No place like the dome

Kyle Riviere
LSU celebrates in the Georgia Dome after winning the 2011 SEC Championship.

Last week, the Georgia Dome was imploded. It was sad to see a building that has been such a utopia for LSU football over the years fall to its destruction.

It was the host to many renowned sporting events over the years. Along with college football, it hosted two Super Bowls, three Final Fours, the 1996 Summer Olympics and even Wrestlemania XXVII.

Still, my most vivid memories of the building will always be when the purple and gold reigned.

That place was like a haven for LSU.

They played there 11 times. In those games, they achieved a near perfect 9-2 record. This included four SEC Championship victories and four Peach/Chick-fil-A Bowl wins.

The Tigers’ first Georgia Dome experience came in 1996, when they played Clemson in the Peach Bowl.

In this defensive battle, the image that always comes to mind is Aaron Adams blocking what would have been a game-tying Clemson field goal late in the game. That play sealed LSU’s 10-7 victory.

This victory gave the Tigers their first 10-win season in nearly a decade and helped jump-start the program after a stretch of mediocrity.

LSU returned to the building for the 2000 Peach Bowl in their first season under Nick Saban.

The Tigers were big underdogs against No. 14 Georgia Tech, and early on, they fell behind, 14-3.

Saban then made a QB change, bringing in Rohan Davey. Davey led a great resurgence that included 19 fourth-quarter points in a 28-14 upset victory.

The highlight of the game was Josh Reed’s spectacular catch in the back of the end zone, when he somehow found a way to get both feet inbounds.

They were back in Atlanta the next year for the SEC Championship against second-ranked Tennessee.

The Volunteers were one victory away from the national title game, but the Tigers played spoiler.

Down 17-7 in the first half, Davey went down with an injury, giving way to Matt Mauk—who rushed for two touchdowns.

He created a spark in what became a 31-20 upset victory and LSU’s first outright SEC title since 1986.

LSU went on to beat Illinois in the Sugar Bowl.

The Tigers brought home another SEC title in 2003, as they trumped Georgia, 34-13.

The indelible images of that game are Justin Vincent’s electrifying 87-yard first-quarter touchdown run and Lionel Turner’s second-half pick-six that helped put the game away.

LSU went on to beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to claim their first national title in 45 years.

In 2005, LSU headed into the Peach Bowl as underdogs after getting beat up by Georgia in the SEC championship game (one of the Tigers’ few bad memories of the Georgia Dome) and losing quarterback JeMarcus Russell.

Matt Flynn made his first ever start and threw two touchdown passes in what become a dominating 40-3 beatdown of ninth-ranked Miami.

Two years later, it was Flynn that was hurt.

Just a week removed from a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Arkansas that was supposed to end their chances at a national title, LSU had to head into the SEC Championship game without Flynn.

Fighting off rumors that he was leaving for Michigan, Les Miles gave his most famous and impassioned address to reporters before the game.

Miles said, “I’m the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else. I got a championship game to play, and I’m excited for the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. Please ask me after. I’m busy. Thank you very much. Have a great day.”

In Ryan Perrilloux’s second start at quarterback, he was named the game’s MVP, and Jonathan Zenon closed things out with a pick-six that gave LSU a 21-14 victory.

They went on to beat Ohio State to claim another national title.

The next year, a 7-5 Tigers squad headed into the Chick-fil-A Bowl against No. 14 Georgia Tech and came out with a rousing 38-3 victory.

Their last great Georgia Dome memory came in 2011.

Down 10-0 to Georgia in the SEC Championship, Tyrann Mathieu scored on a long punt return before halftime, and then came up with another big return to start the second half.

It sparked a 42-0 run for the Tigers that clinched them an undefeated regular season and a fourth SEC title in 10 years.