LSU's Davis rushes for four TDs in Sugar Bowl winPosted: Wednesday January 02, 2002 12:58 AM
Updated: Wednesday January 02, 2002 2:12 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Domanick Davis, Josh Reed and Rohan Davey stirred up LSU fans so much, only a rare plea from coach Nick Saban settled them down.
In the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl ever, Davis ran for four touchdowns, Reed caught two scoring passes from Davey and No. 12 LSU beat No. 7 Illinois 47-34 Tuesday night.
"This is a stepping stone for the school to be thrust into the limelight with all those other great teams," said Davey, the game's MVP.
Playing in a game more about poll position than national championship plans, the Tigers (10-3) won their school-record fifth straight bowl. Ahead 27-0 in the second quarter, they held on despite four TD passes by Kurt Kittner.
Davis starred while starting in place of injured star LaBrandon Toefield, gaining 122 yards on 28 carries and set a Sugar Bowl mark with four scores. He nearly had a fifth TD, but his catch in the end zone was called back because of a penalty.
Reed, an All-American, was open all night and set Sugar records by catching 14 passes for 239 yards. A junior, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver scored on grabs of 32 and 5 yards in what could have been his final college game.
Davey closed out his career by going 31-of-53 for a Sugar-record 444 yards and three TDs, guiding an offense that racked up 595 yards.
"Obviously, we're disappointed with what happened," Illinois coach Ron Turner said. "We dug ourselves too big a hole and couldn't get out of it."
LSU set a Sugar record by scoring 27 points in the second quarter en route to a 34-7 halftime lead.
"I really didn't understand what we were doing in the second quarter," Davey said. "Everything we did was clicking."
By then, the purple-and-gold LSU crowd had caused more problems for the Tigers than the Illini (10-2).
After Davis ran for a 4-yard score midway through the first quarter, a cup tossed from the LSU rooting section landed in the end zone.
It wasn't anything like the display at the Superdome two weeks ago when 13 people were arrested after throwing beer bottles and debris on the field, upset by an official's call during the New Orleans Saints' 34-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Even so, at the place where the Super Bowl will be played next month, it prompted stadium announcer Jerry Romig to issue a warning.
"If you throw things on the field, you'll be taken to the biggest hotel in town -- parish prison," he said. "Please, stop it!"
That did no good. After Davis' 25-yard dash made it 13-0 in the second quarter, a plastic bottle and a couple of full beverage cups came flying from the same spot in celebration.
Referee Steve Usechek ran over to the sideline to talk to Saban. The coach then borrowed Usechek's microphone and, in a scene extremely unusual at a football game, addressed the partisan, sellout crowd of 77,688.
"The next time somebody throws a bottle or something out of the stands, our team is going to get penalized," Saban said. "I appreciate your support, but support our team."
Saban's words did the trick, perhaps helped by a fortified line of security personnel. Three minutes later, Davis ran for a 16-yard touchdown and the fans celebrated with cheers instead of thrown beers.
LSU won a New Year's Day bowl for the first time since the 1968 Sugar, back in the day when Pete Maravich was the big star on the Baton Rouge campus, about 70 miles from New Orleans.
The Illini were trying for their first major bowl win since the 1964 Rose, when Dick Butkus led them. The NFL Hall of Fame linebacker's nephew, Illinois center Luke Butkus, wound up making a tackle in this game - albeit when stopping an LSU defender on a fumble return.
Kittner, who had several early passes batted down, threw two TD strikes to Brandon Lloyd in the third quarter and another to Walter Young in the fourth. That made it 41-28, but LSU responded with Davis' 4-yard touchdown run.
Lloyd came back on a reverse to throw a 40-yard TD pass to Young. That score broke the Sugar record of 75 points in Florida State's 46-29 win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, 2000.
"I did everything I could do at halftime to tell our team we needed to play 60 minutes," Saban said.
LSU won its sixth in a row and stopped the Illini's seven-game winning streak. It was a game of quick strikes -- all 12 TDs drives took under 31/2 minutes.
The Tigers also completed a three-game sweep for the Southeastern Conference in bowl matchups against the Big Ten. Earlier in the day, Tennessee trounced Michigan 45-17 in the Citrus and South Carolina beat Ohio State 31-28.
Out of the rankings through late November, the Tigers proved they belonged in a top game. They won their first-ever matchup with Illinois, doing it in a game between conference champions.