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College Classic Rewind: LSU Knocks Off Dawgs in SEC Slugfest

Posted on November 29, 2011 by A.J. Foss

On September 20, 2003, the #7 ranked Georgia Bulldogs traveled to Baton Rouge to take on the #11 LSU Tigers in an early SEC showdown.

The Bulldogs were the defending SEC champions as they ended a 20-year drought of not winning the SEC title, thanks to head coach Mark Richt, quarterback David Greene, and SEC player of the year, defensive end David Pollack.

Greene, Pollack, and several other key starters returned for the 2003 season and helped led Georgia to wins in their first three games of the season.

Even though they would be playing in one of the toughest environments in all of college football, the Dawgs were confident as they had won all nine games played in opponents’ home stadiums since Richt became the coach in 2001.

LSU also entered the game with a 3-0 record as they had won those three games by a combined score of 143-27.
The Tigers were led by head coach Nick Saban, who had LSU to a surprising SEC championship in 2001 and was in his fourth season in Baton Rouge.

LSU was looking to rebound in 2003 following a late-season collapse in 2002 in which the Tigers dropped five of their last six games to lose their grip on the SEC Western Division title and finish the season with an 8-5 record.

The main reason for that collapse was the loss of starting quarterback Matt Mauck, who broke his foot in the sixth game of the season and was lost for the rest of the season.

Mauck had become a folk hero in the eyes of LSU fans as he had come off the bench to lead the Tigers to a 31-20 upset over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game.

Mauck returned to Baton Rouge for his senior season and was at the helm as the Tigers faced off with Georgia in what turned out to be a preview of that year’s SEC Championship Game.

Both teams traded punts until the Dawgs drove to the LSU 16-yard-line where they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Billy Bennett to give Georgia a 3-0 lead with 6:20 left in the first quarter.

On the Tigers’ ensuing possession, Mauck was picked off by Georgia safety Sean Jones, to give the Dawgs the ball at the LSU 40-yard-line.

Two runs by running back Michael Cooper gained 22 yards and the Dawgs were in prime position to expand their lead as they had a 1st-and-10 at the Tigers’ 18-yard-line.

Following a one-yard-loss by Cooper, Greene scrambled ten yards and was poised to get the 1st down when he was hit by LSU defensive end Marcus Spears at the eight-yard-line, forcing a fumble which Spears recovered, ending the Bulldog scoring threat.

Shyrone Carey dives for the game's first touchdown to give LSU the lead.

The Dawgs forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at the LSU 44-yard-line after a 32-yard punt by Donnie Jones but the drive stalled at the 26-yard-line and Bennett came on to kick a 43-yard field goal which he made.

However, an illegal formation penalty on Georgia and 12 men on the field penalty on LSU, negated the field goal, forcing Bennett to try the field goal again.

The second time was not successful as Bennett’s kick sailed wide right and the score remained 3-0 as the first quarter came to a close.

The Tigers offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and after another short punt by Donnie Jones, the Dawgs had the ball once again inside LSU territory, this time from the 47-yard-line.

Georgia drove to the 25-yard-line until three straight incomplete passes stalled the drive and forced another field goal attempt from Bennett, this time from 42 yards out.

Once again, Bennett’s kick sailed wide right and the Tigers escaped the third scoring threat by the Dawgs to still only trail 3-0.

Through the first 24 minutes and 43 seconds of the first half, the LSU offense had only gained 48 yards and two 1st downs when they began their eighth possession of the game at their own 15-yard-line.

That is when the Tigers offense put together their best drive of the game as they traveled the 85 yards in six plays, ending with a 21-yard touchdown run by Shyrone Carey to give LSU its first lead of the game at 7-3 with 3:10 remaining before halftime.

Georgia got the ball back at their 21-yard-line and Greene was able to complete five of eight passes to give Bennett another chance for a field goal, this one from 36 yards out with 44 seconds to go.

But for the third straight time, Bennett missed the field goal as his 36-yard attempt hit the left upright.

Despite having six possessions inside LSU territory, the Dawgs trailed 7-3 as the two teams went into the halftime break.

After forcing Georgia to punt on its opening drive of the second half, the Tigers continued the offensive momentum that got on its touchdown drive in the second quarter as Mauck led LSU on a 10-play, 51-yard drive that culminated with a 47-yard field goal by Ryan Gaudet that increased the Tigers’ lead to 10-3 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.

Then on the first play on the Dawgs’ ensuing possession, disaster appeared to strike as Greene hyperextended his knee following a hit by a LSU defender.

Greene would miss the rest of that series and the next offensive series but would return to the game, to throw an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter as LSU linebacker Lionel Turner picked off the Georgia quarterback to give the Tigers the ball at the Dawgs’ 40-yard-line.

David Greene threw for 314 yards but took a beating from the LSU defense that at one point knocked him out of the game.

The Tigers could only gain nine yards and force to try another long field goal attempt by Gaudet, this time from 48 yards out.

Gaudet’s kick did not travel past the line of scrimmage as Sean Jones blocked the kick to deny the Tigers’ chance to increase the lead and give the Dawgs the ball back at their 31-yard-line, still only a touchdown behind.

The Dawgs made it only to their own 49-yard-line when they were set to punt the ball back to LSU, when Richt called for a fake punt, but the Tigers were not fooled as Jack Hunt and Corey Webster stopped Joe Tereshinski short of the 1st down to give LSU the ball at the Georgia’ 48-yard-line with 9:10 left in regulation.

Mauck and the Tigers’ offense were poised to put the game away as they made back-to-back 3rd down conversions and were at the Dawgs’ 18-yard-line needing only two more yards to make their third consecutive 3rd down conversion.

Mauck kept the ball and ran past the 1st down marker when he was hit by Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman, jarring the ball loose, which was recovered by Derrick White at the 15-yard-line, to give the Dawgs the ball with 4:52 left to get the game-tying touchdown.

This drive seemed doomed to fail as a holding penalty on the first play of the drive push the Dawgs back to the seven-yard-line to set up a 1st-and-18.

That is when Greene tossed a screen pass to running back Tyson Browning, who dodged two LSU defenders and got a block from wide receiver Damien Gary around the 35-yard-line, to run 93 yards for the touchdown that went with Bennett’s extra point tied the game at 10 with 4:25 to play.

The play was reminiscent of Lindsay Scott’s 93-yard catch-and –run for a Georgia touchdown in the final minutes of the 1980 game against Florida that gave the Bulldogs the victory and propelled them to the national championship.

Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, the ending this time would not be a happy one.

On the ensuing kickoff, Devery Henderson had 48-yard return to give the Tigers the ball at their own 49-yard-line with 4:16 on the clock and two timeouts.

Carey carried the ball three straight times for 11 yards, which was followed by a four-yard run by Mauck and two-yard-run by Joseph Addai to set up a 3rd-and-4 at the Georgia 34-yard-line.

Mauck rolled to his left and fired a deep pass right before he was hit by an oncoming Georgia defender, intended for Skyler Green, who made the catch in the end zone for the 34-yard touchdown that put LSU back on top at 17-10 with 1:22 left in the game

Taking over at his own 15-yard-line, Greene completed two passes for 31 yards and an 11-yard-run by Cooper had the Dawgs at the LSU 43-yard-line with 50 seconds remaining and two timeouts left.

Skyler Green makes the game-winning touchdown catch, a 34-yard pass from Matt Mauck with 1:22 to go.

But on the next play, Greene was picked off by Webster, who tipped a pass intended for Reggie Brown, back to the LSU defensive back for the interception that sealed the 17-10 victory for the Tigers.

The two teams would meet again in December in the SEC Championship Game which the Tigers won easily as Justin Vincent ran for 201 yards and the LSU defense sacked Greene six times.

LSU advanced to the Sugar Bowl where they played Oklahoma for the BCS Championship and defeated the Sooners 21-14 to win a share of the national championship, as USC was voted #1 in the final AP poll.

Saban would coach the Tigers for one more season until he left to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

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