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Updated: Sunday, November 24, 2002 2:14 AM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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(20) LSU 14, Mississippi 13
OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss Rebels
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LSU TIGERS
LSU Tigers
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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Ticker) -- It will not be compared to the "Bluegrass Miracle" two weeks ago, but some good fortune kept Louisiana State in the Southeastern Conference West Division race.

Cornerback Demetrius Hoofkin's interception off the helmet of fullback Tremaine Turner set up Marcus Randall's 27-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton with 6:34 remaining as the 20th-ranked Tigers rallied for a 14-13 victory over Mississippi.

"I am extremely happy for the senior players on our team, the 22 seniors who were introduced before the game and played their last game at Tiger Stadium," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "It was certainly a great atmosphere for them to finish their career."

LSU (8-3, 5-2) rebounded from last week's 31-0 loss to Alabama and can clinch a second straight trip to the SEC championship game with a victory Friday against Arkansas.

"We had to answer the question tonight about what is our indentity," LSU linebacker Bradie James said. "Before the last few games we had our identity and that was a dominant defense. We were dominant tonight."

Mississippi (5-6, 2-5), which suffered its fifth straight loss, appeared to be driving for a clinching score. But Eli Manning threw behind Turner after the Rebels had reached the Tigers 11-yard line.

The ball deflected into the hands of Hoofkin inside the 5 after it hit Turner's helmet and he raced the other way. Safety Tavarus Horne saved a touchdown by stopping Webster at the LSU 48.

But the Tigers took the lead five plays later on Randall's TD pass to Clayton.

"To intercept the ball on third-and-six inside the 10 and getting out of that situation was big," Saban said. "We fumbled the ball five times, which hurt."

Cornerback Corey Webster sealed the win by intercepting Manning inside the LSU 30 with 2:09 remaining.

"There was not an individual moment that cost us the game," Ole Miss wide receiver Mike Espy said. "We had ample opportunities to take care of LSU and put the game away. We had a couple mistakes here and there that just killed us."

Manning was sharp in the first half, but struggled after taking a hit on his right elbow. He finished 19-of-38 for 218 yards with a pair of interceptions.

Mississippi was just 5-of-16 on third-down conversions.

"It was not hurting," Manning said. "I felt fine throwing the ball. It was kind of hard to squeeze the ball at one point. It just takes time to get your strength hack."

"It was a tough, tough game and he got beat up pretty good," Ole Miss coach David Cutliffe said. "He's got a pretty good bruise on his throwing arm and elbow."

Two weeks ago, LSU stunned Kentucky, 33-30, on Randall's 75-yard TD pass to Devey Henderson on the final play of the game.

But the Tigers struggled on offense against Alabama and continued to have their problems against Ole Miss.

Rick Clausen started in place of Randall but was benched after completing just 2-of-6 passes for nine yards. He also was intercepted once and fumbled twice.

"By not starting, I got to sit back and see what the defense was doing," said Randall, who completed 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards. "I was out there and I was still focused on the game. In knew I would get my chance and when I did, I had to take advantage of it."

The Rebels jumped to a 10-0 lead on Jonathan Nichols' 36-yard field goal in the first quarter and Manning's 34-yard TD pass to Mike Espy in the second period.

LSU closed to 10-7 on Randall's 19-yard TD strike to Henderson with two seconds remaining in the first half.

Nichols kicked a 39-yard field goal with 10:08 to go in the third period to make it 13-7.

LSU, which dropped from first to fourth nationally in total defense after the loss to Alabama, held Ole Miss to just 61 yards on the ground.

Domanick Davis paced LSU on the ground with 87 yards on 17 carries. LeBrandon Toefield, who is still not at 100 percent, was limited to just 35 yards on 17 carries.


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