Football Writers Association of America 2001 BEST WRITING CONTEST
COLUMN | ENTERPRISE | FEATURE | GAME | LOOSE DEADLINE

FIRST PLACE: LOOSE DEADLINE
Glenn Guilbeau, Baton Rouge Advocate

It's Sunday morning at Tiger Stadium.

There are parts of both goal posts strewn across the south end zone and near the LSU sideline. Huge chunks of grass are missing from the field.

There's not enough Visine in East Baton Rouge Parish to remedy the eye of the Tiger design at midfield.

LSU facilities officials took sod from the outer area of the school's soccer fields Sunday afternoon to replenish the most damaged part of the field in the end zones.

Ah, the smell of reconstruction in the morning. It smells like victory - a 38-31 upset of No. 11 Tennessee in overtime Saturday night to be exact.

The goal posts that fans ripped down within minutes of the final play will be replaced at a cost of about $5,000 apiece.

"Whatever it costs, it's worth it," LSU Athletic Director Joe Dean said.

Fortunately for LSU, there will be plenty of time to get the field back in shape.

LSU (3-2, 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) plays at No. 12 Florida (4-1, 2-1) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in a Jefferson Pilot game of the week that will be aired locally on WAFB Channel 9. The Tigers' next home game will be Oct. 14 against Kentucky.

"I hope we can get to where we expect to win games like this," LSU facilities manager Jeff Kershaw said. "That way, we won't have to clean this up every time we win a big game. It was ugly this morning. Ugly."

But oh so beautiful for most of the 91,682 who were there.

Fans rushed the field from the north end zone and northwest corner just after Tennessee quarterback A.J. Suggs' fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the north end zone.

Amid the chaos, LSU backup linebacker Chris Cooper began yelling at the top of his lungs: "We shocked the world! We shocked the world!"

Suddenly, linebacker Bradie James was lifted and carried off by fans like a gladiator, only to be accidentally dropped seconds later.

"I got up, but then I had to help pick some other people up," James said. "Then the goal posts almost hit me in the head. Then I had to put my head down and bull through people to get to the locker room."

Meanwhile, cornerback Fred Booker lost his helmet amid the bedlam, and LSU safety Ryan Clark was hit in the head by a part of the goal post.

"Luckily, I still had my helmet on," Clark said. "I got mobbed, but I never once got mad at anybody. It was great. I was happy for them, and they were happy for me. So we all just smiled and laughed it up. I was a little scared, though."

So was James.

"It seemed like they wouldn't let me get out," he said. "A lot of guys were coming up, slapping me on the helmet and giving me a minor concussion. But it was wonderful. We know a lot of people were against us. It was us against the world and we came out there and performed."

And the world was watching.

On Sunday afternoon, LSU quarterback Rohan Davey was named the national player of the week by CNNSI.com after the Jamaican-born junior fought off ankle and knee injuries to complete 23 of 35 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

It was the first 300-yard passing game by an LSU quarterback since 1995 when Jamie Howard threw for 356 in a 52-7 win over Rice. It was the ninth best passing performance in LSU history. Davey, who also set career highs for completions and touchdowns, threw the eventual, game-winning touchdown on the first play of overtime - a 25 yard-pass to tight end Robert Royal for the 38-31 lead.

Meanwhile, LSU tailback LaBrandon Toefield's 74-yard touchdown run won the ESPN.com voting for Saturday's Play of the Day.

Toefield, who finished with 120 yards on 15 carries, stiff-armed Tennessee cornerback Rashad Baker for nearly 25 yards on the play. The score gave the Tigers a 17-3 lead in the second quarter.

LSU, which received a curious single vote in the Associated Press poll last week after losing to Alabama-Birmingham 13-10, received 15 AP votes Sunday and six from the coaches' poll.

"I was really impressed by LSU hanging in there after Tennessee scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and got both two-point conversions," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday of Tennessee's comeback from a 31-15 deficit in the fourth quarter, forcing the first overtime in Tiger Stadium history.

"I think LSU's very excited and they've got a lot of momentum," Spurrier said. "I wasn't completely surprised. LSU's got a great coaching staff and some excellent players."

Davey led LSU's charge despite continued aggravation from an off-season knee injury and an ankle injury sustained in the second quarter Saturday. He limped and hopped throughout the game.

"He's a tough guy," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "He hurt his ankle several times in the game. A couple of times we were thinking that we might have to put Josh (Booty) in because Ro wouldn't be able to go. But Ro thought he could go, and he did a good job."

Davey, who started his first game since early in the 1999 season, is 44 of 59 for 736 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions through his last four games, including the '99 finale against Arkansas.

"Rohan's got that special leadership," Toefield said. "That's what we need in the huddle. Rohan comes in the huddle and he's pumping everybody up, saying do this, do that. He's just a good leader."

Davey was also able to lead himself back to the locker room in one piece after the game.

"It was crazy," Davey said. "I've never seen it like that. People grabbing me, trying to take your helmet and that type of thing. It was crazy."

By the way, has anyone seen Booker's helmet?

Comment from the judge, Kevin Sherrington: Nice blend of the financial (cost of new goalposts), agricultural (replacement of torn up turf) and comical (vignettes of players dropped and nearly mauled by delirious fans) in aftermath of LSU victory. All the bases covered except for the question asked at the end: Where's that helmet?

Second place: Steve Helwagen, Buckeye Sports Bulletin
Third place: Ron Higgins, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Honorable mention: George Schroeder, Daily Oklahoman