Claws and Effect
LSU resourceful, big-play defense mauled Georgia and put the Tigers squarely in the national-title hunt
With the clock approaching the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter last Saturday, LSU had started to lose its upper hand over Georgia in their fierce SEC showdown. A fumble by Tigers quarterback Matt Mauck had been recovered by the Bulldogs. Then two plays later, Georgia tailback Tyson Browning stretched a screen pass into a 93-yard touchdown, tying the game at 10. LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais knew it was time to put the pressure on. The usually laconic senior gathered his fellow linemen and laid into them. "I said a bunch of stuff, but it came down to one thing," says Lavalais. "Suck it up."
The defense heeded the call—cornerback Corey Webster literally so, as he hoovered a David Greene pass out of midair late in the game to finish off the Bulldogs—and deserves the Tigers' share of credit for a 17-10 win that vaulted LSU to No. 7 in the nation. It's the Tigers' offense that's designed to keep opponents on their heels with its speed and big-play ability, but it was the defense that did the job against Georgia. Aside from a picture-perfect 34-yard pass from Mauck to Skyler Green that gave LSU the lead just before Georgia's last-gasp drive, the offense was plagued by costly bobbles and drops. The defense, however, broke up 10 passes, had four sacks and twice intercepted Greene, who had thrown 176 straight passes without a pick.
The 6'3", 289-pound Lavalais played his part, with five tackles, two pass breakups and a sack. Recruited by LSU in 1998 as an all-state tight end at Marksville (La.) High, Lavalais came up one point short of qualifying on his ACT. Rather than go to junior college, he worked for a year in Atlanta as a department store clerk, then returned to Marksville and took a job as a guard at Avoyelles Parish Prison, where his only workouts were breaking up inmate scuffles. LSU coaches, however, kept in touch with him and helped persuade him to give the ACT another shot After succeeding on his fifth try, Lavalais enrolled at LSU in the summer of 2000. After switching to the defense, he had 141 tackles and four sacks in his first three seasons. "He doesn't say much, but he has such a competitive spirit," says Mauck, who, like Lavalais, is 24. "And I know, from practice, that he'll read a screen pass every time."
Lavalais sounded every bit the wise elder as he recounted LSU's response to Georgia's fast start and late threat. "There were so many times we could've given up but didn't," said Lavalais. "Good teams overcome adversity"
Record Day in Oklahoma
Woods, Perkins Are Unstoppable
There was a rush on scoring records in the Sooner State last Saturday as Oklahoma State senior receiver Rashaun Woods caught seven touchdown passes in a 52-6 win over SMU and Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins returned three punts for scores in a 59-24 victory over UCLA. That much pay dirt hasn't been hit in Oklahoma since the oil boom of the early 1980s.
Woods, who had 107 receptions and led the nation with 17 receiving touchdowns last season, finished with 13 catches for 232 yards while breaking a 34-year-old Division I-A record for touchdown catches.
Perkins, though, might have been even more impressive, turning in the greatest performance ever by a punt returner, with 277 return yards and three touchdowns, both Division I-A records. The 6-foot, 188-pound junior had returned 13 punts for only 77 yards in the Sooners' first three games, but on Saturday he scored on returns of 74, 84 and 65 yards. "After I got away from the initial pursuit, my guys finished the blocks the rest of the way and made it easy," Perkins said. "It seemed like there was no one around me most of the time."
Florida State QB Chris Rix
Maturing at the Right Time