published Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Georgia wary of LSU's ability to score quickly

LSU's Tyrann Mathieu (7) got mobbed last Friday after a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas, one of three touchdowns the Tigers produced during a six-minute stretch of the second quarter in their eventual 41-17 win.
LSU's Tyrann Mathieu (7) got mobbed last Friday after a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas, one of three touchdowns the Tigers produced during a six-minute stretch of the second quarter in their eventual 41-17 win.
Photo by Associated Press.

POWER SURGES

LSU's quick-strike ability has doomed opponents this season:

OPPONENT — RUN — TIME — KEY PLAY

Oregon — 24-0 — 17 min. — Oregon fumbles a kickoff return

West Virginia — 20-0 — 13 min. — Claiborne 99-yard kickoff return

Kentucky — 21-0 — 13 min. — Mathieu 23-yard fumble return

Florida — 24-0 — 20 min. — Randle 46-yard pass from Lee

Tennessee — 24-7 — 22 min. — Claiborne 89-yard interception return

Auburn — 35-0 — 13 min. — Randle 42-yard pass from Jefferson

Ole Miss — 28-0 — 18 min. — Brooks 46-yard interception return

Arkansas — 21-0 — 6 min. — Mathieu 92-yard punt return

ATHENS, Ga. — The blink of an eye typically takes a third of a second.

Or about the time the LSU Tigers require to score a couple of touchdowns.

"I'm watching their film against Oregon and it's 16-13, but then there's a fumble, and you look at the scoreboard and it's 30-13," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I think they fumbled a kickoff, but it just goes like that. If we turn one over, we better cover, because we don't want them to score."

The No. 1 Tigers are averaging 38.2 points per game entering Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta, so they're not a point-per-minute team. Yet there have been stretches in games when LSU attains that pace or exceeds it.

Auburn was 5-2 and ranked 20th in the country when it went to Baton Rouge on Oct. 22. LSU led 7-3 with a little more than five minutes remaining before halftime, but two touchdown passes to Rueben Randle -- one from Jordan Jefferson and one from Jarrett Lee -- ignited a surge that produced a 42-3 score midway through the third quarter.

"There is a real competitive energy, if you will, that really just starts early with my team," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It's one of those things that you can feel a want and a desire, and at different spots in these games, it just appears to show. I think it's a mark of a very good football team.

"When you're called upon to raise your level of performance to exceed that of your opponent to win the game, that's competition, and I think our football team does that."

LSU closed last Friday's 41-17 win over Arkansas with a 41-3 run, all but dashing the hopes of the Razorbacks with a 21-0 jolt during a six-minute stretch in the second quarter. Sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu fueled the romp with a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Mathieu also has two fumble returns for touchdowns this season, while cornerback Ron Brooks has two interceptions for scores, including one just 28 seconds into a 52-3 crushing of Ole Miss.

"Oh, man, I don't know," Georgia coach Mark Richt said when asked how to counter LSU's outbursts. "I think everybody's got to keep their composure and just keep fighting. What happens is that not only the offense for LSU makes some plays but the defense will make some plays and their special teams will make some plays. Before you know it, all three phases of the game have made a big play, and it might result in 21 points in a very short amount of time.

"If something bad happens, we've just got to be able to shake it off and regroup and get back to work. If you let it get in your head, then you've got problems."

Georgia already has been victimized once this season by an opposing surge -- in the same Georgia Dome it will occupy Saturday. In a 35-21 opening loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs struck first on an 80-yard run by Brandon Boykin, but the Broncos countered with a 28-0 surge in a 30-minute stretch.

The Bulldogs closed to within 28-14 with 1:19 left in the third quarter, but Bobo said he could sense the players felt the game was over.

"We learned from that game that you've got to play for 60 minutes," Bobo said. "Having gone through the losses early in the year and the steady preaching of 'We're going to stay together and play hard and find a way' was good to go through. We've really faced adversity every week with injuries and shuffling things around, and our guys have responded every game."

After their 0-2 start, the Bulldogs won five straight games in which they never allowed two consecutive scores. That changed Oct. 29, when a 99-yard kickoff return by Jeff Demps and a 43-yard field goal by Brad Phillips in a four-minute stretch of the second quarter put Georgia in a 17-3 hole against Florida.

Georgia responded by getting within 17-10 just before halftime and then pulled out a 24-20 win.

"During the Florida game, things seemed like they were getting out of hand, but everybody was still calm and confident when we came in at halftime," receiver Chris Conley said. "Everybody was like, 'We are not going to lose this game.' The key against a team that takes up big chunks of the game is just staying calm and really focusing on what the game plan is."

As for Georgia's defense, the plan to combat LSU's quick-strike ability is set.

"They're the No. 1 team in the country, so bad things are going to happen," linebacker Michael Gilliard said. "They're going to make plays, so when bad things happen, we just need to let it go and play the next play. We've got to play that next down as hard as we can.

"We've been emphasizing that all week -- letting the big plays go."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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