-17. Davis broke three tackles in the first 10-yards of the return before juking the punter and beating another would-be tackler to the right side of the endzone.
LSU took the lead back late in the third when Clayton hauled in a 39-yard touchdown grab that is sure to go down as one of the greatest catches in the history of Tiger football. Blanketed by double coverage and with a defenders hand in his face, Clayton stretched out his right arm for a one-handed, diving snag giving LSU a 24-21 advantage with 3:49 left in the third.
The two teams traded punts throughout the rest of the third and most of the fourth quarter until Ole Miss took the lead again on a 17-yard TD catch by tight end Doug Zeigler with —-to play, putting the Rebels ahead 28-24.
LSU then tried to mount a comeback of its own, driving the ball to the Rebel 43 thanks in large part to a 34-yard reception by Tiger standout receiver Josh Reed. But, the drive was turned around on the next play as tailback Devery Henderson fumbled after picking up two yards on a tailback dive. Reed finished the game with three catches for 85 yards.
Manning and Zeigler teamed up —-plays later when the tight end made spectacular grab of his own between two defenders in the back of the end zone. The extra point gave the Rebels a 35-24 win and sealed their sixth win overall and third victory conference play.
Ole Miss travels to Arkansas next week to try and extend its current winning streak to six games. LSU will try to rebound at Alabama against the 3-4 Crimson Tide.
- The 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by Domanick Davis was the on a return (punt or kick) in his three-year career. The touchdown was the first punt return for a touchdown since Larry Foster returned a punt 50 yards on Sept. 26, 1998 against Idaho.
- The punt return was the longest since a 78-yarder by Kevin Faulk in 1996 and the first for a Tiger against Ole Miss since Norm Jefferson returned a punt 65 yards against the Rebels in 1983.
- Tonight’s attendance of 91,941 was the second highest in LSU history behind only the Florida game earlier this year and was the third time in four home games this season that LSU drew a crowd of better than 91,000.
- For the first time in the Nick Saban era, LSU lost a game when scoring 20 or more points. The Tigers are now 12-1 under Saban when scoring 20 or more. Ironically, LSU’s last loss when scoring 20 or more came in their 42-23 setback to Ole Miss here in 1999.
- Also, LSU lost for the first time under Saban when holding the lead after three quarters; the Tigers are 9-1 under Saban when entering the final 15 minutes with an advantage. LSU’s last loss when leading after three quarters came in 1999 at Georgia, when LSU squandered a 16-13 edge and lost 23-22.
- Michael Clayton scored the first rushing touchdown of his career, taking a reverse 29 yards for a score in the second quarter. He later caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season giving him five overall touchdowns on the season.
- Clayton’s five touchdowns are the most by a true freshman since Kevin Faulk scored six in 1995.
- On a 39-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton in the third quarter, Rohan Davey moved past Steve Emsinger and into eighth place on the all-time LSU passing yardage list. Emsinger threw for 2,770 yards from 1976-79. The pass gave Davey 2,804 yards at the time.
- After being outscored 37-7 in the third quarter in their first five games, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 35-0 in the third quarter of their last two games.
- Josh Reed extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 22 games, or every single game since moving from running back to receiver prior to the Alabama game in 1999.
- Reed moved past Abram Booty into sixth place on the LSU career receptions list with 118 catches. Next up is Sheddrick Wilson (1992-95) in fifth place at 121.
- Domanick Davis’ 58 first half rushing yards surpassed his previous game-high of 46 yards last week against Mississippi State.
- Domanick Davis made his first offensive start of the season in place of the injured LaBrandon Toefield. Davis started one game this season on the defensive side of the ball when the Tigers started in dime coverage against Kentucky.
- With a second quarter interception, Randall Gay became the fourth Tiger this year with at least two interceptions (Damien James ? 5, Erin Damond ? 3, Lionel Thomas ? 2).
- The Tigers accumulated 89 yards of total offense in the first quarter, all of which came on the ground.
- Senior free safety Ryan Clark made his team-leading 30th consecutive start dating back to the 1999 season opener against San Jose State. Trev Faulk made his 27th straight start at linebacker dating back to the fourth game of his freshman season against Georgia. Jerel Myers started for the 29th time in 30 career games. The only non-start in Myers’ three-year career was the 1999 season finale against Arkansas when they Tigers started in a three tight end alignment.
- True freshman Ben Wilkerson made his third consecutive start at center, while Rob Sale shifted to left guard for an injured Stephen Peterman. Wilkerson is the first Tiger true freshman to start on the offensive line since Todd McClure in 1995.
- Kyle Kipps and Byron Dawson both started on the Tiger defensive line for the second consecutive week in place of Kenderick Allen and Muskingum Barnes respectively.
- Tiger captains were permanent captains QB Rohan Davey, LB Trev Faulk and TE Robert Royal as well as honorary captain TE Joe Domingeaux.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed and our players are very disappointed. We didn’t play a very good football game, made a lot of errors and mistakes, and had turnovers that probably led to 21 points?an interception a punt block.
“Obviously, having some of the guys out like Toe (LaBrandon Toefield) and Domanick (Davis) hurt. We fumbled the ball twice and got sacked at the end when we had the chance to get back in the game, and we fumbled the ball after a big play when we had a chance to get back in the game, so we made a lot of mistakes.
“I think the second quarter was disastrous for us; we were ahead 10-7, had them in a fourth-and-10, and once again, we got beat inside when we’re supposed to be playing a certain technique inside and didn’t get the job done.
“We’re going to continue to try and focus to improve our team. This is going to be a real character check as to the kind of pride they have for the rest of the season. I think you have to give Ole Miss a lot of credit, because their players played a good game and did a very good job all the way around tonight.
“I think Domanick Davis was a positive for us, and he would have gained 100 yards had he not gotten hurt, so he was a real bright spot.
“The real key to the game was when we got ahead 24-21 and we made three or four stops but could never get it going offensively, and the field position kept getting worse and worse. Finally, they got possession on our 35-yard line and punched it in.
“We had a lot of opportunities to put more points on the board, to change the field position of the game, to continue to change the momentum of the game, but we couldn’t do it.
“It’s like I told the players?you never get these games back, and I don’t think anybody in this organization did a good job this week or in this game, starting with me and going all the way down the line. We made too many mistakes, had too many substitution errors, didn’t get the right substitution patterns in the game when players got hurt, wasted timeouts, did a lot of things that you can’t do from a game management standpoint. All of those things affect the players’ confidence in how a game goes, and the second quarter was not good for us from that standpoint.
“I don’t what else to say. We didn’t play very well on offense, didn’t throw the ball well with a lot of pressure, and just didn’t do a very good job. We made a couple of big plays that we were fortunate to make because they were scramble plays. We didn’t have a lot of consistency. We had one good drive, but ran the ball all the time in the first half.
“We’re just going to have to re-tool and re-load. We’ve got the players that we’ve got, and we have good enough players to play a lot better than we did today, and we’re going to do everything we can to get it that way.”
LSU running back LaBrandon Toefield on his injured Achilles
“I came out to see how it was going to feel during pregame. It was a gameday decision. I came out and it felt pretty good, but it was still sore. But, I told coach that I could still go out and see what I could do. The first couple of plays that I was in, it was doing fine. I was cutting well on it and running well off it. I got rolled up on it on one of the play and kinda aggravated it, and they just took me out from there.
“When I got the sideline, I tried to do some pushing off it and some jogging off it, and that’s when I knew I couldn’t go back in.”
LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton
“All week, coach was telling us we needed to come out and play 60 minutes. Last week, we had to come out and play 60 minutes. This week, we had to come out and play 60 minutes. We came back in the second half and played hard, but we let it go. We’re a good team, but tonight we got beat by a great team.”
(on his one-handed TD catch)
“It was an inside post and I released inside and Ro (Rohan) send me deep and threw it where no one else could get it but me. I focused on the nose of the tip of the ball and pulled it in. I saw it the whole way.”
LSU quarterback Rohan Davey
“They didn’t do anything to confuse me. I just played an awful game, a really bad game. I put our offense and our team in situations that we shouldn’t have been in. In the second half, the first three or four times we got the ball, we went three and out right off the bat, and we can’t have that. We can’t keep having games where we have to regroup.
“Once we set our mind to do something, we just have to get it done. Tonight, it wasn’t the offense, defense, special teams or anybody in particular. At times, when we had the opportunity to put more points on the board in the second half when we got up by three, we had three opportunities to put a drive together and if anytime at least change the field position.”
LSU running back Domanick Davis
(on his punt return for a TD)
“We were due for it, so I can’t take all of the credit. I have to give credit to the other guys on the punt team. They did a lot of good blocking.”
“When you lose, all of the stuff you’ve done doesn’t really matter. It would be perfect if we had a win to go with it. The line did a great job, but some plays we just didn’t get it. Their defense was doing a great job of reading what we were doing. They kind of knew what we were going to do. We have to give them a lot of credit, too.”
Cornerback, Damien James
“We fell a little short tonight by playing up and down like a roller coaster. We never stepped it up when we had to make the big plays.”
“We are going to take it one game at a time by coming back on Monday and focus on the rest of this important season. Anything can happen in the SEC. This season is still not over yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Strong Safety, Norman LeJeune
“I gave it my all at 110 percent. We just have to get it back on track and focused for the rest of the season. There’s a lot of games left to be played and anything can happen. We’re going to go back to work and take it one game at a time. Even though we have a lot of people banged up we’re going to be successful. We’ll be ready to come out and play next week in Tuscaloosa.”
“It was a big game and we should have pulled this one out, but they came out tonight and played better than us. We beat ourselves. We just have to bounce back next week and get ready for the next one.”
Linebacker Jeremy Lawrence
“Eli (Manning) is a very accurate passer. They have a very good offense but we beat ourselves. We came out in the second half and improved, but they just made the better plays.”
“They executed better than we did. We’ll look ahead to Alabama and the rest of the season because we still have a lot in front of us.”
“I want to commend our staff and our squad. It was a great plan and well executed against a great LSU team. Coming in, they were the most balanced team we’ve played. Offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, it was going to take our best effort.”
“I really was pleased with the way our team fought back after losing the lead. I want to commend LSU. They are an outstanding team, an extremely well coached football team.”
“We’ve got a lot of work in front of us. We’ve got to keep improving. That is one thing this team has done and we’ve got to continue that path if we want to do well down the stretch.”
“(Manning) had composure the whole game. That fourth-and-ten early, where they had a safety blitz on, he knew it was coming. He held his ground and made a great play. He’s guy who is focused and poised. When you are prepared you don’t have time to be nervous. You just play your game. He’s a battler and a real tough competitor. And he took that against a tough team.”
Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning:
“It was a huge win for us. It helps us out in the standings in the SEC West. But all we can do right now is keep winning games. We’ve got Arkansas next week, they’ve been playing really well. They beat Auburn today.”
“(Tiger Stadium) is a special stadium. The fans are great and they’re loud. It was great to have the opportunity to play here and it was great to win here also.”
“I think this win helps us get some respect. LSU was picked the SEC West at the beginning of the season and we were picked to be last. You never know what you are going to get in the SEC and you have to go out there and play every team.”
On what Archie and Peyton said to him after the game:
“They really just said good game. They were excited and fired up. They were just happy for me.”
DB Syniker Taylor
“This was a big SEC game. They want the West just like we do. It was an away game and we new the crowd was going to big and hyped so we just had to come out and get ready to go.
“LSU has a real good team and the crowd was a factor in it. They had some good plays and so did we and we just tried to keep our composure.
“We felt like we lost the third quarter and as a defense we decided that we were going to try and hold them to no points in the fourth quarter. We made up our minds to come out and get more physical because we felt that we were outplayed in the third quarter. We started to hit a little better and tackle better and we came out with a big fourth quarter.”
TE Doug Zeigler
“The first touchdown was a crossing route I just caught it and I found myself pretty open and I wanted to get into the end zone so bad.
“The second touchdown, I don’t know where Eli was throwing it. It was just up in the air and I wanted to go get it and I made a dive and went after it.
“Our defense has always played so hard. They kept us in it tonight. We came out in the second half and didn’t start to well. We didn’t get a first down in the first four series and our defense just kept us in it. They won the game for us.”
DB Matt Grier
“The interception was real big. I dropped back in coverage. I figured they were going to do the same thing we have been practicing all week. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and I just caught the ball.”