Updated: Saturday, November 22, 2003 8:54 PM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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(3) LSU 17, (15) Mississippi 14
LSU TIGERS
LSU Tigers
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OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss Rebels
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OXFORD, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Louisiana State's dream season still is alive, even as Mississippi suffered a potentially devastating loss.

Matt Mauck threw a pair of touchdown passes and the third-ranked Tigers sacked Eli Manning three times in a key 17-14 Southeastern Conference victory over the 15th-ranked Rebels.

Louisiana State (10-1, 6-1 SEC West) won its fifth straight game and will wrap up a berth in the conference title game with a victory over Arkansas on Friday. The Tigers, fourth in the Bowl Championship Series, also remained in the national title mix and their chances received a boost when fourth-ranked Ohio State lost to Michigan earlier on Saturday.

"We could have melted down, but they showed a lot of character," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "It wasn't always pretty, but they showed a lot of maturity."

Mauck completed a nine-yard TD pass to Michael Clayton in the second quarter and gave the Tigers a 17-7 lead with a 53-yard scoring strike to Devery Henderson in the fourth.

Mississippi (8-3, 6-1), in search of its first SEC title in four decades, was unable to solve an LSU team that ranked first in the nation in scoring defense. The Rebels managed just 27 rushing yards on 21 carries.

"They are definitely the best defense we've seen this year," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. "They are as good as anyone in the country in my mind."

The Rebels, however, still had a chance to tie the game with less than five minutes left before a 36-yard field goal attempt by Jonathan Nichols was wide right. Nichols also missed from 47 yards in the second quarter.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Manning, a Heisman Trophy candidate who had led the Rebels to six straight wins and put them back in the SEC title picture. But Manning spent most of the day trying to escape a ferocious LSU pass rush and completed just 16-of-36 passes for 200 yards with one interception.

"They were bringing pressure and we tried to react to it and just didn't make plays," said Manning, whose lone touchdown pass was a 10-yarder to Brandon Jacobs with 10:51 left that cut the lead to 17-14.

The Rebels' penultimate drive ended when Manning tripped over his feet while trying to drop back to pass on fourth down. Mississippi still can win the SEC West, but needs to defeat Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night and hopes LSU loses to Arkansas.

Justin Vincent of the Tigers ran for 105 yards on 22 carries.

Mauck threw for just 189 yards and was intercepted three times, including one that was returned six yards for a score by Travis Johnson just 66 seconds into the game.


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