Wing, Mathieu and Hilliard spark comeback

NOTES: Familiar heroes and a breakout performance from Hilliard for the Tigers spark a 2nd-half rally and help LSU win the 2011 SEC championship.

ATLANTA – With defense stealing the show and an offense coming to life in the second half, LSU's punting game got a bit overshadowed Saturday night in a 42-10 romp past Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

Thing is, neither the defense nor the Tigers' offense might've ever gotten a chance to shine had Brad Wing not single-handedly (footedly?) kept them in the game in the first half.

Brad Wing: Helped keep the Tigers in the game with his leg in the first half.
And he wasn't alone in his punting excellence, as Bulldogs' punter Drew Butler had an even better day statistically.

The two punters took turns booming kicks in the first 30 minutes,

Wing uncorked rainmakers of 50, 64, 56, 67, 50 and 55 in the first half when he got plenty of opportunity as the Tigers' offense plodded through a miserable performance with no first downs on seven possessions.

Butler, meanwhile, launched bombs of 62, 52, 59, 48 and 51 yards.

When the game ended, the two punters had rewritten the SEC Championship Game record book punting section.

The 67-yard Wing punt was the longest in the game's history and his 64-yarder was the third longest. Butler got off the fourth longest with the 62-yard kick.

Kevin Butler matched Wing punt for punt.
On eight punts, Butler averaged a record 51.6 yards per attempt, while Wing's 50.4-yard average is the second best. Eleven of the 16 kicks between the two sailed 50 yards or longer.

A major difference between the two – as it has been all season for the Tigers – was in what the return teams did with the punts.

Georgia had no return yards, while LSU racked up 127 with Tyrann Mathieu returning one for a 62-yard touchdown and another 46 yards to set up a score.

Those two long returns allowed Mathieu to carve a spot in SEC lore as well.

His 62-yard TD was the second longest in the game's history behind Mississippi State's Kevin Prentiss, who had an 83-yard burst against Tennessee in 1998. Mathieu's 29.8-yard average was the best in 20 SEC Championship Games, topping Prentiss' 25.3-yard average in '98.

Tyrann Mathieu shows off his new hardware after being voted the SEC Championship Game MVP.
Elite company
Mathieu was the runaway winner of the MVP award Saturday, putting him in rare air.

The sophomore cornerback is only the third defensive/special teams player to claim the honor, the first since Florida defensive tackle Ellis Johnson did in 1994. The other was Alabama defensive back Antonio Langham in the inaugural game in 1992.

Mathieu is the seventh non-quarterback to claim the honor and he broke a streak of four straight MVP wins by signal-callers, including former Tiger Ryan Perrilloux in 2007.

Maybe next time
In any other game, LSU freshman tailback Kenny Hilliard likely would have blown away the field in the MVP vote.

Kenny Hilliard: 3 TDs in the third quarter helped LSU turn the game around.
He sparked the Tigers' offensive turnaround in the second half with three third-quarter touchdowns, each one a little more physical than the last. His 15-yard touchdown blast on LSU's second snap of the second half was more than the Tigers had scratched out on 21 snaps in the first 30 minutes.

Hilliard's three TDs and 18 points tied the championship game record, which he shares with Alabama' Mark Ingram (2009) and Reidel Anthony of Florida (1996).

When Alfred Blue bolted 48 yards late in the game for LSU's third rushing TD, that also matched a championship game record shared by several teams.

Elite company II
LSU joined Florida as the only SEC teams that have won the championship game at least four times.

The Gators have claimed seven crowns (1993-96, 2000, 2006 and 2008) and the Tigers were even with Alabama with three wins until Saturday.

LSU's win was the third in a row for the West Division, which has closed the East's gap to 11-9. The Tigers (4), Alabama (3) and Auburn (2) have carried the West banner and have also made 16 of the division's 20 appearances.

All of LSU's wins have come in odd-numbered years (2001, 2003, 2007, 2011).

Moving the chains
  • LSU's 42 unanswered points were the most in SEC Championship Game history, eclipsing Florida's 34 in a row in 1995 and Alabama's 34 in 1999. The 35-point second-half outburst is also a game record, as were the 21 points in the third quarter.

  • The Tigers have faced their only double-digit deficits of the season the last two weeks and responded by outscoring Arkansas and Georgia by a combined 83-3.

  • The five pass completions and 30 passing yards for LSU were both championship game lows. By contrast, Georgia's 51 pass attempts were the most in the game's history and Aaron Murray's 40 throws were a career-high.

  • With the huge second half, the Tigers notched the third most points in the game's history, trailing Auburn (56 in 2010) and Florida (45 in 1996). Georgia's 10 points were the fourth lowest total in 20 years of the game.

  • Mo Claiborne's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown was the eighth in the game's history and the first of his career.

    Alfred Blue joins the 500-yard club with a 94-yard day against Georgia.
  • Hilliard's two rushing scores pulled him even for the team lead in that category with Spencer Ware with eight.

  • Blue's 94 yards rushing upped his season total to 539, which gives LSU three backs over 500 yards this season – the first time that's happened since 1997 when Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey and Cecil Collins all got over 500. Michael Ford leads the Tigers with 755, followed by Ware with 700.

  • Georgia's first-quarter field goal was the first time this season an LSU foe has scored on its opening series.

  • Of LSU's 64 recorded tackles, 48 were solo stops, led by Mike Brockers' 6 and 5 apiece by Eric Reid and Bennie Logan.

  • Saturday was LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter's 21st birthday and he celebrated with 6 tackles.

  • All three of defensive end Kendrick Adams' tackles were for negative yards.

  • LSU coach Les Miles now has a .500 record or better against every SEC team after improving to 2-2 vs. the Bulldogs.

    COLUMN: Recipe for success began with Mathieu

    Half-and-half works fine for the Tigers


    SCORING RECAP: LSU 42, Georgia 10

    Adjustments help push LSU to title

    VIDEO: TSD 1-on-1 with Les Miles

    VIDEO: Jefferson after Tigers win the SEC title

    PHOTO GALLERY: A championship in pictures

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