Clinging to Victory

TJ Yeldon scores the game-winning TD (USPresswire)

Last-second, game-winning touchdowns have almost become the norm for LSU opponents. Each of the Tigers' last four losses have come in heartbreaking fashion. LSU's determined to not let that happen again when the Tigers face Alabama this weekend.

It only took 49 seconds.

An 18-yard pass to Kevin Norwood started what became known in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as The Drive. Then there was a 15-yard pass to Norwood and another for 11.

Three plays, three first downs and LSU's three-point lead on Nov. 3, 2012, was on life support. The Tigers did finally force an incompletion on the fourth play of the series, but that little glimpse of hope disappeared a few seconds later.

That's when that dreaded screen pass to T.J. Yeldon happened. A.J. McCarron baited Jalen Mills' blitz and floated one to Yeldon near the line of scrimmage. Kevin Minter couldn't quite catch him, Craig Loston overpursued and Keke Mingo's desperate dive came up short.

Touchdown Tide.

"There's no explanation at all," Loston said, reflecting on what happened on that drive. "We have to learn how to finish as a team. I'm not going to point fingers, but as a team we have to finish and wrap it up."



When that happens once, it becomes forgivable over time. Unfortunately for LSU, that isn't the case. The Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson ended the same way. So did LSU's losses this season to Georgia and Ole Miss.

The fluke has become a trend, an issue that has tarnished the reputation of John Chavis' defense.

So how has LSU adjusted the way it holds on to those late leads?

"We certainly have looked at it and work on the opportunity to maintain the ball," said LSU coach Les Miles. "I think there are some differing strategy pieces and I think there are some different personnel in effect. But it's something that certainly we hope to have that opportunity again this year."

That's one way of looking at it. LSU can't lose on last-second touchdown drives if they don't have last-second leads. But if this Saturday's showdown with Alabama comes down to a similar situation, the LSU fanbase will want a different result.

"It's focus," said junior DT Anthony Johnson. "Everybody just needs to focus, worry about their assignments and let everything flow. You can't do too much and don't get lost in the big-time light. If you do everything you're supposed to do, it comes that much easier."

But how do you practice focus? There aren't any drills for that, no way to find that in a film study.

Johnson said it boils down to individual accountability.

"It's personal," he said. "It starts with yourself. Then the leaders have to be accountable for these young guys and getting their mindsets ready. At the end of the day, if we do that, we'll be OK."

LSU works on two-minute situations during the final segment of every Monday and Thursday practice. The defensive players said they win about half the time, but outside the practice facility, that usually isn't good enough.

It's rarely a blowout when Alabama and LSU meet. Each of the last two regular season meetings have come down to the final possession.

If that proves to be the case again on Saturday, the Tigers won't be strangers to that scenario. It's all easier said than done, but this year's group seems determined to not let something like The Drive happen again.

"You have to be disciplined in every aspect of the game, from the first play to the last play," Mills said. "You can't take any plays off because the play you take off is the one they're going to burn you for."

How can LSU fix its two minute defense?

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