Tigers slop through season opening win

It was a rather damp start to the 2003 season. <br><br> A rain-soaked Tiger Stadium crowd witnessed the LSU Tigers manhandle the University of Louisiana – Monroe 49-7 Saturday night. <br><br> A 45-minute rain delay two minutes into the game sent both teams to the lock room while most of the 89,148 in attendance could only sit and wait in the deluge.

"I was in a hurricane in Miami one time," LSU quarterback Matt Mauck said. "But that was pretty bad."


Head coach Nick Saban he was upset by the way his team came out and their performance after the lengthy delay.


"I was a little disappointed in the way we started," Saban said. "Our readiness was affected by the delay. We were mentally flat coming out and the delay didn't help much. But defensively, I think we played with a little bit more intensity when we came back out."


The teams returned to the field some 37 minutes after the initial kickoff and resumed play at approximately 7:47.


"We talked to them like it was halftime," Saban said. "But there really wasn't enough to talk about. I didn't think we would be in there that long, so we went into part of our pregame warmup."


Play resumed just in time for Tiger kicker Ryan Gaudet's 34-yard field goal attempt be blocked by the Indians. As Gaudet's kick knuckled wide right, both offenses succumbed to the wet field and sloppy conditions for the next quarter and a half. Much to the surprise of the few patrons that hung around, the first quarter came to a shocking end in a scoreless tie.


"When we came out, we felt like we came out and played pretty hard in the first quarter," ULM head coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "But about midway through the second quarter we gave up a couple of cheap ones."


The Indians did little to stop the Tiger offense. An methodical 18-yard play drive resulted in no points by the LSU offense. The Tigers drove 66 yards to ULM six yard line before Mauck threw an ill-advised pass, which was snared by the Indians' Chris Harris for a touchback.


"I thought we really came out slow and you know we can't do that next week or the following game," Mauck said. "I thought we let the conditions get to us. We really don't need to worry about the opponent or what the weather is like. We just need to play hard."


As stagnant as the Tiger offense appeared through the first quarter and a half, LSU exploded for three quick scores as Mauck ended the second quarter with a trio of touchdown passes.


A Donnie Jones pooch punt turned the tables in field position pinning the Indians deep in their own territory. Working from its own eight, ULM went three plays and out. A 17-yard Shyrone Carey punt return gave the Tigers excellent position at the Indian 24.


Mauck completed a 16-yard pass to Michael Clayton on first down. Two plays later, the Tigers dented the scoreboard first when Mauck hit Devery Henderson on a 8-yard pitch and catch.


"I think Matt played fine," Saban said. "We had some dropped balls and busted some protections. But we played better as we went. The key for us offensively is to get as many people involved as we can. We have too many skill players on this team that can make plays."


Four plays later, a muffed snap on a punt attempt netted a loss of four yards by Indian punter Joel Stelley. Just 1:42 after LSU's first score, the Tigers were back in the end zone, this time on a 17-yard pass from Mauck to tailback Joseph Addai.


It looked as if the score would remain 14-0 going into the break before Mauck threaded the needle on a skinny post route to Clayton, who motored 30 yards for the Tigers third passing TD of the second quarter.


With the game teetering on the verge of spinning out of control for the Indians, LSU faltered on their opening drive of the second half. However, a 1-yard scoring run by Carey with 7:16 left in the third quarter was enough to put the icing on the cake. If that didn't do it, a 31-yard interception return by Jack Hunt did as LSU seized a 35-0 advantage. Hunt perfectly broke on a Jyles pass, leapt into the air to snag the pass before outrunning a host of Indians.


"The quarterback stared at me the whole time," Hunt said. "I just dropped to the flat and he never saw me."


In his first series in the game as the Tiger quarterback, junior Marcus Randall hit Henderson on a 15-yard strike before hooking up with Clayton. The 6-4, Baton Rouge junior made an athletic grab, danced around a pair of Indian defenders before streaking down the East sideline 66 yards for a 42-0 LSU lead.


"Michael made some great plays, but he also made some average plays for him," Saban said. "He had some dropped balls. He is usually a more consistent pass receiver."


The Indians spoiled LSU's shutout opportunity when Kevin Payne raced into the south end zone on a perfectly executed misdirection play. Payne's run covered 12-yards cutting the Tigers advantage to 42-7.


As one of a dozen true freshmen to get in the ball game, Lafayette-Acadiana product Alley Broussard looked very "Toefield"-like wearing No. 22 as he bulled into the end zone on a 1-yard run with 10:39 left in the fourth period. Broussard's TD run was set up by a key reception by freshman wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on a pass from Randall.


On the injury front, the Tigers lost senior cornerback Randall Gay with a slight fracture in his right arm. Saban said he could miss up to five weeks.


"We are already awfully thin the secondary," Saban said. "We get into our freshmen awfully quick. Blue is a smart player and can play every position in the secondary."


Mauck had a very "ho-hum" performance in his return from a season-ending injury a year ago. Completing 13-of-28 passes, Mauck totaled 153 yards with three touchdowns, but did throw one interception. Randall showed he is a solid backup behind Mauck. The starter in LSU's last six games last year, Randall was a near-perfect 5-of-7 for 153 yards and a touchdown.


On the ground, Addai piled up 81 yards on 15 carries in his first start as the Tigers' full-time tailback. Carey totaled just 11 yards on the ground, but did pick up LSU's only rushing touchdown.


Through the air, Clayton had one of his best night's in an LSU uniform. The all-American candidate caught six balls for 152 yards and a pair of scores. Henderson had 32 yards on four catches and a touchdown while Addai pitched in 21 yards on a pair of receptions with a TD.


"LSU has a good football team, there is no doubt," Weatherbie said. "I know we will make a lot of improvement from this game to our next."

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