SEASON REVIEW

LSU fans are still wondering what happened.

Two weeks ago, the Tigers were on cloud nine, heading to the SEC Championship Game with 10 wins and slim hopes of returning to the national title game – or at least the Sugar Bowl.

But following USC and Texas romps in the their respective title games and Georgia's rout of the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers are headed to the Peach Bowl?

Despite finishing second in the SEC with a 10-2 record, LSU got passed over by three major January bowl games and landed in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. It seems ironic No. 10 LSU will meet No. 9 Miami in the Dec. 30 bowl game due to the fact the Tigers and Hurricanes have both been left pondering what might have been.

Miami seemed destined for the BCS after upsetting Virginia Tech, but a loss to Georgia Tech in week nine sent the Hokies to the ACC title game, where Frank Beamer's team lost to an average Florida State team.

After a 1-1 start, including a win at No. 15 Arizona State offset by a meltdown against a bad Tennessee squad, LSU won 10 straight games, including wins over No. 11 Florida, No. 15 Auburn and third-ranked Alabama.

But in the game that mattered most, the Tigers fell flat losing to Georgia 34-14 in the SEC Championship Game.

Despite criticism, the Capital One, Outback and Cotton Bowls chose Auburn, Florida and Alabama respectively relegating the Tigers to a non-January bowl for the first time since 2000, which was Nick Saban's first season when LSU last visited the Peach Bowl.

Game One: Sept. 10, 2005

LSU 35, Arizona State 31

Tempe, Ariz.

LSU wide receiver Early Doucet jumped past two Arizona State defenders and came down with a 39-yard touchdown reception from JaMarcus Russell with 1:13 to play to give the No. 5 Tigers an improbable 35-31 "home" victory.

LSU won a season opener on the road for the first time since 1987.

Arizona State, which along with the Fiesta Bowl played a terrific host for the Tigers displaced by Hurricane Katrina, had punt and field goal attempts blocked and returned for touchdowns in the second half after leading by as many as 10 points, 17-7.

The back-and-forth affair saw the teams amass 994 yards of total offense (434 for LSU, 560 for ASU), 17 penalties for 131 yards, and only three second-half punts. There were 42 points scored in the fourth quarter.

Russell, who started the fifth game of his career as a Tiger, passed for 232 yards on 16-of-29 passing -- none more important than his strike to Doucet that gave the Tigers the final margin.

LSU running back Joseph Addai rushed for two touchdowns and 106 yards to lead the Tigers.

Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller toyed with the LSU secondary at times, tallying 461 yards passing, completing 35-of-56 throws. But, it was his last four incomplete passes against a beleaguered Tigers secondary that gave LSU the win.

Game Two: Sept. 26, 2005

Tennessee 30, LSU 27 (OT)

Baton Rouge, La.

Tennessee, who had been outscored by LSU 21-0 in the first half, outscored the home-standing Tigers 23-3 after halftime to claim a 30-27 victory in front of 91,986 stunned fans.

The Volunteer's game-winning second-half charge was led by an unlikely hero in former LSU backup quarterback Rick Clausen, who completed 21of 32 mainly second-half passes for 196 yards and one touchdown.

Clausen picked apart a Tiger defense that allowed just 90 yards in the first half but 205 in the second. Tennessee negated the same LSU blitz that confused and perplexed the Vols in the first half with a second-half barrage of short passes and well executed runs.

Meanwhile, the Vols' defense staggered LSU in the second half allowing just 44 yards after the Tigers gouged 200 passing and running in the first half.

Tennessee won the coin toss to start the overtime period and chose to play defense in the north end of the field. After Jospeh Addai ran 11 yards for a first down on LSU's first overtime play, the Tiger offense shut down again and Colt David was forced to give the Tigers a 27-24 lead with a 31-yard field goal.

But that lead was tenuous at best as the Tennessee offense, spurned by the monumental second half comeback scored a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge by Gerald Riggs on the sixth play of its possession.

Riggs finished the game with 74 yards and his winning touchdown. Addai was LSU's leading rusher with 73 yards and one touchdown. Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell finished the game with 14 completions on 26 attempts and one especially costly interception that allowed the Vols to cut the LSU lead to 24-21 with 7:15 to play. Tennessee tied the score 24-24 on a 28-yard field goal with 2:02 left in the contest.

Game Three: Oct. 1, 2005

LSU 37, Miss. State 7

Starkville, Miss.

LSU scored 37 unanswered points including touchdowns on all three third-quarter possessions to defeat Mississippi State, 37-7, at Davis Wade Stadium.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who played on three quarters after opening the lead to 30 points, completed 20-of-23 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, both to Dwayne Bowe.

Russell's completion percentage of 86.9 was the best in school history by a quarterback throwing at least 20 passes against an SEC opponent.

Running back Joseph Addai led the way on the ground for the Tigers, totaling 86 yards on 17 carries with a 1-yard touchdown. Skyler Green caught eight passes for 55 yards, while Bowe's two catches were each taken the distance.

LSU outgained Mississippi State, 402-229.

The Bulldogs rushed for only 56 yards on 28 carries, while quarterback Omarr Conner completed 9-of-22 passes for 141 yards. Sixty-six of his yards came on the Bulldogs' only touchdown on the game's first drive.

LSU led 17-7 at the half.

Game Four: Oct. 8, 2005

LSU 34, Vanderbilt 6

Nashville, Tenn.

LSU overcame four turnovers and 14 penalties to turn in a brilliant defensive performance in beating Vanderbilt, 34-6, in front of 37,309 in Vanderbilt Stadium.

LSU statistically dominated the game with 479 yards of total offense but had little to show for it until a 22-point fourth quarter due to miscues. The Tigers had five fewer penalty yards than Vanderbilt's total offense (138-133).

Meanwhile, the LSU defense came up big for the second straight week, holding the Commodore offense that led the SEC in passing offense and ranked second in total offense to only 138 yards of total offense.

The Tigers also recorded six sacks of Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, giving the Commodores 25 net yards rushing on 26 attempts for the game. The final play of the game was a 40-yard run.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell finished the game 21-of-32 passing for 285 yards with two touchdown passes. Dwayne Bowe caught five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, while Early Doucet added 94 yards on five receptions.

Running back Joseph Addai had 102 yards rushing on 24 carries, while Justin Vincent tallied 77 on only 11 rushes.

LSU placekicker Chris Jackson had a 47-yard field goal hit the left goal post and a 42-yarder missed to the right to end the first half. He converted from 36 yards in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt managed only 138 yards of offense on 59 plays. Quarterback Jay Cutler, who leads the Southeastern Conference in total offense, was held to 11-of-32 passing for 113 yards with a pair of interceptions.

Game Five: Oct. 15, 2005

LSU 21, Florida 17

Baton Rouge, La.

The largest crowd to ever witness a game in Tiger Stadium saw LSU notch a 21-17 win over Florida

LSU amassed 361 yards while Florida managed 206. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 14-22 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Florida quarterback Chris Leak completed just 11-30 passes for 107 yards and no touchdowns. LSU scored 14 points so easily during the games opening minutes it seemed as if a route was in the making.

But, as in last week's game, the Tigers provided their own demises. LSU committed five turnovers, three of which led to all of Florida's 17 points. Russell was responsible for three, on two interceptions and a fumble while Tiger tailbacks Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent threw in a fumble a piece.

Florida seized a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter just three plays after Russell threw his second interception. But, LSU reclaimed the lead for good on the ensuing drive, an impressive 12-play, 75-yard time eater that ended with a 3-yard run by Addai with 12:35 remaining in the game.

Florida was able to take advantage of the Tiger mistakes by opening up its running attack in LSU territory after the turnovers. All three Gator scores came within five plays of a Tiger mistake and two of the three drives contained runs of at least 30 yards. The Gators finished the contest with 99 net yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground.

But, when LSU didn't hurt itself with fumbles and interceptions, its defense dominated, sacking Leak four times and limiting Florida to just four trips beyond the 50-yard line the entire game.

Game Six: Oct. 22, 2005

LSU 20, Auburn 17 (OT)

Baton Rouge, La.

It was a tale of two kickers.

LSU's Chris Jackson ultimately left the field elated while Auburn's John Vaughn did not. It was Vaughn's inability to find the space between the uprights that cost his team a chance to win and gave 92,664 mostly purple and gold clad fans a chance to celebrate a 20-17 overtime victory for LSU.

Vaughn attempted to tie the game on Auburn's first offensive possession of the overtime period when he lined up to kick a 39-yarder into the north endzone. But the attempt bounced high off the left upright and the LSU crowd and team erupted into celebration.

Vaughn missed five field goals during the game including a 49-yard attempt with two seconds remaining in the contest.

Jackson missed a field goal early in the contest as well, as did LSU's other place kicker Colt David. But Jackson made the two biggest kicks of the game (and his career), the first a 44-yarder with 1:10 to play in regulation and the 30-yarder in overtime that proved to be the game winner.

LSU led most of the game despite trailing statistically for most of the contest. The hometown Tigers gave up 230 yards rushing to the visiting Tigers, 218 of them to Kenny Irons.

Auburn amassed 451 yards of offense, LSU, just 339. Auburn's passing game proved superior as well, yardage wise while being a bit less efficient. Brandon Cox threw for 221 yards and a touchdown, competing 16 out of 40 attempts and one enormous, late touchdown. LSU's JaMarcus Russell had 16 completions too, on 33 attempts and a touchdown.

LSU held a tenuous 14-10 lead with 4:52 remaining in the contest and Auburn facing a 4th-and-goal at the LSU 5-yard line. Cox called for the ball and calmly retreated far enough from the LSU rush to find a leaping Anthony Mix in the back of the endzone to give The Plainsmen a 17-14 advantage.

The hometown Tigers responded with an eight-play, 48-yard drive that set up Jackson's tying field goal with 1:40 to play and Auburn without timeouts.

Game Seven: Oct. 29, 2005

LSU 56, North Texas 3

Baton Rouge, La.

LSU floored the Mean Green 56-3 in front of 88,887 fans who were forced to wait nearly two months for the rout that was supposed to be this season's first game.

The contest was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina.

The Tigers scored enough points in the game's first three minutes to salt away the win. But the pile on started early and continued well into the second half as a host of purple and gold clad players used the mismatch as an opportunity to see their first significant playing time of the season.

Most notable of the Tiger reserves was quarterback Matt Flynn, who entered the game early in the fourth quarter and completed the first pass he threw to Xavier Carter for a 49-yard touchdown. Flynn threw two more touchdown passes before the game's end and finished a perfect 7-7 passing for 139 yards.

His numbers added to JaMarcus Russell's 17 completions in 21 attempts for 244 yards and one touchdown helped the Tigers eclipse North Texas' passing yards 383-101. In all, LSU amassed 566 yards of offense against the out-manned Mean Green. Eight Tigers recorded rushing stats, the best of the pack being Justin Vincent's 12-carry, 70-yard, one touchdown effort.

North Texas' stat sheet was highlighted by tailback Jamario Thomas' 83 yards on 26 carries.

Game Eight: Nov. 5, 2005

LSU 24, Appalachian State 0

Baton Rouge, La.

Appalachian State proved more worthy than some of LSU's Southeastern Conference foes by out-rushing the Tigers and holding the score to a respectable 24-0 in front of a tepid homecoming crowd of 91,414.

Four Moutaineer rushers split time carrying the ball through often gaping holes in the Tiger defense. Led by quarterback Richie Williams' 80 yards on 10 carries, the quartet combined for 176 yards on the ground compared to 163 yards for the Tigers.

Tiger junior Justin Vincent led all rushers with 89 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown.

But, LSU vastly eclipsed Appalachian State in passing yardage thanks to an efficient 16-22, 208-yard two-touchdown performance by quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

LSU's lead was never truly threatened after the Tigers jumped to a 7-0 lead in the game's first possession. The Moutaineers did manage to make matters a bit interesting in the second half, driving the ball to the Tiger 15 in the third quarter with LSU holding just a 14-0 advantage.

After missing its first and only legitimate chance to score when a 33-yard field goal bounced off the right upright, Appalachian State fell prey to the faster, stronger and deeper Tigers who scored a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter to salt away the win.

Game Nine: Nov. 12, 2005

LSU 16, Alabama 13 (OT)

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

An 11-yard pass from quarterback JaMarcus Russell to wideout Dwayne Bowe secured the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers 16-13 overtime victory over No. 4 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The win marks the third straight and fifth in the past six games for the Tigers over the Tide. LSU also extended its win streak to three-straight games in Tuscaloosa.

While the final stats suggest a relatively even battle, with LSU narrowly out-gaining the Tide, 270-272, it was a hearty second half offensive output and defensive stand that got the Tigers back into the game. Gaining just 72 yards through 30 minutes of play, LSU tacked on 158 yards through the air and another 45 on the ground in putting all of their points on the board in the second half and overtime.

Individually, Russell finished the day with 229 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-30 passing. He hit Bowe for seven receptions and a season high 98 yards.

Leading the rushing attack was junior Justin Vincent who gained 56 yards on 20 carries, including a 1-yard TD run.

Alabama led 10-0 at the half on the strength of a 28-yard Jamie Christensen field goal and a eight-yard Brodie Croyle pass to DJ Hall. Through the first half, the Tide defense limited the Tigers to just five complete passes and 72 total yards.

LSU took the ball on the their 20-yard line to open the second half and drove 70 yards on passes to Craig Davis and Justin Vincent and another 20 rushing yards by Vincent. The Tigers came up short on three tries before handing the ball to Vincent who punched it into the end zone for the 1-yard score on fourth-and-1. The score was the first against the Alabama defense in 15 quarters. Jackson made the PAT to bring the Tigers within three of the Tide.

Later in the third period, Jackson was successful on a 42-yard attempt, knotting the score at 10.

Game 10: Nov. 19, 2005

LSU 40, Ole Miss 7

Oxford, Miss.

LSU tok one step closer to an SEC Western Division Championship handing punch-less Ole Miss a 40-7 loss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The victory for LSU was by the largest margin by an Ole Miss opponent in Oxford since a 47-0 defeat at the hands of Kentucky in 1949.

LSU running backs Joseph Addai ran for 70 yards on 14 carries, while Justin Vincent also carried 14 times for 54 yards. Each scored a touchdown on the ground.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell finished 13 of 22 for 142 yards and two touchdowns. His backup, Matt Flynn, entered in the fourth quarter and tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass. He finished 2 of 4 for 61 yards.

LSU gave up only seven yards rushing on 22 Rebels attempts. The Tigers out-gained Ole Miss, 381-175 and scored on all four red zone appearances.

Ole Miss backup quarterback Michael Spurlock was 11 of 23 for 119 yards and a touchdown. Four Ole Miss runners each had less than 10 yards rushing.

Game 11: Nov. 25, 2005

LSU 19, Arkansas 17

Baton Rouge, La.

LSU suffered a little post-Thanksgiving heartburn as Arkansas narrowly missed a huge upset as the Tigers beat the Hogs 19-17.

The Tigers held a seemingly-safe 19-3 lead early in the third quarter after tailback Justin Vincent plowed into the south endzone from four yards away. But, the Tigers scored no more while Arkansas trick-played and good-old-fashioned defended its way to 14 unanswered points.

The Razorbacks were led by a pair of true freshmen in quarterback Casey Dick and tailback Darren McFadden who were largely responsible for the Hogs' two second-half touchdowns. Dick found wide receiver Cedrick Washington for a 29-yard touchdown with 4:16 to play in the third quarter and McFadden added the two-point conversion run to cut the Tiger lead to 19-11.

McFadden then scored on a 1-yard plunge with 10:34 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 19-17. An interception of a Dick pass on the ensuing two-point try by Chevis Jackson kept the Hogs from tying the game.

The Razorbacks moved to the LSU 33 in the waning moments of the game on a 4th-and-6 completion from McFadden on a roll to the left to Marcus Monk. But, the Razorbacks failed to move any closer to what could have been game-winning field goal range. Dick was sacked for a seven-yard loss on third down by Tiger defensive end Melvin Oliver and then harassed again by Oliver on a fourth down heave that landed in the hands of Tiger safety LaRon Landry at the 7-yard line, ending the threat.

Game 12: Dec. 2, 2005

SEC Championship Game

Georgia 34, LSU 14

Atlanta, Ga.

Georgia sent once third-ranked Tigers back to Baton Rouge 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 ten minutes. From there, the Bulldogs essentially cruised to victory, with a minor hiccup 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 of 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.

Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell managed to complete 11 of 19 passes for 120 yards and one interception.

The Bulldogs managed only 250 yards of total offense, but spent large portions of the game 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.

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