Tigers freshman Justin Vincent gains title game record 201 yards.
By Wire services
Published December 7, 2003
ATLANTA - LSU made an emphatic case for playing in the national championship game.
The No. 3 Tigers (12-1) ignored a hostile crowd and showed off all their weapons, dominating fifth-ranked Georgia 34-13 Saturday night to win the SEC title for the second time in three years.
But LSU has its sights on a larger prize - and might just get a chance to play for it after No. 1 Oklahoma was upset.
LSU did all it could, beating Georgia (10-3) for the second time this season. This one was much easier than the first meeting, a 17-10 thriller in Baton Rouge that was decided on Matt Mauck's 34-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Green with 1:22 remaining.
The tone was set when freshman Justin Vincent's routine running play became an 87-yard touchdown 10 minutes into the game.
Vincent was the MVP, setting a championship game record with 201 yards rushing. He also had a 62-yard run and finished off the Bulldogs with a 3-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
LSU built a 17-0 lead about 51/2 minutes into the second quarter. At that point, the Tigers had 196 yards, Georgia minus-8.
LSU finished with 293 yards rushing and outgained the Bulldogs 444-249.
While Vincent stood out, just about everyone contributed. Matt Mauck, the surprise MVP of LSU's victory in the 2001 championship game against Tennessee, threw a 43-yard touchdown to Michael Clayton.
Lionel Turner tipped a pass to himself and returned the interception 18 yards for the Tigers' sixth defensive touchdown of the season. LSU also had a safety, tackling punter Gordon Ely-Kelso in the end zone after he bobbled a snap.
The kicking game provided the only troubling moments for LSU. Chris Jackson had a field goal blocked, then missed an extra point. He was replaced by Ryan Gaudet, who was perfect the rest of the way on two field goals and a conversion.
Georgia was going for its second straight SEC title, playing just an hour's drive from campus and cheered on by a Georgia Dome crowd that appeared to be three-fourths red and black.
At the end, the gold-and-purple clad contingent was about all that was left, chanting "Sugar Bowl! Sugar Bowl! Sugar Bowl."
Georgia will likely have to settle for a spot in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, or maybe a return to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl on Jan. 2.
David Greene, who had gone three games without throwing an interception, had a poor game against LSU's defense, the stingiest in the country in points allowed. The Georgia quarterback was picked off three times, sacked five times and finished 17-of-41 for 199 yards.
He didn't have much help. Georgia had 50 yards rushing.
The Bulldogs' most exciting moment came on a broken play. Reggie Brown was hemmed up in the backfield on a double reverse, then turned the other way and gained 35 yards.
A face-mask penalty tacked on another 15 yards, and Georgia finally reached the end zone on Greene's 18-yard pass to Ben Watson. That brought the Bulldogs to 24-13 in the third quarter.
But Mauck completed an 18-yard pass to Clayton, then hooked up with Devery Henderson on a 33-yard play to the 5. Two plays later, after the teams traded ends, Vincent trotted in for the clinching touchdown.
LSU last won the SEC title in 2001 with an upset of Tennessee.
FAN WINS: Chuck Barlett of Natchez, Miss., won $400,000 at halftime when he threw a 30-yard pass into a giant blowup of a Dr. Pepper can. He said he was donating the money to Christian charities.