- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Justin Vincent made a statement at the Sugar Bowl without saying a word.

The freshman running back rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown last night in LSUs 21-14 victory over Oklahoma, beginning with his razzle-dazzle 64-yard scamper on the first play of the game.

As a freshman, Vincent has been off limits for interviews — coach Nick Saban does not allow freshmen to talk — but he was eloquent on the field, winning the MVP.

Vincent got the Tigers started with a quick side step and then just turned on the speed, making it to the Oklahoma 16. The big gainer was wasted when quarterback Matt Mauck bobbled a snap at the 1 and All-American defensive back Derrick Strait recovered it.

In the second quarter, Vincent capped an 80-yard scoring drive with runs of 12 yards and 18 for a score to put the Tigers up 14-7.

After the touchdown, Vincent ran toward the stands that were awash with purple and gold and held his index fingers aloft, signaling No.1 as the happy Tigers fans cheered.

The No. 1 ranking may have been only in the Bowl Championship Series, but it was enough for LSU, which rose from 14th in the preseason poll.

It also was enough for Vincent, who Saban at one time considered switching to defensive back because of the depth at running back for the Tigers.

Vincent went from fourth-team practice player to starter after he was pressed into service Oct.18 against South Carolina when injuries sidelined Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey. Vincent, who was used at defensive back for nine practices in the spring, responded quickly with 77 yards and two touchdowns.

With the big night, Vincent finished with 1,001 yards on the season and passed Dalton Hilliard (901) for the most rushing yards by an LSU freshman. Vincent finished the season with three straight 100-yard games, then rushed for a record 201 yards on 18 carries in the Southeastern Conference title game.

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