(Saturday, December 3rd)
Final Score: (1) LSU 42, (12) Georgia 10
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Tyrann Mathieu slipped past one defender and followed a pack of blockers, zig-zagging his way to the end zone.
Whether or not the ball crossed the goal line with Mathieu is a matter for a different day.
The undefeated LSU Tigers will play for the national title as SEC champions.
Mathieu scored on a 62-yard punt return to get No. 1 LSU out of a first-half funk, and the Tigers scored 42 unanswered points Saturday for a 42-10 win over No. 12 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
LSU had just 12 yards of offense in the first half, punting on all seven of its possessions, but Mathieu provided the spark it needed to climb out of a 10-0 deficit.
Later, Mathieu stayed on his feet for a 47-yard return to set up a touchdown that gave LSU a 21-10 lead. He had 119 punt return yards and a fumble recovery and was named MVP of the game.
"When you're given the No. 1 tag early in the season, the best way to wear it is by beating everybody," LSU coach Les Miles said in an on-field interview, surrounded by his players.
He paused, then added: "With one to play."
The Tigers (13-0) captured their 11th SEC title and first since 2007, when they went on to win the national title.
The final standings don't come out until Sunday, but LSU will play in the BCS National Championship Game on January 9 in New Orleans, about a 90-minute drive from its campus in Baton Rouge.
Kenny Hilliard, who scored three touchdowns on Saturday, was looking forward to it.
"It's gonna be packed, LSU fans all over," he said. "We're hoping it's going to be a great one."
Georgia (10-3) turned the ball over twice in the third quarter after taking a 10-7 lead into halftime. The SEC Eastern Division champions had their 10-game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since dropping their first two games of the season.
Head coach Mark Richt, whose job was on the line after an 0-2 start, said he was proud of the way his team started the game -- and proud they even made it to the Georgia Dome in the first place.
Ultimately, Richt's Bulldogs fell the way so many others have this season against the nation's No. 1 team.
"We lived out a lot of the things that other people have been living out playing those guys," he said. "Their ability to get stronger as the game goes on -- it was very evident that they were able to do that. Of course, turnovers and momentum swings certainly didn't help us in the second half."
LSU was behind the 8 ball early, but it could have been even worse.
Georgia recovered an onside kick after Blair Walsh's 40-yard field goal in the first quarter, but Malcolm Mitchell dropped a wide-open pass in front of the end zone for a sure touchdown and Walsh was wide-right from 45 yards.
Still, the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 10-0 when Aaron Murray found Aron White in between two defenders for a 12-yard touchdown later in the quarter.
The Tigers punted on all seven of their offensive possessions in the first half, but Mathieu's touchdown got them within 10-7 in the second quarter.
The dynamic cornerback slipped past one defender at the start, then cut toward the right side of the field and broke a tackle before following a group of teammates to the left, then back to the right and down to the corner of the end zone.
A slow-motion replay broadcast by CBS later on showed Mathieu tossing the ball to a referee before it crossed the goal line, but the play was never reviewed.
Mathieu's second punt return TD in nine days was the only highlight of a poor LSU first half. The Tigers rushed 13 times for five yards and Jordan Jefferson was 2-for-8 passing for seven yards.
The second half was a different story.
LSU stripped Murray of the ball as Georgia's quarterback dove for a first down and Hilliard broke three tackles for a 15-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 14-10 lead.
Hilliard scored again on a four-yard run after Mathieu's 47-yard return moved LSU to the Georgia 17. Murray was then intercepted by Tharold Simon, leading to Jefferson's eight-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard for a 28-10 lead.
"We came out and played hard. The first half we were down, but we didn't put our heads down," said Hilliard. "We came into the locker room telling each other we've been down before and we're not about to let this bother us. So we came out in the second half with fire."
In the fourth quarter, Alfred Blue scored on a 48-yard run up the middle and Morris Claiborne returned an interception 45 yards for another touchdown and the final margin.
Jefferson ended 5-of-13 for 30 yards and a TD and Blue was the game's leading rusher with eight carries for 94 yards. Jarrett Lee, who started the first nine games at quarterback for LSU this season, was sent out to kneel on the last play.
Murray went 16-of-40 for 163 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bulldogs while Hutson Mason was 4-for-11 for 55 yards.
"They did a great job in the second half," said Murray. "We just didn't make the plays when we needed to. With a team like LSU, you gotta take points when you can get them. We screwed up when we missed a couple of shots early in the game. It would have been nice to get a nice little lead, but we didn't execute on those."
LSU's Brad Wing set an SEC title game record with a 67-yard punt in the first half. He also had a 64-yarder that was the third-longest...It was the third time LSU and Georgia met in an SEC championship game and the Tigers are 2-1...Mathieu scored on a 92-yard punt return against Arkansas last Friday...LSU won the SEC Western Division after its first 12-0 regular season in program history.
12/03 21:21:10 ET