Dig Baton Rouge

Tigers brave rain, cold, spoil Tennessee’s party

It was raining sideways for a lot of the second half.

The wind was whipping so hard that officials had a hard time spotting the football without it moving.

But don’t tell that to the Tigers.

They withstood the conditions and beat a Tennessee football team hungry to win one for its interim coach.

LSU beat Tennessee 30-10 on Saturday night, braving Mother Nature in the process in a cold, wet and blustery affair played as a cold front was passing through Tennessee.

The Tigers led 17-10 at half, then dominated the second half 13-0 to secure the victory, using a ground-heavy, conservative offense and dominant defense to secure the win.

In victory, LSU is now 8-3 on the season and 5-2 in SEC play. For Tennessee, the loss ends the Volunteers hopes of making a bowl game.

“It was a good, hard-fought battle,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “(Tennessee) had those guys ready to play. At halftime, we went in there and said, ‘Listen, we need to go win the game.’ We did that. I’m proud of our team. It’s a good team win.”

LSU withstood a wicked bad first quarter to secure the win.

The Tigers didn’t get a single first down on any of their first four drives against a Volunteers’ defense that was defending the honor of interim coach Brady Hoke, who replaced Butch Jones, who was dismissed after last week’s loss against Missouri.

LSU’s lone points in the first quarter came via a short field goal from Connor Culp to go ahead 3-0. That kick was set up by a muffed punt – on of two the Volunteers had in the half.

Tennessee matched LSU’s field goal with a kick of its own in the second quarter to tie the game at three.

LSU’s next drive stalled, but Tennessee’s second muffed punt gave LSU pristine field positon, which they turned into a touchdown – a 10-yard jet sweep scamper by Darrel Williams to go ahead 10-3.

After a couple possession changes, LSU had its best drive near the end of the first half – a quick, three-play, 61-yard trek capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Danny Etling, but that was heavily aided by a 36-yard run by Williams. That score put LSU up 17-3 with 2:08 in the half.

But Tennessee fought back.

LSU had two-straight blown coverages on fly patterns, which allowed the Volunteers to strike on a 46-yard touchdown from Jarrett Guarantano to Marquez Callaway, which sent the game to halftime with LSU up 17-10.

Then the rains came.

It was windy and a little damp in the first half, but the front passed at halftime and the first few minutes of the second half were an absolute deluge.

In the tunnel coming out onto the field before the second half, Orgeron did a TV interview in the tunnel with the Tigers jumped and hollering behind him.

In the interview, Orgeron said he loved the idea of playing in rain, because it brought back memories of his childhood.

LSU got the memo, completely controlling both lines of scrimmage in the final 30 minutes to secure the win.

“I thought the storm fired us up,” Orgeron said. “It’s like little kids playing in the backyard.”

In the second half, halfback Derrius Guice got rolling, securing almost all of 97 yards, including a touchdown, which put the Tigers up 23-10 in the middle of the third quarter.

After the game, Guice, still shivering, from the cold, said it was a game he will remember for the rest of his career.

“I never played in nothing like this,” Guice said. “But at the end of the day, what am I going to do? Tell the coach I ain’t going to play because it’s raining or it’s cold? It don’t work that way. We were ready for this. We felt more ready than them at their own stadium.”

Tennessee attempted a fourth down and inches deep in their own territory, but came up short, giving the Tigers a short field late in the third quarter.

LSU turned that into points – a six-yard run from Williams, which put the Tigers up 30-10 – a score which held until the end of the game, thanks to a dominant defensive effort which completely stymied the Volunteers’ offense.

With the win, the Tigers improved their bowl positioning in a crowded SEC.

LSU also completed their SEC road schedule – an overloaded schedule which featured five games away from Tiger Stadium because of the Florida debacle last season.

Orgeron said he wants to make sure LSU puts its best foot forward on Saturday against Texas A&M – the season finale.

“We’re proud of the leadership,” Orgeron said. “After the Troy game, we met and they decided that this is not the way it’s going to be for our football team.”


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