BATON ROUGE, La. — Georgia coach Mark Richt once called the Tiger Stadium crowd the loudest he’d ever heard.
Knowshon Moreno may remember Death Valley more for the hush he caused with his tackle-breaking 68-yard touchdown run.
Moreno’s long score late in the third quarter gave ninth-ranked Georgia a three-touchdown lead, and the Bulldogs held on for a 52-38 victory over No. 11 LSU on Saturday that sent many Tigers fans to the exits early.
"I didn’t hear anything but somebody behind me trying to catch me," Moreno said. "I was just running hard, trying to get an important score."
The game showcased two of the best running backs in the Southeastern Conference, and neither disappointed. Moreno gained 163 yards, while LSU’s Charles Scott gained 144 yards and scored two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1) had a big edge at quarterback, however, with the experienced Matthew Stafford calmly delivering clutch throws, none better than his 49-yard touchdown to fantastic freshman A.J. Green while the Tigers brought heavy pressure on third-and-10.
Stafford was 17-of-26 for 249 yards and two touchdowns passing, and also ran for a 7-yard score in the fourth quarter while improving to 24-5 as a starter.
"Matthew is really maturing. He is standing in there when everything’s flying around him and focusing downfield and throwing strikes," Richt said. "He’s really doing that as fine as I’ve ever seen him do it and as well as anyone I’ve ever coached."
LSU’s tandem of first-year quarterbacks lacked the big-game savvy to match the performance of Georgia’s junior.
Redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns of 40 and 53 yards by Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble. Lee was 14-of-28 for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Andrew Hatch took a couple of drive-stalling sacks and could not move the Tigers consistently against a Georgia defense that returned nine starters this season.
"The story is the mistakes," LSU coach Les Miles said. "When you play a quality opponent, you can’t give them turnovers. You can’t uncover people in coverage. You can’t let runs that should be tackled go untackled. Our football team has to learn that. That’s my job. I promise you I will go about teaching it."
The loss was a devastating one for LSU (5-2, 3-2), which still does not have a victory over a team currently ranked in the Top 25 and will have to get help to catch SEC West leading Alabama. It also marked the first time LSU ever had yielded 50-plus points more than twice in the same season.
Georgia, meanwhile, can take the SEC East lead by beating Florida in Jacksonville next weekend. Richt, now 28-4 on opponents’ fields, celebrated his latest road masterpiece by raising both arms in front of a rowdy contingent of Georgia fans while the band played Beethoven’s Ninth symphony.
Richt also had to feel good about the way Green bounced back from a lousy first half, when he didn’t have a catch. Georgia’s leading receiver finished strong with a team-high 89 yards on three receptions.
LSU receiver Brandon LaFell had 62 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while running back Keiland Williams had 113 total yards, including 83 yards and one TD receiving.
The Tigers, whose strength is their running game, looked to surprise the Bulldogs with a pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage. What happened instead was Lee’s third of what is now four interceptions returned for touchdowns in his last four games. Gamble grabbed the pass in the flat and scored easily.
"You just have to stay positive. That’s part of football," Lee said. "You never want to throw picks, but I feel like these last few games I’ve thrown a few too many and it’s just something I need to work on."
On its next drive, LSU did perhaps what it should have done from the outset. Scott carried four times for 41 yards, setting up the tying touchdown on a middle screen from Lee to LaFell on third-and-goal from the 10.
Georgia’s offense needed only one series to make its mark. Stafford converted two third-down passes and Moreno made a third-and-1 during a 78-yard drive that ended with fullback Fred Muzenmaier’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone.
Moreno ran for 47 yards on the first play of Georgia’s next drive, setting up a touchdown on a 5-yard fade that Stafford and receiver Kenneth Harris made look easy for a 21-7 lead.
LSU responded with Colt David’s 51-yard field goal, which gave David an LSU-record 320 career points, passing former Tiger running back Kevin Faulk’s 318.
Scott’s 2-yard run pulled LSU to 21-17 and LSU appeared to gaining momentum late in the second quarter, but Lee threw a first-down pass into double coverage and was intercepted by Reshad Jones. That led to Blair Walsh’s 50-yard field goal, giving Georgia a 24-17 lead at halftime.
Green’s and Moreno’s touchdowns made it 38-17, leaving the defending national champs in too deep a hole to pull out the type of fourth-quarter comeback the Tigers seemed so good at last year.