LSU slow to slam door on Vandy
Sunday, October 09, 2005
By Scooter Hobbs
Nashville, Tenn - To the naked eye, LSU dominated Vanderbilt from start to finish Saturday night.
But it took the scoreboard forever and spare change to see it that way.
The mistaken-prone, 11th-ranked Tigers came bearing gifts and in the end were happy just to get out of Nashville with a 34-6 victory over the Commodores.
It took a late, 25-0 Tiger run to get it up to even that, belying for most of the night LSUís 475-98 edge in total offense.
With LSUís defense playing a far more aggressive style than in its previous three games under new coordinator Bo Pelini, Vanderbilt never really threatened a touchdown and the Tigers held the Commodores to seven points or less for the fourth straight meeting.
But LSU committed four turnovers, two dropped passes in the end zone, had another touchdown called back by a penalty and seemed to be able to dial up a drive-killing penalty at will ó 13 flags for 128 yards.
Skyler Greenís 17-yard punt return late in the half set up Jacksonís 47-yard field goal attempt, but ó summing up the Tigersí luck in the half ó it hit midway up the left upright.
Jackson got a mulligan following the Commodores first turnover of the game ó an interception by LaRon Landry ó but he was wide right on a 42-yarder as the first-half clock ran out.
Vanderbiltís two field goals, on the other hand, required only six total yards of offense.
LSU (3-1, 2-1 SEC) had seven sacks, held Vandy (4-2, 2-1) to minus-17 yards rushing and limited the Southeastern Conferenceís leading passer, Jay Cutler to just 11 completions in 33 attempts.
The Tigers defense scored nine of LSUís points with a first-quarter safety and Ali Highsmithís 22-yard return of a fumble he caused himself for the gameís final touchdown.
That finally made the scoreboard reflect what was going on in the trenches.
A practical joke most of the night, the Tigers offense put together three fourth-quarter scoring drives for a field goal by Chris Jackson, a 2-yard scoring run by Joseph Addai and JaMarcus Russellís second touchdown pass of the night, an 8-yarder to Early Doucet.
Russell completed 21 of 32 passes for 285 yards and Joseph Addai rushed for 102 yards while Lake Charlesí Justin Vincent had his most productive game in almost a year with a 77 yards on 11 carries.
But it looked like a classic upset scenario in the making for most of the night, a superior opponent letting a outmanned opponent hang around.
The traditionally docile Vanderbilt crowd didnít seem much interested when the Commodores stayed within 9-3 at halftime.
But when LSU opened the second half with its fourth turnover of the game in its own territory, suddenly the Commodores finally had some momentum to go with their good fortune and the crowd came to life.
Not much came of it ó Vandy, which didnít cross midfield of its own accord until the fourth quarter, managed five yards and a 48-yard field goal that narrowed the curious score to just 9-6 Tigers.
Moments later, Cutler tossed an interception to LSUís Chevis Jackson and the rout was finally on.
But Vanderbilt had to be thrilled to be trailing only 9-3 at the half.
At the time LSU had outgained the Commodores 303-41 only to come away with an opening-drive touchdown and a safety for all those yards.
By contrast, the Tigersí 37 points last week against Mississippi State came on slightly more, 401 yards for the entire game.
Not that Vandy had much to do with the close halftime score.
Cutler was under constant pressure and managed six completions in 16 attempts and was sacked four times, once in his own end zone for a safety.
Vanderbilt had minus-11 yards rushing at the break.
The Commodoresí defense only rarely slowed the Tigers down, but LSU had three costly turnovers and missed two field goals in the final 1:07 of the half ó the Tigersí first two misses of the season.
It looked almost too easy when the Tigers needed just six plays to open the game with an 80-yard scoring drive, capped by Russellís 30-yard touchdown strike to Dwayne Bowe.
Moments later, Pittman wrestled Cutler down in his own end zone for a safety.
But two plays after LSU was penalized returning the free kick, tight end David Jones fumbled at his own 20 and Vandy got a field goal after gaining only one yard.
The tone was set.
LSU had a balanced 139 yards rushing and 164 passing at the half, but Xavier Carter fumbled away a promising drive while running for an apparent first down on a reverse near midfield and Russell was intercepted after the Tigers had driven from their own 20 to the Vandy 29.