Mid-season demise? Not so fast, as LSU upends No. 2 UGA
BATON ROUGE, La. — Thoughts of a mid-season demise for the Tigers were vastly premature.
LSU, which entered the season ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll, had knocked off a pair of top-10 opponents in Miami (No. 8) and Auburn (No. 7), but crumbled in a hostile environment a week ago in Gainesville, Fla. Quick to make adjustments, LSU was able to rediscover its pass rush and take full advantage of extra opportunities on offense with explosive plays both on the ground and in the passing game to down Georgia, the No. 2-ranked team in the country, 36-16.
"This a credit to our football staff starting on Monday," coach Ed Orgeron began. "They were not happy with the results of the Florida game. Obviously, we used it as motivation all week."
The Tigers (6-1) strung together a perfect combination of aggressive defense with opportunistic scoring on offense. With an early 3-0 advantage and Georgia primed to even the score, a fake field-goal attempt was sniffed out by sophomore standout Grant Delpit, who not only recognized the play as it unfolded but forced a fumble to bring the LSU offense back out onto the field.
Joe Burrow orchestrated a drive exhibiting all of his offensive weapons. The quarterback, who threw his first two interceptions of the season a week ago in Florida, rebounded with passes to Ja’Marr Chase and Jontre Kirklin before Clyde Edwards-Helaire sliced through the middle of Georgia’s defense for a 47-yard gain. LSU called for three consecutive runs inside the Georgia 7-yard line before Burrow sneaked through on fourth-and-inches to extend the Tigers’ lead to 10.
The often unfazed Burrow responded with more emotion than he’s cared to unveil in any of LSU’s first six games of the season afterward.
"Joe's a big, strong guy," Orgeron said. "He can play linebacker. We feel that he can get a half-yard. It's a half-yard or less and we'll take it."
LSU refused to take its foot off the gas. The defense, which struggled at times a week ago, forced consecutive three-and-outs and a punt on the following series. In that stretch, Georgia quarterback Joe Fromm accounted for nine straight incompletions and the offense failed to gain a first down.
The Tigers’ defensive dominance led to Cole Tracy field goals from 36 and 39 yards out. For the first time this season, the No. 2-ranked team in the country faced a 16-0 deficit at halftime.
Fromm did not go down quietly, leading the Bulldogs a nine-point third quarter. Elijah Holyfield spearheaded a devastating running game to make it a 10-point game as the clock ticked down in the frame.
Momentum faded as JaCoby Stevens, a reserve safety/outside linebacker, bottled up Fromm on a designed blitz for LSU’s fourth sack of the game. An extra offensive possession allowed Burrow to find go-to target Justin Jefferson for a 41-yard pass downfield. Edwards-Helaire topped the century mark with a 17-yard burst to set up Burrow’s second rushing touchdown of the game on a 2-yard scamper.
On the ensuing kickoff, specialist Avery Atkins corralled a fumble. With good field position, the Tigers drove the nail further into the coffin as Tracy connected on his fifth field goal of the afternoon — a 30-yarder— to polish off a 20-point lead. With the clock winding down in the game, Burrow again looked to his legs and was off to the races on a 59-yard bootleg, which turned into a 5-yard touchdown complements of Nick Brossette, effectively icing LSU's biggest win on its resume.
"I think we changed our attitude after that loss and our attitude at practice," said Burrow, who finished the game 15-of-30 for 200 yards with 13 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns."We had to take accountability as a team."
"We finally put it together at the right time against the No. 2 team in the country here," said Rashard Lawrence. "It's big. We're a great team. We knew that going back to the summer and had a chance to do great things."
With the win, LSU improved to 6-1 on the season and face ranked opponents in each of its next two games — both at home. Mississippi State comes to town next Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff and top-ranked Alabama will visit Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3.
LSU’s SEC gauntlet continues.