“We’re also well above average…”
There’s a mantra I use via text message with my friends that I send out when things look their darkest during a game. It was originally used last year in joking, as if to mock the very thought of LSU actually making a comeback in a game.
“We’re a second half team.”
The phrase was born last year during the Florida game. It returned for the Auburn game last season and was legitimized against Alabama.
The last three times I used it was when the Tigers were struggling with Tennessee in the first half of the SEC Championship game, going down 10-0 to Ohio State, and recently going down 14-3 at Auburn this past weekend.
Say what you want about Les Miles, but his teams do not quit. They’re the bad guy in the '80s scary movie: Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger. Don’t they ever just die?
Auburn had to be thinking that right around the time LSU recovered the onside kick. They thought about it when we completed the halfback pass. They thought about it when Charles Scott got stopped behind the line only to burst through for a big run on the following play, along with countless other “Great Scott” runs.
They thought about it when LSU answered their late score not with a game-winning field goal, but a touchdown. This time LSU left more than one second on the clock.
Most of all, this was personified in Tiger defensive end Raheem Alem, whose personal foul with under a minute was just about the last thing LSU needed in order to quell a comeback.
Then Raheem Alem came back on the next play and turned Jordan-Hare into Elm Street, Haddonfield, and Crystal Lake all rolled into one. His 15-yard penalty was followed by a 15-yard sack that put Auburn in a 2nd-and-25 hole from which they would not escape.
If Alem did it in two plays, Jarrett Lee took an entire half to redeem a horrible mistake. Lee took a snap and tried to take advantage of Auburn not having all their players set by swinging the ball to Keiland Williams in the flat. After starting 0-for-5, Lee completed his first pass to a lineman wearing blue, who took it for a score.
In a game where every bit of real estate was precious and every point at a premium, a 14-3 deficit on the road seemed too much to overcome, especially when starter Andrew Hatch went down in the third quarter with a good case of “you got knocked the #$%* out” syndrome.
But we all saw what Lee did in the second half. I was halfway through a text I started but never finished that said...
“Who is this quarterback? Are there two No. 12s?”
That’s when Keiland Williams took a pitch and played quarterback for a down. LSU would go up 17-14.
Lee continued to play like a different person in the second half against one of the better defenses in the SEC. It didn’t hurt to have the juggernaut known as Charles Scott opening up the pass game.
That’s what did it, you know? That’s why this sequel ended like the original did last year. Last year, Flynn and the coaches saw something they could exploit. It wasn’t a crazy call—it just took too long to set up at the line. Flynn made a perfect throw and Byrd made a great catch, and that was history.
This year was eerily like last year. Last year the score was 24-23. A field goal would’ve won it. LSU got the touchdown. This year, same thing with LSU down by one, 21-20, and within field goal range for kicker Colt David.
With a little over a minute left, most of us would think to run Charles Scott three times up the middle and kick the field goal. It’s what I would have done. But then again, maybe there’s good reason I don’t coach this team.
With a 1st-and-10, everyone and their mom expected a run from Charles Scott, including Auburn. But offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and Les Miles play to win and look for favorable situations.
Instead of handing off, Jarrett Lee dropped back and threw his best ball all night. It was a down and away out route that only Jo Jo LaFell could’ve gotten. No. 1 did and brought it to the house.
So another Les Miles gamble pays off, but I’ll ask this question for the hundredth time: If gambles work out in your favor 90 percent of the time, is it still a gamble?
Les Miles doesn’t play his cards—he plays his opposition. He exploits favorable opportunities when his opponents show tendencies.
In this case, the call wasn’t the gamble—believing in a redshirt freshman quarterback to execute the call was.
But hey there, Mr. Blue Chip recruit, you want to come play for a coach that believes in his players? You can come do that in Baton Rouge.
Crazy calls or not, it doesn’t take a football genius to see what coaching staff made the better adjustments at halftime.
LSU has some weak spots that need to be worked on, but all in all, even in games they should probably lose like Florida and Georgia, it would be wise never to assume the bad guy is dead. After all, we’re a second half team.
Stop trying to bring me down…
I wouldn’t start making reservations in Atlanta and Miami just yet, Tiger fans. This team has a bunch of things to get straight, but the good definitely outweighs the bad at this point in time. One thing that if consistent will always keep LSU in a game is their running game.
The offensive line looked like beasts, and it doesn’t hurt to have a fullback like Quinn Johnson opening holes and solid blocking from TE Richard Dickson. With Charles Scott continuing to rack up the yards, especially on first down, it puts a defense on its heels.
Enter Jarrett Lee in the second half, who began to throw on first down, and then the offense really got clicking. LSU gained 257 yards on 31 first down plays for the game. That’s an 8.3 yard average, and Miles and Co. will take that every time.
Add in a defense that gets pressure rushing just four and are smothering against the run, and you’ve got some headaches for the opposition. LSU has some holes in its coverage that were to be expected with inexperienced corners and Danny McCray and Chad Jones struggling with coverage at the nickel back position.
Good QBs (read Tebow and Stafford) should be more effective in making the Tigers pay for mistakes.
I was right about...
1) Trindon Holliday’s hands. I said he’d fumble punt returns in crucial situations this year. I didn’t want to be right so soon in the season, and twice on top of that. Miles insists Holliday will still return punts. I’d keep him in on kickoffs though.
2) Chris Hawkins is the best corner on the team. This isn’t even a close race at the present time.
I was wrong about…
1) Demetrius Byrd being the featured receiver when the season started. Lee likes Brandon “Jo Jo” LaFell, and he likes him a lot.
2) Richard Murphy being the go-to guy in the backfield when the season started. It’s quite obvious to everyone that No. 32 Charles Scott is the man.
Moo U blues…
I’m sorry to say that while I’m a pessimist at heart, I am never worried when we play Mississippi State. For some reason, LSU has their number every single time they tangle. The Bulldogs are 1-3 this year with losses to La. Tech, Auburn, and Georgia Tech.
The reason why MSU was good in the '90s was because of their lines—and that advantage has faded away for State. Add in the fact that it’s a night game in Tiger Stadium, and I don’t like the Bulldogs’ chances.
LSU should be able to run the ball. If they can’t, and MSU forces LSU to become one-dimensional, that might give State a chance. But I look for LSU’s O-line to be dominant again, and Scott should have another 100-yard day. That’s bad news for the Bulldogs, who need every advantage they can get in Baton Rouge.
LSU slows down a bit because of a hangover from the AU win, but don’t expect an upset this week.
LSU 35, Miss. St. 10