Adjustments help push LSU to title

Halftime tweaks on the defensive line paid off for the Tigers in Saturday's win over Georgia.

ATLANTA – Much like in last week's 41-17 victory against Arkansas, it was a tale of two halves for LSU in a 42-10 win over Georgia Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.

For the defensive line, it simply boiled down to making adjustments.

In the first quarter, the Bulldogs passed it 15 times and ran it just eight. By halftime, they had attempted 23 passes and run 18 times.

Consider those numbers a far cry from what the Tigers had planned for all week.

"We felt like they were going to come out and pound it and try to run the ball on us," defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "We weren't really expecting the pass."

Added defensive tackle Anthony Johnson: "They said they would run the ball down our throat, so we expected it."

When that wasn't the case, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray found himself with time to kill in the pocket, uninterrupted thanks to LSU holding back on sending bodies with hopes of stopping the run instead.

"That's why we didn't get a pass rush like we wanted to in the first half," Johnson said.

A glimpse of what the Tigers were capable of on the defensive line came in the second quarter – and would eventually come in waves in the second half.

On Georgia's first drive of the second quarter, Murray was sacked by defensive end Kendrick Adams for a 9-yard loss, then running back Carlton Thomas coughed the ball up after being hit by defensive tackle Bennie Logan on the following play. The Bulldogs recovered the loose ball and punted it away two plays later.

"That was when we started to get it rolling," Logan said. "We started feeling it and knew we had to get after Murray."

In a Georgia Dome that was mostly filled with red-and-black, momentum shifted to LSU's side the next time Georgia had the football.

After a pair of Isaiah Crowell rushes netted a yard, Murray dropped back to pass and was hit by LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery at the Georgia 3-yard line.

"I got up field and worked my hands, then got free," Montgomery said. "From there it was over with. I put my helmet on (Murray), and it was a big loss for them and a big gain for us."

A big gain is a bit of an understatement.

The sack forced the Bulldogs to punt to Tyrann Mathieu, and 62 yards later the Honey Badger was in the end zone and LSU had life.

"I knew it was a matter of time before me, Tyrann or (Morris Claiborne) made a big play," Montgomery said. "In big time games, players make big time plays. I took advantage of that moment, which gave us the momentum. Then we went out and dominated."

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, LSU coach Les Miles rallied his team in the locker room and started calling for changes.

Cue the tweaks that helped the Tigers win the SEC.

"When their offense started clicking, Coach Miles told me to work our pass rush moves," Brockers said. "That was important. When we made the halftime adjustments, we went to our pass rush moves and pressured Murray. We did a good job with that."

The first drive of the second quarter told the tale.

After two rushes by Thomas netted a yard, Murray tried to pick up a first down after he was forced out of the pocket, but Brockers stripped the ball loose and Mathieu fell on top of the fumble.

LSU took the lead on a Kenny Hilliard rushing touchdown two plays later, and Georgia never put another point on the board.

"I just had great faith in that defense, and they were not moving the football," Miles said. "They had a surprise onside (kick) and the reverse pass. You could just tell that there was a need for them to make plays, and I just believed that the defense could keep them out of the end zone."

After Murray went 10-of-23 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first half, the Tigers held one of the conference's elite quarterbacks to 6-of-17 passing for 49 yards in the second half.

"There were some times in the second half where we certainly thought we had some guys open but didn't protect well enough," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

On the ground, the Tigers held Crowell and the Bulldogs to just 78 rushing yards on 34 attempts.

"The second half, we did not run the ball very well," Richt said. "Then the point differential got to where you couldn't be as patient as maybe you wanted to.

"Basically, we just lost the momentum; they gained it, and we really couldn't slow it down once it got going."

LSU ended the game in typical fashion, finishing up with four sacks and nine tackles for a loss – which equated to 42 yards of backtracking for the Bulldogs.

Even more impressive were the number of defensive linemen involved.

Brockers, Adams, Montgomery, Lavar Edwards and Jermauria Rasco each made stops in the backfield.

Whatever Miles told the big men up front, it worked.

"Coming out in the second half we had to empty the tank and leave everything on the field," Logan said.

Johnson added: "We switched gears and showed them that we are the best defense in the country."

Half-and-half works fine for the Tigers

SCORING RECAP: LSU 42, Georgia 10


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