Sunday, October 19, 2008

Defense Sparks LSU Win Over Gamecocks

LSU came into the season with one of the top-rated defenses in the country, and lost its swagger and reputation in a lopsided loss at Florida. One week later, the Tigers allowed 42 yards in a second-half shutout to shutdown South Carolina and get back to its winning ways, 24-17.

LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) rebounded from the worst loss of the Les Miles era (51-21 at Florida). The Tigers will play host to Georgia on Oct. 25 at either 2:30 p.m. CDT or 6:45 p.m. CDT. Kickoff will be announced on Sunday.

South Carolina (5-3, 2-3 SEC), which had its four-game winning streak snapped, lost by seven points for the fifth time in 2008. The Gamecocks are on bye next weekend.

The Tigers defense recorded six sacks for minus-49 yards, helping LSU allow only 39 yards rushing on 31 carries. USC was 1-of-9 on third down.

Offensively, once the defense changed the field position with a forced fumble on the opening drive of the second half, the Tigers began to gain momentum and roll up yards against the highly ranked Gamecocks defense.

Starting LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee finished 16-of-26 for 189 yards passing with an interception that led a South Carolina touchdown just before the half.

Lee was spelled in certain situtions by backup Andrew Hatch, who was 2-for-3 passing for 10 yards including the game-tying 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Dickson with 44 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Hatch also ran for 19 yards on five attempts.

LSU's two-headed running attack of Keiland Williams and Charles Scott provided a powerful punch. Williams had 72 yards on 15 carries, while Scott pounded in touchdown runs of 5 and 2 yards. The second was the game-winner with 4:16 to play in the second half.

Wide receiver Demetrius Byrd led the Tigers with 65 yards on three catches. Brandon LaFell had four receptions for 55 yards, while Dickson had two catches for 24 yards and the TD.

The LSU offense held the ball for 34:32 compared to South Carolina's 25:28.

South Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia was 14-of-26 passing for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Kenny McKinley had a game-high 77 yards on four catches, while Jared Cook added 74 yards on five grabs. Weslye Saunders had a 26-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 10-10.

Four double-figure gains by the Tigers led to their first score that ended the second drive of the game. A 10-yard scamper by Holliday moved the Tigers into Gamecocks territory with 9:16 to play in the first quarter.

After a 10-yard catch by Brandon LaFell, LSU forced a timeout with its no-huddle offense. However, a 7-yard loss on a bunch formation lateral from Hatch to Holliday stalled the drive. David hit a 48-yard field goal to give the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.

A knock-out hit by LSU safety Harry Coleman on USC tailback Eric Baker jarred the ball loose in LSU territory. Unable to cleanly grab the loose ball, Coleman regained his footing, picked up the ball and returned 17 yards to the Gamecocks 42.

On the ensuing drive, LaFell dropped a perfect third-and-10 pass from Lee at the USC 25 that would have put the Tigers inside the redzone. LSU's punt went into the endzone for a touchback.

Late in the first quarter, preseason All-SEC tight end Jared Cook got involved in the offense for South Carolina, coming across the formation to make a 31-yard catch-and-run to the LSU 47. Garcia then overcame a sack by Jackson by scrambling 17 yards to the 23. A pass interference call against LSU cornerback Chris Hawkins gave USC first-and-goal at the 8, but LSU defensive end Kirston Pittman's sack of Garcia was too much for the Gamecocks to overcome.

Ryan Succup's 21-yard field goal tied the game at 3-3 with 12:56 left in the first half.

A quick three-and-out by the Tigers led to a short punt and excellent field position for USC. This drive ended with a missed field goal by Succup from 39 yards, giving LSU another opportunity to get its offense on the field and throw a different look at the Gamecocks defense.

The Tigers alternated quarterbacks Hatch then Lee to drive into Gamecocks territory on a 19-yard catch by LaFell from Lee. On first-and-10 from the USC 20-yardline, Lee tossed a middle screen to Keiland Williams who used downfield blocks by left tackle Ciron Black and left guard Herman Johnson to advance to the 5. Two plays later, Scott scored from 5 yards out to give LSU a 10-3 lead.

South Carolina was able to answer the score on its next drive, as Garcia used another broken-down pocket to gain 41 yards on a completion to McKinley at the LSU 26. Two plays later, Garcia again came under pressure in the pocket. This time, he stayed in and found tight end Weslye Saunders wide open in the left flat for a 26-yard touchdown with 2:38 to play in the half.

The game was tied at 10-10.

LSU hoped to run its two-minute drill and add a score before the half. But, as he did at Auburn, Lee tossed an interception over the head of intended receiver Terrance Toliver and into the waiting hands of cornerback Carlos Thomas. Thomas had his sights on the endzone but stepped out of bounds at the 8.

On fourth-and-goal at the 1, Davis was able to get the nose of the football over the goalline to give South Carolina a 17-10 halftime advantage.

On the opening drive of the second half, LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith hit Garcia and forced a fumble that was picked up by fellow linebacker Perry Riley at the LSU 47-yardline.

Though LSU's next drive ended in a punt, the play changed field position and ultimately led to the Tigers' next score after four-straight punts.

Starting at his 47-yard line, Lee connected with tight end Richard Dickson for the first time for a 17-yard gain to the USC 33-yard line.

Faced with third-and-11, Lee then found Toliver over the middle for a 13-yard reception to the 21. After a 9-yard pass to Williams, Scott gained the first down at the 7-yard line with a 5-yard run. Hatch entered in place of Lee and started the play to the right, before changing direction to find a wide-open Dickson in the left side of the endzone. The point after tied the game at 17-17 with 0:44 left in the third quarter.

The LSU defense continued to give the Gamecocks fits in the second half, recording their fifth and sixth sacks of the night by Rahim Alem and Curtis Taylor, respectively.

LSU returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 25, when the Tigers play host to Georgia. Kickoff time will be announced on Sunday by the SEC (either 2:30 p.m. on CBS or 6:45 p.m. on ESPN).

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