Staff Photo: Jason Braverman LSU's Kevin Minter (46), a Peachtree Ridge grad, puts a block to UGA's Ben Jones during the second half of Saturday's SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome.
ATLANTA -- Kevin Minter couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.
"The best," the Peachtree Ridge grad and LSU linebacker said shortly after the Tigers' 42-10 win over Georgia in Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. "I feel amazing. I appreciate this team. I appreciate being a part of this. This is the reason I came to LSU -- to win championships."
And the 6-foot-2, 242-pound sophomore played a big role in the victory while celebrating his 21st birthday with six combined tackles, including two big ones on Isaiah Crowell in the second quarter and another on Malcom Mitchell in the third quarter that drew groans from the sellout crowd of 74,515, which, along with the big day by Tyrann Mathieu, helped spark the Tigers comeback from an early 10-0 deficit.
"We came out kind of flat," Minter said. "But in the second half, we came out with an attitude. We always knew we had the game in hand. We just had to push the issue and execute."
Best foot forward
The two teams' punters were definitely on their game Saturday.
First, they exchanged kicks in the first quarter that put each on the list of superlatives in the 20-year history of the SEC Championship Game.
LSU's Brad Wing first boomed a 64-yard punt that left him just a yard short of the title game record of 65 set by Florida's Alan Rhine in the 2000 game.
Then on the next possession, Georgia's Drew Butler nearly matched him.
After a 54-yard punt was negated by a penalty, the Peachtree Ridge grad got of a 62-yard skyrocket that left him third on the game's all-time list.
Wing then answered early in the second quarter with a 67-yard missle that vaulted him past Rhine and into the top spot.
Overall, Butler's average of 51.6 yards per punt and Wing's average of 50.5 left them first and second for the longest averages in title-game history, passing the previous mark of 50.0 set by South Carolina's Spencer Lanning a year ago.
Still more for the books
The kickers weren't the only players on the field during punts that made it into the record books.
Mathieu's 62-yard return of a Butler punt for a TD that pulled LSU to within 10-7 with 5:48 left in the first half was the second longest in title game history, trailing only an 83-yard return by Mississippi State's Kevin Prentiss in the 1998 game.
And despite his big day punting the ball, Butler accepted responsibility for Mathieu's big play -- as well as a 47-yard return that led to a third-quarter touchdown -- even though plenty of Bulldogs had opportunities to make a tackle on both plays.
"I left my guys out to dry on the touchdown," Butler said. "You can't give someone with that talent an opportunity. I didn't get enough hang time.
"My instructions for the game were to keep the ball on the short side of the field and I was able to do that pretty much. But that one early in the second half went off the side of my foot and he almost returned that to the house, too. It was just poor execution on my part. I'm better than that."
There were numerous clock issues that caused several brief delays during Saturday's game.
Most of them had to do with the 40-second play clock, which failed several times throughout the first half and early in the second.
The overall game clock also malfunctioned early in the third quarter before finally being repaired by the 8:08 mark.