7:45 PM ET, October 18, 2003
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Here's a new one -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz speechless.
"Right now, I'm sort of numb," Holtz said.
How else could he react? The famed coach made his reputation -- and earned about all his 242 victories -- on strong rushing and solid defense. Neither showed up Saturday night as the Gamecocks fell badly to No. 9 LSU, 33-7.
The Tigers (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) torched South Carolina for 263 yards rushing. The stat sheet Saturday night said they held the Gamecocks to zero yards on the ground, although South Carolina athletic officials revised the total to nine yards Sunday after reviewing a third-quarter fumble.
"We couldn't stop the bootleg. We couldn't tackle well," Holtz said. "I can't explain it."
Maybe it's this -- LSU is pretty good.
The Tigers' win followed their disheartening loss to Florida last week that left some wondering if their 5-0 start and high ranking were for real.
"I'm really proud of the team," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "They bounced back after last week at a tough place to play. We controlled both sides of the ball and ran well."
That's as understated as it gets.
Two freshmen, Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent, combined for 185 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers outrushed the Gamecocks 164-5 in the opening half. They had a 21-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that took nearly 10 minutes, only a little shorter than for how long the Gamecocks held the ball in the first two quarters.
"It was a big win since we were coming off the loss," said linebacker Jason LeDoux, who had a 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown. "Now we are back on track."
Broussard had 108 yards on the ground, the first this season to crack 100 on South Carolina's defense. Vincent had two 1-yard rushing TDs and 77 yards of his own.
"It was just a great job of coming in here under a lot of pressure and producing," said Matt Mauck, who threw for two touchdowns and 199 yards.
The victory eased the doubts that surfaced after the Florida game and gave LSU a shot of confidence heading into next week's SEC Western Division showdown against Auburn.
Mauck ended the Tigers' first possession with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson. Then on LSU's next series, Mauck led a 97-yard, 21-play scoring drive that lasted nearly 10 minutes, flipping a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Eric Edwards.
On the following series, Mauck's 19-yard pass to Vincent brought LSU to the Gamecocks 1. Two plays later, Vincent got his first touchdown to put the Tigers up 19-0 by halftime.
South Carolina came in with nine days to prepare after its 27-21 win over Kentucky on Oct. 9, hoping for just its second win over the Tigers in 16 games since 1931. But the SEC's top pass defense could not corral Mauck or his young runners.
"I just thought we should've put a better team out there for a game of this magnitude," Holtz said. "It embarrasses me."
About everything went right for LSU in this one.
The Tigers were 8-for-9 on third-down attempts in the first half. On the one try they missed, LSU went for it on fourth-and-1 on the Gamecocks 29 and Mauck calmly found David Jones on a 17-yard pass to keep their second touchdown drive going.
Not everything was perfect. LSU kicker Ryan Gaudet missed two extra point tries. And the Tigers nearly gave up a big play just before halftime when South Carolina's desperation pass was caught by Syvelle Newton a yard from the end zone.
Still, when LSU's offense stalled in the second half, the defense took over.
The Gamecocks had a brief flurry of hope in the third quarter when Dondrial Pinkins threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Thomas -- South Carolina's first points against LSU in 74 minutes of play since last year -- that cut the lead to 19-7.
A series later, though, Tigers defensive end Kirston Pittman hit Pinkins as he cocked his arm, jarring the ball loose. LeDoux picked it up for a 15-yard touchdown return to put the game away.
Tigers defensive end Marcus Spears said the players talked last week about the kind of game they wanted to play at Williams-Brice Stadium. "And we came out here and did it ... but that still wasn't our best game yet," he said.