BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Rick Clausen returned to LSU and refused
to let Tennessee be part of the Tigers' feel-good story.
The LSU transfer led the Vols back from a three-touchdown
deficit and Gerald Riggs Jr. pushed into the end zone from a yard
out in overtime to give Tennessee a 30-27 win Monday night in LSU's
long-awaited, hurricane-delayed home opener.
"Everybody makes comments and said, 'I transferred to Tennessee
because I wasn't good enough to play here,'" said Clausen, who
threw the ball into the LSU student section after Riggs'
Clausen finished 21-for-32 for 196 yards with a touchdown pass
and a TD run and appeared to settle the 10th-ranked Vols'
"Getting done what he got done, coming back here to win this
football game at a place where he had been, I don't know if there
is a better story in the world than what this guy has done,"
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.
The Tigers had first crack in overtime, but managed only a
31-yard field goal by Colt David.
Riggs accounted for all the Vols' yards in overtime with a
10-yard reception and four runs. He powered through the line and in
for the score on third down to send the hurricane-weary
Louisianans home with a bitter loss.
"I don't know what happened out there. We played like a joke
out there in the second half," LSU defensive tackle Kyle Williams
said. "It was nothing they did, it was everything we did. It was
just an absolute joke in the second half. It was a complete and
Hurricane Katrina forced the No. 4 Tigers to postpone their
first home game, and move their second to Arizona State, where LSU
came away with a dramatic win.
Then Hurricane Rita created another delay and set up the first
Monday nighter in Tiger Stadium.
The crowd was a bit smaller than usual, but they were loud as
ever and the Tigers (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) certainly
looked like a team eager to play when they jumped out to a 21-0
lead on the Vols (2-1, 1-1) in the first half.
"There was no panic," Fulmer said. "We challenged each
Clausen started one game in his brief LSU career, and didn't
even finish it. He left after the 2002 season to follow his
brother, Casey, to Tennessee.
Rick got the start in Tennessee's last game against Florida but
was pulled early for Erik Ainge. Then Fulmer decided Ainge would
start against LSU.
"It was a tough week for myself," Clausen said. "I called
home a few times; I really didn't want to be here."
In his first game as a visitor at Tiger Stadium, he sparked an
offense that looked lost in the first half.
His 1-yard sneak made it 24-14 with 9:35 left in the fourth.
Jonathan Hefney intercepted JaMarcus Russell and returned it 26
yards to the LSU 2 on the next possession. When Riggs scored from a
yard out with 7:15 left in regulation, the crowd went silent as the
lead was down to three.
Then Tennessee's defense forced another LSU punt and Riggs'
22-yard run helped get James Wilhoit in position for a 28-yard
field goal that tied it.
Riggs finished with 89 yards on 24 carries.
LSU had one last shot in regulation when LaRon Landry
intercepted a pass at the Tigers 45 with 17.7 second left. But all
LSU could manage was a last-play heave into the end zone heave that
was picked off as time expired.
"I actually thought we were going to win in overtime,"
first-year LSU coach Les Miles. "I couldn't believe that we didn't
win the game."
Tennessee had managed just 24 points in its first two games, but
was going nowhere with Ainge against LSU.
Ainge's fumble set up the first score and his ill-advised
desperation throw out of his own end zone turned into a 3-yard
interception return for a touchdown by Kenneth Hollis.
Clausen relieved with the Vols down by three touchdowns halfway
into the second quarter.
Ainge finished 7-for-19 for 54 yards.
The three-touchdown lead could have been even bigger for the
Tigers. They lost two fumbles in Tennessee territory and watched
time run out in the half with the ball at the Vols' 5.
"I think we just had a couple of missed opportunities,"
Clausen went 6-for-7 for 40 yards on the opening drive of the
second half, hitting Bret Smith with an 8-yard TD pass to make it
Chris Jackson's 42-yard field goal made it 24-7 and seemed to
give momentum back to the Tigers. But Clausen and the Vols' defense
would not let Tennessee lose two straight.
A moment of silence was held for the victims of the hurricanes
before the game, and LSU's band played "Walking in New Orleans"
before the alma mater and national anthem.
The stadium announcer welcomed the fans to the first major
sporting event since the storms with these words: "On this evening
we vow to move forward under a common flag because this is LSU
football; this is Tiger Stadium; and this is Louisiana."
With that, a deafening roar came from the crowd -- one that was
matched about 15 minutes later when Joseph Addai ran 19 yards for a
touchdown on LSU's first play from scrimmage to take a 7-0 lead.
Addai's TD came one play after Jessie Daniels knocked the ball
from Ainge and Hollis recovered at the Tennessee 19.
Addai bounced to the outside and sprinted to the end zone less
than three minutes into the game.
Russell connected with Craig Davis on a 47-yard flea-flicker to
the Tennessee 2 in the second quarter, and two plays later, Russell
sneaked over the line for a 14-0 lead.
Skyler Howard has tuned out the criticism and focused on his team, and the Mountaineers have turned things around.
The Cardinal quarterback will face the Irish for the last time Saturday after converting his entire family to Stanford fandom.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst talks about the team's loss to Northwestern and what QB Joel Stave's legacy will be when he leaves the Badgers.
Phil Steele gives his best Week 13 college football bets, including picks on Alabama-Auburn and Ohio State-Michigan.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham explains how QB Mike Bercovici, who has produced some of the best numbers in the Pac-12, has helped the team to secure a bowl berth.
The age of overhyping and under-delivering may finally be a thing of the past for the Fighting Irish football program.