After a disappointing loss to Florida last week in Gainesville for their first loss, the fighting Tigers of LSU returned home for a showdown with the #2 ranked Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs. A huge part in the game proved to be the electric LSU crowd at Tiger Stadium which would cost LSU $100,000 after the fans decided to rush the field. Although it wasn’t “Saturday night in Death Valley”, it was a hostile environment. The atmosphere proved to be too much for the Bulldogs who brought in one of the youngest rosters in all of College Football. This isn’t the first time this has happened to the Bulldogs. In 2012, UGA played a game against the University of South Carolina in Columbia which drew many parallels to this game. The Bulldogs were favorites, young and playing in a tough environment against NFL caliber defensive players, including future #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, and safety DJ Swearinger. Against LSU this week, it was linebacker Devin White, cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams, and safety Grant Delpit. In both games the stage was just too big for the Bulldogs as they were thoroughly dominated.
To start the game LSU kicked a field goal early after some big plays from former 5-star freshman wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. On the ensuing drive UGA ran the ball straight down LSU’s throat, rushing nine times for 56 yards. After abandoning the run game in LSU territory which was a theme this game, the Bulldogs lined up for a field goal. And on maybe on the most important play of the game, UGA tried to fake a field goal. The Bulldogs were well short of the first down losing yards. LSU wasted absolutely no time on their next drive. A 47-yard run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire set them up inside the 5-yard line, and then a fourth down QB sneak from Joe Burrow capping off the touchdown drive. After that the Tigers defense started taking control of the football game as they would produce a vital three and out. Again, the Tigers pounced on the opportunity as quarterback Joe Burrow found a wide-open Justin Jefferson for 50 yards. Although they couldn’t punch it in, Cole Tracy kicked a field goal making it 13-0 in favor of the Tigers. Then after another quick three and out the Tigers converted another fourth and one on their own side of the field and kicked their third field goal of the game giving them a 16-point lead going into halftime.
Coming out of halftime the Bulldogs looked to erase the first half from their memory and take control of the game. They would get off to a good start driving down the field and taking a field goal this time, cutting the deficit.
The UGA defense would then make a big stand putting the Bulldogs in a position to make some plays and get back in the game. The LSU defense would have none of that as they first pinned UGA inside their own 5 yard-line. From there Kristian Fulton came up with the biggest play of his career giving LSU the ball inside the 30 yard-line. Again, though LSU only kicked a field goal leaving the door open for UGA down 19-3. The Bulldogs would finally get it going on offense going 75 yards in only seven plays with Elijah Holyfield finishing the drive with a 10-yard run. Even after UGA failed on the 2-point conversion it felt like they had the momentum and that they were rounding into form to break the hearts of Tiger fans. They would absolutely have a chance after forcing LSU into a three and out and then a punt return that gave UGA the ball at the LSU 38 yard-line. But a huge stand from the LSU defense in the form of a Jacoby Stevens sack which took the Bulldogs out of field goal range made it even clearer that this was not Georgia’s day. That punt for UGA would prove to be the last chance they had to come back in this game. LSU would put the final nail in the coffin going 86 yards in just six plays and scoring a touchdown, putting the game out of reach for UGA at 26-9. Both teams scored touchdowns in the final seven minutes to put the final score at 36-16 in favor of the LSU Tigers.
For LSU and Coach Ed Orgeron, this was the latest of his three top-10 wins this season. At 6-1 the Tigers still control their own destiny and are in position to accomplish every goal they set out before the season. Although this is a flawed team, as seen last week, they have proved that they can play with anybody with this win today. And of course, they will be tested by none other than the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in just a few short weeks. But before then they must focus on a talented Mississippi State team. If they can somehow navigate those two games and still stand with just one loss, they would have favorable matchups to get back to the SEC championship game for the first time since 2011.
For Georgia and coach Kirby Smart the outlook is duller than before the game but still bright. Although they lost today for the first time this season, like LSU, they still have all of their goals in sight, even with a loss. Winning out would most likely mean an SEC Championship game against Alabama, or a rematch with these Tigers. If they then went on to win that game that means that they would either have beaten a top-2 ranked Alabama or avenged their only loss. Both scenarios are most likely good enough for the Bulldogs to book a spot in the college football playoff. It will not be easy, as they have looming games against 1-loss teams, Florida and Kentucky, neither of which are on their own home field. It will be tough for them but UGA has the talent to sweep through the rest of its schedule and make it to the playoff.