No. 2 Tigers Too Much for No. 12 USC, 28-16
by Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
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BATON ROUGE — Tropical depression rain switched between heavy and light all afternoon in Tiger Stadium and soaked all 92,530 in the stands. But, the third-largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history was anything but depressed by the weather or the result as No. 2 LSU smothered 12th-ranked South Carolina long enough to come away with a 28-16 win.
The win improved LSU’s record to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the ever-toughening Southeastern Conference while <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>South Carolina suffered its first loss of the season, dropping to 3-1 and 1-1 in the SEC.
LSU’s rushing attack overwhelmed the Gamecocks as the Tigers amassed 290 yards on the ground while holding South Carolina to a measly 17 yards running the ball. Jacob Hester led the way with 88 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown while Trindon Holliday came in a close second with 73 yards on six carries and a score.
Gamecock tailback Corey Boyd did his best to earn 17 yards on 18 carries.
The Tiger passing game struggled, though thanks largely to the extremely sloppy conditions on the field and a fast and aggressive Gamecock defensive backfield. Tiger quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux combined to complete just 8-of-20 passes for 70 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Perrilloux was effective rushing the ball, however picking up 59 yards on 8 carries.
In all, the Tigers gained 360 yards while South Carolina countered with 261 total yards thanks largely to a late-game passing attack that gouged LSU’s defense for three plays longer than 20 yards in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley piloted the Gamecock’s aerial game after taking over for senior Blake Mitchell in the third quarter. Mitchell left after completing just 7-of-16 passes for 70 yards and taking two sacks. The swifter and shiftier Smelley completed 12-of-26 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Both threw an interception and the Gamecocks lost a fumble.
LSU scored running the ball, passing the ball and on an improbable fake field goal while amassing 273 total yards of offense in the first half. After trailing for the first time this season when South Carolina scored the opening touchdown at the 2:46 mark of the first quarter, LSU racked up 28 unanswered points to salt away the win.
Tailback Mike Davis plunged into the north endzone from the 1-yard line to open the scoring and give the Gamecocks the early 7-0 lead. The run capped a 12-play, 67-yard drive that lasted 5:42.
LSU’s answer came exactly 1:30 later when Holliday knifed through the South Carolina defense and into the south endzone from 33-yards out to cap a brief, four-play drive that included a 24-yard pass from Flynn to tight end Richard Dickson and an 11-yard run by Holliday the play before the touchdown. Colt David‘s point after tied the score 7-7 with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers seized the lead early in the second quarter when Flynn connected with Dickson from the 1-yard out for Dickson’s first career touchdown. The grab finished a nine-play, 56-yard drive that featured the LSU rushing attack almost exclusively. The only passing yard of the drive was the one that completed it and gave LSU a 14-7 lead with 12:13 to play in the half.
LSU missed on its next scoring chance as the Tigers failed to capitalize on a South Carolina fumble at the LSU 46. The Tigers moved to the Gamecock 24-yard line, forcing David to attempt a 42-yard field goal that missed wide right in the sloppy conditions with 9:09 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers didn’t miss their next chance to score after a Gamecock turnover though, as the LSU coaching staff reached way down into a top hat and pulled out a baffling fake field goal on fourth down at the South Carolina 15. Flynn knelt and received the snap at the 22 then flipped the ball over his head toward David as he streaked toward the right side of the line. David grabbed the ball in stride and raced to the corner of the endzone for the touchdown then stayed on the field to kick the point after, giving LSU a 21-7 lead with 1:10 remaining in the first half.
The score was set up by an equally impressive defensive play by safety Danny McCray, who tipped Mitchell’s pass in the air at the South Carolina 32 only to have it bounce in and out of the hands of a Gamecock receiver. McCray snagged the loose ball from mid-air as he dove to the turf setting up the five-play, 2:35 scoring drive.
LSU’s next score, and the first of the second half, came as the result of a turnover on downs. South Carolina had three plays to pick up two yards at its own 29-yard line. But, three runs by Boyd earned just one yard and the Tigers took over at the Gamecock 30.
Five plays later, Hester plowed through the defensive line, then over a linebacker and into the endzone from nine yards away to stake LSU to a three-touchdown advantage. The point after ran the score to 28-7 with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks turned the ball over again on their next possession as well, this time as deep in LSU’s territory as possible. A 44-yard kick-off return by Chris Culliver gave South Carolina a first down at the LSU 45 and Smelley moved his team to the Tiger 22 before LSU bottled up Boyd for a 5-yard loss. Smelley then launched a pass towards the goal line that ended up in the outstretched arms of Tiger cornerback Chevis Jackson at the one-yard line.
LSU’s offense came up a yard short of the 11 though, forcing a punt from its own endzone and giving South Carolina advantageous field position at the Tiger 41. Smelley was overwhelmed by defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey on the first play of the drive for an eight-yard sack. Three plays later, Jackson stepped up again, this time making an open-field tackle on tight end Wesley Saunders one-yard short of a first down on a fourth-down play at the LSU 32 with 14:53 to play in the game.
South Carolina added a field goal and a touchdown late but the LSU lead was too much to overcome.
LSU head coach Les Miles Quotes
“Considering it was a quality opponent, I thought our team played pretty well. We had to deal with adverse conditions. As we continued to have bad weather, we went through the last two quarters with our footing a little shaky. I thought the defense played extremely well early on. On the offense, we need to feel obligated not to allow that ball to get picked. We didn’t call that one or wanted that one called. We would have liked to run the clock out and finish the game a little bit better. I think all things considered this team played pretty well against a quality opponent. South Carolina will go on and win some games in their division and we look forward to Tulane.”
On if the plan was to score on the fake field goal…
“We were looking for a first down. We would have liked to have gotten the first down and march down the middle without having to use that play to score. It was there and certainly it was executed very well by (Matt) Flynn and Colt David.”
On how the poor weather conditions affected the defense…
“Anytime that footing becomes a little bit looser in the game, when you have an advantage with quickness and speed, then the footing is going to be a little different.”
LSU Offensive Player Quotes
On playing South Carolina …
“We were excited to play them. Steve Spurrier always has good teams, and they have been moving up in the rankings. But we knew we would have to come out here and play our best to beat them.”
On the offense improving each week …
“I think it’s pretty much obvious that we’ve been better every week. We come out and are able to execute more things each week. Everyone is coming around. Everyone is learning the offense. We are just getting better and better.”
On the importance of defending Tiger Stadium …
“We don’t want to lose at home. We have that legacy here at Death Valley. It’s one of the hardest places to play. We try to come out and play hard every time we play here.”
On playing Tulane next weekend …
“It’s going to be a fun game back in the Superdome. We were there for the Sugar Bowl last year, which was a fun game. But we still have to come out and play hard. Anybody can beat anybody. We’ll still have to practice hard and prepare like we do for everybody.”
RB Jacob Hester
On LSU having running backs with different styles …
“It helps. Me and Trindon are obviously totally different runners. But we really pounded at them the first couple of series and then opened it up for Trindon.
“He knows what he can do. He finds holes that most people don’t find. He’s so fast. It’s unbelievable how he can hit the hole so fast. Later in the game we pounded it again.”
On the trick play to Colt David …
“That was a nice play. We work on that so much. I think we work on it everyday at practice. But it’s only been the second time we’ve run it in a game. It was really good to see it.”
On seeing that trick play work …
“We didn’t think it would work that good. I was just looking to block somebody, but I couldn’t find anyone to block. It was definitely a surprise to us that it worked that good. I don’t know if it will work that good again.”
On the conditions of the field …
“I like to mess around in that. When I see it get cloudy, I say ?It’s about to be a running back game.’ I think it plays to our advantage. We have a lot of running backs, so anytime it rains, I think it plays to our strength, which is running the ball.”
On the win …
“We came out all week and had a good practice. We told each other that we were going to work hard and have a good game.”
On LSU’s offense …
“The offense is coming together real good. We started off real slow, but we’ve picked it up as we’ve gone along.”
On LSU’s defense …
“It’s an unbelievable defense. They come out and play hard every game. They give up nothing when it’s time to play football.”
On what it’s like playing at home against an SEC team …
“It’s always tough to play an SEC team. The quality of the teams are high. We just come out and play our best game.”
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier Quotes
“We didn’t play well enough to beat LSU, and they are a big, strong team that obviously controls the line of scrimmage. We couldn’t run the ball very well at all. We finally hit a few passes. I thought (QB) Chris Smelley came in and gave us a little spark and hit a few balls. We’re just not a real smart bunch right now. (TE) Weslye Saunders, a true freshman, made some catches and lost us a first down twice in a row. I’ve never seen a guy do that until today. He caught that ball and then went backward, and we hit him in the flat and he couldn’t put it out. He just got tackled, and I guess we missed it by an inch or two. We had some chances, and our defense hung in there and played well the second half.
“We are proud of our defensive guys for holding them to seven (points) in the second half. That’s after we couldn’t make two yards in three tries. We ran three times for two yards and couldn’t make it. I thought at that time it was important for our offense to stay on the field and make something happen. I guess that was their (LSU) lone touchdown of the second half. (SS) Emanuel Cook had one interception go right off his hands ? so for us to have won this game we need to make that interception. We need to get that fumble. Their receiver fumbled after catching a little flat pass in front of our bench. If (CB) Carlos (Thomas) could have batted it up into the air instead of batting it right back to him that was another seven possible points there. So we didn’t get any real big plays that way. Our guys hung in there, and we have Mississippi State next week so we’ll get this one behind us real quickly.”
On going with QB Chris Smelley over Blake Mitchell in the second half …
“We had to try something different. Blake couldn’t even catch the snap. He dropped two or three snaps, one went through his hands. We just had to try something. He (Mitchell) maybe didn’t do all that poorly, but we have to give Chris Smelley a chance. We’re going to give him a chance next week and see what happens.”
On if he was impressed by the fake field goal by LSU …
“It worked perfectly. Obviously when they work they’re a good call. I was sitting over there wanting to go safe field goal (defense) because that guy (Colt David) had just missed a 30-yarder, and I was worried we were going to rough him. I said, ?What are we doing here?’ and somebody said, ?We’re going after him.’ I said, ?Well, OK.’ I hesitated, but I would have said ?Let’s see if he can make it’ because we had done a good job of holding them and forcing a field goal. But we went after him, and (CB) Captain (Munnerlyn) went. We had some guys standing around behind him, but they executed it perfectly. Give those guys credit for that.”
South Carolina Offensive player quotes
USC QB CHRIS SMELLEY
On being named the starting quarterback for next week’s game against Mississippi St. …
“You know that’s coach’s call…it’s great to hear. Just got to go out there and work hard and lad the team to some victories.”
On how good LSU’s defense is…
“They’re a solid team overall like any SEC team we play basically. They do a lot of different things and they’ve got solid guys up front. They’re a pretty good team.”
On what positive things USC can take from the game…
“We never gave up. The defense stayed in there and battled in the second half and didn’t give up many points. We never stopped playing.”
On if he was surprised when the coaches decided to kick a field goal late in the game…
“That’s the coaches’ call.”
On if coach Spurrier emphasized getting rid of the ball early against LSU’s defense…
“We talked about that all week, getting rid of the ball quickly because they have a good pass rush and a good d-line.”
On his thoughts about the game…
“It was a game where we had a chance the whole time until the end. We worked hard and now we need to have a good week of practice going to play Mississippi State.”
On if he feels like playing against LSU will help him practice better…
“Any time you get in a game it’s different than practice. I feel like gaining this experience will definitely be a good thing.”
South Carolina Defensive Player Quotes
S Chris Hampton
“LSU out played us tonight, they (LSU) just made more plays than we did. They are a very talented team.”
On LSU’s offense …
“Yes, we did struggle. They ran a lot of yards on us and it was embarrassing. We need to watch the films and see what the particulars are and what we need to do for improvement. Somebody needed to make plays and they (LSU) were making the plays.”
On the outcome being different if certain plays were made…
“It could have been a different game. We missed out on some opportunities to get back in the game. We had some turnovers and they just made big plays.”
On playing against LSU in the SEC Championship…
“Hopefully, we make it, it’s still our goal. They are a very good team, so they are favored to make it (SEC Championship). ”
On being prepared next time they play LSU…
“I don’t know, we’ve seen them and they’ve seen us so it equals out.”
C William Brown
On how LSU played tonight…
“I think LSU is a great team. They are powerful and very talented.”
On LSU stopping the drive…
“It’s frustrating when you get a big drive and it’s continually stopped by their defense. It’s frustrating for the offensive line. You have to play your assignment as best as you can. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way. I fumbled tonight and they made great plays.”
LSU Game Notes
Sept. 22, 2007 ? Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
- LSU’s game captains were 6 Colt David, 16 Jacob Hester, 93 Tyson Jackson and 81 Mit Cole.
- LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. South Carolina received the opening kickoff.
- Tigers extending their consecutive starts streak today were: CB Chevis Jackson (30), LB Ali Highsmith (18), LT Ciron Black (17), CB Jonathan Zenon (17), LG Herman Johnson (14) and DT Glenn Dorsey (12).
- First-time starters for LSU in today’s game: WR Demetrius Byrd.
- LSU has recorded at least one sack in 23 straight games after a first quarter sack by Kirtson Pittman and Tyson Jackson in today’s game. The last time LSU’s defense did not record a sack was against North Texas in 2005.
- LSU has converted 25 straight (including 3-3 today) red zone opportunities (17 TD, 8 FG) dating back to the second quarter of the 2007 Sugar Bowl vs. Notre Dame.
- South Carolina became the first team since Alabama (Nov. 11, 2006) to score a point on LSU in the first quarter in Tiger Stadium. South Carolina is also just the second team to score on the Tigers in the first quarter in Tiger Stadium under head coach Les Miles (17 games, 174-14 point differential).
- LSU has outscored it opponents 174-14 in the first quarter in the 17 home games under head coach Les Miles, including the 7-7 score today. South Carolina joined Alabama as the only teams to score on the Tigers in the first quarter during that stretch.
- LSU has outscored its opponents 185-23 over the last 16 quarters, including the 28-16 score today.
- LSU’s fake field with 1:10 left in the second quarter (Colt David 15-yard run) was the first fake field goal for a touchdown by the Tigers since holder Blain Bech scored on a 35-yard run at Florida on Oct. 12, 2002.
- Today’s attendance of 92,530 is the fourth largest in Tiger Stadium history.
- LSU extended several streaks tonight with the victory … The Tigers extended their overall winning streak to 11 games … LSU stretched its home winning streak to 16 games and five straight against teams ranked in the Top 25 … The 16 consecutive home wins are just one shy of the school record of 17 set between 1935-37 … The overall winning streak of 11 games ties for the third longest win streak in school history.
- The Tigers accumulated 290 rushing yards, which is the most by the team since posting 360 yards against Ole Miss on Nov. 20, 2004.
- In the four games this season, LSU opponents have only managed 107 yards on 118 carries.
- RB/WR/RS Trindon Holliday scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and the second of his career on a 33-yard run with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
Holliday finished with six carries for a career-high 73 yards.
- PK Colt David‘s four extra points today were the junior’s 113th, 114th, 115th and 116th of his career. He now trails LSU career PAT leader John Corbello (129 PATs) by 13 PATs.
David scored the first touchdown of his career on a 15-yard run on a fake field with 1:10 left in the second quarter.
- TE Richard Dickson pulled down the first receiving touchdown of his career on a 1-yard pass from QB Matt Flynn with 12:13 left in the second quarter.
Dickson’s four receptions today marked a career-high. His previous high was two catches twice before, including last week against Middle Tennessee.
- QB Matt Flynn tossed his third touchdown of the season and the 13th of his career on a 1-yard pass to TE Richard Dickson with 12:13 left in the second quarter.
- DT Al Woods recovered a fumble, the second of his career, with 11:34 left in the second quarter. The fumble was forced by S Craig Steltz.
- S Danny McCray recorded the third interception of his career and second of the season with a juggling catch with 3:45 left in the second quarter.
McCray’s 11 total tackles today marks a career-high for the sophomore.
- RB Jacob Hester scored the 10th rushing touchdown of his career and the second of the season on a nine-yard run with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
Hester tallied career-highs in both rushes (17) and rushing yards (88).
- CB Chevis Jackson collected his first interception of the season and the fourth of his career with a pick late in the third quarter.
South Carolina Game Notes
- With today’s 28-16 loss, Carolina’s record falls to 3-1 for the year, including a 1-1 mark in SEC play.
- With his six-yard reception in the first quarter, junior wide receiver Kenny McKinley secured his 25th straight game with at least one catch. Entering Saturday’s contest, his mark was the eighth longest streak in the nation. McKinley caught six passes for 25 yards, also scoring the final Gamecock touchdown in the fourth quarter (1 yard from Chris Smelley), his third receiving touchdown of the season.
- With his blocked punt in the first quarter, freshman defensive end Cliff Matthews became the first Gamecock to block a punt since the 2000 season when Derek Watson was credited with a block against Florida (11/11/00).
- With his one-yard touchdown rush in the opening quarter, junior tailback Mike Davis scored his first touchdown of the season and 12th of his career. Davis finished the game with four yards on 10 rushes, and 3 receptions for a team-best 77 yards.
- The Carolina offense entered the red zone on three occasions against LSU, scoring on all three of those trips (two touchdowns; one field goal). For the season, the Gamecocks are a perfect 14-14 on trips to the red zone.
- Senior strong safety Chris Hampton entered today’s game against LSU with seven tackles on the season. He nearly matched his total for the year during the first half, compiling six tackles (3UA-3A) for the Gamecock defense. Hampton ended the contest with six tackles (3UA-3A).
- Chris Hampton also recorded his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter. The catch marked the third interception of his career.
- In his first kickoff return of the season, freshman wide receiver Chris Culliver returned an LSU kickoff 44 yards in the third quarter, marking the longest Carolina kick return this season.
- In his first appearance since the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, freshman quarterback Chris Smelley threw for a season high 174 yards against LSU, including a long pass of 45 yards to Mike Davis in the fourth quarter. Smelley also threw for a touchdown to wide out Kenny McKinley in the fourth quarter, his second touchdown pass of the season.
- Freshman tight end Weslye Saunders caught four passes for 32 yards against LSU, his first receiving yards since the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
- Sophomore strong safety Emanuel Cook entered today’s contest with 10 tackles for the season. Cook better than doubled his season total against LSU, posting 11 tackles against the Tigers. He contributed five tackles in the first half (3UA-2A) and six tackles during the second half (3UA-3A).
- With his 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, junior Ryan Succop is now 5-for-6 on the season in field goal attempts and is 21-for-28 in his career.