In what's become a staple in the Les Miles era at LSU, the Tigers participated in another gut-wrenching contest on Saturday in Athens, Ga.
LSU, who went in as a three to four-point underdog (depending on your book) in Athens basically meant that Vegas viewed these teams as pretty equal.
And for much of the game, the Tigers proved to be better in most categories except one, the scoreboard.
The Tigers' D stuffed UGA's offense most of the day. The Bayou Bengal offense moved the ball, but sputtered when trying to cross the goal line. The result was a slim 6-0 lead going into the fourth quarter.
And all those people who sat through both of these offenses misfiring for much of the game were treated to a finale that finally got the scoreboard operator up from his nap.
Here's the good, bad, and ugly from the game:
It still wasn't pretty for LSU, but it was better, especially on defense. John Chavis' crew finally did what I was yearning for most of this season: letting the corners play man to man and letting players fly to the ball.
And most of all, more than anything else, I wanted players to stop missing tackles. They were near flawless in this department against the Dawgs.
The Chief still used players in coverage as opposed to blitzing, but with not being worried about Joe Cox as a runner, the Tigers took away the run and forced Cox to beat them with his arm.
And except for a blown coverage when Patrick Peterson thought he had safety help that never came and for the touchdown in which Chris Hawkins played the role of the little kid in the big kids' game of football, the secondary played very well.
Patrick Peterson kept AJ Green in check all day. When Green did get his, it was against other Tigers.
Charles Scott and the O line still didn't click on all cylinders, but they were better. Scott had 95 yards, although a third of that was on one play. He kept plugging away, especially in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. His TD run to seal it was a thing of beauty.
Special teams, hats off to you. Not only did they not snap it over the punter's head this week (that's really a good thing, folks), LSU did an excellent job late in the game when Holliday had a solid return to put the offense in position to take the lead and the coverage team did an excellent job when the tables were turned on LSU for their "celebration" penalty (more on that in a minute).
Tommy Moffit is LSU's strength and conditioning coach. He's the best in the country at what he does. LSU's fourth quarter heroics in the better part of the last 10 years prove his worth. He is still the most important yet underpublicized part of the LSU team and the guy deserves a game ball as much as Charles Scott and the defense.
The Tigers stall in the red zone. LSU can't leave that many points off the board when the rest of the SEC comes calling. Missed opportunities on offense will kill you later in the year (oh, and this week, too).
While the O line was improved, they still gave up six sacks. Jordan Jefferson does have a tendency to hold on to the ball for a long time, but on some plays, he's not even given a chance. And that leads to...
No sacks for the LSU defense for the third game in a row. Once again, giving up two TDs to a traditional SEC power at their place isn't a bad thing. If you're not going to pressure, you better cover, which the Tigers did, but it's nice seeing an opposing QB taste turf from time to time.
Excessive celebration calls? Please! The refs were way off in both calls against UGA's AJ Green and the makeup call against Charles Scott. The call on Scott may make other players wonder if they can take a knee without getting a flag and the call on Green seemed to come from nowhere.
This wasn't like taking your whole team and having them celebrate in the end zone. Scott's supposed trespass, although the league already confirmed they would call it again if given the chance on Scott, was giving praise. This is an excerpt from the Shreveport Times:
"Scott said he was not pointing to fans. He was pointing to the heavens.
"'It was an amazing run,' he said. 'There was only one explanation how I did that. It was God.'
"Scott said he was innocent as was Green."
On a good day, you may be able to convince me that Scott's "giving it up to God" gesture may warrant a flag, but Green ran to his teammates.
Some say Green made a gesture after he separated from his teammates, but honestly, I didn't go back and watch it.
And neither should you. Do you know why?
Because neither call decided the game.
Both teams were put in the same situation: being behind when receving a kickoff. LSU took advantage with a long return by Trindon Holliday. On the other end, UGA was stuffed after a minimal gain.
Charles Scott busted a 33-yard run after breaking two tackles and looking like a battering ram in the process. Joe Cox was intercepted on a great catch by LB Perry Riley (ahem, who's from Stone Mountain, Ga. by the way) to virtually end the game.
When it came down to it, LSU's offense, defense, and special teams made plays. Georgia's three phases failed to do so.
Sometimes, it's not about throwing punches, but who can take them and get up. LSU was the last man standing in Athens—at least this time.
No. 1 vs No. 4
I guess a few people will talk about a certain football game being played this Saturday night in Baton Rouge. And why not? When LSU and Florida get together, it's been pretty entertaining over the last several years sans last year's unmasking of the Tigers.
Any way you slice it, Florida is impressive. A team that won the national championship last year returned its entire defense and Heisman Trophy-winning QB. They are scary to say the least.
As I watched LSU barely squeak by Mississippi State a couple weeks ago, I thought this LSU team would lose to Florida by 30.
But now, I have a little bit of a different take.
If you want to know what it is, you'll have to stay tuned for my "Creature vs Creature" later this week. But until then, I leave you today with some nuggets of goodness regarding Saturday's showdown in Death Valley:
Since 2001, Florida is 8-0 after a bye. LSU is 9-0 before a bye week.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, while at Tennessee, held the Florida offense to 243 yards in '08, their lowest output of the season.
John Brantley, the backup to Tebow, leads the SEC in passing efficiency. If I were you, Mr. Brantley, I'd keep my cell phone number hidden from anyone who might try to...oh, too late, sorry.
Four of the last six years, including the last three straight, the winner of this game has gone on to win the national championship.
The last time two top five teams squared off in Tiger Stadium, it was Halloween night, 1959, the night of Billy Cannon's 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss.
LSU hasn't lost a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium since 2002.
The only team to beat Les Miles while at LSU in back-to-back years so far is the Arkansas Razorbacks.
In 2007, the LSU-Florida game recorded a decibel reading of 132, which, at the time, made it the loudest recorded reading at a college football game.
The only No. 1 team LSU has ever defeated at home in Death Valley was a Spurrier-led Gator team in 1997. The score was 28-21 and the Gators were the defending national champions.
Honestly, this could be one for the ages or it could be Florida getting past its biggest obstacle on its schedule. Either way, I hope it lives up to the hype.
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