LSU Short Story
Legendary Goal-Line Stand
Lee Feinswog, LSU Tigers Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Tigers Stories Ever Told (2013)
2001 SEC Championship Game, LSU - Tennessee @ Georgia Dome
Tennessee entered the game with a 10-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking, having come off a dramatic upset of Florida in Gainesville. A win over LSU would catapult Phil Fulmer's Vols into a national championship matchup with Miami in the Rose Bowl. Moreover, Tennessee boasted a team packed with future NFL stars, including high picks in the 2002 NFL draft, like wide receiver Donte Stallworth and defensive linemen John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth and Will Overstreet. All-league players like wideout Kelley Washington, quarterback Casey Clausen, tailback Travis Stephens and offensive lineman Reggie Coleman also sported orange and white. Tennessee had dominated the All-SEC team list published prior to the game, and most of the "experts" predicted a convincing defeat over an LSU team that managed to sneak into the championship game with a 5-3 conference record thanks to favorable tiebreakers.
The "experts" didn't get the game they expected. Stephens, who led the conference in rushing with 1,426 yards in the regular season, found battling against an unheralded Tiger defensive line tough. Clausen had found Stallworth and Washington open on three deep pass plays that helped the Vols build a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, but Tennessee's good fortune evaporated in the face of a furious Tiger rally. Backup quarterback Matt Mauck and backup tailback Domanick Davis led the team after starters Rohan Davey and LaBrandon Toefield went down to injuries.

L: Matt Mauck, R: Domanick Davis
Mauck had vaulted the Tigers to a 24-17 lead by the end of the third quarter, but LSU's momentum seemed to be fading as the fourth period began. Capitalizing on three completions from his own 28, Clausen received a pass-interference call on Tiger cornerback Damien James for a first-and-goal at the LSU four. It seemed apparent that the Tiger lead—and the momentum—was about to vanish in the game's crucial moments.
Worse, as James was flagged for pass interference, LSU cornerback Randall Gay limped off the field with a twisted ankle. Tiger head coach Nick Saban, fresh out of substitutes to cover the corner, turned to freshman Travis Daniels-an erstwhile redshirt who had not seen the field all season long. Daniels, a promising practice player with a bright future, was as green as the Georgia Dome turf. Smelling blood, the 50,000 Tennessee fans in attendance began making their first real noises of the second half.
On first down, Washington was open in the left corner of the end zone on a fade route, but Clausen threw the ball over his head. LSU had dodged a major bullet.
On second down, the Vol quarterback moved in for the kill. Targeting the rookie Daniels, who was matched up with Stallworth on the right side, Clausen threw a quick slant at the goal line. But to his surprise, the freshman was ready. Daniels broke up the pass, earning his first touch-down-saving play on just his second down of college football.

L-R: Randall Gay, Travis Daniels
Clausen threw for Washington again on a fade, and again the pass was outside the 6'4" receivers grasp. It was now fourth down and goal, with the ball resting at the LSU four. Fulmer still had an opportunity to earn a game-tying touchdown. LSU had held the line three times already, but a fourth seemed unlikely. It almost seemed like a college football version of the Cuban missile crisis, with Saban and Fulmer playing the roles of John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. And like Khrushchev, the Tennessee coach blinked. He sent in kicker Alex Walls for a field-goal attempt and settled for a four-point deficit at 24-20. LSU soon extended the lead to 31-20, when Saban sent in a running play rather than the field-goal unit on fourth and goal for the game-clinching score.
After the game, Tennessee fans were incredulous that no attempt was made to run the ball during the goal-line series. After all, the Vols boasted Travis Stephens, the SEC's leading rusher, and a huge offensive line. But the percentages favored Fulmer. Stephens had rushed for just 37 yards on 14 carries during the game and had been stuffed repeatedly on key plays. Clausen, on the other hand, would finish with 334 passing yards on the game.
"We just wanted to concentrate on stopping him and making them one-dimensional on offense," said LSU linebacker Trev Faulk of Stephens and the Vol rushing attack. "We accomplished what we set out to do." Fellow linebacker Bradie James agreed. "They knew they couldn't run the ball on us," he said. "We took that away. And on that goal-line stand, we did what we had to do."

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