Alabama vs. LSU: Mad Hatter Shows Up at Worst Time as Les Miles Costs Tigers

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 4, 2012

He had been rumored to make an appearance Saturday night in Death Valley all week, and CBS' Tracy Wolfson even asked LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles where he had been all year prior to their showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge.

Where had the "Mad Hatter" been?

Miles told Wolfson that his alter ego, the guy that went for it and converted on five straight fourth downs against Florida and called a fly route with time running out against Auburn when he only needed a field goal in 2007, "has been here all year."

He certainly made his presence felt in Death Valley on Saturday night, in No. 5 LSU's 21-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama.

Just maybe not in the way that LSU fans would have liked.

Miles called a fake field goal on 4th-and-12 from the Alabama 30 in the second quarter, called an onside kick after cutting the Alabama lead to 14-10 in the third quarter and then went for it on 4th-and-1 with a three-point lead in the fourth quarter when Spencer Ware ran the Wildcat from the Alabama 24-yard line.

The "Mad Hatter" went 0-for-3 on his gambles, and cost his team the game.

The fake field goal was the most egregious error.

Fake field goals aren't high-percentage plays to begin with, but on 4th-and-12, they are nearly impossible. A 47-yard field goal from Drew Alleman, whose career high coming in was 44 yards, isn't necessarily a sure thing, either. But it's certainly more reasonable than converting a trick play that Alabama was clearly prepared for.

Those three points would have changed the entire way this game was played.

The onside kick was a great call and should have worked had the ball not checked up too much on the second hop. Otherwise, James Hairston probably would have recovered and LSU would have kept "Uncle Mo" on its side.

But the third gamble is inexcusable. 

The Wildcat offense can be effective, but in big spots, you're basically choosing to be one-dimensional. That's never a good idea against any defense, much less one that is chock-full of future NFL stars.

Again, from the Alabama 24-yard line up three points in the fourth quarter, you don't dip into that hat. You take the points.

At the very least, you make Alabama head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart think about what play you're going to run.

The "Mad Hatter" returned, which we are all grateful for. But he returned at the worst possible times for the LSU Tigers. His return cost them the game and the SEC West.

Maybe the ultraconservative Les Miles wasn't so bad after all.