LSU Tigers: Gamecocks-Tigers-101312

BATON ROUGE, La. -- As the Golden Band from Tigerland struck up LSU’s alma mater following the Tigers' dramatic 23-21 win over South Carolina, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa couldn’t find enough people to hug.

With ear-to-ear grins, rosy cheeks and victory sweat running down their faces, the two stood a few yards from the mob of players raising their fists and helmets to the sky with each note that blared from above, and savored the moment, as gorilla-sized weights slid off their backs.

A week after their inept offense helped produce LSU’s first loss of the season, all seemed forgotten.

“Really, that’s what we should have been doing all year,” said Mettenberger, who finished Saturday night with 148 yards on 12-of-25 passing. “We knew we could do it.”

The Tigers didn’t do it with much style, but a week after being pushed around by Florida, LSU was the more physical team and grinded like the Tigers did in 2011.

The game plan that buried LSU in the Swamp benefited the Tigers on Saturday, as they wore out South Carolina’s defense by running 78 plays -- 28 more than last week -- which amounted to 406 yards. LSU pounded South Carolina’s vaunted defensive front with 258 rushing yards, with three running backs running up double-digit carry totals.

In a game in which the Tigers’ backs were firmly against the wall and any chance of winning the SEC West -- let alone winning the entire league -- would have been dashed with a loss, LSU stood tall with the kind of rugged offense and smothering defense that pushed it to 13 wins last season.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Jeremy Hill
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIREJeremy Hill rushed 17 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina.
“Out team understands these type games,” coach Les Miles said.

“When we play like that, we are pretty good.”

LSU still has issues when it comes to consistently throwing the ball downfield, but it’s going to be tough to beat these Tigers when they run like that. The running game finally put this game into manageable third downs, as the Tigers converted seven of their first 10 third downs and finished the game 11-of-19 on third down.

Last week, the Tigers converted one of 13 third downs.

“The defense played great, and the offense got better,” Miles said.

And this was a total team effort. On Friday, there was a players-only meeting called. Feelings were aired out, and players left re-energized and focused, wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. It motivated a team in what was essentially a must-win situation.

“It really touched the hearts of the men that were in the room and it showed today,” Landry said.

“It was something that was overdue.”

Players said it was a chance for this group to come together more as a unit, and it showed most in how the offensive line played. Three underclassmen -- La'el Collins, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander -- started, and left tackle Alex Hurst wasn’t even in the building as he deals with personal issues. Against one of the league’s best fronts, the makeshift line overpowered the Gamecocks.

It also showed in running back Jeremy Hill, the talented freshman who has seen limited action. With the Tiger Stadium lights beaming down and his team’s season in the balance, Hill served up the play of the day with his 50-yard touchdown run that gave LSU its late 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter. He nearly finished off the Gamecocks with that run, and finished the day with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

“We kind of wore those guys down,” Hill said. “As the game went on, they got tired, so we just kept running downhill, hitting them hard, and eventually we were going to break one. That’s kind of what I did.”

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney seemed to agree.

“Some guys came out to play, but some guys didn’t,” he said. “It may have been because of injuries. It may be because they were scared.”

On Saturday, LSU’s offense delivered the blows, and the defense cleaned up the rest.

“They were just demolishing South Carolina’s defense,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “You can’t help but feed off of something like that.”

And that’s the way LSU has to play from here on out. The passing game is what it is, but the offensive line’s grit and the running game’s power will propel this team to its goals because it knows the defense will always have its back.

This was the game LSU needed, and it’s the type of game the Tigers intend to keep having.

“We gotta win out. That’s the big thing that we all know,” Landry said. “Every game for us is a national championship to us. It’s that type of mentality that we’re going to take every Saturday from here on out.”

Video: LSU RB Jeremy Hill

October, 14, 2012

LSU running back Jeremy Hill talks about his career day and LSU's 23-21 win over South Carolina.

Video: LSU's Sam Montgomery

October, 14, 2012

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery discusses LSU's 23-21 win over South Carolina.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- One week after getting bowled over by a physical Florida running game, No. 9 LSU took those frustrations out on someone else. The Tigers pounded their way to 258 rushing yards on a whopping 53 attempts in a 23-21 upset of No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday night.

Despite a lopsided box score, the Tigers were never able to put the Gamecocks away, however. South Carolina rallied from a 23-14 fourth-quarter deficit and had a chance to steal a win on its final drive.

Here’s how it played out from a raucous Tiger Stadium:

It was over when: LSU safety Craig Loston intercepted South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw’s desperate heave on the game’s final play to preserve a 23-21 margin.

Shaw brought the score within two when he connected with Bruce Ellington on a 1-yard touchdown pass with three minutes to play. The Gamecocks couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick, but they forced an LSU punt with 35 seconds to play, giving them a chance at a last-second win.

Game ball goes to: LSU has been lauded for its depth at running back all year long, and the Tigers utilized it against South Carolina. When starter Spencer Ware left the game briefly in the first half, freshman Jeremy Hill took over. Hill, with just 13 career carries heading into the game, exploded for 124 yards and both of LSU’s touchdowns on 17 carries. The youngster broke the game open on a 50-yard scoring romp in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Key stat: The closeness of the score line is baffling when looking at the box score. The Tigers outgained the Gamecocks 406-211, and won the time of possession battle 36:57 to 23:03. The Gamecocks’ defense was crucial in keeping it close -- South Carolina forced LSU to settle for field goal attempts on four of five trips to the red zone.

Key stat II: The LSU defense limited South Carolina to a 3-of-13 effort on third downs, sacked Shaw four times and stonewalled the Gamecocks for a mere 34 rushing yards.

What it means: Considering how easily No. 1 Alabama is tearing through its schedule, a second SEC loss could have ended the Tigers’ SEC championship dreams. LSU’s success running the ball behind a makeshift offensive line is encouraging, but the Tigers’ troubles in the red zone? Not so much.

Now it’s the Gamecocks’ turn to have their backs against the wall. South Carolina travels to Florida next weekend for a showdown with the surprising Gators, who could go a long way toward claiming the SEC East with a win.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU dominated the first half of the showdown with No. 3 South Carolina Saturday, but had a 7-3 deficit to show for it.

A 2-yard pass from Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders for a touchdown, set up by a 70-yard interception return of a Zach Mettenberger pass by Jimmy Legree was enough to give South Carolina the lead despite having half the first downs and (5 to LSU's 10) and less than half the yards (69 to LSU's 179).

LSU, usually a team that excels at special teams, had a missed field goal and a shanked punt.

Stat of the half: 7-for-10. A week after the Tigers failed to convert on 12 of 13 third downs in a 14-6 loss at Florida, the Tigers converted 7 of 10 third downs and consistently moved the chains, holding the ball for 17:25.

Player of the half: Legree, who jumped a slant pass and returned it inside the LSU 1 to change a game that was dominated by the Tigers.

What's working for LSU: The makeshift offensive line. With two starters out, the Tigers still controlled the clock, piecing together 10 first downs, 87 yards rushing and 178 total yards. Trai Turner got his first start for the Tigers at right guard for Josh Williford. Josh Dworaczyk started at LT for Alex Hurst.

What's not working for LSU: Mettenberger's interception spoiled an otherwise decent half (7-for-14, 91 yards). The Tigers' special teams was off. Drew Alleman shanked a 33-yard field goal attempt (he did make a 23-yard attempt for the Tigers' only points) and Brad Wing shanked his only punt attempt for 10 yards. The Tigers were good at moving the chains, but all three times they failed to convert a third-down conversion, they were in South Carolina territory, twice in the red zone.

South Carolina goes camo

October, 13, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- No, you don't need to adjust your television sets. That really is what South Carolina is wearing tonight.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireSouth Carolina QB Connor Shaw warms up in the camouflage gear.
With some guidance from Under Armour, the Gamecocks are wearing their camouflage uniforms. They certainly are "different."

This isn't the first time South Carolina has switched it up with the uniforms. The Gamecocks partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project, which aids injured armed services members and their families, the past two years and wore camo/military-themed uniforms uniforms for a couple of games.

There are also some celebrities in the house. Pro golfer Dustin Johnson, who is from Columbia, S.C., is here decked out in Gamecocks gear, while Floyd "Money" Mayweather is hanging out with rapper 50 Cent. No word of Les Miles' old pal Snoop Dogg made it in.

This place is full of yellow, and the fans have been particularly fired up all day. This is a big game for LSU, and the Tigers' backs are against the wall. LSU hasn't loss back-to-back games since 2008, and a loss tonight would likely all but end its chances at returning to the SEC championship game.

The Tigers know what's at stake and they are ready to stop South Carolina's momentum.

It's getting darker and darker around the stadium, and fans are getting louder and louder. I feel sorry for everyone who couldn't make it into this place tonight.

Welcome to the Bayou

October, 13, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Greetings from Tiger Stadium. We have a big one between LSU and South Carolina.

Two top-10 teams and two very, very talented defenses will be going at it under the lights Saturday in one of college football's best environments.

The Tigers are limping in after that 14-6 loss to Florida, but interesting things happen under the lights in this place, and something tells me The Hat will have a few new things in store for the Gamecocks. It will be interesting to see how South Carolina deals with not just the crowd noise but with its own emotions after last week's blowout victory over Georgia.

This is South Carolina's first real road trip and the Tigers have their backs against the wall.

It'll be interesting to watch both of these offenses tonight. The Gamecocks have been very balanced and have one of the SEC's most efficient quarterbacks in Connor Shaw. That fractured shoulder hasn't been much of an issue at all. The Gamecocks will face their toughest test up front, and that is a concern for offensive-line coach Shawn Elliott. His line has been shaky at times this year, and the tackle spots are key. Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell will have their hands full with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo going at them.

For LSU, the Tigers were already without top offensive lineman Chris Faulk and will now be without starting left tackle Alex Hurst, who continues to deal with personal issues. Josh Dworaczyk will start at left tackle, where he has really struggled. Trai Turner will also start for the injured Josh Williford at right guard, while Vadal Alexander will start at right tackle; both are freshmen. LSU will have three underclassmen starting on the offensive line ... with Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles to battle.

Talk about a lot of pressure up front ...

Video: LSU-South Carolina pregame

October, 13, 2012

Edward Aschoff and Travis Haney discuss the LSU-South Carolina game.


Recapping Florida Opening Regionals
National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert discusses top performers from Opening Regionals in Miami and Orlando.