LSU slips by Ole Miss Rebels, 14-13
By By Joey Vaughan / special to The Star
Nov. 24, 2002
BATON ROUGE, La. Ole Miss led No. 20 LSU for 53 minutes at Tiger Stadium Saturday night, but LSU mounted a late comeback and beat the Rebels 14-13, extending Ole Miss' losing streak to five games.
Tiger quarterback Marcus Randall hit Michael Clayton for a 27-yard touchdown, the winning score, with 6:34 left in the game.
Ole Miss had a chance to come back, but Eli Manning was intercepted with 1:43 left to seal the LSU win.
The Rebels fell to 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the Southeastern Conference, but still can clinch a bowl berth with a win over Mississippi State Thursday night. LSU is 8-3 and 5-2, and can win the SEC West with a win over Arkansas in Little Rock Friday.
Randall came off the bench to complete 13 of 20 for 179 yards and two scores. Domanick Davis led the Tigers with 87 yards rushing on 17 carries. Manning completed 19 of 38 for 218 yards and a touchdown, but threw two fourth-quarter interceptions. The Rebels continued to struggle on the ground, rushing for only 61 yards. Tremaine Turner led the Rebs with 44 yards on 12 carries.
The teams traded turnovers early on, and Jonathan Nichols hit a 36-yard field goal to put Ole Miss up 3-0 in the first quarter. Von Hutchins picked off Rick Clausen at the LSU 40 to set up the drive.
Another LSU turnover, this one a LaBrandon Toefield fumble at the Ole Miss 8, helped the Rebels to stay ahead early. Just before halftime, Ole Miss got the ball on the LSU 43 after a 15-yard punt return by Jason Armstead. Manning hit Mike Espy for a 20-yard touchdown catch to put Ole Miss up 10-0 with 1:02 to go in the half.
But LSU responded with a 19-yard scoring pass from Marcus Randall to Devery Henderson with two seconds left. Ole Miss' soft prevent pass coverage allowed the Tigers to march 76 yards in 54 seconds.
The third quarter saw only a 39-yard field goal by Nichols to give the Rebs a 13-7 lead. A Domanick Davis fumble on his own 24 on the first Tiger play of the second half set the Rebs up for that score.
Ole Miss threatened to put the game away early in the fourth quarter, but LSU came up with a huge play of its own to shift momentum. Toefield coughed up another fumble at the Tiger 30, and three Tremaine Turner runs put Ole Miss in the LSU 8. On third down, a Manning pass bounced off Turner's helmet to Demetrius Hookfin, who returned the interception from the 3-yard line to the LSU 48, electrifying the crowd.
LSU didn't score on that possession, but on its next, Randall hit Clayton for the winning score. The Ole Miss defender fell as the pass was thrown, and Clayton sprinted into the end zone untouched. Randall had converted a fourth down on a quarterback sneak earlier to keep the drive alive.
Manning was sacked on first down on the Rebel ensuing drive, and Ole Miss had to punt following two incompletions. LSU took over at the Rebel 40, but a sack on third down forced an LSU punt.
The Rebs got one last chance, starting on their 20 with 3:17 left. They moved to midfield quickly, but Manning was picked off by Corey Webster with 1:43 left to preserve the Tiger win. Manning was looking long for Chris Collins, but Webster had position and Collins had to play defense.
The Rebels now have only five days to get ready for the Egg Bowl against MSU on Thanksgiving night. The always-intense game is the make-or-break finale for the Rebels. For State, who can't go to the postseason at 3-8, it's a chance to spoil the Rebel bowl hopes.