In week five of the 2004 season, LSU traveled to Athens to face a top-five Georgia team. It would be the lowest point of the 2004 season, as the third-ranked Bulldogs took out a year's worth of frustration on the Tigers, 45-16. David Greene threw five touchdowns as Georgia more than exercised the demons of the two losses in 2003. It dropped LSU to 3-2 on the season and 1-2 in the SEC. With Auburn continuing to role with a huge 34-10 win at Tennessee, it was starting to look like a repeat SEC West title wasn't in the cards.
But more disturbing, was the way the Tigers had folded in the second half. Jamarcus Russell had led two scoring drives just before the half in Athens as LSU cut the score to 24-10, but back-to-back touchdown tosses from Greene allowed Georgia to pull away. He only completed 10 of 18 passes on the day, but Greene was uncanny at tossing some deep fade throws to Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson, while LSU stubbornly continued to play man-to-man coverage. On top of that, the Bulldogs thoroughly dominated the line of scrimmage, with 250 yards rushing on offense and six sacks on defense. The icing on the cake was Xavier Carter's infamous kneel on the one-yard line on a kickoff return, following indecision on whether to bring the ball out of the endzone.
It's probably the worst loss any Nick Saban team has taken in the last 10 years in terms of point spread (I haven't researched), and nobody in Baton Rouge was prepared to see the Tigers so thoroughly dominated.
And lucky for all of you, there don't appear to be any highlight videos on Youtube. Only the full gamecast, which I'm not masochistic enough to sit through.
LSU didn't have long to lick their wounds, as the very next week would feature a trip to Gainesville, to face the No. 12 Florida Gators.
- The Gators came in 3-1 under soon-to-be-doomed head coach Ron Zook. The one loss, a controversial, last-minute loss in Neyland Stadium to Tennessee. Fun fact -- the Gators haven't lost to Tennessee since.
- I don't have many memories of this day. There was a bit of pessimism around this game from the week before, but also a sense that maybe the revenge factor would be flipped with LSU out to get back at Florida for 2003's lone blemish. I do remember that I watched the first half at my apartment before running to the newsroom in Bogalusa to watch the second half and be ready to send out the Sunday edition with the Associated Press wire story of the result.
- Saban decided to give Russell his first career start in this game, despite it being played in one of the SEC's toughest venues, AND Marcus Randall completing 10-13 passes the week before. It was a curious choice, but by best guess was that he wanted to try and start looking to the redshirt freshman as the future, as Randall would be gone after this year.
- Florida of course, started a sophomore Chris Leak, who many believed was on the verge of superstardom after some strong play as a true freshman the previous season.
- Everybody remembers Russell's interceptions, but LSU's opening drive was solid. Seven plays, 35 yards. But it ended with Chris Jackson missing a 48-yard field goal. But on the first play of LSU's second possession, he low-balls an open receiver and Demetrice Webb is able to snag the ball and return it inside the 10 to set up Florida's first touchdown.
- Florida's Ciatrick Fason is one of my favorite "what the hell happened to that guy?" players of the last 10 years. He had about 1,500 yards of offense for Florida in 2004 as a junior, declared for the NFL draft, was drafted in the fourth round by the Minnesota Vikings and was never heard from again.
- LSU would be forced to start from its own endzone after a Gator punt was downed at the one, and there's Russell handing the Gators another easy 7 with another interception. Russell had a receiver breaking open on a comeback route, but the pressure forced a back-foot throw that didn't have enough on it and would be snagged by Jarvis Herring.
- Russell goes down awkwardly on a sack and comes out, and enter Randall. He'd complete three of his first four passes in leading LSU to its first points of the night.
- Anybody else hope Cam Cameron dusts off that little counter-action shovel-pass that Randall completes to Skyler Green there?
- Well look at Joseph Addai picking up 13 on his very first touch of the game! Starting Russell was a point of controversy for some, but if you want to talk weird personnel choices from the beginning of this one, Shyrone Carey already had a couple of carries before Addai would get his first, midway through the second quarter.
- Still, the Tigers would stall, while Leak would lead a nine-play, 63-yard touchdown drive, converting three big third downs, including on an 18-yard touchdown pass to O.J. Small.
- But Randall responded with a hell of a two-minute drill, completing all five of his passes for 61 yards. A Florida personal foul penalty helped , but Randall still threw a strike to Early Doucet to cut the deficit to 21-14 right before halftime.
- LSU scratched together another score with a 9-play, 49-yard drive on its first possession of the third quarter, ending with a 47-yard kick from Jackson. Alley Broussard scratched out 17 yards on four carries, but Addai was nowhere to be seen.
- Randall would throw an interception of his own on the next drive, but the Tiger defense managed to hold. Kirston Pittman's sack was LSU's only of the night, but it would be crucial.
- An 11-play, 75 yard drive set up LSU's shortest field goal on the night, but when Florida blocked Jackson's 35-yard attempt, it began to occur to me that the offense was running out of opportunities.
- Skip ahead to the game's final two-and-a-half minutes. Leak breaks the pocket, and seems to have an easy first down but Jessie Daniels is johnny-on-the-spot to set up a punt that would give LSU the ball at midfield with just over two minutes left.
- The resulting six-play, 50-yard drive would be the Joe & Marcus show, with the former picking up 34 yards on three carries, while the latter hit both of his passes.
- And all 34 of those yards, tough, hard-nosed yards. Addai really carried the load here.
- There it is -- a Jimbo Fisher short-yardage passing favorite: play-action off of a jet-sweep to the slot receiver, while the running back runs a waggle action. Randall executes the play incredibly well with Florida defending it about as well as they can, and then Addai gets the first down, keeps his feet an just fights inside the pylon through a tackle.
- And the Tigers close it out. Randall finished 18-of-27 on the night for 198 yards, plus another 46 on the ground on 10 carries, with two touchdowns. Addai had 93 yards on just 10 carries, along with another 26 on four catches. Randall's night was enough to grab the starting job back from Russell from the time being, although unfortunately, neither would prove capable of holding on to the job for long...