Top-ranked Tigers take care of Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. - As expected, LSU's Saturday afternoon contest with SEC rival Ole Miss was filled with excitement and unpredictability, even though the two teams' records may not have foreshadowed such events.
The Rebels (3-8, 0-7) hung close with the Tigers (10-1, 7-0) throughout the game, but it was LSU that came away from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a win, defeating Ole Miss 41-24.
Statistically, it could be argued that the Rebels should have pulled off the upset. Ole Miss had 25 first downs compared to LSU's 21, and the Rebels outgained the Tigers, 466-396.
But the only numbers that really matter went in LSU's favor, and with Alabama's shocking loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the Tigers secured their first outright SEC Western Division Championship with the victory.
Still, with a trip to the SEC Championship game on the horizon, LSU coach Les Miles had some minor concerns about his team following the game.
"I don't like the fact that we had a return touchdown against us," Miles said. "That mobile quarterback made some things happen. We have to play better on defense."
The mobile quarterback Miles referred to was Ole Miss senior Brent Schaeffer. Schaeffer replaced Seth Adams in the contest and finished 13-of-28 passing for 208 yards and a touchdown.
His numbers through the air were mediocre, but Schaeffer really hurt the Tigers with his feet, rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
The Rebels' 466 yards were the most LSU has allowed all season.
"I want to defend the pass better than we did tonight. We'll have to look at the film to see if we can make some adjustments there. Its a little surprising we didn't close the game out a little earlier with our defense."
The game was also marked by superb special teams play, especially in the first half.
In the first quarter, Ole Miss' Marshay Green brought a punt back 44 yards for a touchdown and tied the score at 7.
On the ensuing kickoff, LSU's 5-foot-5-inch Trindon Holliday returned the kickoff 98 yards for a score.
Going into the fourth quarter, it appeared LSU's 24-10 lead would be safe.
But the teams combined for 31 points in the fourth quarter and Ole Miss got within 10 points of the Tigers twice in the final period to make the game more interesting.
LSU quarterback Matt Flynn completed 17-of-25 passes for 168 yards and also had a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
One statistic where LSU had the advantage over Ole Miss was rushing yards. The Tigers outgained the Rebels on the ground, 228-201.
Four Tigers had more than 20 yards on the ground, led by Charles Scott with 66 and Jacob Hester with 65.
WHAT THIS MEANS: The victory should keep LSU atop the BCS standings, especially after No. 2 Oregon's 34-24 loss to Arizona on Thursday. No. 3 Kansas is slowly creeping up on the Tigers and remains undefeated after hammering Iowa State, 45-7 ... The loss could mean Ole Miss will go winless in conference play this season. They close out the year against a 6-5 Mississippi State team that is bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: LSU's Matt Flynn ... Flynn really didn't do anything to win the game for the Tigers, but he didn't do anything to lose it either. Flynn has been inconsistent this season, throwing at least one interception in LSU's past seven games. He didn't throw any against Ole Miss, and completing 68 percent of his passes and marching the Tigers down the field on their first possession of both halves earns him this honor.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Trindon Holliday's return touchdown ... After Green's put return tied the score at 7, it seemed LSU would be in for the fight of its life. But momentum quick swayed back to the Tigers' sideline after Holliday's 98-yard scamper to the endzone. Holliday finished with 117 total return yards and added four carries and 25 rushing yards to his stat line.
NEXT UP: Both teams will be in action the day after Thanksgiving. LSU faces Arkansas at home, and Ole Miss travels to Starkville to take on in-state rival Mississippi State.