Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wrapping Up the LSU Season and Bowl Thoughts

It has been quite a while since I last wrote on this blog. To be honest I have be spending the past three weeks doing missionary work in Santiago, Chile.

I am sorry that was a 100 percent lie. Completely and utterly made up, but for a second I had you wondering.

Alright, back to LSU football. Let us recap how the season finished. The last time we saw the LSU Tigers in Tiger Stadium they played a game against Ole Miss that had "LOSS" written all over it. I have watched LSU football since 1995, so despite my young age I still have some years under the belt. With that said, I can say there have been those games where everything has just gone against the Tigers. Every flag, every big play, everything just seemed to be going against LSU that night against Ole Miss. But the thing that was so interesting about that game was how LSU would not bow down. They hung in their and the one guy who has been more criticized than any other Tiger, Jordan Jefferson, managed to truly carry the team to a victory.

Seven times this year LSU has won by a touchdown or less. The thing so many college football analysts fail to point out about this LSU team is they have what I like to call, "four quarter grit." Even if the window is closing and things look bleak for the Tigers, this team has shown the ability to still pull out the 'W' when the odds are stacked against them. LSU has a unique reputation where they are always in a game till the end. Even during their worst games, LSU still finds themselves in line to win.

(Look at the difference between the Ole Miss and Arkansas games. In both you have games where things are not going LSU's way, yet in one LSU managed to pull it together and another they fell apart. Maybe Tiger Stadium's magic is that powerful?)

Here is the thing that needs to be taken away from LSU's 43-36 victory over Ole Miss even after the Arkansas loss. All season long we criticized Miles decision to keep Jordan Jefferson in so much of the time. I, for one, wanted Jarrett Lee to start more often and I started to really think that maybe Jefferson would never understand how to be an effective quarterback. I realize it was only one game and Ole Miss was a struggling team, but just maybe, just maybe Les Miles knew what he was doing all along. For the second half it certainly looked like Jordan Jefferson could be the type of quarterback we had dreamed of.

I am not sold on Jefferson yet, but it is interesting to look at the big picture. Only about 6 quarterbacks in Division I-A football where statistically worse than Jordan Jefferson. Even so, Miles stood by him. Never threw the towel in on the kid. He believed.

I am happy to see this for the guy. I hope it is a sign of things to come. A friend of mine ran into Jordan Jefferson not to long after he had pulled off the big win against Alabama. My friend made a couple jokes to Jefferson about the block he put on an Alabama defender on the famous 4th and 1 reverse. Though the interesting thing is my friend told me was that Jefferson shook his hand and told my friend, "Thanks man, you have no idea the things people have been telling me. It means a lot." Jefferson has a had a tough year to say the least. I hope he continues to grow.

The Ole Miss game was a bright moment for Jefferson and even to a point so was the Arkansas game, but the end of that night in Little Rock ended all too familiarly - with a loss.

Personally, I hate the Arkansas game. It is never easy playing Arkansas, even during a win. (And it does not help that the one game I watch with my family is the Arkansas game during Thanksgiving.) Including this year's 31-23 Arkansas win, the last 6 games in this series have been decided by a TOTAL of 21 points. Prior to this year's game that number was 5 games decided by 13 points. "Close game" is an understatement.

I think the reason I hate the Arkansas game so much is because when the Tigers play the Razorbacks every comprehensible things goes wrong: passes are dropped, bad snaps are abundant, the defense misses tackles and of course golden opportunities to score or get a turnover are washed away. All those things describe the 31-23 Arkansas loss.

Jefferson, though not as well as Ole Miss, did play efficient against Arkansas. He had 184 throwing (0 turnovers) and 34 yards rushing. (218 yards of total offense) But like it has been all too often this year, LSU's offense was stagnant. Down 31-20 late in the 4th quarter, LSU gets the ball at their 38 yard line. On four straight plays LSU throws the football and then for some unknown reason LSU decides (with time being a factor) to run it not once, not twice, but THREE STRAIGHT TIMES. LSU ends up getting a field goal cutting the score to 31-23 with 1:58 left.

Now realize that LSU got the ball back down 31-20 with 5:59 left, yet they still thought it was appropriate to run it three straight times. That final drive was 11 plays for 43 yards and it took 4:11 off the clock. Disgusting to say the least.

I could talk excessively about the defense's inability to tackle in yet another game or the fact that the unit made some boneheaded decisions. (The first half Hail Mary?! I may sometime understand the Law of Relativity, but I will never understand why Karnell Hatcher thought going for the knockout blow in a situation like that was appropriate. YOU DO NOT RISK THAT. And worse Hatcher knocked the daylights out of his own teammate, Morris Claibourne!) The unit has been great this year at times, but I am growing tired of not seeing Defensive Coordinator John Chavis adjust. Chavis, as it seems, likes to stick to his base defense. How the game transpires has no impact on how he plays the rest of the game.

So it seems.

Alright so LSU played in 12 games this year and won 10. Say what you would like, cut it up as much as you please, but 10-2 is pretty damn good. The three big things Les Miles needed to do this year was beat Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss. (The previous two years Miles went 0-6 against those schools.) Miles did that. The thing I was worried about after the Arkansas loss was LSU getting screwed come Bowl Selection Sunday.

I was wrong.

LSU playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on the night of January 7th does not get any better. Playing in the Sugar Bowl would of been terrific, but the way things turned out LSU would of been playing Ohio State. (Sorry, been there done that.) The Cotton Bowl use to be on the same level as the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowl. Over the years the Cotton Bowl lost sight of this and had far too many noon January 1st games. This year looks to change that. Playing in Jerry Jones's spaceship at night should do the trick. This year's Cotton Bowl has the potential to be a great way to end the 2010 season for the LSU Tigers.

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