But, Saturday's home finale against Ole Miss was anything but routine as LSU needed two, heart-stopping touchdown passes in the last quarter to give itself a chance to beat four-touchdown underdog Ole Miss 23-20 in overtime.
The win advanced LSU's record to
9-2, 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference and gave the Tigers an undefeated home
record for 2006. It set up a day after Thanksgiving showdown against SEC West
Ole Miss sank to 3-8 overall and
1-6 in the SEC. The Rebels have a final shot at salvation for this season when
they host bitter rival
The Rebels beat LSU in every aspect of the game through the first half, especially on special teams, and carried a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter. But, LSU fought back, scoring on a four-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell to Early Doucet with 8:46 left in the game and, for the final time in regulation, with just 14 seconds to play when Russell connected with Dwayne Bowe from five yards out on fourth down to tie the score 20-20.
The Tigers lined up to kick what was to be the winning extra point, but that try was shoved back at place kicker Colt David by 6'5" offensive lineman John Jerry, who was brought into the game on extra point coverage for the first time this season by Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron. The blocked point after forced the game into overtime. The touchdown capped an 11-play, 58 yard drive that started with 2:35 remaining and LSU possessing just one timeout.
Orgeron called timeout just before the extra point attempt to make sure he had the proper players in the game to give his team the best chance to block the kick. He said it was a play his team had practiced all week that involved three linemen who don't usually play on point after and field goal tries.
Ole Miss claimed the first possession of the overtime period and leaned on powerhouse running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for four yards on first down. But an ineffective quarterback scramble by Brent Schaeffer on second down forced Ole Miss into a throwing situation. Schaeffer was overwhelmed by the Tiger blitz on third down and was forced to fumble by safety Daniel Francis. The bounding ball was controlled by defensive lineman Tyson Jackson handing the Tiger offense a chance to claim the victory.
LSU turned to sure-handed tailback Jacob Hester for five consecutive running plays setting up David's chance to split the south endzone uprights on a 26-yard attempt to finally claim the win for the ninth-ranked Tigers. David had connected on 77 consecutive extra point attempts before the would-be game winner was blocked. He also had a shot at a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter that fell well short.
"Everything that could happen benefited Ole Miss in the first half and they played well," said LSU Coach Les Miles. "Give them credit. They ran the football against us more than I've seen and they played well. Our football team understands how to come back from behind. We didn't panic at halftime."
The Tigers had every reason to panic at halftime. They trailed 14-7, looked largely ineffective on offense and especially special teams, had managed just 97 yards and had committed 55 yards worth of penalties. But, the second half looked much different for LSU though the score didn't tilt to its favor until the last play of the game. LSU ended the game outgaining the Rebels 308-195.
Russell finally piloted his team to a win by completing 19-of-35 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns after appearing confused and frustrated by a Rebel blitz that cause him to uncharacteristically miss wide open receivers. The Rebels countered with Schaeffer and Seth Adams who combined to complete just 9-of-19 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown.
The mule for the Rebels was Green-Ellis who entered the game as the second-leading rusher in the SEC. He hit the LSU defensive line with brute force all night, often fighting off multiple tackles on his way to 96 yards on 28 carries and one touchdown.
"We came down here to win the football game," Orgeron said. "In some ways we're proud of our football team, but in other ways we're very disappointed that we didn't find a way to win the game in the fourth quarter."
The Tigers took possession at their 41-yard line with 11:13 to play in the game. Russell passed the ball six times in the next eight plays including a 4-yard completion to Doucet in the endzone to end the drive and cut the Rebel lead to 20-14 after the David point after. The touchdown capped a 2:27 drive and gave the crowd new life.
The Tiger defense stiffened on the ensuing drive, holding the Rebels to one yard on the first two plays before Ole Miss pushed itself back inside its 10-yard line on false start penalties.
LSU claimed possession at midfield with a chance to try to claim the lead. But, after advancing to the Rebel 34, Russell faced a 3rd-and-10 and an Ole Miss blitz that knocked the ball from his hands. The Tigers recovered the fumble at midfield but was forced to punt leading to the necessity of the game tying drive at the end of the game.
LSU scored first thanks largely to an Ole Miss botched fake punt that set the Tigers with a first down at the Rebel 41-yard line. Russell connected with Craig Davis for 24 yards on the drive's third play giving LSU a first-and-goal at the Rebel 7-yard line. Russell then spotted Bowe just beyond the goal line from the 13 with 13:55 to play in the half and the Tigers took a 7-0 lead after a six-play drive.
Ole Miss bounced back quickly
though, with help from a special teams' mistake by LSU. Chris Jackson's first
kickoff sailed deep into the south endzone. But, an offsides penalty against LSU
Ole Miss averaged nearly 39 yards on four kickoff returns during the contest.
The Rebels took the lead shortly after by turning to its special teams again. A personal foul against LSU on the point after try allowed Ole Miss to kick from midfield and attempt and recover an onsides kick. The successful trick gave Ole Miss a first down at the LSU 39. Six plays and 2:51 later, Green-Ellis launched himself over the LSU defense and across the goal line to take a 14-7 lead with 6:57 to play in the half.
The Tigers narrowly avoided a deeper scoring deficit when the Rebels missed out on their last scoring attempt of the half when Joshua Shene pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right in the closing seconds.
Shene redeemed himself on the
opening possession of the second half while LSU's special teams bruised itself
Ole Miss took over with good field
position after David missed a 48-yard field goal try with 7:04 remaining in the
third quarter and proceeded to hammer the Tiger defense down the field on the
ground. The Rebels advanced down to the Tiger 25 in 10 plays before LSU finally
knocked Ole Miss back when Francis blitzed and sacked
"Our team understands the situation they are in and they win," Miles said. "I'd much rather win ugly than the alternative."