ATLANTA -- LSU’s vaunted rushing attack ran into a wall in the first half. Unable to find any running room, the Tigers only had five rushing yards, and starting tailback Spencer Ware had only seven yards on four carries.
Needing a spark, the Tigers gave the ball to 240-pound Kenny Hilliard on the goal line, and Alfred Blue sealed the game with a 48-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave Blue a team-high 92 yards on eight carries.
LSU had 202 rushing yards in the second half.
Coupled with a change in momentum, LSU’s change of personnel made all the difference. A bowling ball at the goal line, Hilliard racked up 72 yards on eight carries, caught an 8-yard touchdown pass and scored three touchdowns in LSU’s 21-point third-quarter swing.
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“Kenny made a couple of key cuts and very key runs in that game,” coach Les Miles said. “He looked like he had the hot hand, and we didn’t want to go away from him.”
Going into the locker room at halftime, Miles told CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson that it was “very possible” that he’d consider putting Jarrett Lee into the game in relief of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
“We gave thought to it,” Miles said. “There were some parts of the offense that he didn’t give us, and so we stayed with it.”
At the time, LSU only had 12 yards on 21 plays, the Tigers had gone three-and-out on all seven drives and Jefferson only had one completion for positive yardage.
Miles never had to make the move. A turnover and a Tyrann Mathieu punt return set up touchdowns to give LSU the lead, and Jefferson handled quarterback duties the rest of the game.
“(Miles) knew what we needed to do as an offense and keep it going,” Jefferson said. “He knew there were open opportunities.
LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, a 306-pound sophomore normally tasked with swallowing up blocks so the Tigers’ faster players can get to the ball, came up with one of his best performances of the season to slow down the Georgia attack.
Brockers finished with six tackles, made two tackles-for-loss, broke up a pass and came up with a big play early in the second half.
On Aaron Murray’s fumble, Brockers knocked the ball loose. Two plays later, LSU had a 14-10 lead.
When cornerback Morris Claiborne returned a Murray pass 45 yards for a score in the fourth quarter, he gave LSU its fifth defensive touchdown this season. … Free safety Eric Reid, who was questionable most of the week with a thigh injury, made a team-high seven tackles for LSU. … LSU overcame a 10-point second-quarter deficit to win its first SEC championship game appearance in 2001.