TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- LSU came a long way to start its season, and
JaMarcus Russell made the trip worthwhile.
Russell passed 39 yards to Early Doucet for a climactic
touchdown that handed the No. 5 Tigers a 35-31 victory over No. 15
Arizona State on Friday night, giving coach Les Miles a victory in
his hurricane-delayed LSU debut.
"We've been practicing for so long, and this is our first
game," Russell said. "Not taking anything from the other guys,
but we just had it in our heart that we were ready. A few times, a
lot of people were sleeping in some of our players' apartments. At
practice you could really tell, see the look on those guys' faces
what they were going through away from practice.
"You can tell when someone is down"
Doucet, who had several drops before making all three of his
catches in the fourth quarter, went high to pull down Russell's
pass on the left side of the end zone and got one foot in at
landing with 1:13 remaining. It was the Tigers' fourth TD in a
furious fourth quarter that began with them trailing 17-7.
"Early Doucet had to have an all-time bad first three quarters
and then come up with one of the great catches and great plays in
LSU history," Miles said.
The Tigers' defense still had to stop the Sun Devils (1-1) one
last time after Sam Keller threw passes of 27 and 25 yards to start
a final drive. LSU accomplished that at its own 28, as Keller threw
four straight incompletions. LaRon Landry got between the ball and
ASU's Derek Hagan on third down, and Ronnie Prude went to the
ground with Terry Richardson after a low pass on fourth with 31
seconds to go.
Joseph Addai ran for 109 yards and two TDs on 16 carries, but
special teams led the Tigers' comeback from a 17-7 deficit in the
With the offenses and defenses at a stalemate, LSU's Mario
Stevenson scored on a 55-yard return of a blocked field goal, and
Craig Steltz added the go-ahead touchdown 80 seconds later,
returning a blocked punt 29 yards to lift LSU to its first lead,
21-17, with 13:27 left in the game.
"There's a 10-point turnaround right there," Arizona State
coach Dirk Koetter said about Jesse Ainsworth's 47-yard field-goal
attempt batted down by defensive tackle Claude Wroten. "If you go
back all the way to the first extra point of the game where we went
up 7-0, we were having penetration all night on the right side of
The Sun Devils' Sam Keller passed for the last two of his four
TDs before LSU began its winning drive with 4:07 to go.
The contest, originally scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge,
La., was moved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The storm also delayed the debut of Miles, who left Oklahoma
State after three straight bowl years, by forcing postponement of a
Sept. 3 game against North Texas, and LSU's lack of game experience
showed in 11 penalties for 100 yards. At the end, though, the
experience of a veteran team showed through.
Keller, asked to replace the Oakland Raiders' Andrew Walter, was
35-of-56 for 461 yards in his third game as a starter, throwing
scoring passes of 25 and 26 yards to Jamaal Lewis, 8 yards to Rudy
Burgess and 4 yards to Moey Mutz.
The last gave the Sun Devils a 31-28 lead and an apparent upset
in their first game against a Southeastern Conference team. Arizona
State played Arkansas in 1951 and 1985, before the Razorbacks
joined the conference, and lost both games.
"It's probably the best game I've ever been in so far, as far
as competing and playing against a really good team," Keller said.
"That's the fastest, best team I've ever seen."
Addai scored on 1- and 5-yard runs, the second capping an
80-yard drive fueled by two big plays by Skyler Green, who caught a
13-yard pass and then ran 41 yards to the ASU 6.
"A lot of people on the team are from Louisiana, so some people
didn't talk to their parents, some people didn't talk to their
families, so I think this win that we did was a big thing for the
state of Louisiana so they could turn to something else," Addai
LSU had a 19-play, 80-yard drive that burned up 11:02 of the
first and second quarters, but came away with nothing to show for
it when Russell lost the ball dropping back on a first-and-goal
play at the 6-yard line, and defensive tackle Jordan Hill recovered
on the 19 with 12:03 left in the second quarter. The play went in
the books as a 13-yard sack.
Until then, LSU's defense had held the Sun Devils in check.
However, Arizona State's luck turned with the turnover.
The Sun Devils were helped by two 15-yard penalties to reach the
Two plays later, Lewis caught the ball diving into the end zone
with 9:50 left in the quarter.
LSU answered quickly, helped Russell's 17-yard pass to Xavier
Carter and a 28-yarder to Bennie Brazell to the ASU 1. Addai barged
in on the next play, tying the score with 6:15 remaining. But
Arizona State still had time to take a 10-7 halftime lead after
Keller hooked up with Lee Burghgraef on a 44-yard pass-run moving
within range of Jesse Ainsworth's 26-yard field goal with 3:58 to
Burgess' scoring reception was the only score of the third.