Tigers escape Kentucky with win

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After the 2001 season is over, LSU fans will look back at a 29-25 win over Kentucky as a turning point in their year or a harbinger of struggles to come. For the time being, the Tigers will simply look at it as a win – their first in Southeastern Conference action.

Rohan Davey's 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton with 16 second remaining in the game pushed LSU past Kentucky on a windy and damp night at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen had come off the Wildcats' bench in the third quarter and erased a 22-10 LSU lead, but Davey led the Tigers on their game-winning drive with just over three minutes left on the clock, improving LSU's record to 3-2 and 1-2 in SEC play.

"I'm just happy for our team," said LSU coach Nick Saban. "The last month or so has been really hard on us, with the disappointing loss at Tennessee, how we played bad against Florida and canceling the Auburn game.

"The players are really happy with the win, and it's good to see them happy. It seems like they haven't been happy for a long time."

LSU jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, having scored on its first possession of the game. Running back LaBrandon Toefield rumbled down the right sideline for a 34-yard touchdown to cap the Tigers' 6-play, 81-yard scoring drive. Toefield would lead all rushers with 28 carries for 129 yards.

John Corbello's 34-yard field goal put LSU ahead 10-0, and the Tiger defense added a safety to the score when Kentucky was flagged for holding with quarterback Shane Boyd in the end zone.

Seth Hanson put Kentucky on the scoreboard with a 23-yard field goal with 10:42 remaining in the second quarter, but LSU answered with quick drive that ended with Davey's first touchdown pass to Clayton – a nine-yarder off a slant route to the goal line. A 49-yard pass from Davey to Josh Reed put the Tigers into the red zone on the drive.

Clayton led the Tigers with 9 catches for 105 yards, while Reed made 8 grabs for 160 yards.

Kentucky tallied its first touchdown on the ensuing possession, moving 77 yards in 12 plays to make the score 19-10. Boyd called his own number from 13 yards out for the touchdown.

LSU was able to score again when Corbello added a 46-yard field goal to the Tigers' total with 1:16 to go before halftime, putting LSU back ahead by 12.

Lorenzen got the call to start the Wildcats' second possession of third quarter after Boyd threw his second interception of the game in the Kentucky's opening drive. Damien James made the pickoff for LSU after having nabbed Boyd's first errant pass in the second quarter.

Davey also had two interceptions on the night but was otherwise efficient in a 27-for-38 performance for 383 yards. His first turnover came one play after Boyd threw his first interception, and the second interception from Davey also ended the Tigers' first drive of the third quarter.

Once inserted, Lorenzen wasted little time in getting the Wildcats back into the game. His 32-yard pass to Tommy Cook came right before a 31-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Boone, capping a 5-play drive that lasted just 1:34. On the touchdown play that made the score 22-17, the Tigers were called for an offsides penalty and had quit on the play, allowing Boone to go unscathed into the end zone.

The Wildcats took the lead in the fourth quarter with 10:50 left on a 23-yard scoring play. Lorenzen passed to Derek Abney near the 10 and let Abney do the rest, escaping tackles on the left sideline on his way to the end zone. The Wildcats attempted a 2-point conversion and cashed in when Lorenzen unloaded a pass just before taking a hit and found Derek Smith for a 25-22 Kentucky lead.

LSU began its next drive from its own 11 when Jerel Myers unwisely ran the kickoff from 4 yards deep in the end zone. After the Tigers failed to pick up a first down, Donnie Jones was brought in to punt and provided a 68-yard boomer that forced Kentucky back to its own 16-yard line.

The Wildcats got close to midfield but had to punt the ball back to LSU, putting Davey in business at his own 20 for the game-winning drive. An 18-yard pass play to Reed moved LSU to the Kentucky 27, but Davey was sacked back to the 36 on the next play. Undaunted, Davey completed his next pass to Clayton to get the Tigers down to the 18-yard line. It set up a third-and-one situation that Davey converted with an 8-yard pass to Reed.

LSU finished the night 12-of-18 on third down conversions, including 4-of-6 in the fourth quarter.

On first and goal from the 10, Davey scrambled down to the UK 1. On second down, Kentucky failed to bite on a play-action fake and forced Davey to throw out of the end zone. Before the Tigers could try a third down play from the 1, they were called for illegal motion and pushed back to the six.

Reverting back to the same play they scored on in the first quarter, Davey ran away from pressure and threaded a pass to Clayton on the slant, which the receiver pulled off his hip for the winning touchdown.

"Coach told us to keep our focus for 60 minutes," said Clayton. "That's what I think helped us when we had a chance to win late in the game."

Kentucky's loss was its 13th-straight against an SEC opponent, leaving the Wildcats at 1-5 on the season and 0-4 in the SEC.

LSU goes back on the road next week for a game at Mississippi State, a 21-9 loser to Troy State.

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