Georgia vs. LSU in SEC Championship game history

Georgia and LSU have met in the SEC Championship game three times, the first matchup in 2003 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Georgia will look to even a score of sorts Saturday when it faces LSU in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The teams met in three SEC title games — all at the former Georgia Dome — with LSU winning twice. If Georgia can even the SEC score with a win Saturday, it would find itself playing for a bigger prize — a national championship as one of four semifinalists.

Here’s a look back at Georgia vs. LSU in the SEC Championship game:

2003 – LSU 34, Georgia 13

LSU freshman Justin Vincent didn’t play in the regular season meeting with Georgia, a 17-10 LSU victory. But he rushed for an SEC championship game-record 201 yards and two touchdowns against a talented Georgia defense.

Vincent’s 87-yard TD run set the tone in the first quarter, the first of four straight LSU scores.

The run was the third-longest in LSU history, the school’s longest since 1952, the longest in the SEC that season and the longest ever in an SEC championship game. There was nothing fancy about it. It was a simple toss sweep around right end that was expertly executed and devastatingly blocked by the Tigers. The rest can be attributed to Vincent’s impressive speed and the unique blocking ability of one SEC official.

The first breakdown was by Georgia safety Sean Jones. Safeties have to be sure of containment but Jones took a bad angle on the swift Vincent, who used a stiff-arm to deflect his diving tackle attempt. Next came safety Thomas Davis, a converted linebacker, who simply didn’t have the speed to catch Vincent down the sideline.

Finally, cornerback Bruce Thornton, one of Georgia’s fastest defenders, appeared to have an angle on Vincent, although it would have been deep in Bulldogs territory. But a referee, running inside Vincent near the hashmarks, inadvertently crossed in front of Thornton, knocking him to the ground. Vincent cruised into the end zone.

Vincent became the first freshman to be named MVP in the SEC title game. LSU would later share the national title with USC.

2005 – Georgia 34, LSU 14

UGA assistant coach Jon Fabris refused to take credit for the blocked punt that turned the tide in Georgia’s win, but everybody else on the Bulldogs’ sideline was giving it to him.

Fabris recognized a weakness on LSU’s punt team and designed a specific play to take advantage of it. Bryan McClendon was the beneficiary of the plan, blocking Chris Jackson’s punt with 9:44 remaining in the first half and swinging momentum back to the Georgia sideline.

“That definitely was a game-changing play and it’s all because of Coach Fab,” McClendon said. “He scouted them real good and all I had to do was do my job.”

“Strategy and scheming only work as well as the players execute it,” Fabris said. “We had some guys make some plays.”

The play was actually designed for defensive back Ramarcus Brown to block the kick. Brown’s usual responsibility on punt returns was to run downfield and block the opposing team’s “gunner,” who is usually lined up near the sideline. But as the LSU up-back began the snap count, Brown started to shuffle in toward the line of scrimmage, cheating in closer and closer. By the time the ball was snapped, Brown was halfway to the end and running full speed.

The wingback protecting the left side had to make an almost instantaneous decision to block either McClendon or Brown. He chose Brown on the outside and McClendon came through on the inside. After the block, LSU’s Jackson scooped up the loose ball but was brought down deep in LSU territory.

The timing could not have been better for the Bulldogs. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the half and Georgia clinging to a 14-7 lead, momentum had swung over to the LSU sideline after two early Bulldogs touchdowns.

But after the block, Georgia took over at the LSU 15. Quarterback D.J. Shockley scored on a 7-yard scramble, the Bulldogs went ahead 21-7 and were never threatened again.

2011 – LSU 42, Georgia 10

The “Honey Badger” was a game changer.

With Georgia leading 10-0 in the waning minutes of the first half — LSU had yet to make a first down — Tigers safety Tyrann Mathieu made three plays within 10 minutes spanning second and third quarters to flip the game.

Mathieu first returned a 62-yard punt for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the half. Next, he recovered a fumble to set up the Tigers’ first offensive score early in the third quarter. He followed that with a highlight-reel 47-yard punt return to set up yet another score just two minutes later.

On that return, Mathieu took off down the center of the field, cut back to his left, stutter-stepped, turned on a burst of speed, and then came to a stop around the Georgia 30, before taking off again. He was finally dragged down at the 17.

By the 10:37 mark of the third quarter, LSU led 21-10 and had seized momentum to the point that victory seemed inevitable. As they had done all season, the Tigers only stepped on the gas from there.

Mathieu was the runaway pick as game MVP. He finished with 119 all-purpose yards as well as four tackles and a pass breakup. His touchdown was his fourth of the season.

“I just wanted to do as much as I could for my team,” said Mathieu, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound sophomore. “We started out slow and I wanted to shift the momentum of the game.”

In the national title game, LSU would lose 21-0 to a familiar foe: Alabama, which had missed out on the SEC Championship game because of a November loss to the Tigers.