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LSU vs the Mannings 5: 2003

It was arguably the most important LSU-Ole Miss game since 1959. Some called it the biggest game in Oxford MS in 51 years.

  • #3 LSU (#4 in the BCS) was 9-1 with the only loss coming at home to Florida.
  • #15 Ole Miss was 8-2. Their setbacks were to Memphis and Texas Tech.
  • That meant the Rebels were one game ahead of the Tigers in the SEC West. A victory for the home team would clinch the division crown. But an LSU triumph would give them the tiebreaker provided they defeated Arkansas the following week.
  • An Ole Miss win would also give a big boost to QB Eli Manning's Heisman Trophy chances.

David Cutcliffe's Rebels had the SEC's top-rated offense because they were able to complement Eli Manning's passing with a solid ground game.

  • Unfortunately for the Rebs, Manning would operate behind a banged-up O-line.
  • The LSU offense led by junior QB Matt Mauck could help their defense by con­trolling the ball with their own running game.

A record crowd of 62,552 packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on a sunny afternoon.

Quarter 1

  • Ole Miss made a first down on their initial play - an 11y run. But four snaps later they punted 57y out of bounds at the seven. That snapped their eight-game streak of scoring on their first possession.
    Matt Mauck got off to the worst start of his career. On LSU's first offensive play, he rolled right and threw a pass intended for WR Michael Clayton that went right to CB Travis Johnson, who zipped into the end zone to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead just 66 seconds into the game.
    After an exchange of punts, LSU reeled off three first downs to move to the Ole Miss 28. But a holding penalty took the starch out of the drive, and Chris Jack­son booted a 45y field goal to put LSU on the board.
    The Tigers started marching again after forcing a punt, reaching the Reb 35. But two straight false start penalties on third down led to a sack. After Mike Espy returned the punt to the 48, Eli hit WR Kerry Johnson for the Rebels' initial first down to the LSU 40. Ole Miss ended the period with only 33y of offense. Ole Miss 7 LSU 3

L: Cameron Vaughn chases Eli Manning; R: Matt Mauck flattened by Josh Cooper.
Quarter 2
  • The defenses continued to dominate. LSU gained a first down only because of a roughing the kicker penalty on punter Donnie Jones. A strike to Devery Henderson gained 18y to the Ole Miss 38. The Tigers got a break when CB Ron Hutchins??? intercepted Mauck's pass and started to run with a clear path to the end zone. But late whistles for a false start negated the play.
    After a punt into the end zone, the Rebels lost another long gain. Manning connected with WR Chris Collins, who broke free down the right sideline before being tackled inside the 10. But he had carelessly stepped on the sideline at the LSU 49.
    After forcing a punt, LSU moved out to the 33 on runs by Justin Vincent and Shyrone Carey. But DT Jamie Mitchell made a great play, reading the screen pass and drifting outside to jump and grab Mauck's pass at the 35.
    Will Muschamp's defense kept the Rebels from capitalizing. They gained only 6y in three downs, so Jonathan Nichols, who had missed only one of 24 attempts all season, tried a 47yarder from the left hash mark that sailed wide right with 5:13 left.
    The Tigers responded with a 71y touchdown drive that featured a nice balance of runs and passes. Vincent started with a quick opener that put the ball on the 40 with the help of a face mask penalty. Then Justin burst into the clear through left tackle to the 16. After Carey lost a yard, Mauck threw quickly to Clayton at the right sideline for six more. After the Rebs stuffed Vincent for a loss of four, Matt went to Clayton again and got more than he bargained for. Michael waited a moment for RT Rodney Reed to come out and cut off the cornerback and RG Stephen Peterman to cut down the safety to clear a path for the lanky receiver to knife into the end zone with 2:42 remaining. The pass tied Mauck with Tommy Hodson's 1989 performance for most in a season at LSU – 22.
    After forcing a punt, the Tigers had time to move into field goal range, but time ran out with two timeouts in their pocket.
    LSU 10 Ole Miss 7
    The Tigers controlled the ball 20:06 to 9:54 for the Rebels. Ole Miss had only 11y rushing and three first downs.

Quarter 3

  • Two fired up defenses frustrated both quarterbacks. After LSU went three-and-out, Ole Miss got a first down on a pass to Espy for 18y to the 49. But four snaps later, LSU had the ball on the 20 after a touchback.
    Disaster struck on the first play. Mauck rolled right and threw his third interception, this one to CB Van Hutchins who returned to the 32.
    But the Tiger defense bailed out their beleaguered quarterback. DT Kyle Williams led an all-out blitz that sacked Manning for a 9y loss. Then Eli tried to force a pass into tight coverage only to have CB Corey Webster snag it at the 16.
    On 2nd and 11, Mauck zipped up the middle on a quarterback draw for a first down at the 28. The momentum continued with Vincent gaining nine and Joseph Addai 11 more to the 48. But the Rebs showed they could blitz too, storming through to chase Mauck backwards and force him into a grounding penalty to make it 2nd and 32. Jones shot a punt 58y that was returned 15y to the 32. But three incompletions and punt later, LSU start a possession at their 34.

Justin Vincent runs as Eric Edwards blocks.

Quarter 4

  • LSU stretched the lead to ten on the first play of the period when Mauck connected with Devery Henderson on a picture-perfect 53y pass down the left sideline. CBS announcer Verne Lundquist said, "With this defense, 10 points might be enough." He would prove to be right, but Manning & Company would not go down without a fight.
    They took just four minutes to pull within three again. A defensive holding penalty on a third down incompletion gave Ole Miss new life at their 41. Having held the Rebels to -2y rushing, LSU's defense played pass every down. A sack made it 2nd-and-19. But after an incompletion, Manning lofted a pass down the left side that landed in the hands of SE Bill Flowers for a 43y gain to the 20. Vashon Pearson zipped for 12 to make it 1st-and-goal. But when Pearson lost two on first down and Eli threw an incompletion on second down, Coach Cutcliffe called for a play similar to the one that Florida used to burn the Tigers in their only loss of the season. RB Brandon Jacobs delayed in the backfield, then slipped up the middle uncovered and took Eli's flip into the end zone. LSU 17 Ole Miss 14 with 10:51 left.
    The Rebel defense did its job, forcing a three-and-out. Jones got off another outstanding kick to the 14.
    Manning had led three fourth quarter comebacks that season. On 3rd-and-three, he rolled right and threw to FB Rick Razzano for the first down at the 30. Then back pedaling in the face of a ferocious rush, Eli threw long to Flowers at the LSU 39. Tremaine Turner ripped off 15y to get into field goal range. But Rebel fans had visions of a go-ahead touchdown. That didn't happen as two runs and an incompletion made it 4th-and-four. So Nichols, the most accurate field goal kicker in the nation, came out for a 36 yarder from the right hash mark. But his boot sailed wide right from the moment it left his foot. A man who had missed only one kick all season had now missed two in one game.
    4:15 remained - still plenty of time if thedefense could force a three-and-out. And that's what they did. After a delay of game penalty, two runs made it 3rd-and-five. Mauck then threw an incompletion to stop the clock. Espy returned Jones's punt 16y to the 32 with 2:16 left.
    Under heavy pressure, Eli threw long to Espy on 2nd-and-10, but S Jack Hunt smashed the receiver a split second after the ball arrived - incomplete. Then Webster had an interception in his hands but couldn't hang on. Facing fourth-and-10 from their 42 with 1:50 left, the Rebs called timeout. We'll never know what pass pattern was called. Eli had stayed under center all game so that the linemen could hear his audibles. As he went back to pass, DT Chad Lavalais pushed LG Doug Buckles backward, and Eli stepped on Buckles' foot, tripped, and fell down. It was the Tigers' third sack.
    LSU ran the ball four times to bring the clock down to 0:09. The game ended when Manning launched a Hail Mary from deep in his territory to midfield where it was deflected in the crowd. FINAL SCORE: LSU 17 OLE MISS 14
LSU Postgame
  • Coach Saban: "I think sometimes it helps that the ball bounces in your direction, whatever you call that, but I also think the way you compete in the game makes it bounce your way. Our defensive players went in there time and time again and made plays when they had to. The defense played and competed like gangbusters." He added, "I didn't think we had our personality today. As much as we preached about it, there was a lot of anxiety. We didn't look like ourselves."
  • QB Matt Mauck: "I really didn't play well, but my teammates were great. Maybe the offense tensed up a little, but the defense didn't. The defense bailed us out every time we messed up."
  • WR Michael Clayton admired how Mauck overcame his poor start. "It says a lot about the guy when he can keep making plays. The bad plays weren't all his fault. The guy has great character. That's who we're riding on. He's the horse, and we're gonna jump in the saddle."
  • DT Chad Lavalais took umbrage when asked about the Tigers' lucky breaks. "Luck? This game? The defense has been doing this all year. I see this as the defense stepping up to the challenge." He also had an interesting take on the offense's turnovers. "I kind of thought, 'I hope our offense throws another interception so we can go out there and stop them again.' Hey, put it on our shoulders. It's been on our shoulders all year. So it was no different in this game."

Ole Miss Postgame

  • Coach Cutcliffe: "They're the best defense that we've seen. I'd say they're as good as anybody in the country. They're as good as I've played against."
    Defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach agreed: "In my 29 years of watching and coaching college football, that's one of the most dominating defenses I've ever seen. We'd seen them on film. They're big. They're fast. They're strong and athletic, and they're extremely well-coach. I thought out offense did a good job getting what they got."
  • Eli Manning completed only 16 of 36 for 200y with one TD and an interception to end his Heisman chances. "You have to give them credit. They've got a good defense. They were bringing pressure, and we were trying to react to it and just didn't make plays. We did have opportunities and didn't take advantage of them."



David Cutcliffe

Michael Clayton

Chris Jackson

Will Muschamp

Devery Henderson

Chad Lavalais

Rodney Reed

Stephen Peterman

Kyle Williams

Corey Webster

Joseph Addai

Jack Hunt

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Tiger Den Archives – I

First LSU Football Game
One-Game Sensation
Tigers Invade Ebbets Field
Dazzling Debut: Tommy Hodson
Streak Buster: LSU vs Alabama 1993
Dazzling Debut: Cecil Collins
Tiger First: Notre Dame Game
Memorable Game: Alabama 1945
Tiger First: UAB Game

Tiger Den Archives – II

Origin of the Chinese Bandits
Leave Coach Dietzel Alone!
Six Straight TD Catches
How Addai Ended Up at LSU
LSU AD on His Coaches
Pro Football Hall of Famers
Streak Buster: UNC 1949
Streak Buster: Alabama 1982

Tiger Den Archives – III

First College Replay
Memorable Game: Tulane 1949
Profile: Robert Dugas
First Big Ten Opponent
Profile: Michael Mahtook
Memorable Game: Tulane 1965
Profile: Alvin Roy
Memorable Game: Ole Miss 1959
Interesting Story: Andre Lafleur

Tiger Den Archives – IV

Firsts: Victory, Home Victory, Winning Season
You Can't Keep a Good Man Down
First NFL Draftee
It's a Miracle!
Dazzling Debut: Alvin Dark
Dazzling Debut: Charlie McClendon
Memorable Game: Tulane 1972
Memorable Game: Tennessee 2000
Dynamic Duo

Tiger Den Archives – V

LSU Lost a Game and a Coach
The Night Big Ben Came to Tiger Stadium
Profile: Tommy Casanova
Profile: Richard Dickson
Memorable Game: Oregon 1932
Buckeyes First LA Invasion
From Braces to All-America
Memorable Game: Georgia 1935
"The Year of the Extra Point"
Brodhead Takes Over

Tiger Den Archives – VI

First Southern Team to Fly to a Game
Memorable Game: Florida State 1991
7-0 in 1973
Profile: John Ed Bradley
Super Bowl Bengals
Recruiting Tales
Memorable Game: Tulane 1937
Scoreless String
Profile: Dub Jones

Tiger Den Archives – VII

Dietzel Returns
Profile: Bert Jones
Largest Crowd in SEC History
Win One for the Bear
Profile: Ken Kavanaugh
Why Didn't He Go to Florida?
No Married Players

Tiger Den Archives – VIII

First Appearance of Mascot Mike
Faust Fever
Profile: Alvin Dark
"LSU is not a class team"
Saban's First Rematch
But Did He Beat Tulane?

Tiger Den Archives – IX

"Give Them My Regards in Baton Rouge"
"Football Is Strictly an Afternoon Game"
When Washington Came to Baton Rouge
Tigers vs Badgers I & II | Profile: Y.A. Tittle

Tiger Den Archives – X

Streak Buster: LSU @ Auburn 1970
Dazzling Debut: Coach Jerry Stovall
Profile: Leonard Fournette
Terry Bradshaw: "I know how it all got started."
Profile: Young Bussey I-VI

Tiger Den Archives – XI

Commodore Surprise
Dietzel and McClendon 1, 2
Incredible Five Quarters
First Bluegrass Miracle

Tiger Den Archives – XII

Season in Time: 2005

LSU Bowl Games

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