DEVILLE: Missed opportunities haunt Tigers
Jacob Hester
Jacob Hester
Editor
Posted Oct 14, 2007
Deville_Matt_TR_Publisher_mug


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Les Miles sat quietly, hands gripping each side of the table.

As the media filled a small room in the bowels of Commonwealth Stadium, Miles gathered his thoughts, searching for the right words to say.

 

His team, almost a unanimous No. 1 in every poll, had just lost to Kentucky in triple overtime. A week after one of the most stirring victories in LSU history when the Tigers defeated Florida in Tiger Stadium, Miles sat dejected as his team fell from grace in heart-wrenching fashion.

 

Praised for his gutsy calls time and again on fourth down against Florida, Miles watched as his team lost on just that, a fourth-down play in the Bluegrass State.

 

“You have to be ready to play anytime you go on the road in this conference,” Miles said, stern-faced and tight-lipped, voice trembling ever so slightly. “You see this brought to life again today.”

 

All week the Tigers were showered with praise in the wake of the Florida victory. Miles and his team spoke of keeping an even keel because they knew what lay ahead at Kentucky. The Wildcats were 5-1 and coming off a bitter defeat at the hands of South Carolina. LSU was a team riding high after staking claim to all 65 first-place votes in the AP Poll. Despite the hoopla, the Tigers had been warned about Heisman hopeful Andre Woodson and the Wildcats.

 

Saturday they found out the hard way.

 

Kentucky already owned wins over nationally ranked Louisville and Arkansas. The Wildcats won both of those games rallying from second-half deficits. Little could Miles have imagined that Kentucky would dispose of his team in the very same manner.

 

The Wildcats rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to force overtime. Through three extra periods, Kentucky matched LSU point for point before finally finding a way to stop the nation’s top-ranked team.

 

As Charles Scott lay on the ground in agony after being stopped a yard short of a first down in the third overtime period, Kentucky linebacker Braxton Kelly began celebrating one of the biggest wins in the program’s history.

 

“We have to keep fighting,” Scott said. “It hurts a lot. We have to push through it. This feeling right here is what we don’t want to feel again.”

 

The initial shock of losing did hurt.

 

The Tigers’ 13-game winning streak, longest active in the nation, had come to a screeching halt. After waiting 48 years to ascend to the nation’s top spot again, LSU relinquished the No. 1 ranking after just two games.

 

Sure the initial sickness of losing hurt immediately – that and the thousands of ecstatic Kentucky fans that stormed the field. But it will not be until the LSU coaches and players watch the film that the Tigers will truly realize just how painful the loss will end up being.

 

LSU had the game in the bag … REALLY!

 

Sure, Kentucky scored first and took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. But the Tigers rattled off 17 straight points and looked as if they would carry a 17-7 advantage into the halftime locker room. Considering LSU got the ball to open the second half and if they could score a touchdown on its first possession (which they did), the Tigers could have owned a commanding 24-7 lead. A 17-point lead at that juncture would have emptied Commonwealth Stadium midway through the third quarter, sending UK fans home thinking of coach Billy Gillispie and the Wildcat basketball team.

 

That wasn’t the case, though.

 

Instead, LSU gave up a 51-yard pass from Woodson to Steve Johnson, which set up a 12-yard Woodson touchdown run some 44 seconds after the Tigers’ final score of the first half.

 

Halftime score: 17-14.

 

LSU took the ball in the second half and scored that initial touchdown. That touchdown came on the heels of a Chad Jones interception of Woodson that had Wildcat fans teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel. They also added a field goal, making the score 27-14.

 

The problem with that 30-yard Colt David field goal was that it should have been a touchdown, which would have extended the lead to 31-14. But Matt Flynn’s third-down pass skipped off the hands of Keith Zinger in the end zone and LSU had to settle for three.

 

At that point, simply a three-and-out stop by the Tigers defense might have broken Kentucky’s spirit. Instead, Woodson led the Wildcats on a seven-play, 82-yard drive in only two-and-a-half minutes, cutting the lead to a mere six points, 27-21.

 

You could feel the tide turning at that point, and LSU was lucky to hold the Wildcats to a pair of field goals that only allowed Kentucky to tie the score 27-27.

 

The Tigers looked as if they might win the game in the most dramatic of fashions when David put a good foot into a 57-yard field goal attempt with two seconds remaining. But his kick missed by three painful feet wide left with plenty of distance to seal the victory.

 

LSU and Kentucky exchanged touchdowns in the opening overtime sequence, and the Tigers actually took the lead on a 38-yard David field goal in the second overtime period. LSU was a Kentucky-missed-field-goal away from winning, but Lones Seiber knocked home a 43-yarder, sending the game to a third extra period.

 

A defensive holding penalty gave Kentucky new life in the third extra stanza and Woodson threw a touchdown pass to Johnson for the go-ahead and eventual winning score, but LSU held on the required two-point try and could pull out the win with a touchdown and two-pointer.

 

But, as you know, that didn’t happen as Scott came up short.

 

Lost in the midst of all this drama were a plethora of dropped passes, many by LSU wideout Brandon LaFell. Fans are beginning to question Matt Flynn’s ability at quarterback, but had his receivers held onto passes that were dropped the game might not have been close.

 

When LSU wasn’t dropping passes, the Tigers were committing mindless and untimely penalties. Many times LSU was tagged with pass interference penalties, not to mention Tyson Jackson’s unnecessary roughing-the-passer personal foul in overtime.

 

There is plenty of blame to go around, but the Tigers still did enough to win the game.

 

And it wasn’t like USC’s loss to Stanford and Cal losing to Oregon State, both of which were at home, by the way. LSU lost to a quality, ranked opponent, on the road – in TRIPLE OVERTIME!

 

All of this was taken into consideration on Sunday when the polls were released and LSU had dropped to only five in both the AP and Coaches Polls. The Tigers are actually No. 4 in the initial BCS poll, which was also released on Sunday.

 

So do not fret, Tiger fans. Sure, LSU lost. And yes, they lost to Kentucky. But it isn’t the end of the world. It’s pretty obvious now, considering every team in the preseason top 10 has lost, that whoever wins the national championship will likely have one loss. You also have to believe that whichever one-loss team emerges as SEC Champion will be playing the national championship game.

 

If that team is to be LSU, it all begins on Saturday with Auburn.

 

---

 

Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.



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