It used to be all conventional wars were won in the trenches. If this is true, the LSU Tigers last night got down and dirty and won against a surprisingly spirited and competitive West Virginia team, playing perhaps the biggest game in Morgantown history with the nation watching.
Under Les Myles, the Tigers have established a reputation of going into hostile environments against highly ranked opponents and coming out on top. You could make the same argument about Alabama, Florida and Auburn (the SEC Elite) running over essentially anyone outside the league they play in ruthless and efficient fashion.
Behind an improving Jared Lee, the Tiger offense put up 27 points in the first half (with all due credit going to the three turnovers caused by clearly the best defensive unit in the nation at this point). Lee effectively managed the Tiger offense, and a little ‘mad hatter’ unconventional play-calling provided a comfortable cushion for the Tigers at halftime.
The true MVP of the game may have been LSU punter, and Aussie native, Brad Wing who pinned West Virginia so deep in their own territory so many times that any field position past their own 10-yard line was considered good.
The special teams of LSU provided another separation point in the game, as the Tiger return of the West Virginia kickoff for a touchdown effectively threw cold water on any hope of a West Virginia upset. Even the Mountaineer mascot, who had more television time than Erin Andrews, seemed to resign himself to the inevitable after the back-breaking touchdown return.
The game within the game was the cold and ruthless effectiveness of long-maligned LSU quarterback Jared Lee managing an ever more confident Tiger offense to the point of brutal efficiency. Lee’s very respectable, however unspectacular, numbers contrasted sharply with the record-setting performance of a spirited Geno Smith throwing 60 plus passes against what could be the best defensive unit in the country at this point. The difference was Lee had options on offense, LSU had options on defense and Smith and the Mountaineers were one-dimensional on offense.
Despite throwing for seemingly five miles, the trenches clearly were dominated by LSU and their overwhelming SEC tested offensive and defensive lines took their toll on the better-than-expected Mountaineer linemen on both sides of the ball. As the game waned into the fourth quarter, the complete dominance by the Tigers in the trenches, combined with the special teams play Virginia Tech Coach Beamer would be proud of, simply proved too much for the Mountaineers from the Big East.
Make no mistake, West Virginia is clearly better than the media darlings that Oregon was, in particular at the skill positions. However, Oregon found out, as did West Virginia, they are not in the elite class with the nation’s best, and until someone proves differently, that is either LSU or Alabama.