Tennessee 30, LSU 27
Tennessee refused to be part of LSU's feel-good story.
Gerald Riggs Jr. pushed into the end zone from a yard out in overtime to give the 10th-ranked Volunteers a 30-27 comeback win Monday night in the Tigers' long-awaited, hurricane-delayed home opener.
LSU transfer Rick Clausen led the Volunteers (2-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to tie it at 24 with 2 minutes 2 seconds left on a field goal.
"Getting done what he got done, coming back here to win this football game at a place where he had been, I don't know if there is a better story in the world than what this guy has done," Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer said.
The Tigers had first crack in overtime, but managed only a 31-yard field goal by Colt David.
Riggs accounted for all the Vols' yards in overtime with a 10-yard reception and four runs. He powered through the line and into the end zone to send the hurricane-weary Louisianans home with a bitter loss.
Hurricane Katrina forced the No. 4 Tigers to postpone their first home game, and move their second to Arizona State, where LSU came away with a dramatic win.
Then Hurricane Rita forced another delay and set up the first Monday nighter in Tiger Stadium.
The crowd was a bit smaller than usual, but they were loud as ever and the Tigers (1-1, 0-1) certainly looked like a team eager to play when they jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half.
"There was no panic," Fulmer said. "We challenged each other."
Clausen came off the bench to rally Tennessee with a touchdown pass and a one-yard touchdown sneak that made it 24-14 with 9:35 left.
He finished 21 for 32 for 196 yards and appeared to settle the Vols' quarterback controversy.
Jonathan Hefney intercepted JaMarcus Russell and returned it 26 yards to the LSU 2 on the next possession. When Riggs scored from two yards out with about 71/2 minutes to play, the crowd went silent as the lead was down to three.
Then Tennessee's defense forced another LSU punt and Riggs's 22-yard run helped get James Wilhoit in position for a 28-yard field goal that tied it.
LSU had one last shot in regulation when LaRon Landry intercepted a pass at the Tigers 45 with 17.7 second left. But all LSU could manage was a last-play end zone heave that was picked off as time expired.
Tennessee, which had managed just 24 points in its first two games, again was lost offensively in the first half with Erik Ainge starting at quarterback. Ainge's fumble set up the first score and his ill-advised desperation throw out of his own end zone turned into a 3-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kenneth Hollis.
Ainge was inadvertently slammed into the goal post base by Cameron Vaughn on the touchdown and shaken up.
Clausen relieved with the Vols down by three touchdowns halfway into the second quarter, but it was unclear if it was because of injury or ineffectiveness. Ainge finished 7 for 19 for 54 yards.
The three-touchdown lead could have been even bigger for the Tigers. They lost two fumbles in Tennessee territory and watched time run out in the half with the ball at Vols 5.
Clausen led the Volunteers on their first sustained drive to open the second half. Clausen, who may have finally taken hold of the starting job, went 6 for 7 for 40 yards on the opening drive of the second half, hitting Bret Smith with an 8-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7.
Chris Jackson's 42-yard field goal made it 24-7 and seemed to give momentum back to the Tigers. But Clausen and the Vols' defense would not let Tennessee lose two straight.
A moment of silence was held for the victims of the hurricanes before the game, and LSU's band played "Walking in New Orleans" before the alma mater and national anthem.
The stadium announcer welcomed the fans to the first major sporting event since the storms with these words: "On this evening we vow to move forward under a common flag because this is LSU football; this is Tiger Stadium; and this is Louisiana."
With that, a deafening roar came from the crowd -- one that was matched about 15 minutes later when Joseph Addai ran 19 yards for a touchdown on LSU's first play from scrimmage to take a 7-0 lead.