What a game. Looking at the box score, if you'd told me beforehand that we'd:
- Hold Auburn to under 200 total yards, and put up 300 ourselves
- Hold Kenny Irons to 70 yards (and a sub 3ypc average)
- Commit no turnovers
I'd have begun prematurely celebrating our soon to be huge win and likely #2 national ranking. Instead, we lose 7-3 in what was definitely one of the prettiest (albeit gut-wrenching) low scoring battles I've ever watched. Sure, the officials blew a couple major calls, but the bottom line is if we were better than Auburn, we'd have made the plays (and play calls, Jimbo) that counted. The bad officiating calls were definitely at bad times, but in the end we had our chance and didn't do it.
For one, after the Auburn defense was clearly stopping the run all day, so why we ran it on 1st and 2nd down on the second-to-last drive is beyond me. This led to a difficult third and long situation and forced the fourth down heave that resulted in the controversial pass interference/pick-up-the-flag call. On the last drive, Russell's taking the sack and losing 20 seconds or so was clearly evidence of the "mind-numbing poor decisions" called to attention by an unnamed SEC Coach in The Sporting News' annual CFB preview (a trait a lot of us had begun to believe he'd grown beyond). After that, the decision (presumably by the coaches) not to throw it into the endzone a single time on what could have been 3 shots at a winning TD was frustrating to watch and just plain bizarre to contemplate. This isn't a "hindsight's 20/20" thing either - those are the sorts of decisions most high-caliber coaching staffs just have to make correctly. It's how they act in these critical situations that determine the national title caliber of a coaching staff. Some of those decisions knocked the credibility a bit, for sure, though admittedly Les and Jimbo's credibility wasn't particularly high heading into the ballgame.
Credit Will Muschamp and his Auburn defense - they were up to the task, and dominated our attempts to establish a running game. We never really got in a rhythm.
Credit Bo Pelini - the job the LSU defense did in largely containing Kenny Irons and pressuring Brandon Cox most of the day was spectacular. Going into an environment like that and coming out having yielded only a single touchdown and below 200 yards of total offense makes me think this year's defense could wind up being even better than that of the 2003 national title team.
And back to the overall issue of credibility, while Jimbo certainly has a lot to work on in getting our offense to fire on all cylinders, I have to say that my opinion of Les may have actually improved a notch or two after yesterday. Despite some issues here and there, that was an admirable all-around performance, regardless of the fact that we lost.
The rankings are out, and we've fallen four spots in each to 11th in the Coaches Poll and 10th in the AP. I can't really complain too much about that. Personally I think LSU proved that it was very much deserving of a #6 rank, but we have the rest of the season to justify that, and things should fall largely as they should. For instance, Pete Fiutak at CFN is out with his rankings and has ranked us fourth, with the following explanation:
I haven't gotten a chance yet to watch the Florida-Tennessee game. I've heard from various friends that neither team looked particularly great, so that gives me hope that there's a chance we could still make it through those two road trips unscathed. It won't be easy, but we certainly have zero reason to write either of those games off as losses at this point.