Sunday, November 16, 2008

Defense, Lee Key Record Comeback by No. 19 LSU, 40-31

Never before in LSU football history has a comeback of such magnitude been witnessed. What looked to be the lowest moment of the 2008 season turned into the highest, as LSU came from four touchdowns down to defeat upstart Troy, 40-31, on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

A miserable first-half performance by the Tigers on both sides of the ball allowed Troy (6-4) to take a 24-3 halftime lead. The Trojans then scored on their first drive of the second half and led 31-3 until the waning minutes of the third quarter.

LSU (7-3), coming off a heartbreaking defeat to No. 1 Alabama, was beaten in every aspect of the game in the opening 40-plus minutes.

Then, those who were left in Tiger Stadium witnessed the largest comeback in school history -- and a majority of those in attendance on the cool fall evening were at home on their couch when it happened. Though records were only available from the modern era of LSU football (since 1958), the previous record was 21 points most recently against Ole Miss in 1977 (trailed 21-0 in second quarter).

The Tigers scored 37 points in the game's final 16:26 to stun Troy.

LSU's maligned starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, shook off a dismal first half to lead his team to victory.

Without the efforts of the LSU defense – which held Troy without a first down for six-straight drives in the second half – Lee may have been held most accountable for an unexpected loss.

After allowing a 79-yard scoring drive to start the second half, LSU gave up only 46 yards on 30 plays for the duration.

Lee overcame another interception for a touchdown to complete 18-of-26 second-half passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. For the game, he was 20-of-34 passing for 216 yards.

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell had career-bests of 12 catches for 126 yards with a touchdown. Terrance Toliver added 54 yards on four catches.

Lee's backup, freshman Jordan Jefferson, saw spot duty and completed 1-of-6 passes in the first half. Jefferson also ran for LSU's first touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 late in the third quarter. He had seven runs for 17 yards.

Running back Charles Scott paved the way on the ground for LSU, running 24 times for 90 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He also eclipsed the 1,000-yard total for the season (1,071).

Troy quarterback Levi Brown threw the ball more than any player in Tiger Stadium history, completing 34-of-72 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. His only interception deep in his own territory allowed the Tigers score a field goal and cut the lead to 31-27.

Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan led Troy with 10 receptions for 63 yards, while Kennard Burton added 74 yards on five catches. Running back DuJuan Harris caught four passes out of the backfield including a touchdown. Harris led the Trojans with 65 yards on 14 carries.

Troy couldn't have asked for a better first half, forcing LSU to punt on the opening drive before scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions. The Trojans added a field goal and an interception for a touchdown to take a 24-3 halftime lead.

The Trojans marched 88 yards on 16 plays -- including 15 passes -- on their opening possession. Troy used mostly five-wide receiver formations to spread the Tigers defense, meeting little resistance along the way. A 10-yard catch by Jernigan on third-and-10 at the LSU 17 setup a 7-yard touchdown reception by Patrick Cherry.

LSU was able come away with its first points on the next drive, a career-long 52-yard field goal by Colt David which was setup by a 16-yard run by Scott into Troy territory.

The Tigers trailed 7-3 with 6:16 left in the first quarter.

Troy's continued its passing attack on its second drive, gashing the LSU defense for double-digit gains and moving to LSU's side of the field. Again, LSU had a chance to stop the Trojans on third-and-10 at the LSU 38, but Troy came up with a 35-yard catch by Austin Silvoy. An LSU substitution infraction moved the ball to the 1, allowing Kennard Burton to take an end-around for a touchdown.

Troy led 14-3 with 4:00 left in the first quarter.

After the teams traded punts on its next three possessions, Troy again began its offensive march from its 42. The Trojans converted three third downs on the drive but were unable to punch it into the Tigers endzone. A 22-yard field goal by Sam Glusman pushed the Troy lead to 17-3 with 10:08 left in the first half.

Lee's seventh interception for a touchdown gave Troy a 24-3 lead, as Terence Moore tipped a pass in the air and came down with it. He ran 22 yards untouched for a touchdown with 6:46 left in the half.

After failing to convert on fourth-and-8 from its 38 late in the half, LSU got a second chance at cutting into the lead when defensive tackle Drake Nevis forced and recovered a fumble in Troy territory.

However, the Tigers moved only nine yards in three plays, and were unable to attempt a 42-yard field goal when the snap was fumbled by punter Brady Dalfrey as time expired.

LSU trailed 24-3 at the half.

Troy's first drive of the second half was no different. An efficient 10-play, 79-yard drive was punctuated with an 8-yard touchdown catch by Harris out of the back field.

Troy led 31-3 with 11:13 left in the third quarter.

That's when things changed for the Tigers. Everything that had gone wrong for LSU went right and vise versa for Troy.

Though LSU's next drive ended on downs, the Tigers showed life on offense for the first time. Troy went three-and-out and punted, giving the Tigers possession at their 34.

Needing to pass to get back into the ballgame, Lee guided the Tigers on a 13-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a fourth-and-3 touchdown run by Jefferson.

With 1:26 left in the third quarter, the comeback was on. LSU trailed 31-10.

Another three-and-out by Troy gave LSU another chance to get its offense on the field. This time, the Tigers wasted no time getting back into the endzone. After a 9-yard completion to Byrd, Lee found Toliver for 33 yards to the Troy 33. Then came the big strike LSU needed, a 33-yard catch by LaFell who got behind the defense.

The lead was reduced to 14, 31-17, only 2:26 later with 14 minutes to play.

After a 38-yard kickoff return, Troy started at LSU's 49 and looked to regain momentum that was clearly lost. However, faced with a fourth-and-1 at the 40, the Trojans elected to go for the first down rather than punt and pin LSU deep.

The gamble failed and the Tigers offense returned for another scoring drive.

Lee again went to the air, finding Toliver for 9 yards and Dickson for 6. Dickson was taken down by his facemask, giving LSU 15 yards to the Troy 30. After consecutive completions of 6 and 15 yards to LaFell, the Tigers used their ground game to pound the final nine yards. Fullback Quinn Johnson scored from the 1 to cut the deficit to a touchdown, 31-24.

Troy continued its wide-open passing offense, giving LSU opportunities slow the game and stop the clock often.

An interception at the Troy 21-yard line by LSU nickel back Chad Jones gave the Tigers a perfect opportunity to tie the game. However, three plays yielded only four yards and the Tigers settled for a 27-yard field goal by David.

LSU still trailed, 31-27, with 7:51 to play.

With its defense rolling, LSU got the ball back quickly but three plays went for no yards. However, good fortune shined on the Tigers when Dalfrey's short punt hit Troy's Jorrick Calvin in the leg and was recovered by LSU safety Danny McCray at the Troy 20.

Four plays later, Scott scored from the 4-yard line to give LSU an improbable lead, 33-31. David's point after touchdown was missed to the right, bringing a moan from the chilled crowd.

LSU's defense stopped Troy without a first down for the sixth-straight drive, as the Trojans ' fourth-and-14 pass attempt fell incomplete with 3:35 to play.

Scott opened the drive with a 30-yard run to the Troy 4-yard line. Three plays later, Johnson scored his second touchdown from a yard out for the final margin.

The announced crowd was 92,103.

LSU returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 22, when Ole Miss comes to Baton Rouge for the Tigers’ final home game.

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