Tigers rally to beat Vols 28-24

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Behind a three-touchdown performance by JaMarcus Russell, the 13th-ranked LSU football team earned its first road victory of the 2006 season, 28-24, over No. 8 Tennessee on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) won its 12-straight game in the month of November dating back to the 2003 season.


Victims of an official's questionable call in a loss at No. 3 Auburn on Sept. 16 and their own worst enemy in a loss at No. 5 Florida on Oct. 7, the Tigers overcame both in Knoxville.


The nation's best defense bent uncharacteristically, allowing two of the three longest scoring plays of the season (37-yard pass and a 54-yard pass). However, the Tigers still did not allow 250 yards of total offense -- Tennessee finished at 248.


Russell wasn't without personal breakdown in the contest, tossing three interceptions including one returned for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Tigers down 10 on the second play of the third quarter.


Russell was the hero, however, as he completed 24-of-36 passes for 247 yards. Early Doucet, who scored the game-winner with nine seconds to play, had a game-high eight receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown.


LSU's usual suspects, Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, were also a part of the act. Bowe had six catches for 89 yards, while Davis added three for 42 yards. Both scored touchdowns.


Unlike its previous two road losses, LSU established the running game by using a bevy of backs -- Justin Vincent started, with Keiland Williams, Alley Broussard, Jacob Hester, Trindon Holliday, Charles Scott and even Russell getting positive yards.


The Tigers rushed 45 times for 231 yards, led by Russell with 71 and Williams with 53 on 17 carries and a touchdown.


Tennessee (7-2, 3-2 SEC) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end.


Stymied in the first half, the Vols turned to backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton. The redshirt freshman completed 11 of 24 passes for 183 yards including the two long TD passes.


Robert Meachem was the favorite target, as expected, with five catches for 121 yards and both touchdowns.


Like most LSU opponents, the Vols couldn't run the ball consistently -- picking up only 62 yards on 20 carries.


LSU had 81 offensive plays for 478 yards, while Tennessee ran only 50.


For the ninth time in as many games, LSU won the toss and deferred possession until the second half.


After a three-and-out by Tennessee, the Tigers used freshman running back Keiland Williams to jump-start the offense on the first series of the game. Williams' speed and Russell's arm combined for three-consecutive first downs into Vols territory.


The drive then stalled when LSU offensive lineman Herman Johnson left the game with an injury, the Tigers were called for a false start, and Russell was sacked.


Colt David's 52-yard field goal attempt was short and right.


Another three-and-out by Tennessee was followed by a 55-yard punt that pushed the Tigers into the shadow of their endzone with backup quarterback Matt Flynn entering in place of Russell for the series.


Flynn survived the series and punter Chris Jackson bailed out the Tigers with a 55-yard punt.


After a third series without a first down, Britton Colquitt punted another beauty. However, LSU punt returner Craig Davis' fake of the fair catch allowed the ball to bound into the endzone for a touchback.


Russell returned to the game and led the Tigers on their first scoring drive, as the 6-6 Mobile native found Dwayne Bowe for 25 yards on third-and-20.


Five plays later, Russell fired a bullet to Craig Davis from 24 yards out for a sliding touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 14:32 to play in the half.


Tennessee, which gained only five yards of total offense in the first quarter, earned its first two first downs of the contest on the ensuing drive. But, the Vols were stopped before entering Tigers territory.


An LSU punt looked to have touched a Tennessee player before bounding into the endzone. The officials reviewed the play and did not overturn their call of a touchback.


With LSU coaches still complaining about the referee's call, Crompton, Tennessee's backup quarterback, began a drive down the field that included one rush and seven passes -- the final being a 37-yard completion into the out-stretched arms of Meachem.


The game was tied at 7-7 with 4:38 to play in the half.


LSU's looked to answer the score immediately, as Russell scrambled for a career-best 34 yards into Vols territory. After another first down to the Tennessee 33-yard line, Russell was intercepted inside the 10-yard line by Jonathan Hefney.


Hefney returned the ball 35 yards, setting up a James Wilhoit field goal with three seconds left in the half.


Tennessee led 10-7 at the break.


The Vols extended the lead to 17-7 on the second play of the second half, as Russell overthrew his intended receiver and Tennessee defensive back Demetrice returned the interception 31 yards for a touchdown.


With its back against the wall, LSU responded on the road like it was unable to do twice against top-notch opponents Auburn and Florida.


Russell led the Tigers 77 yards in 10 plays for a 5-yard touchdown to Bowe.


The LSU defense forced a three-and-out, and a personal foul for fair catch interference on the punt gave the Tigers a short field.


LSU ran the ball six of eight plays, including a touchdown run by Williams from seven yards out.


With 2:57 left in the third quarter, LSU led 21-17.


Early in the fourth quarter, two more LSU drives in Tennessee territory ended in turnovers. Russell was intercepted at the 15 and Bowe fumbled at the 46 to give the Vols a chance for victory.


On the next play, Tennessee made the most of the second chance, throwing a 54-yard touchdown pass from Crompton to Meachem to take a 24-21 lead with 7:29 to play.


Trailing by three with 2:15 to play, LSU was faced with a fourth-and-7 at the Tennessee 42. Russell rifled the ball to Doucet who pulled the it away from a Tennessee defender for an 8-yard gain and the first down.


From there, LSU advanced to the Tennessee 7-yard line with an 11-yard pass to Doucet, a 9-yard run by Hester and a 7-yard run by Williams.


Russell threw the ball away under pressure on first down, then ran toward the right sideline for three yards on second down. On third down, with plenty of time in the pocket, Russell found Doucet in the middle of the endzone and rifled it to him for the 4-yard game-winning score.


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