LSU recovered a Georgia fumble early in the third quarter. Three plays later, with a magnificent leap, Malik Nabers caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Nussmeier, the LSU backup who entered the game after Daniels had limped away from the field around the intermission.
LSU soon got the football again, but the Bulldogs’ defense, so often stout under Smart, stopped the Tigers on fourth and 1 at the Georgia 5.
Similarly revived, the Georgia offense assembled an eight-play drive that largely relied on blazing runs, including one that lasted for more than half of the field, for a touchdown. LSU ran a touchdown later in the third quarter but missed a 2-point conversion, a score made less significant when Georgia sent Kenny McIntosh darting rightward for what was his second touchdown of the day.
When Georgia reached the “half a hundred” threshold that a longtime nemesis, Steve Spurrier of Florida, used to seek, a contingent of LSU fans concluded they had seen enough, or at least wanted to beat traffic. There would be assorted other bursts of activity, but an interception near the goal line had already sent more of them fleeing.
They had, in some respects, seen the inverse of this particular show in the relatively recent past.
The teams had last met in the SEC championship game in 2019, when a swaggering LSU squad marched into Atlanta, routed Georgia and locked up the No. 1 seed. The Tigers went on to win the national championship before they endured two years of misery and the midseason ousting of the coach who had led them to the title.
Perhaps LSU, which came nowhere near repeating its championship run, is on the brink of a resurgence. But Georgia has gone 36-3 since it crumbled before the Tigers. By mid-January, with a title game berth a distinct possibility, it could be 38 victories.
“We came here with a plan to have a connected assault,” Smart said. “We talked about it all week. We wanted our team to stay connected, and they did that. Our team kind of played this game like they played the whole season: unbelievably well in spurts and unbelievably poor in spurts — and answered the bell when they had to.”
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