8:30 PM ET, November 23, 2002
Tiger Stadium (LA), Baton Rouge, LA
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Marcus Randall didn't get the start, but he was around to get the victory.
Mike Espy waltzes into the end zone to score Mississippi's first touchdown.
"I knew when I went in that I had to play like how I know how to, so I could stay in,'' Randall said. "By starting late, I got to see what the defense was doing.''
LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) needed the victory to stay on top in the Western Division race. The winner of next Friday's game between LSU and Arkansas will play in the SEC title game against Georgia on Dec. 7.
"We've been saying it's a one-game season for a long time,'' LSU coach Nick Saban said. "Now everybody knows it is.''
Mississippi (5-6, 2-5) lost its fifth straight, but the Rebels had won four of the last five games in the series, including the last three in Baton Rouge.
"It was a tough loss for us,'' said Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe. "The players played extremely hard, and we made a lot of plays that allowed us to maintain the lead for a big part of the game.''
Rick Clausen started the game in place of Randall. The Tigers were 2-2 with Randall as the starter, but he struggled in the last three games, including big losses to Auburn and Alabama.
Clausen, a left-handed redshirt freshman who had not played with a game on the line since high school, completed two of six passes for 9 yards. He was intercepted once and fumbled twice. He recovered both but lost 17 yards.
Randall started the second quarter and completed 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once and ran for 31 yards, and his 27-yard TD pass to Michael Clayton with 6:34 remaining erased a six-point deficit and put the Tigers ahead for good.
LSU outgained Mississippi 322-279 but fumbled five times and lost three. The Tigers held the football 32:58 to Mississippi's 27:02, but converted only 6 of 17 third downs.
While the LSU offense struggled, the Tigers' defense was tough. They limited Mississippi to 61 yards rushing, sacked Eli Manning twice, intercepted him twice and held them to five of 16 third-down conversions.
"At one point in the game, he'd been right too many times,'' LSU linebacker Bradie James said of Manning. "We had to throw a monkey wrench into his game. The pride of this team is defense.''
Manning completed 19 of 38 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.
Mississippi was driving when LSU cornerback Corey Webster intercepted Eli Manning's pass at the LSU 22 with 1:51 left in the game, ending Mississippi's hopes of winning the game.
Jonathan Nichols' 36-yard field goal gave Ole Miss a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Manning added to the lead as he drove the Rebels 43 yards on four plays, capping the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Mike Espy just before halftime to make it 10-0.
The Tigers came back on a 76-yard drive. Randall hit Devery Henderson for a 19-yard touchdown to cut the Mississippi lead to 10-7 at the half. It was LSU's first touchdown in six quarters. Henderson had to be helped off the field after the score. He has a broken left arm and was scheduled to have surgery Sunday.
Travis Johnson recovered a fumble by Domanick Davis to set up a 39-yard field goal by Nichols that made it 13-7 in third quarter.
LSU faked a 51-yard field goal, only to have Blain Bech's pass fall incomplete. Mississippi took over at its 34 but couldn't take advantage as Manning was sacked for a 13-yard loss.
LeBrandon Toefield fumbled on LSU's first possession of the fourth quarter, giving Ole Miss the ball at the LSU 31. Mississippi drove to the LSU 8, then Manning's pass bounced off Tremaine Turner's helmet and into the hands of Demetrius Hookfin. Hookfin returned the ball to the LSU 48, but LSU could not advance past midfield.