BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — No. 12 LSU squandered what looked like its last chance to pull out a victory. A Tennessee mistake on the same frantic sequence gave the Tigers one more shot.
The Tigers remained unbeaten with a 16-14 victory on Saturday after a Volunteers penalty for too many players on the field rescued LSU from a botched final play. LSU (5-0, 3-0 SEC) was confused on third-and-goal from the 1 and allowed the clock to run nearly to zero before a mishandled snap seemingly ended the game and sent Tennessee players streaming onto the field in jubilation.
The celebration was cut short when officials ruled the Volunteers (2-3, 0-2) had 13 defensive players on the field when the ball was snapped. Stevan Ridley then bulled into the end zone from a yard out for the wild win.
Ridley finished with 123 yards rushing. Jordan Jefferson had an 83-yard TD run on LSU’s first offensive play, but his game went downhill after that.
Jefferson came up just short when he kept the ball on the option on second-and-goal from the 1. There were 28 seconds still remaining, but suddenly LSU’s offense appeared to have no idea what to do. With the Tiger Stadium crowd screaming frantically for LSU to run a play, Jefferson hustled to the line of scrimmage in the shotgun formation.
He then mishandled the snap and fell on it as Tennessee players piled on top of him. Several LSU players threw their helmets in disgust and dejected fans started filing out when officials announced that the game was not in fact over.
“We’re a talented football team not playing very smart right now,” LSU coach Les Miles said on the field after the game. “I like the outcome. I don’t like the way we got there.”
With LSU averaging only 110 yards passing coming in, Miles decided on a two-quarterback system with Jefferson and backup Jarrett Lee getting meaningful snaps.
Lee passed for 185 yards and led most of the 16-play, 69-yard game-winning drive, completing critical passes to Terrence Toliver on third-and-13 and fourth-and-14.
He finished with 185 yards passing, but also threw an interception on a fade pass earlier in the fourth quarter as LSU was trying to come back from a 14-10 deficit.
The turnover put Tennessee in position to bury the Tigers in a hole with another score, but the Tigers’ defense got a critical stop on fourth-and-1 at the LSU 31.
Despite being a two-touchdown underdog, Tennessee was in the game the whole way. Tauren Poole’s 1-yard dive over the pile helped the Vols to a 7-7 tie at halftime. Matt Simms’ 3-yard touchdown run put the Vols in the lead with 11:34 left in the fourth quarter.
LSU outgained Tennessee 434 yards to 217, but the Tigers turned the ball over four times on three interceptions — two by Jefferson — and a fumble.