This is what people had been waiting to see. Heck, this is what his own football team had been anticipating might happen.
Proving that’s it never too late, fifth-year senior Marcus Randall rallied LSU as never before. Randall will long be remembered for his 75-yard, Bluegrass Miracle touchdown pass to Devery Henderson two years ago at Kentucky. That was a fluke, though.
What shouldn’t be forgotten is the manner in which Randall engineered the Tigers’ 24-21 victory at Florida last Saturday. Randall played with a conviction and confidence he had never shown before. If Randall had behaved like this earlier, there would never have been a quarterback controversy, and redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell would never have started and thrown the two interceptions that put LSU in a 14-0 hole.
Maybe it took such adversity for Randall to find himself, or more accurately, to believe in himself. Once Russell went down with an ankle sprain, Randall took over as if the team belonged to him. On this night, at least, it did as he never flinched when the situation could have dictated just such a reaction.
Randall guided LSU to touchdowns in the last minute of each half, the mark of a veteran whose poise inspired those around him to play with similar coolness under fire. Randall certainly didn’t do it alone, which only stands to reason. No one can single-handedly win any game, although Randall, and others, have been guilty of attempting to do just that in the past.
That’s one reason LSU had sputtered through five games before coming together as an efficient team against Florida.
Randall had time to maneuver behind a reworked offensive line, and got the ball to the people who could make plays. Junior running back Joseph Addai matched Randall’s tenacious, but composed, approach and showed why he had earned a starting spot at the beginning of last season. It was no coincidence that Addai and senior Shyrone Carey bore the brunt of the rushing attack. As the veterans among that group, they assumed the leadership roles that comes with experience. So, too, did senior end Marcus Spears and senior linebacker Lionel Turner, who anchored an energetic and powerful defense.
Randall and Addai spearheaded the game-winning drive that resulted in Randall’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Addai with 27 seconds left. Addai didn’t consider what they accomplished as anything out of the ordinary, which is the approach needed to be taken by consistent winners. LSU played instinctively, which is what Coach Nick Saban has been trying to get the Tigers to do for far too long. Saban could have preached the message for as long as he wanted, but no coach can force his players to react in such fashion. They have to do it themselves through preparation and repetition, both in games and practice. It takes longer for some to find it than others.
Randall finally found it well into his career in the most extraordinary of places. Hostile Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as “The Swamp”, is an unusual place to have an epiphany. More power to him, though. If Randall can come through under those conditions, he knows he has the potential to perform anywhere under the most trying of circumstances.
True freshman wide receiver Early Doucet paid handsome dividends in the sixth game of his career. He caught a 15-yard touchdown pass 12 seconds before halftime, as one of the three receptions he had for 52 yards. Doucet proved to be a quick study. He deflected a catchable pass on the final drive against Auburn that resulted in an interception and sealed LSU’s 10-9 loss. He was helpless to do anything about LSU’s 45-16 setback at Georgia.
Having grown accustomed to what it takes to win on the road in the Southeastern Conference, Doucet acted accordingly, as did those around him. Players took responsibility for their own actions, while at the same time coming to the important understanding that no one can do it alone. LSU’s blessing may also have been its curse. The Tigers are so athletic that there has been a tendency for individuals to attempt to perform tasks not required of them. Rather than following through with the proper execution of their assignments, they’ve been putting the weight of the game on their shoulders and trying to make too much happen, when, in reality, they’ve only made things worse.
Once everyone believes in themselves, and each other, LSU can come together as a team. No one is greater than the whole, but everyone can contribute to the common good.
Until beating Florida, LSU had been playing only lip service to such a creed. The Tigers now know it really does work, thanks in large measure to Randall, whose long-anticipated realization of that fact couldn’t have come at a better time.