Tigers Pull it Out
ATLANTA, Ga. – A day that started with so much uncertainty for LSU ended with a simple and enduring image:
Tigers coach Les Miles and defensive tackle Glen Dorsey hoisting the SEC championship trophy with blue and white confetti spewing from behind a platform on the Georgia Dome turf.
The Tigers’ 21-14 victory over Tennessee proved to be the secondary story after a report in the morning on ESPN, which stated that Miles would be Michigan’s next head coach.
Miles gave a fiery news conference two hours before the game, saying that he had no interest in talking to others schools, and after the game, Miles re-affirmed that statement.
“I've got a great place,” said Miles. “I'm at home.”
While LSU’s season may not produce the national championship that it desired before its loss last week to Arkansas, the Tigers (11-2, 7-2 SEC) weren’t holding their heads down after beating Tennessee (9-4, 6-3) in front of 73,832 people.
After the game Tigers linebacker Ali Highsmith took a giant SEC foam sign and ran over to the LSU fan section with his teammates, in tow in celebration of one of its preseason goals.
“It’s so hard to win an SEC title and this means everything,” Tigers running back Jacob Hester said. “This season has not by any means been a failure, it has been a great success, great wins and this is the biggest one I’m sure.”
Miles said part of the reason why he decided to stay at LSU had to do with the players. And several of them made big plays to help the Tigers win.
LSU churned out 464 yards of total offense, using a balanced attack with quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and Hester.
Perrilloux who started in place of the injured Matt Flynn (shoulder) was named the game’s MVP. Perrilloux finished the game going 20 of 30 for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hester ran for 120 yards on 23 carries.
“(Perrilloux) is a good player certainly, and they did a good job of doing what he could do,” said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. “We had our opportunities, didn't quite get it done.”
Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge went 20 of 40 for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Both of Ainge’s interceptions proved crucial in LSU’s victory.
With about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and Tennessee on its own 14-yard line and winning 14-13 Ainge threw the ball directly to LSU cornerback Jonathan Zenon on the right side of the field.
Zenon had nothing but open space ahead of him and ran straight into the Tennessee end zone for the touchdown. Perrilloux then ran up the middle for the two-point conversion to give LSU the 21-14 lead.
“I shouldn't have thrown the ball out there,” Ainge said. “I mean, just as much as he made a good play, I made a bad decision.”
The Vols had another opportunity later in the game. Tennessee got the ball back at the 4:10 mark at its 34-yard line, and drove up to the LSU 14-yard line. Ainge then hit Tigers linebacker Darry Beckwith in the middle of the field for the Tennessee quarterback’s final interception.
Beckwith lay on the field after the play with an apparent injury. Then after a few minutes, he stood up looked over at the LSU fans in the stands and pointed to them, knowing that the pick had sealed the game.
The Tigers ran out the clock on five total runs from Hester and Perrilloux.
Said Fulmer, “Usually a turnover backed up will get you beat, and that's kind of what happened.”