No. 12 LSU 47, No. 7 Illinois 34

Wednesday, January 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Rohan Davey, Josh Reed and Domanick Davis set so many records, LSU coach Nick Saban could only stand back and enjoy the show, while saving his toughest words for the crowd.

Unranked in late November, No. 12 LSU showed it belonged in a big game, beating No. 7 Illinois 47-34 Tuesday night in the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl ever.

Davis ran for four touchdowns, Reed caught 14 passes for 239 yards and MVP Davey threw for 444 yards. Every one of those stats set a Sugar mark.

Davey, who threw two TD passes to Reed and three overall, said he wasn't surprised. He said the LSU offense met so much with coaches in the last month that ``in the last 20 minutes, we'd go to sleep.''

``That's how comfortable we were with the game plan,'' he said.

Playing in a game more about poll position than national championship plans, the Tigers (10-3) won their school-record fifth straight bowl. Ahead 27-0 in the second quarter, they held on despite four TD passes by Kurt Kittner.

``I think we have earned a spot in the top 10 in the final poll,'' Saban said. ``We certainly proved we should be in a BCS game.''

LSU set a Sugar record Bowl by scoring 27 points in the second period en route to a 34-7 halftime lead.

``Obviously, we're disappointed with what happened,'' Illinois coach Ron Turner said. ``We dug ourselves too big a hole and couldn't get out of it.''

By then, the purple-and-gold LSU crowd had caused more problems for the Tigers than the Illini (10-2).

After Davis ran for a 4-yard score midway through the first quarter, a cup tossed from the LSU rooting section landed in the end zone.

It wasn't anything like the display at the Superdome two weeks ago when 13 people were arrested after throwing beer bottles and debris on the field. Fans were upset by an official's call during the New Orleans Saints' 34-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Even so, at the place where the Super Bowl will be played next month, it prompted stadium announcer Jerry Romig to issue a warning.

``If you throw things on the field, you'll be taken to the biggest hotel in town _ parish prison,'' he said. ``Please, stop it!''

That did no good. After Davis' 25-yard dash made it 13-0 in the second quarter, a plastic bottle and a couple of full beverage cups came flying from the same spot in celebration.

Referee Steve Usechek ran over to the sideline to talk to Saban. The coach then borrowed Usechek's microphone and, in a scene extremely unusual at a football game, addressed the partisan, sellout crowd of 77,688.

``The next time somebody throws a bottle or something out of the stands, our team is going to get penalized,'' Saban said. ``I appreciate your support, but support our team.''

Saban's words did the trick, perhaps helped by a fortified line of security personnel. Three minutes later, Davis ran for a 16-yard touchdown, and the fans celebrated with cheers instead of thrown beers.

Davis starred while starting in place of injured star LaBrandon Toefield, gaining 122 yards on 28 carries. He nearly had a fifth TD, but his catch in the end zone was called back because of a penalty.

``Early on, I told the team I was going to make the most of my opportunity,'' Davis said. ``I felt like I was in the zone.''

Reed, an All-American junior, was open all night. The Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver scored on grabs of 32 and 5 yards in what could have been his final college game.

``We weren't trying to do anything special out there,'' he said.

Davey closed out his career by going 31-of-53, guiding an offense that racked up 595 yards.

LSU won a New Year's Day bowl for the first time since the 1968 Sugar. The Illini were trying for their first major bowl win since the 1964 Rose, when Dick Butkus led them.

The NFL Hall of Fame linebacker's nephew, Illinois center Luke Butkus, wound up making a tackle in this game _ stopping an LSU defender on a fumble return.

Kittner, who had several early passes batted down, threw two TD strikes to Brandon Lloyd in the third quarter and another to Walter Young in the fourth. That made it 41-28, but LSU responded with Davis' 4-yard touchdown run.

Lloyd came back on a reverse to throw a 40-yard TD pass to Young. That score broke the Sugar record of 75 points in Florida State's 46-29 win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, 2000.

``Once we settled down, we played great football,'' Kittner said.

LSU won its sixth in a row and stopped the Illini's seven-game winning streak. It was a game of quick strikes _ all 12 TDs drives took under 3 1/2 minutes.

The Tigers also completed a three-game sweep for the Southeastern Conference in bowl matchups against the Big Ten. Earlier in the day, Tennessee trounced Michigan 45-17 in the Citrus and South Carolina beat Ohio State 31-28.

LSU won its first-ever matchup with Illinois, doing it in a game between conference champions.