Originally created 12/08/00

LSU's Saban weary of Tigers' road woes



ATLANTA - Too bad for LSU the Peach Bowl won't be played in Baton Rouge, La.

The Tigers (7-4), who represent the Southeastern Conference in the Dec. 29 game at the Georgia Dome, have won just once away from the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium since September 1998.

Their opponent in the Peach Bowl is No. 15 Georgia Tech (9-2), whose campus is just a couple of miles from the Georgia Dome.

"I think Tiger Stadium is a great place to play, we have great fans and I think that elevates our level of play a little," LSU coach Nick Saban said Thursday at a news conference promoting the game. "But if we're going to continue to progress as a team and win a championship, we're going to have to win on the road."

This year, their first under Saban, the Tigers matched their win total from the previous two seasons. The 20-9 win at Mississippi was LSU's first as a visiting team since a victory at Auburn on Sept. 19, 1998.

A home-heavy schedule helped the Tigers reach their first bowl since 1997, despite a 13-10 homecoming loss to UAB. They won five of their last seven to close out the season.

"I think losing to UAB was the biggest turning point of our season," Saban said. "The players started to develop a little bit of trust in the coaches. They felt like we were going to hang there with them and stay with them. We bounced back with a great game against Tennessee."

LSU won that game 38-31 in overtime, its first win over the Vols at Tiger Stadium since 1974. Tennessee was ranked 11th at the time.

Georgia Tech also finished strongly, winning its last seven games behind quarterback George Godsey, the sixth-ranked passer in the country.

Godsey, who replaced Heisman Trophy runner-up Joe Hamilton, threw for 2,906 yards, 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions this season. His numbers in the fourth quarter were even more impressive - he completed 74 percent of his passes for 10 TDs and just two interceptions.

"The thing that George did this year was play within his limitations," said Tech coach George O'Leary, voted ACC Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. "He didn't get himself into bad situations, and he didn't make a lot of mistakes."

Godsey put up those numbers with the guidance of Ralph Friedgen, the former Tech offensive coordinator who left to coach Maryland. Friedgen already is in Maryland preparing for next season, and he was replaced by 31-year-old Bill O'Brien.

"Ralph is a great coach and a good friend, but Billy O'Brien has been in the program for four years," O'Leary said. "Besides, coaches draw up the plays, but players have to make plays. We try to put our players in position to make plays, and hopefully they'll keep doing that."

Both schools should have large contingents of fans for the game. Tech already has sold out its allotment of tickets, and LSU has sold 15,197 of its 21,000 tickets in two days.