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(113) 2003 LSU - 35
(144) 1998 UCLA - 24
(241) 1993 Wisconsin - 17
(16) 1998 Tennessee - 26
(113) 2003 LSU - 41
(16) 1998 Tennessee - 38 (3OT)
Nick Saban's best team vs Phil Fulmer's best team; An SEC rivalry; great defense; a ton of points (thanks to the three overtime periods) - this game had it all. If you can believe it, the score at halftime was knotted up 7-7 thanks to the play of the defenses. Deon Grant had an interception and a sack for the Vols as they made a meal out of LSU QB Matt Mauck in the early going. Linebackers Al Wilson and Raynoch Thompson combined to take away the running game.
The LSU defense matched them play for play. Corey Webster picked off a Tee Martin pass and Chad Lavalais and Marcus Spears picked up sacks in the first half.
The offenses got it going a little bit in the second half, though. Tee Martin started the fireworks by scrambling out of the grasp of Marquise Hill and finding Peerless Price streaking down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown. LSU answered with a nice 23-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback Justin Vincent, and the teams traded touchdowns one more time in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.
With the defenses now worn down after a very intense four quarters, each team was able to score touchdowns on their possessions in the first two overtimes. In fact, after a first half of football that saw just 213 combined yards of total offense, the Tigers and Vols combined to amass over 550 yards in the second half and overtime periods.
Nick Saban had LSU playing with a chip on their shoulder that came from being an underdog yet again, and their toughness showed up in the third overtime period. After Jamal Lewis ran for 22 yards down to the 1 yard line on the second play of the Tennessee possession, Lavalais rallied his defensive troops and fired them up. The Tigers proceeded to hold Tennessee out of the end zone for the first time since late in the third quarter and force a field goal. Mauck wasted no time, grabbed the momentum and ran with it. The senior threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson on the first play of LSU's ensuing possession to win the game.
It's hard to believe the miracle '98 Volunteers won't be participating in the Bracket of Champions, but you've got to be better than great to win this tournament.