BATON ROUGE -- Tropical depression rain switched between heavy and light all afternoon in Tiger Stadium and soaked all 92,530 in the stands. But, the third-largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history was anything but depressed by the weather or the result as No. 2 LSU smothered 12th-ranked South Carolina long enough to come away with a 28-16 win.
The win improved LSU's record to
4-0 overall and 2-0 in the ever-toughening Southeastern Conference while
South Carolina suffered its first loss of the season, dropping
to 3-1 and 1-1 in the SEC.
LSU's rushing attack overwhelmed
the Gamecocks as the Tigers amassed 290 yards on the ground while holding
to a measly 17 yards running the ball. Jacob Hester led the way with 88 yards on 17
carries and a touchdown while Trindon Holliday came in a close second with
73 yards on six carries and a score.
Gamecock tailback Corey Boyd did
his best to earn 17 yards on 18 carries.
The Tiger passing game struggled,
though thanks largely to the extremely sloppy conditions on the field and a fast
and aggressive Gamecock defensive backfield. Tiger quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux combined to complete just
8-of-20 passes for 70 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Perrilloux was
effective rushing the ball, however picking up 59 yards on 8 carries.
In all, the Tigers gained 360
yards while South
Carolina countered with 261 total yards thanks largely
to a late-game passing attack that gouged LSU's defense for three plays longer
than 20 yards in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback
Chris Smelley piloted the Gamecock's aerial game after taking over for senior
Blake Mitchell in the third quarter. Mitchell left after completing just 7-of-16
passes for 70 yards and taking two sacks. The swifter and shiftier Smelley
completed 12-of-26 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Both threw an
interception and the Gamecocks lost a fumble.
LSU scored running the ball,
passing the ball and on an improbable fake field goal while amassing 273 total
yards of offense in the first half. After trailing for the first time this
season when South
Carolina scored the opening touchdown at the 2:46 mark
of the first quarter, LSU racked up 28 unanswered points to salt away the win.
Tailback Mike Davis plunged into
the north endzone from the 1-yard line to open the scoring and give the
Gamecocks the early 7-0 lead. The run capped a 12-play, 67-yard drive that
LSU's answer came exactly 1:30
later when Holliday knifed through the South Carolina defense and into the south
endzone from 33-yards out to cap a brief, four-play drive that included a
24-yard pass from Flynn to tight end Richard Dixon and an 11-yard run by
Holliday the play before the touchdown. Colt David's point after tied the score 7-7
with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers seized the lead early
in the second quarter when Flynn connected with Dixon from the one-yard out for Dixon's first career
touchdown. The grab finished a nine-play, 56-yard drive that featured the LSU
rushing attack almost exclusively. The only passing yard of the drive was the
one that completed it and gave LSU a 14-7 lead with 12:13 to play in the half.
LSU missed on its next scoring
chance as the Tigers failed to capitalize on a South Carolina fumble at the LSU 46. The
Tigers moved to the Gamecock 24-yard line, forcing David to attempt a 42-yard
field goal that missed wide right in the sloppy conditions with 9:09 remaining
in the first half.
The Tigers didn't miss their next
chance to score after a Gamecock turnover though, as the LSU coaching staff
reached way down into a top hat and pulled out a baffling fake field goal on
fourth down at the South
Carolina 15. Flynn knelt and received the snap at the 22
then flipped the ball over his head toward David as he streaked toward the right
side of the line. David grabbed the ball in stride and raced to the corner of
the endzone for the touchdown then stayed on the field to kick the point after,
giving LSU a 21-7 lead with 1:10 remaining in the first half.
The score was set up by an
equally impressive defensive play by safety Danny McCray, who tipped Mitchell's pass in
the air at the South
Carolina 32 only to have it bounce in and out of the
hands of a Gamecock receiver. McCray snagged the loose ball from mid-air as he
dove to the turf setting up the five-play, 2:35 scoring drive.
LSU's next score, and the first
of the second half, came as the result of a turnover on downs. South Carolina had three
plays to pick up two yards at its own 29-yard line. But, three runs by Boyd
earned just one yard and the Tigers took over at the Gamecock 30.
Five plays later, Hester plowed
through the defensive line, then over a linebacker and into the endzone from
nine yards away to stake LSU to a three-touchdown advantage. The point after ran
the score to 28-7 with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks turned the ball
over again on their next possession as well, this time as deep in LSU's
territory as possible. A 44-yard kick-off return by Chris Culliver gave
a first down at the LSU 45 and Smelley moved his team to the Tiger 22 before LSU
bottled up Boyd for a 5-yard loss. Smelley then launched a pass towards the goal
line that ended up in the outstretched arms of Tiger cornerback Chevis Jackson at the one-yard line.
LSU's offense came up a yard
short of the 11 though, forcing a punt from its own endzone and giving
advantageous field position at the Tiger 41. Smelley was overwhelmed by
defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey on the first play of the drive
for an eight-yard sack. Three plays later, Jackson stepped up again, this time making an
open-field tackle on tight end Wesley Saunders one-yard short of a first down on
a fourth-down play at the LSU 32 with 14:53 to play in the game.
South Carolina added a field goal and a
touchdown late but the LSU lead was too much to overcome.