Out of the bullpen
Davey rescues LSU against stagnant Yellow Jackets
Updated: Friday December 29, 2000 10:19 PM
ATLANTA (AP) -- The LSU fans rose from their seats when the guy wearing No. 6 slipped on his helmet, got some last-minute advice from the coaches and trotted on the field to begin the third quarter.
"Davey! Davey!" the purple-and-gold contingent screamed in unison, clearly sensing that something special was about to happen in the Peach Bowl.
They were right.
Rohan Davey, taking over for Josh Booty at quarterback in the second half, threw three touchdown passes to rally the Tigers to a 28-14 victory over No. 15 Georgia Tech on Friday.
"I told my teammates we were going to win the game," said Davey, a man of his word. "All we had to do was relax, calm down and play our game."
Davey had not played since an Oct. 7 loss at Florida, but first-year coach Nick Saban didn't hesitate to make a change when the Tigers (8-4) fell behind 14-3 at halftime.
"What we like about him the most is he's probably the best leader on the team," Saban said. "I never knew of a situation where a backup player is voted team captain. That's a compliment to him."
Georgia Tech couldn't call on the one man who might have pulled the turnover-plagued offense out of its funk.
Ralph Friedgen, the mastermind of the team's point-scoring success over the last three seasons, left to become the head coach at Maryland shortly after the final regular-season game.
Friedgen was back in Atlanta for the bowl, but only to watch his former team from a luxury box. With 31-year-old Bill O'Brien taking over as offensive coordinator, the Yellow Jackets (9-3) committed six turnovers -- half of what they had for the entire regular season.
"Those are the exact same plays we would have called if coach Friedgen was here," said quarterback George Godsey, who was responsible for four turnovers. "The execution just wasn't there. If you put the ball on the carpet like we did, then you're not going to win."
LSU was playing in its first bowl since 1997. A year ago, the Tigers went 3-8 under Gerry DiNardo, who was fired.
After managing just 117 yards in the first half with Booty at quarterback, the Tigers turned to Davey. There also was more protection up front as right tackle Brandon Winey, who wasn't even dressed in the first half because of a wrist injury, donned his pads to beef up LSU's beleaguered line.
The results were immediate. With Davey completing five passes, the Tigers went 70 yards in nine plays for their first touchdown, a 3-yard completion to a wide-open Tommy Banks.
"Davey came into the game and sparked it for them," Tech defensive end Greg Gathers said. "They just built on that momentum."
After piling up 157 yards in the third quarter to just 13 for the Yellow Jackets, LSU scored the go-ahead touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter on a brilliant catch by Josh Reed.
The 5-foot-11 receiver, running alone in the back of the end zone, jumped as high as he could to pull down the 9-yard pass, his right foot tapping inside the line just before he fell out of bounds.
John Corbello kicked a career-best 49-yard field goal before Davey finished the comeback with another 3-yard touchdown pass to Banks. The scoring play with 3:12 remaining completed a 13-play, 91-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes and clinched the offensive MVP award for Davey, who was 17-of-25 for 174 yards.
The Yellow Jackets, having averaged 33.8 points with Friedgen as coordinator, slumped to their lowest-scoring game of the year and were completely inept in the second half. They had two turnovers, managed just 100 yards and didn't escape their own end of the field until a drive in the waning minutes reached the LSU 4.
But, in a final indignity, Godsey was knocked out with a sprained left knee, the drive stalled and LSU ran out the clock.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would lose this game," Tech offensive lineman Brent Key said.
Godsey threw for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns during the regular season -- with only six interceptions -- but he didn't look like the same quarterback with O'Brien sending in the plays. The junior completed just 19-of-36 for 177 yards, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles.
"It's all on me," O'Brien said. "He didn't play well and I take responsibility for it."
Georgia Tech could have buried LSU in the first half if not for four turnovers, not to mention a motion penalty that wiped out a 59-yard touchdown pass from Godsey to Kelly Campbell.
Instead, the Yellow Jackets settled for a pair of TDs: Joe Burns' 32-yard run and Jermaine Hatch's 9-yarder.
LSU linebacker Bradie James, who missed nearly a week of practice after the death of his father, was selected the defensive MVP. He recovered two fumbles and had a sack.