This article was copied from the Times-Picayune Sports Desk Log.
Multitude of mistakes costs Tigers
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
By Jim Kleinpeter

BATON ROUGE – In a season without the stomach punch of twin hurricanes, maybe the multitude of mistakes LSU made Monday night are blown away in the early-season wind.

But there they were, a pair of first-half fumbles that killed potential scoring drives, a mental error that cost LSU at least three points, some untimely penalties that kept Tennessee breathing and a killer interception that ignited the Vols to a stunning 30-27 overtime victory.

While building a 21-0 lead, LSU looked so in control that it seemed the first-half mistakes could be weathered.

The Tigers only added to them.

LSU coach Les Miles said the scattering of the first three games, all of which have been rescheduled in some manner, may have taken a toll.

“We needed to be on the field,” Miles said in his postgame address. “We needed to play games. We looked like we were playing our second game. We’re not playing very sharply.”

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the hero of LSU’s last-minute victory at Arizona State, made three crucial mistakes. His fumble at the Tennessee 28-yard line cost the Tigers a chance to add to an early lead and knock the Vols out early. Teammate Joseph Addai did the same thing in the second quarter, fumbling the ball away to Tennessee at the Vols’ 35-yard line.

Just before the half, the clock ran out on LSU when Russell tried to scramble and was tackled at the Tennessee 5-yard line. LSU had no timeouts left but would have had a shot at a sure field goal had Russell run out of bounds or thrown an incompletion.

“I think he understood an incompletion there and we kick a three-pointer,” Miles said. “A young quarterback, two-minute drill, it’s unfortunate when these things happen.”

Russell said he wasn’t thinking about running out of bounds, just making a play. “I was trying to make something happen,” he said.

Russell’s interception on third-and-eight from the LSU 22-yard line came with the Tigers clinging to a 24-14 lead. In search of Early Doucet on a corner route, Russell fired a pass right into the hands of Tennessee’s Jonathan Hefney, who returned the ball 22 yards to the LSU 2-yard line.

“He was down in my vision and he dropped back, jumped up and got it,” Russell said. “I didn’t see him.”

It wasn’t just the offense, which was ineffective throughout the second half. The defense allowed the Vols to stay alive with an excruciating performance on Tennessee’s second touchdown drive. On two consecutive third-down plays, the Tigers handed the Vols a first down with a penalty. Chevis Jackson interfered with a Tennessee receiver on third-and-seven, and Claude Wroten lined up offsides on a third-and-five. Later in the drive, Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen converted a third-and-15. The Vols finally scored on a fourth-and-goal from the 1.

“I think it’s still early,” said offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. “The second game is a tough game to say we shouldn’t be making those mistakes, especially against a tough opponent. We’ve struggled even later than this.

“Against Western Illinois in the national championship season, it was 13-7 in the third quarter. It’s going to happen. It’s something a mature team with poise is going to take care of and I think if we’re a game later in the season, maybe this doesn’t happen. We’ve got to put it on ourselves.”