Tigers dominate Miami with balance

The school-record tying four field goals LSU got from John Corbello were enough to beat Miami of Ohio, a Mid-America Conference team that was expected to give the Tigers a challenge after pulling an upset at North Carolina and taking Iowa to the bell the following week.<br><br> That 25th-ranked LSU was able to outscore the RedHawks with just its special teams provided a good indication of the overall dominance the Tigers displayed in posting a 33-7 win at Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers registered 442 yards of total offense with the help of a career-high 215 passing yards from quarterback Matt Mauck and 117 yards rushing from LaBrandon Toefield.


Mauck also had his best LSU performance with three touchdown passes, while Toefield recorded his seventh game with over 100 yards.


Miami's only score of the game came late in the second quarter, but LSU answered it with a 34-second drive that ended with the second of two touchdown catches for Michael Clayton.


LSU's defense held the RedHawks to 224 total yards, with just 23 coming on the ground. Miami used little of its renowned no-huddle attack, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was forced to settle for outlet passes to his backs.


Despite continued problems with dropped passes and 87 yards in penalties, the Tigers kept the visitors in check through most of the night with its balanced attack and advantageous field position.


"I think we had played well at times in games," said LSU head coach Nick Saban. "But we had never really played with the kind of effort and intensity for 60 minutes that you want to play with and just try to beat somebody because that's your opponent, and not let the scoreboard determine how you play in the game.


"I was pleased with the effort on both sides of the ball. We had great balance on offense, a little bit over 200 yards both ways. (LaBrandon) Toefield ran physical and was outstanding out there."


LSU moved quickly into Miami territory on its first two possessions of the game but had to settle for Corbello field goals from 42 and 29 yards away for a 6-0 lead at 8:24 in the first quarter.


Corbello took also over punting duties for Donnie Jones after the RedHawks were called for roughing on the Tigers' first punt. Saban said Jones' injury would probably have him out for a week to ten days heading into LSU's first open date of 2002.


The Redhawks picked up their initial first down on their second drive but ended up punting to LSU after a holding penalty pushed them back ten yards. Domanick Davis brought in the punt at his 13 and scooted up the middle. Nearing midfield, he shifted left on Miami linebacker Matt Robillard and left him standing still while headed toward to left sideline for a 57-yard return.


Davis combined 116 yards on returns, 51 rushing and 35 receiving for 205 total all-purpose yards. He is now fourth on LSU's all-time career all-purpose yardage list with 4,129 career yards.


Davis' return gave LSU the ball at the Miami 30, and Mauck took five plays to record his first career touchdown pass. On third-and-5 from the 8-yard line, he went to Clayton near the east sideline and the sophomore receiver turned south to find the end zone with 2:55 to go in the opening quarter.


WR Michael Clayton (AP/Bill Haber)

LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton (14) dives for the end zone as Miami of Ohio defender Alphonson Hodge (9) tries for the stop during first quarter. It was the Tigers first touchdown. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)


"Coach Fisher called a great play," said Clayton, who equaled his career high of two touchdown catches set at Kentucky last season. "They were manning up and looking for the slant. Basically, I ran a little slant route, planted and rolled back out. Matt hit me with a great pass and I was able to get in the end zone."


The first quarter ended with a 13-0 score and LSU starting another drive. The Tigers had to punt but got the ball back when Miami used 12 men on its return team. The Tigers, however, gave the ball back four plays later when Davis fumbled on a carry that would have put LSU back into the red zone.


Miami could not capitalize on the turnover and had to punt again, giving LSU prime field position again at the 50-yard line. For the game, the Tigers' average starting field position was its 42-yard line while the RedHawks average was their 22. LSU also held a 10:28 edge in time of possession, thanks largely to 207 rushing yards in the game.


With the short field, the Tigers moved deep into Miami territory to set up a 35-yard Corbello field goal with 5:34 remaining in the second quarter.


Miami chose to go to its no-huddle attack on its next drive, bringing in the linemen and backs for a quick play call while the receivers stayed on the fringes. Starting at its own 13, the RedHawks took nine plays to set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Korey Kirkpatrick.


Although LSU allowed its first passing touchdown of the season with 49.7 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Tigers did not surrender the big play to Miami thanks to a combination of effective coverage and consistent pass rush.


After his touchdown drive, Roethlisberger managed just 68 passing yards the rest of the game.


"It was a challenge for us defensively to play a team as potent as those guys were," said LSU linebacker Bradie James. "The quarterback was very good. Our number one goal was to go in and affect him and we had to do it mentally and physically.


"I think we did it mentally by disguising the coverages. He was distraught a little bit and didn't know what to call or what checks to make. Physically, we got after him. We had a lot of pressure on the quarterback."


LSU made three sacks and took Miami's wide receivers out of the game. Only 13 of Rothlisberger's 22 completions went to his receivers, while the longest pass play was a 21-yarder to back-up running Luke Clemons.


LSU quarterback Matt Mauck (18) is pushed out of bounds by Miami of Ohio defender Matt Pusateri (19) during first quarter action. Mauck gained six yards on the play. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)


LSU used a series of long plays to quickly answer the Miami touchdown. Starting at his own 29, Mauck found Devery Henderson open on the west sideline for a 32-yard gain. Mauck looked for Henderson again on the next two plays, but he overthrew the first ball and did not connect on the second when Henderson stumbled on his route in the end zone.


On third-and-10 from the Miami 24, Mauck went back to Clayton on a crossing route. The receiver brought the ball in around the ten and recovered a bobble as he crossed the goal line. Corbello's point-after made it 23-7 with 16 seconds left before intermission.


"If we can get to the 40, we go to the two-minute offense," said Mauck after a 15-for-26 night. "You kind of want to be safe with it, you don't want to do anything crazy. But if you can make a big play and it's open, you might as well go for it."


The second half began with Miami taking the ball and nudging into LSU territory before the drive stalled. The Tigers took over after a punt with 11:00 to go in the third quarter and produced Corbello's fourth field goal, a 41-yarder, just over seven minutes later.


LSU faced first-and-goal at the Miami 6-yard line, but five penalties pushed the Tigers back a total of 50 yards on the drive.


On the ensuing kickoff, Milt Bowen gave Miami its best starting field position of the night with a 41-yard return. But it was wasted when Roethlisberger forced a second-and-10 pass and had it picked off by Bradie James. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on the RedHawks gave LSU the ball at the Miami 32.


An LSU holding penalty temporarily reversed the drive, but Mauck picked up 14 yards on a second-and-20 play and converted the third down with an 8-yard pass to Davis. Toefield then rambled from the 20-yard line to the 7 and two plays later, Mauck found tight end Demitri Robinson in the corner of the north end zone from 6 yards out for his first touchdown reception. It produced the final score with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.


In the first drive of the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger led Miami on its final venture into LSU territory. Making it to the Tiger 25, the RedHawks faced fourth-and-5 when Roethlisberger dropped back and was sacked by Jack Hunt and Marcus Spears.


"I missed one earlier in the game," said Hunt. "They don't pick up the A-gap blitz with the safety coming in. This time I just idled down so if he tried to one-step me and make me miss, I could catch him. He just ran right into me basically.


"That's the bad thing about idling down. …I knew he was going to be a load. He's a pretty big guy so I just held on and waited for somebody to help me out."


The two teams traded punts as time ran off the game clock, and LSU took a big chunk out on its final possession when back-up quarterback Marcus Randall led a host of reserves.


LSU's win over Miami closed a weekend that featured six Mid-American Conference-versus major conference showdowns. The Tigers' dominant performance against the RedHawks provided a bookend to No. 11 Virginia Tech's 47-21 win over No. 16 Marshall last Thursday.

Elsewhere, the MAC battled mightily but went winless. Florida beat Ohio 34-6 but held just a 14-6 edge over the Bobcats at halftime. Wisconsin survived a scare from Northern Illinois, 24-21. Purdue held off Western Michigan, 24-21, and Minnesota got by Toledo, 31-21.

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