BATON ROUGE — Georgia walked into a raucous cage Tiger fans call Death Valley on Saturday afternoon wearing its SEC title belt, undefeated and ranked second in the nation. The 2017 national runners-up left with their first loss, an emphatic 36-16 beat down by an inspired 13th-ranked LSU football team.
In front of a sold-out Tiger Stadium which overflowed onto the field following the final whistle, LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) recorded its third AP Top-2 victory in stadium history – 1997 versus No. 1 Florida and 1961 versus No. 2 Ole Miss.
After suffering its first loss on the road to then-No. 22 Florida last Saturday, LSU whipped Georgia to the tune of 475 yards – 275 on the ground and 200 through the air. The Tigers were plus-four in turnover margin, converted 4-of-4 fourth downs (for the first time since 2007 game vs. Florida) and possessed the ball for nearly 34 minutes.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow finished 15-of-30 passing and added 66 rushing yards on 13 attempts, including a 59-yarder to the Georgia 4 when the Tigers were attempting to run out the clock on the statement victory.
Sophomore running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 145 rushing yards on 19 carries, while senior Nick Brossette had 64 yards on 16 carries including a 4-yard touchdown run that capped off Burrow’s long scamper. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson had a career-high 108 receiving yards on six catches.
Senior placekicker Cole Tracy scored half of LSU’s 36 points, making all five of his field goals (33, 36, 39, 24, 30) and all three PAT’s. His 18 kicking points are an LSU record (since 1949).
LSU’s defense stepped up with its most complete performance of the season, holding a powerful Georgia offense to 322 yards including 113 on the ground and 209 through the air. Linebacker Devin White had a game-high 13 tackles, safety John Battle added eight, and Kary Vincent Jr. , Grant Delpit and Michael Divinity Jr. each had seven.
Georgia managed only 36 rushing yards in the second half, as LSU built a 16-0 halftime advantage and forced Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm into passing situations. Fromm finished 16-of-34 passing for 209 yards with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ridley in the fourth quarter and two interceptions.
Bulldogs running back D’Andre Swift had 72 rushing yards while Elijah Holyfield added 56 on seven carries including a 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that pulled Georgia within 10, 19-9.
LSU’s special teams also came through in a big way, forcing a fumble on a sniffed-out fake field goal in the first quarter and another recovered on a kickoff by Tigers freshman placekicker Avery Atkins at the Georgia 14.
Blow by blow Recap (by Bill Franques )
LSU drove 65 yards on nine plays on its second possession of the game to take a 3-0 lead when Cole Tracy connected on a 33-yard field goal. The big play in the march was a 37-yard pass from quarterback Joe Burrow to wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. that gave the Tigers a first down at the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line.
Georgia responded by driving 59 yards to the LSU 14-yard line, where the Tiger defense stiffened and placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship entered the game to attempt a 31-yard field goal on fourth-and nine. The Bulldogs, however, attempted a fake when holder Jake Camarda pitched the ball to Blankenship, who was stopped at the 16-yard line.
LSU extended its lead to 10-0 with 13:34 left in the second quarter when Burrow scored on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the Georgia one-yard line.
The score capped a 12-play, 84-yard drive that was highlighted by a career-long dash of 46 yards by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to the Bulldogs’ eight-yard line.
On the Tigers’ next possession, Burrow hit wide receiver Justin Jefferson with a 50-yard pass to the Georgia 20-yard line, and Tracy drilled a 36-yard field goal four plays later to give LSU a 13-0 advantage with 11:22 remaining in the first half.
After the LSU defense forced its second straight three-and-out, the Tigers moved 50 yards on 15 plays and culminated the drive on Tracy’s 39-yard field goal to increase the margin to 16-0 at the 5:09 mark of the second period.
Georgia took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 52 yards on 12 plays before Blankenship connected on a 40-yard field goal.
After LSU punter Josh Growden pinned UGA back at its own four-yard line, cornerback Kristian Fulton intercepted Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm at the Dogs’ 23 with 5:30 left in the third quarter, setting up the Tigers in excellent field position.
Eight plays later, Tracy converted on a 24-yard field goal to give LSU a 19-3 lead with 3:00 remaining in the third period.
Georgia narrowed the gap to 19-9 with seven seconds left in the third quarter on a 10-yard burst by running back Elijah Holyfield, capping an seven-play, 75-yard drive. The Bulldogs’ two-point conversion attempt failed, keeping the deficit at 10 points.
Georgia’s Mecole Hardman returned a punt 27 yards to the LSU 38 with 14:39 left in the game, but the Tiger defense stifled the Dogs as safety JaCoby Stevens sacked Fromm at the 43-yard line on third-and-six from the LSU 34.
After Georgia punted, the LSU offense sailed down the field, cruising 86 yards on six plays with Burrow sneaking over the goal line from one yard out to give the Tigers a 26-9 advantage. The drive featured a 41-yard Burrow-to-Jefferson connection that set up a first down at the Bulldogs’ 13.
Following three Brossette runs, Tracy tacked on his fifth field goal of the game from 30 yards to push LSU’s advantage to 29-9 with 7:20 remaining.
Georgia quickly struck back with a five-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Ridley touchdown catch from Fromm with 6:00 to play.
However, Burrow and the Tigers weren’t done. After a first-down run by Brossette of 11 yards to the LSU 37, Burrow kept the ball on an option play and ran 59 yards to the Georgia 4. On the next play, Brossette jogged into the corner of the endzone for the game’s final score.