In a game which LSU looked to have
totally in hand nearing the end of the first quarter, the contest turned south
faster than you can say muffed punt.
Was there any doubt in anyone’s
mind that the Tigers were in complete control when Eric Wilbur took the snap for
his first punt of the game, which came with 3:46 left to play in the first
Everything was going LSU’s
The Gators drove the length of the
field and seemed to have the mighty LSU defense on its heels. But the ball
popped loose, the Tigers recovered and nine plays and 73 yards later they had a
A nice start considering you are
playing the No. 5 team in the nation at their place, which just happens to be
But to make things better, LSU’s
defense comes up with a huge stop, which includes a punishing hit on
quarterback Chris Leak by Ali Highsmith, and the Gators were punting the ball
Chevis Jackson walks out to the LSU
440 yard line, where the Tigers looked primed for outstanding field position to
unleash more of JaMarcus Russell and the LSU offense.
Wilbur’s punt bounces through
And not only did it bounce, it rolled all the way back to the Florida 11, where
Lutrell Alford recovered it giving the Gators’ possession.
Six plays and 19 yards later, a
game which should never have been tied at that point, was knotted up
No problem, though. The Tigers
responded with one of the most impressive drives of the season. A march which
included four third down conversions, Russell looked ready to put the Tigers up
by a touchdown heading into halftime with a first and goal at the
Russell mishandles the snap, which
recovers swinging game’s momentum heavily in the Gators’ favor.
And boy did it.
Instead of the possibility of
taking a two touchdown lead by getting the ball first in the second half, LSU
found itself in a 14-7 hole when Tim Tebow put the Gators up for good with a
touchdown toss with just 11 ticks left in the first half.
Afterwards, LSU coach Les Miles
said his team was upbeat at halftime and were ready to get back on the field to
atone for the sins of the second quarter. But one has to think that team was
shell-shocked by the run of mistakes (and bad luck) that struck in a quarter of
football that could honestly change the course of an entire season.
Miles may deny it, but his team
looked snakebit when they took the field in the second half. From surrendering a
safety on the opening kickoff of the second half, all the way to Russell’s
dagger-in-the-heart interception that ended the game after a fourth quarter
blocked punt, it wasn’t to be the Tigers’ day.
Fans may cry poor officiating,
especially after Jacob Hester clearly scored a touchdown on the play before
Russell’s pivotal second quarter, goal line fumble. Despite the fact the replay
officials could clearly see Hester’s knee never touched the ground before the
ball crossed the goal line, the Tigers still had plenty of opportunities to win
the game. But boneheaded mistakes on offense – both on the players and coaches
part – as well as horrendous errors on special teams cost LSU the game.
After Florida’s nine-point
outburst in the opening two minutes of the third quarter, the Gators threatened
only once, which resulted in a missed Chris Hetland field goal. LSU had several
chances late in the game, deep in Florida territory at that. But a missed field
goal and two interceptions summed up the fact that it truly wasn’t LSU’s day in
In the aftermath, I logged onto
TigerRag.com and saw fan posts on our message board ranging from a request for
Miles’ resignation to the execution of special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto.
I want even mention the suggestions for what to do with Russell.
While the coaching staff can be
held at fault for not having the team mentally ready to play, the blame also
goes squarely on the shoulders of the players. Interceptions, fumbles, dropped
passes, muffed kicks; LSU found a way to screw it up last Saturday in just about
every way possible.
Luckily, the Tigers have two more
weeks to figure out what is the problem before the schedule’s next big test, a
trip to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. By
the way, the Vols destroyed No. 10 Georgia 51-33 last Saturday – in Athens.
They had better find the cure for
what ails this ultra-talented team because the Tigers – coaches and players –
will get no more compassion from an ever-impatient fan base. Those fans who were
on the fence with Miles have jumped off to the other side and the cries for Matt Flynn will be even louder come Saturday when Kentucky visits Tiger Stadium.
Also, toss in the fact that once
thought to be winnable games against Alabama
and now surging Arkansas still remain on the schedule, there
still remains lots that can make this season even worse. Arkansas looks to be rounding into form whipping up on No.
2 Auburn 27-10 on the Plains and you know the Tide has to be chomping at the bit
to try and de-rail LSU after last season’s upset in Tuscaloosa.
This is still a very talented LSU
team that can win the rest of its games and go 10-2, which is what I predicted
at the beginning of the year. But for the first time, after Saturday’s meltdown
in The Swamp, the potential for a 9-3 – even 8-4 – comes very much into
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger
Rag magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.