I watched the LSU game almost completely unplugged. I was in a bar in Wichita, waiting for a wedding later in the day. I had no access to this site, any message boards, or even the game stats. OK, I checked twitter once or twice on my phone, but I was having too good of a time watching the game "old school" to keep doing that.
Kansans are good people, by and large. So, seeing that their bar had been invaded by two LSU fans (me and the Posette), and having no rooting interest of their own, most of the patrons adopted LSU just to be polite. OK, maybe there was some residual "we hate A&M" feelings there from some Big 12 partisans, but it was mainly Midwestern good manners.
LSU won, as you already know, and then I went to wedding, a reception, and an after party. The next morning, we piled in the car and drove back from Kansas. What I'm saying is, I didn't ever plug in after the game and missed the online chatter and postgame reactions. So I got home late on Sunday night and fired up the old computer and...
... Did we watch a different fucking game or something?
Holy crapballs, people. Calm down. Is this what happens when Delusional Optimism leaves the building? If we're not careful, we are going to be the first fanbase to appear in This Week in Schadenfreude after a win. This was a game LSU was winning by 12 with three minutes to play, right?
Yup. Jeremy Hill scored with 3:12 left to make the game 24-12. LSU then sent in the patented "South Carolina" defensive package to let A&M down the field to get a late score and another shot at an onside kick. Just because Les Miles likes an exciting ending. I wouldn't call the win "comfortable", but the pillows were getting kind of fluffy towards the end.
Seriously, I thought this game went pretty much how the South Carolina game went, only with a terrible first quarter and a half. And even then, I wasn't too nervous because A&M failed to turn their huge yardage edge into points. Also, you could see Chavis start to figure out the A&M offense and slowly start to strangle the life out of it. You let LSU hang around, the team will find a way to score some points.
A&M outgained LSU 241-61 and outscored LSU 12-0 in the team's first five drives. That's a huge statistical edge, and it felt worse, but the Aggies failed to turn that edge into points. If you outplay a team, and it doesn't show up on the scoreboard, you don't get to carry over the advantage. It's gone. And of those 241 yards, 141 came on the first two drives. A&M was clearly starting to slow down if LSU could ever figure out how to score.
And then came new life. Johnny Manziel, being a freshman, made a freshman mistake and threw a pick. This was the sort of big play LSU relied on last year and hadn't gotten a whole lot of this year. It even looked that LSU's offense was going to squander the great field position, but the Michael Ford struck for a big rushing touchdown a suddenly, LSU was only down 12-7 in a game they should have been losing by two or three touchdowns. A&M considerately turned the ball over again, so LSU went into the half somehow winning a game they had no business winning. A&M had dominated the statsheet, except for those two turnovers, and found themselves down 14-12.
Really, that's all it took. From the first turnover on, LSU outgained A&M 255-169 but thanks to five turnovers, LSU scored 24 straight points. Sure, A&M tacked on a touchdown against a defense that was playing bend but don't break, but I felt LSU thoroughly dominated the second half and was never in real danger of losing the game. The defense slammed the door shut, and the offense did just enough. It was the South Carolina formula all over again. I expected to see some well-earned grumbling over Mettenberger's play, but by and large, I was pretty happy with how the game went. It went as expected, and we got the big road win.
Imagine my surprise when I logged on to see the LSU fanbase in full scale meltdown. We're complaining about the playcalling? Really? I was completely unprepared for a debate on playcalling as it never crossed my mind to be that upset with it during the game. Sure, Miles keeps trying to force the pass, but he never did so to such an extent as to jeopardize the win. He keeps trying to show confidence in his quarterback, trying not repeat the Jarrett Lee Experiment, in which we see exactly how mentally abused a quarterback can get.
LSU ran 74 plays on the day, and 31 of them were pass plays. That's pretty close to a 60/40 run/pass split, which is about what we want to be shooting for. Would I like a more effective passing game? Sure. I would also like a pony. Sometimes, you need to learn to live with what you got. Miles keeps showing faith in Mettenberger, hoping that eventually that faith will be rewarded. Why not? The alternative of just packing up the passing game is even less enticing. So long as Mettenberger's not turning the ball over, which he didn't in College Station, then we pretty much have last year's offense.
Now, I know there's been some hand-wringing over Miles' management of the fourth quarter. Let me get this straight. LSU entered the quarter up 14-12 and scored twice in the quarter, effectively icing the game, and we're complaining about this? So when the offense was its most productive, that's the time period we're going to nitpick?
LSU ran 23 of its 74 plays in the fourth quarter, gained 132 of its 316 yards, and scored 10 of its 24 points. This is the play calling we should be emulating, not criticizing. The much ballyhooed drive which started with 7:33 drive that many seem to think featured too much passing gained 26 yards over 7 plays and ran two and a half minutes of clock. I wouldn't call that the greatest drive ever, nor would I call it a dismal failure.
Running out the clock with seven and a half minutes to play is a pipe dream anyway. You'd be hard pressed to find many drives starting midway through the fourth quarter which effectively run out the clock like that. Asking the LSU offense to do that borders on insane.
Was there too much passing o the drive? Maybe. But LSU found itself in a 1st and 20 due to a holding penalty, and you're not going to convert a first down by rushing the ball in that scenario. In fact, LSU did convert the first down by completing a pass, getting an incompletion, and then getting a pass interference call. Miles would try another pass on the new set of downs, and I guess he should've rushed the ball there, but Hill went for no gain on his second down. On third and long, LSU passed again, which makes sense. Really, the only play that probably should have been a rush was that first down call, but that's minor quibbling. LSU flipped the field position and forced A&M to start a potential game winning drive on their own 20.
That's what you want. The offensive drive was a success, situationally speaking. LSU ran some clock and put the A&M offense in a position in which it had to drive a full 80 yards to score against a defense that had largely shut the offense down for the entire half. Which, I would like to point out, it did. The LSU offense put the defense in the best possible position to win the game, and that's the unit we want on the field with the game on the line.
Also, I'd like to point out that when LSU played the run it all the time offense to run clock, the offense failed to get a first down. Just like it failed to do so last week against South Carolina. Thinking the LSU offense can just run the ball down another team's throat to run clock when the other team knows the run is coming is completely refuted by the evidence presented in the last two games.
LSU played a lousy first half. Mainly, it was a lousy first quarter by a lethargic team that didn't want to be playing football at 11 AM any more than I wanted to be awake watching. And once LSU found some energy, they outplayed A&M and held one of the best offenses in the conference in check while the offense slowly built a two score lead. I thought we'd be talking about that.
Instead, we are all flipping out over play calling that was entirely defensible and, not to put too fine a point on it, was what many fans were asking for. I'd also like to point out, again, that the play calling WORKED in the second half. LSU extended its lead, ran clock, and flipped filed position when it needed to. The offense put the defense in the best possible place to succeed, which they did because, well, the defense is pretty great.
There are no such thing as moral losses. Even if there were, this wasn't even close to one. Everyone needs to step back from the echo chamber and chill out. Go to Kansas if that's what it takes. If anything, the people are really nice. There's a bar I can recommend.