ATLANTA — The Louisiana Superdome, site of LSU’s next contest in the Jan. 9 BCS National Championship Game, just got renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Should the Georgia Dome be next to get a new moniker in honor of LSU?
The Tigers improved to 9-1 in the Georgia Dome with Saturday’s emphatic 42-10 come-from-behind victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
LSU is now 4-1 in SEC title games, 4-0 in Chick-fil-A/Peach bowls and also beat North Carolina here in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic to open the 2010 regular season.
Georgia is now 4-5 in the Georgia Dome, including a 35-21 loss here to Boise State in September in this season’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Fast start fizzles
LSU trailed at halftime for the first time this season when Georgia took a 10-7 lead after two quarters. The Bulldogs took a 10-0 lead, putting the Tigers behind for just the fourth time this season. They trailed Oregon 6-3 and 13-9, Alabama 6-3, and Arkansas 14-0 and 14-7.
Georgia’s fast start was consistent with how its season has gone. The Bulldogs led 10-0 after the first quarter, increasing their first-quarter scoring advantage for the season to 105-27. They outscored their SEC opponents 63-20 in the first quarter.
It only took LSU 2:09 into the second half to erase the deficit as Kenny Hilliard’s 15-yard touchdown run gave the Tigers a 14-10 lead with 12:51 left in the third quarter. Hilliard’s 4-yard scoring run made it 21-10 with 10:37 left in the third.
LSU’s strong close was consistent with how the Tigers have played all season. LSU outscored its opponents 267-61, including 35-0 Saturday.
You have to give the game ball to LSU cornerback/kick returner Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger. He might just take the honor if he wanted it, anyway.
Mathieu scored LSU’s first touchdown on a 62-yard punt return in the second quarter, and set up the Tigers’ third with a 47-yard return in the third.
Mathieu also recovered a fumble by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the third when he was hit on a scramble by defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Just a sophomore, Mathieu already has the school record for forced fumbles in a season and a career. He took a step Saturday toward taking over the records for single-season and career fumble recoveries as well.
When he recovered Murray’s fumble, Mathieu moved into a tie for second in the LSU record books with his fifth of the season and into a tie for third with the eighth of his career.
Any numbers Mathieu accumulates in the BCS National Championship Game will count toward his season totals.
Mathieu already sits atop LSU’s career list with 11 forced fumbles and six for the season. His five fumble recoveries as a freshman in 2010 tied Mark Roman for the previous school record.
Mathieu’s 62-yard punt return was the second-longest in SEC Championship Game history behind only Mississippi State’s Kevin Prentiss, who went 83 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee in 1998.
Mathieu and Prentiss are the only players in title-game history who have taken punts back for touchdowns.
Crunching the numbers
Defense dominated perhaps as never before in the second quarter as LSU and Georgia’s offenses ground to a halt.
The Tigers and Bulldogs each netted one yard total offense in the second quarter, the only score coming on Mathieu’s punt return to pull LSU within 10-7 at intermission.
Crunching the numbers II
Along with Mathieu’s special teams score, Mo Claiborne also returned a Murray interception 45 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. LSU has eight special teams and defensive touchdowns in seven games this season.
Meanwhile, the Tigers defense has given up just six touchdowns in nine games against LSU opponents and 14 in 13 games overall.
LSU strong safety Brandon Taylor was shaken up in the second quarter but returned.
Isaiah Crowell limped off late in the first quarter after an 11 yard gain. He came in with a bad ankle, but also returned.
Georgia linebacker Mike Gilliard, the Bulldogs’ second-leading tackler entering the game, went to the locker room just before halftime on crutches and did not return. Neither did Georgia running back Carlton Thomas after a second-half knee injury.
Bevan, Mount recognized
Former LSU All-American linebacker George Bevan was honored here this weekend as the school’s SEC Legend this year. Bevan played for the Tigers from 1966-67 and in 1969, earning All-American honors as a senior.
Before the game, there was a moment of observance for LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Ben Mount of Lake Charles. Mount, 62, died earlier Saturday at his home in Lake Charles after a battle with cancer.
The BCS selection show is set for 7:15 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. ESPN will carry all the BCS bowls again this season. … LSU leads the Georgia series 16-12-1. … Gov. Bobby Jindal and his family attended the game Saturday. … Georgia kicker Blair Walsh opened the scoring with a field goal, giving him field goals in an NCAA record 44 games. He broke the old mark held by former Georgia kicker Billy Bennett (2000-03). … LSU also trailed Tennessee by 10 points (17-7) in the 2001 SEC Championship Game before rallying to win 31-20. … Only four of the 20 SEC Championship Games have been decided by a TD or less. That includes LSU’s 21-14 win over Tennessee in 2007.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Rabalais, Les East and Scott Hotard contributed.