LSU, South Carolina, still eying titles
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Sam Montgomery's philosophical musings have led him to the conclusion that LSU has regained a certain focus, intensity and chemistry that had been lacking in recent weeks.
The proof came in the Tigers' 23-21 triumph Saturday night over a previously undefeated South Carolina team that came in ranked No. 3, a result which vaulted LSU back up the rankings from ninth to sixth.
"At the beginning of the season, it was about the national championship. But at the end of the day, it's all about family. I think we got back to that," Montgomery said. "Last year, we never would have talked about a national championship. We took it week by week by week by week, getting closer and closer."
LSU (6-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had the appearance of a team in a slide for the previous several weeks, which included several unimpressive victories over heavy underdogs, followed by a loss at Florida on Oct. 6 in which first-year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the Tigers' offense were unable to get into the end zone once.
"Maybe we needed a loss to be humbled, to get that hunger back, to get adversity knowing that everything doesn't comes so easily," said Montgomery, a defensive end, who had two sacks of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. "It was something we needed to wake us back (up), to get us playing tough, hard-nosed football."
LSU, which hasn't dropped back-to-back games since 2008, extended its school-record home winning streak to 22 games.
South Carolina (6-1, 4-1), meanwhile, was unable to extend its school-record 10-game winning streak, which dated to last season. The Gamecocks also seemed to lose a little of the swagger they had when they overwhelmed Georgia 35-7 the previous week.
Although the final score was close after a late South Carolina touchdown, LSU dominated statistically and might have won easily if not for four drives to the Gamecocks 15 or father that resulted in four field-goal attempts, one of which missed.
LSU outgained South Carolina by almost double, 406-211. The Tigers converted 11 of 19 third downs, compared to 3 of 13 for South Carolina. As a result, LSU had the ball for nearly 37 minutes.
"Our front seven didn't come to play," said South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was in on six tackles but did not have a sack. "We gave up way too many yards and too many third down conversions. We can't win like that."