7:45 PM ET, November 15, 2003
Bryant-Denny Stadium, TUSCALOOSA, AL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Matt Mauck, Chad Lavalais and LSU did more than enough things right in a dominating win over Alabama. Yet no matter how overpowering the Tigers look on the field, they still need help off it.
Mauck threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 3 LSU held the Crimson Tide scoreless until the fourth quarter in a 27-3 victory Saturday night.
"We just have to go out and win and play our game," Lavalais said. "You never know what's going to happen the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, we'll win out and that will take care of itself."
With representatives from the Sugar Bowl watching, the Tigers (9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) moved within a game of Mississippi in the SEC West heading into next week's showdown in Oxford and kept pace with Southern California and Ohio State in the BCS standings.
But LSU will have a hard time moving up from fourth to second in the standings that determine who plays for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl unless Ohio State and USC lose. The Tigers have played the weakest schedule of those three teams, a key component in the BCS standings.
LSU finishes with a tough stretch. After the game at Ole Miss, the Tigers host Arkansas and then could play in the SEC title game.
"It is like the playoffs," LSU offensive lineman Rodney Reed said. "If we lose any game from here on out, we could be out of the race."
The way the Tigers have played of late, they've showed they can compete with just about anybody. Since a 19-7 loss to Florida last month, LSU has outscored its last four opponents 140-27.
Lavalais anchors a dominating defense that allows only 6.7 points per game, best in the nation, and Mauck has been extremely efficient since struggling against the Gators. The Tigers have their highest ranking in the AP poll in 42 years.
Mauck took advantage of soft coverage by Alabama (4-7, 2-5) to connect 12 times with Michael Clayton for 130 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Mauck finished 24-for-36.
"We had a great team effort tonight," Mauck said. "Offensively, we left a few things out there. But when we needed a big play, we made it."
The loss assured Alabama of its third losing season in the past seven years after having just one in the previous 40 years. Mike Shula finished 2-5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in his first year as Crimson Tide coach.
The Tide couldn't generate anything on offense, finally getting on the scoreboard on Brian Bostick's 27-yard field goal with 6:38 to play. Alabama finished with 219 yards and 10 first downs.
Alabama struggled to score even when it had great field position. Charlie Peprah forced and recovered a fumble by Clayton on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. The Tide took over at the LSU 29 but managed only 1 yard in three plays before Bostick missed a 45-yard field goal.
"We didn't get points out of that and that was a big key in the game," Alabama linebacker Roman Harper said. "We lost a lot of momentum on that one and it came back to haunt us."
LSU responded with a 72-yard drive, capped by Alley Broussard's 3-yard run to make it 24-0.
Alabama drove to the LSU 6 on the final play of the third quarter but still couldn't score. A penalty, a sack and three incomplete passes thwarted the drive.
The Tide were held to one first down in the first 29 minutes against the nation's stingiest defense. Alabama got two first downs on its final drive of the half, but an interception by Lavalais ended the threat.
"We have to make first downs, whether we throw three passes in a row or run two runs," Shula said. "We just have to execute better. They do a nice job. They get a lot of guys up inside to take the run away."
LSU scored on its first two possessions, getting a 20-yard field goal by Chris Jackson and Mauck's pass to Clayton.
His 18th career TD catch -- one shy of the school record -- came one play after Skyler Green's 34-yard punt return set up the Tigers at the 23.
"They were kind of lax in the secondary," Clayton said. "We kept them off balance by going to different receivers. You have to respect us because we have such great speed."
Mauck added a 3-yard touchdown pass to Eric Edwards late in the second quarter to make it 17-0. LSU has outscored opponents 217-19 in the first half this season.
|3rd Down Conversions||4-12||2-16|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-3|
|FG||10:34||CHRIS JACKSON 20 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 46 yards.
|TD||9:16||MICHAEL CLAYTON 23 YD PASS FROM MATT MAUCK (CHRIS JACKSON KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 23 yards.
|TD||2:03||ERIC EDWARDS 3 YD PASS FROM MATT MAUCK (CHRIS JACKSON KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yards.
|TD||9:15||ALLEY BROUSSARD 4 YD RUN (CHRIS JACKSON KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 72 yards.
|FG||10:11||CHRIS JACKSON 33 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 67 yards.
|FG||6:39||BRIAN BOSTICK 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 75 yards.