ATLANTA — Returning to his home state for the final game of his junior season, LSU linebacker Kevin Minter showed everyone back home what most fans in Louisiana saw all season.
Minter finished with 19 tackles Monday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to go with one sack and two tackles for loss, falling two stops short of matching the LSU record for tackles in a game.
About the only thing missing for the Suwanee, Ga., product was a win.
Clemson rallied in the final minutes for a 25-24 victory, sealing the win with two late scores against an LSU defense that was on the field for 100 plays.
“Kevin Minter is an all-in guy,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Just a great leader, a great player. Instinctive.”
Minter capped a breakout season in which he finished with 130 tackles, placing him fourth in the LSU record books for single-season tackles.
No player since Bradie James in 2002 had finished with more.
With those kind of numbers, it’s no wonder Minter was voted team MVP by his LSU teammates.
“That guy, wow,” LSU offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk said.
“I can’t say enough about what it’s been like to play with Kevin and have him as one of the leaders on defense.”
Returning to the Georgia Dome for the second time of his career, Minter looked like an even better version of the sophomore who helped LSU beat Georgia here in last year’s Southeastern Conference championship game.
Minter had 14 tackles against Clemson in the first half.
He may have gotten to 21 stops by game’s end — the school record, set by Al Richardson in 1982 — had he not missed a chunk of plays in the second half because of leg cramps.
It was the second time this season Minter flirted with breaking Richardson’s single-game record. He had 20 tackles, including 17 solo stops, in a loss at Florida.
“He was everything you want in a middle linebacker,” Dworaczyk said.
Having received his degree from LSU earlier this month, Minter has the option of returning for his senior season or declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft.
If he decides to move on, then his last game as a Tiger will have been a memorable one.