One year after winning a national championship, unranked LSU found renewed reason to hope for a return to glory.
Charles Scott ran for three touchdowns, freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson completed his first nine passes and LSU made big plays on special teams in a surprisingly easy 38-3 victory win over Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Wednesday night.
LSU outscored the No. 14 Yellow Jackets 28-0 in the second quarter and led 35-3 at halftime. Scott, who had 65 yards rushing, had two touchdowns in the decisive quarter.
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LSU (8-5) lost three of its last four regular-season games but regrouped for the dominant bowl victory.
"I was real comfortable," Jefferson said after only his second start. "I had faith in my line."
When asked if he believes he should start in 2009, Jefferson said "Possibly. We'll see."
Jefferson was 16-of-25 for 142 yards and a touchdown. He added nine carries for 33 yards.
"He wasn't a freshman tonight," Scott said. "He was poised. He was smooth. He grew up a lot tonight. When he called my number, I had no hesitation."
The biggest special teams plays all fell in LSU's favor. LSU recovered an onside kick and a Georgia Tech fumbled punt return and made a fourth-down stop on the Yellow Jackets' surprising fake punt from Tech's 22.
"We have some pretty nifty special teams guys," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We felt like we needed to maybe steal some possessions and keep the ball away from their offense."
LSU turned the fumbled punt and stop on the fake punt into quick touchdowns while outscoring Georgia Tech 28-0 in the second quarter.
"We know we can do it," said LSU tight end Richard Dickson, who had a 25-yard touchdown catch. "We can beat anybody. We just had to come out and put it all together."
As if to affirm its mastery of special teams, LSU pulled off a successful fake punt in the fourth quarter, with punter Brady Dalfrey running for 21 yards for the first down. LSU led 38-3 when Miles called for the fake, and Georgia Tech fans booed the decision.
"We've kind of had that fake ready to go for a while," Miles said. "End of the season, we were getting itchy."
Georgia Tech (9-4) was denied its first 10-win season since 1998.
"I think the turning point in the game was when we lined it up and kicked it off," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.
Johnson wasn't kidding.
The opening kickoff by Scott Blair bounced out of bounds, setting the stage for what Johnson called "the worst special teams game I can remember."
The Yellow Jackets lost three turnovers, including a fumble by quarterback Josh Nesbitt on a fourth-down run from the LSU 10 with 2:37 remaining.
"We got outplayed," Johnson said. "We got outcoached. It was a good beating."
Scott scored on runs of 1, 2 and 4 yards. Backup tailback Keiland Williams added an 18-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left in the first half.
The Tigers' defense, a weakness most of the season, was rarely fooled by Georgia Tech's spread option attack.
Nesbitt completed a pass to top running back Jonathan Dwyer for 40 yards on the Yellow Jackets' first play, but that was the only first down of the opening drive.
The Yellow Jackets held the ball for 13 plays on their next drive, but LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson deflected a third-down pass for Demaryius Thomas from the Tigers' 7. Georgia Tech had to settle for Scott Blair's 24-yard field goal after holding the ball for more than 7 minutes.
"It just went downhill from there," said Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson, who said LSU was effective in seizing the momentum.
"When you get a team down, you have to put your foot on their throat. The second quarter just doomed us. That's a physical team. ... This was embarrassing."
After Scott's second touchdown run gave LSU a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter, the Tigers recovered Josh Jasper's onside kick. Stefoin Francois recovered the ball at the LSU 45.
LSU had to punt four plays later, but Andrew Smith fumbled the punt at the Georgia Tech 19. Ron Brooks recovered for the Tigers, setting up Scott's third touchdown run for a 21-3 lead.
Georgia Tech attempted a fake punt on a fourth-and-8 play from its 22, but defensive end Derrick Morgan gained only 2 yards.
Only two plays later, Jefferson completed the touchdown pass to Dickson.
The three touchdowns gave Scott 18 for the season, one behind LaBrandon Toefield's school-record 19 in 2001.
Colt David's 53-yard field goal late in the third quarter was the longest in the bowl's history.
Nesbitt completed a 47-yard pass to Marcus Wright, leaving the Georgia Tech at the LSU 16 as the third quarter ended. The Yellow Jackets couldn't take advantage of the big play, as Nesbitt was sacked by Lazarius Levingston on fourth down from the 13.
Nesbitt was 8-for-24 passing for 150 yards with an interception.
The Tigers improved to 5-0 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, including a similarly lopsided 40-3 win over Miami in the 2005 game.