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'It was a long day'

LSU too much for overmatched South Carolina

Published on 09/23/07
BY TRAVIS HANEY
The Post and Courier

BATON ROUGE, LA. — Steve Spurrier voted Louisiana State the No. 1 team in the country last week. After seeing them first-hand, you'd better believe where South Carolina's coach will slot the

Tigers today.

The 12th-ranked Gamecocks were

resilient in the Bayou, but No. 2 LSU was rougher and tougher Saturday afternoon and came away with a 28-16 victory at rainy Tiger Stadium that didn't indicate the physical mismatch on the field.

"We're not anxious to play LSU again. Let's put it that way," Spurrier said. "We're not at their level right now."

After an early Gamecocks score, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) ripped off four unanswered touchdowns using a versatile, effective running attack and a suffocating, overpowering effort by the Tigers' vaunted defense.

At the half, South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) had 89 total yards — and 67 came on the one successful scoring drive. The Gamecocks — a self-proclaimed running team coming in, according to Spurrier — were held to 19 first-half rushing yards on 16 tries.

By game's end, redshirt freshman Chris Smelley had taken over for fifth-year

senior Blake Mitchell at quarterback and helped the Gamecocks inch back into things — and make the stat sheet not seem so uneven.

"South Carolina will go on and win some games in their division," LSU coach Les Miles said.

Smelley led a drive early in the fourth quarter that set up a Ryan Succop field goal to cut LSU's lead to 28-10 in a game played mostly in moderate-to-heavy rain.

The kick marked the most points the Tigers had surrendered in a game this year (seven was the previous high).

When Spurrier was asked why he went for three instead of seven, he shrugged.

LSU, he reasoned, was too tough. The offensive-minded Head Ball Coach admitted he was stumped by "a big, strong team" led by behemoths such as sure-fire All-America tackle Glenn Dorsey.

"(We were) just trying to get three points," Spurrier said. "We didn't have a play we thought we could score with. ... I didn't know what to call. Didn't have a run. We couldn't budge those guys."

South Carolina finished the game with 17 rushing yards, the fewest since LSU held the Gamecocks to zero ground yards in 2003.

That's below even the 30 rush yards a game LSU was allowing coming into Saturday.

"It was a long day," said senior Cory Boyd, who finished with 17 yards on 18 carries (0.9 yards a carry). "(The yards) were really tough to come by. It's really frustrating. You just try to stay upbeat."

In contrast, the Tigers had six runs of 10 or more yards in the first half. Stout backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and shifty athlete Trindon Holliday combined for 114 first-half rushing yards.

The game was filled with several single plays that swung — or could have moved — the momentum.

The top of the list has to be Spurrier's decision on the first possession of the second half to go for it on fourth-and-1 on USC's 30.

Cory Boyd was stuffed for no gain — as he was on third down — and LSU took over. The Tigers scored five plays later to go up 28-7 and, as Spurrier said, "it looked hopeless."

"If he'd have made it, it would have been a great call," Miles said of Spurrier's decision. "But he didn't."

Another biggie came just before the half when, up a touchdown, LSU appeared it would settle for a field goal to take a 17-7 edge into the half. But that's only how it appeared.

The Tigers lined up for a field goal, but quarterback and holder Matt Flynn no-look flipped a spiral over his right shoulder that kicker Colt David caught in stride for a 15-yard touchdown run that stunned everyone inside the

stadium.

Miles laughed and Spurrier grinned afterward.

Spurrier also noted a dropped interception by safety Emanuel Cook early in the second half that Cook would've surely taken back for a touchdown to make it 21-14.

He also pointed to a fortuitous bounce on a Jared Mitchell fumble on LSU's second possession in which the ball rolled right to Mitchell.

But, in the end, this wasn't about one play. Or two or three. It was about one team just being better than the other. And it showing.

"We didn't play well enough to beat LSU," Spurrier said. "Even if we played well enough, I don't know if we could have."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com.

"We didn't play well enough to beat LSU.  Even if we played well enough, I don't know if we could have."  ~Steve Spurrier (on the game with LSU)