There's a number of names the national media like to call Les Miles. There are a number of narratives about Les. "The Mad Hatter" nickname, he's a "Riverboat Gambler", "He's a little eccentric. I mean, he ate grass". In terms of just strictly the LSU sports world, there's often talk of how LSU plays these crazy down to the wire games under Les Miles. We don't crush nearly every single team in our wake like Alabama. We make things crazy, and fun. It's nearly always an event with Les. The game takes on a life of it's own. No game ever summed that up more than the 2010 Florida games. This game was crazy.
Entering the 2010 season the fortunes of LSU and Florida over the last 2 years were most certainly different. LSU had come off two seasons with a combined record of 17-9, 8-8 in the SEC. Florida meanwhile was 26-2 and 15-1 in the SEC in that span, winning the National Championship in 08 and the Sugar Bowl in 09. But going into 2010, plenty was changing. Tim Tebow, maybe the greatest player in the history of college football was gone. So were notable defensive starters Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes and Major Wright. Still, the Gators entered the year at #4. LSU was ranked much lower at #21. The Tigers had lost Keiland Williams, Trindon Holliday, Perry Riley, and most notably Brandon LaFell and Ciron Black. The QB situation was murky, but there was talent. So despite the Gators high ranking there were big questions for both teams.
Florida started the year 4-0 (against suspect competition however) before an ugly 31-6 loss at Bryant-Denny vs Alabama. LSU meanwhile had run off to a 5-0 start with wins over two Top-25 teams (UNC and WVU), but just barely surviving another wild game and infamous finish vs Tennessee the previous week. LSU had been bailed out of a late time-management situation by Tennessee having too many men on the field, ripping victory out of the jaws of defeat out of the bigger jaws of victory. The Tigers were No. 12 going in, and Florida No. 14. So much like the teams projections in pre-season, this one was murky.
The game started out reasonably enough. LSU eventually worked their way to the Florida 27, the big play a 26 yard completion from Jordan Jefferson to DeAngelo Peterson on a third-and-9. Josh Jasper hit a 45 yard FG to put LSU up 3-0. Little did we know how big of an impact he'd have later on.
The Florida offense would struggle to gain any traction in the first quarter, and it took them 6 plays to get past their own 20. Remember when John Brantley was a sought-after recruit? Florida would punt, giving it to LSU at their own 20. They'd quickly work their way to the FLA 46, before the drive stalled with Jordan Jefferson throwing an interception to Janoris Jenkins who ran it back to the LSU 17. Yeah, the QB play was shall we say....not stellar in this one. UF would punch it in to begin the second quarter, kicking off the craziness.
LSU would engineer a 13-play, 77-yard scoring drive, this time with Jarret Lee at QB. Fifty-seven yards came on the ground. After a Florida three-&-out, Patrick Peterson would fumble the punt return. LSU's defense fought hard, but the Gators eventually punched it in with a 1 yard run from Trey Burton. Following an LSU three-and-outt, the Gators managed to concoct a three-play drive that lost nine yards. Yeah. Only in this game.
LSU would take two plays on the next possession. Jarrett Lee drilled a 38-yard pass to Terrence Toliver, putting them up 17-14. I'm almost positive Lee never threw a longer pass in his college career. When he's throwing 38-yard touchdown passes.....you know this ones getting weird. Freshmen Tyrann Mathieu forced a spectacular fumble on the second UF play from scrimmage on the drive, which led to a FG by Josh Jasper after the drive stalled following two rushes for a combined 23 yards by Jefferson.
Then both teams stopped scoring. Chas Henry missed a 25-yard FG after a 14-play drive, because why not? LSU had a seven-play drive after that gained just 15 yards. Florida's next drive saw Brantley throw a pick to Mo Claiborne.
Eventually, the Tigers would punch it in to begin the fourth quarter to go up 26-14. Seemed like the game was in hand, but what happened next? Well, this: Andre DeBose kickoff return. Then a 10-play, 80-yard drive by Florida enhanced by a 51 YARD PASS FROM JOHN BRANTLEY TO CARL MOORE. Again. Like Lee, did Brantley ever throw a longer pass in his career? This game, man.
But it was then that things really got weird. LSU managed to get to the Florida 36 on their next drive in six plays, but they only had 35 seconds. And it was fourth down. It would of been a 53-yard field goal. So what did The Mad Hatter do? In this, of all games? Take it away Josh Jasper.
Yup. He just did that. I'm not sure if my immediate reaction was more shock or "HOLY SHIT HE WENT FOR IT AND GOT IT AND WE'RE STILL IN THIS THING". Review held the play up, a lateral by inches. And then Jarrett Lee completed another long pass to Terrence Toliver, this time 28 yards. Seriously? For real? Another one!? And then Lee went to Toliver for the TD and the 33-29 win. Because why the hell not in this game?
Crazy. Bonkers. Mad. This game basically made everyone in the media think "THAT LES MILES IS A CRAZY PERSON". So from then on, any time Les Miles goes for it on 4th Down it's...well, normal. And the Mad Hatter was born.
And frankly, I wouldn't trade games like these for anything. Could we be better off with beatdowns? Sure. Maybe. But these games are part of the fabric of LSU and LSU under Les Miles. And I love every bit of it.