Losing a football game at home is never a fun experience. And last night’s loss at home for the LSU Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide was far from fun. Granted, it’s an experience that isn’t an isolated one and has happened to plenty of teams over the sport’s history. Last night, it happened to the Tigers. What happened was they lost a big home winning streak and any chances of a conference & national title all in the final minute of a game they were winning.
The stakes were high, but the Tigers knew that. The need to play their best game of the season was there, but the Tigers knew that. Play selection was key and mistakes had to be all but absent from this game, and unfortunately Les Miles didn’t grasp this. It’s strange for a man who has coached in so many important games like last night’s to make as many coaching errors as Miles made in last night’s loss.
First, there was going for a fake field-goal on a 4th & 12 instead of actually attempting a 47-yard field-goal. The call made no sense given the situation and of course the play went nowhere. Later, Miles decided to actually have kicker Drew Alleman kick the ball when it was a 54-yard attempt, well past his career long. And of course the kick missed. Later, after the Tigers scored their first touchdown of the second half, Miles opted to go for an onside kick, and they nearly got it, but in the end the ball went to the Crimson Tide. And maybe most confusing was his decision early in the fourth quarter to go for it on a 4th & 1 at the Crimson Tide 24 yard-line. Sure a field-goal attempt would’ve been the safe choice here, but I actually understood Miles’ decision to go for it until he made his play selection. Instead of sending Jeremy Hill or big fullback J.C. Copeland up the middle, they went with a sneak out of the wildcat formation. Again, I still don’t understand this play call given the situation, and I was quickly proven right when Copeland cleanly missed his block and the play was stopped well short of the first down.
And despite these mistakes, the Tigers played a better game against the Crimson Tide last night than either of their two games against them last season.
The main reason that the Tigers held the lead as close to the end of the game as they did was because they were on the field more than any other team the Crimson Tide had faced prior to last night. The Tigers held the ball for just over 39 minutes and ran 85 plays. To put that into perspective, the most plays a Crimson Tide opponent had run on them this season was 58, and certainly no prior opponent controlled the ball against them for almost 2/3 of the game like the Tigers did. Remember, all of the previously mentioned mistakes from the Tigers ended drives that got into Crimson Tide territory. The long drives and grind-it-out football really came into play in the second half when the Tigers scored on two of their first three possessions of the half while holding the ball for large amounts of time on each drive.
And yet, it was all for naught. For all the craziness surrounding the Tigers’ kicking game, Alleman couldn’t get his last attempt (from 45 yards) to go through the uprights, and for all of the great play that the Tigers got out of their defense, they couldn’t hold the Crimson Tide on one final drive. It didn’t even turn out to be the worst drive to defend against the Crimson Tide as receiver Kevin Norwood was A.J. McCarron‘s favorite target on the drive, catching three passes out of four thrown his way. Norwood’s catches were also without issue as there appeared to be nobody near Norwood on each of his three catches during the drive. On the fifth play, McCarron completed a short pass to freshman running back T.J. Yeldon. After the catch, Yeldon gave another example of why he is destined to continue the recent trend of great Crimson Tide running backs by going the remaining yards for the game-winning touchdown.
As I watched the game on CBS and then heard one of the radio calls for Yeldon’s touchdown from the state of Alabama, I could almost hear all of the pain that Tigers fans must have been feeling along with the shouting, glee, and awe that came from the radio & television broadcasts of the play. It’s impossible for me to fully understand what those fans were feeling as they exited Tiger Stadium looking for some kind of distraction. What I can understand is that these fans didn’t want to be reminded of what they had just witnessed, at least not for the rest of the night. They were in stun, pain, shock, and some (I’m sure) actually did take the time to ponder the events that had just transpired. And those are the people I would want to talk to the least after that kind of ending for the Tigers.
The season is not over for the Tigers, but by their standard, it is. They can still play on January 1 or later, but without that conference title and/or a shot at a national championship, the fans must feel like it’s already over. And I’m quite confident that how those conference & national title hopes got dashed play the biggest part as to why some Tigers fans may already be thinking about next year.