Georgia routs Tigers in SEC Title Game

ATLANTA -- Saturday's LSU-Georgia match-up in the Southeastern Conference Championship game was a rematch of a 2003 contest that propelled the Tigers to national glory.

The Bulldogs (10-2) will most likely advance to the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 and face Big East champion West Virginia.

The Tigers (10-2) await a bowl bid from one of the following: the Capital One Bowl (Jan. 2 at noon CST) in Orlando, the AT&T Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2 at 10 a.m.) in Dallas, the Outback Bowl (Jan. 2 at 10 a.m.) in Tampa, the Peach Bowl (Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m.) in Atlanta or the Independence Bowl (Dec. 30 at 2:30 p.m.) in Shreveport. 

Should a bowl bid be granted to LSU on Sunday, a press conference will be held to announce the Tigers plans.

LSU dominated that contest and won 31-13. This time, Georgia exacted its revenge in heaps, sending the once third-ranked Tigers back to Baton Rouge to ponder their bowl game fate with a demoralizing 34-14 loss in front of 73,717 mostly Bulldog black-and-red clad fans in the Georgia Dome.

The Tigers' chance to win their third league championship game in the last five years evaporated quickly in cloud of interceptions, blocked punts, sacks and penalties that helped stake Georgia to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 21-7 halftime advantage.

Bulldog quarterback D.J. Shockley was not particularly proficient but was accurate enough to complete two long touchdown passes to receiver Sean Bailey in the game's first 10:00. From there, the Bulldogs essentially cruised to victory, with a minor hick-up caused by a LSU touchdown on a 1-yard JaMarcus Russell dive with 13:53 to play in the first half.

Shockley completed only 6-12 passes for 112 and the two touchdowns yards before coasting through the second half by handing the ball off to a couple of Georgia running backs. The Bulldogs gained just enough yards per play in the second half to keep the LSU offense off the field. Shockley was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell, on the other hand, struggled as his team made irreparable mistakes around him. Russell managed to complete 11-19 passes for 120 yards and one interception.

The Bulldogs managed only 250 yards of total offense, but played most of the first half and some of the second half in LSU's territory. LSU managed a measly 230 yards of total offense, just 74 of those on the ground against a Georgia team that entered the contest surrendering on average 128 rushing yards per game.

Russell left the game for good after a late-third quarter sack resulted in a shoulder injury. Matt Flynn took the reigns and fared worse, giving the Bulldogs their second-to-last score with an interception toss that was returned for a 15-yard touchdown by Tim Jennings with 14:18 to play. Flynn made up for the mistake with a 19-yard touchdown toss to Dwayne Bowe with 5:38 remaining but the touchdown was of little consequence.

LSU claimed the following onsides kick, but the chance to cut the lead further ended on 4th-down when Jennings sacked Flynn deep behind the line of scrimmage.
Georgia nearly handed the opening kick back to LSU after kick returner Ramarcus Brown fumbled at his 26. But a pack of Bulldogs pounced on the loose ball giving Georgia a chance to test the Tiger run defense. LSU passed the test and forced a Bulldog punt after just three plays.

But, LSU's offense failed with their chance to move the ball on the ensuing possession when Russell lost 14 yards on a first down sack at his 8-yard line. LSU never moved past the shadow of the goal line and punted back to the Bulldogs, who took possession at the Tiger 45.

The Bulldogs took advantage of the kind field position by scoring on the drive's first play. Shockley connected with Bailey in stride at the LSU 10 and Bailey hopped over the goal line untouched to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 advantage with 10:19 to play in the first quarter after the 45-yard bomb.

LSU moved the ball 16 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive on a first-down pass to Early Doucet. But, after Justin Vincent lost yards on a toss sweep on the next play, Russell handed the Bulldogs another chance to score when he launched an interception to DeMario Minter at the Georgia 49. Six plays later, Shockley spotted a Bailey wide open again, this time running behind the Tiger defense in the endzone. The 29-yard throw and catch capped a six-play drive and staked the Bulldogs to a 14-0 lead with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter.

The Tigers had little choice but to respond to the two early scores. LSU methodically mixed passes to Bowe and rushes by Shyrone Carey for the next 14 plays, taking 7:19 off the clock. Russell ended the 80-yard advance with a 1-yard plunge behind left guard Herman Johnson to give the Tigers their first points of the game with 13:53 left in the first half. Colt David's extra point cut the Georgia lead in half at 14-7.

Georgia managed one first down on the ensuing drive but stalled at the 24 when LSU linebacker E.J. Kuale pulled Shockley to the turf on a 3rd-down sack. A 36-yard punt by Georgia's Gordon Ely-Kelso gave LSU a first down at its 40-yard line, its best field position to that point.

But, the Tigers were unable to take advantage of the advantageous position, losing a combined five yards on the first two plays of the drive. Russell and Doucet were unable to connect on 3rd-and-15 and Chris Jackson was forced into the game to punt from his 35.

That punt, however, never left Jackson's foot as Bulldog back-up receiver and kick-block practitioner Bryan McClendon knifed through Tiger blockers and snuffed the punt. The ball was recovered by Jackson, but he was smothered by a host of Bulldogs at his 15-yard line.

Shockley needed just three plays to take back Georgia's two-touchdown advantage. He capped the brief drive with a 7-yard scramble into the endzone on third down to give the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead with 8:23 to play in the half. 

LSU ran just three plays in a crucial possession to open the first half and punted the ball back to Georgia who advanced quickly to midfield thanks to a pass interference penalty on second down. The Tigers gave Georgia 12 more yards on a late hit out of bounds four plays later, setting the Bulldogs with a first down at the LSU 12. Place kicker Brandon Coutu entered the game on the drive's 11th play to extend the Georgia lead to 24-7 on a 22-yard field goal with 9:52 remaining in the third quarter after the Bulldog advance stalled at the Tiger 5-yard line.

The Tigers continued to add to their own woes with penalties and sacks on the next drive. Holding penalty negated what could have been a 53-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Brazell and a sack of Russell three plays later knocked him out of the game and knocked LSU's chances of making a come back further down the ladder. Jackson punted back to Georgia who claimed control at its 27.   

Coutu returned to the contest with 14:40 to play in the contest to extend the Bulldog lead to 27-7 on a 51-yard field goal.

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