It's early in 2007 and I'll just go ahead and present myself the award for horrific pun of the year with that title. Muahahahah.
First of all, obligatory I Was There proof:
Slam my picture-taking and compressing skills and mere 3X Zoom if you must. Find me a better pic and I'll post it instead. Looks much better in all its 1MB glory.
The King gets good seats. It's good to know the King.
Overall thoughts: we really do deserve the tag, which I read somewhere I can't recall (SMQ maybe?), that we really blow out teams in meaningless games (i.e. cupcakes, bowl games that aren't for the national title). I believe that's about 5 straight meaningless games that Les' squad has obliterated its foe...beginning with the Miami Peach Bowl rout last year (and while we could include games vs Moo State and Kentucky in there, I'm leaving conference battles off that list, but wouldn't argue with you if you didn't). Plus, I'm totally cool with meaningless games that result in the ridiculously hot Tiger female populace getting hammered on Bourbon Street aftewards (sorry, pictures not available upon request). Ennyhoo, the first half had every Tiger fan feeling jittery after blowing the two-touchdown lead, and apparently "Things were done" at halftime that just got everything rolling. It was a trap game, and we blew that trap wide ass open. So kudos to the coaching staff for averting potential disaster. There really isn't much else to say about the game in particular, but I'll have a couple more notes below.
In the wake of this victory and in the midst of the Saban-to-Bama brouhaha, I ask: so now what? Les Miles has:
- Led the Tigers to consecutive 11-2 seasons, an LSU first
- Delivered a likely Top 5 finish this year with one of the toughest schedules any LSU team has ever faced (though the CFR's of the world would disagree about the "four top ten teams" since all four didn't finish in the top ten; that argument could go either way but if that's the side he takes, then we had damn well better not ever hear him extol the virtues of USC's season-opening victory at Auburn in 2003, a year those Tigers finished unranked).
- Beaten three Top 10 opponents on the road (Alabama last year, Tennessee and Arkansas this year) and one at a neutral site (#9 Miami last year)
- Won his two season enders by a combined score of 81-17, both over highly ranked opponents (Miami #9 last year, ND #11 this year).
I think it's tough to give this season anything lower than an A for Les...and frankly I'd give him an A overall for his two full seasons thus far. Yes, we could have accomplished more this year - but so could have most of the 115 I-A teams not named Ohio State or Florida. Yes, we had the talent. But going into the season, everyone knew the road we faced. And I think pretty much everyone would have taken an 11-2 record and a Top 5 final ranking.
I hate to do the caveat, buuuuuut...all that said, for the first couple quarters last night I'm sure most Tiger fans got the "Here we go again" feeling - while ND deserves all the credit in the world for riding the Darius Walker train to tie it up at 14 after we got out to that blazing start, we were clearly having some execution issues after the first two drives. I think with the Saban team it generally felt a little less frustrating - like "It's ok, we'll get it together eventually in this game" - as opposed to under Miles, where I find myself quite worried that we'll never make the adjustments during that particular game to pull out the win. Maybe it's just me; maybe that just comes with more time. Given what he's accomplished his first two seasons, though, Miles certainly deserves that time. Let's see how we finish in recruiting this year, too.
- To JaMarcus Russell: Dude, you TOTALLY want to win the Heisman don't you? So it's settled: get your ass to spring practice, then. We can wait out Perrilloux another year. Show Matt Leinart how it's really done - actually win all that stuff your senior year, and then go first overall in the draft. AND you may not have to play for the Raidahs, though a second consecutive #1 pick for them in 08 is probably at least a 50/50 proposition at this point. PLUS, if you come back, I solemnly swear to start a petition to get Louisiana to rename itself Jamarziana. Just saying.
- To Dwayne Bowe: LSU single season record for TD receptions by a WR? If the whole NFL thing doesn't work out for you I'm sure there are a couple lasik surgery outfits willing to spot you big bucks to talk. Maybe you could do it with an eyepatch in the "Before" shot? Plenty of folks would believe every receiver on the Tiger roster was wearing one in 2005, and look how 2006 turned out. Just kudos, man.
- To Justin Vincent: I echo TigerSmack's comments - great to see you go out with that performance.
- To Chris Jackson: I totally called that fake FG. I just can't prove it. Make sure to teach Colt how to do that.
- Defensive seniors: you started a season with everyone expecting your group to regress considerably, and yet you led it to one of the best finishes ever for a Tiger D. Feats more impressive than that are few and far between. Good luck at the next level!
- I hate cheering for NFL teams other than the Saints, but of late it's been nice to make the occasional exception for a Tiger, as will be the case again this year.
- I just feel bad for the Irish fans. Well, except the lost souls like the friend of mine who bet me a steak dinner at the spot of my choice in NYC that the Irish would win, straight up, no points. (Be gentle - he's not from this country, but he's learning...and until that time I'll eat very well.) Back to the Irish: this year at least, the media built this team up into something it's clearly not, and that's a team that can compete with anyone, anywhere. The preseason Top 5 ranking proved to be a joke, and ESPN's Mark Schlabach delivers this in an article right on the worldwide leader's website here. (He is a bit harsh though; sounds like a miserable, jilted lover.) I'm not trying to pile on, but it's not like there were no concerns in the preseason about this defense after Ohio State shredded them in the Fiesta Bowl last year.
- Right about the time I was noticing that our 3rd down conversion rate was just pitifully low - 1/6 versus 8/12 for ND at that point in the game, if I recall correctly - Russell rolled out and hit LaFell in stride for that 58 yard back-breaking TD. I was in the press box, so I couldn't cheer, but I like, totally would have been like "EAT IT IRISH!!! JAMARCUS IS AS JAMARCUS DOES, AND ALL JAMARCUS DOES IS DELIVER. FOOLS." As Wayne Huizenga may say, it was what it was.
- I have no clue with the current situation is regarding Bo Pelini's potential job offer list, but God I hope he stays one more year. After sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the second quarter and that abysmally long 22-minute halftime show, his group put on a performance for the ages in the 2nd half. 30 total yards? 2 first downs? Sometimes I wonder if halftime breaks for Bo Pelini are like finding the hidden boxes in Super Mario 3 that lead up to clouds where you can fly around and get all the coins and 1ups in the world. And since this was an extended halftime break, Bo collected all the damn coins. Because when he came back for the second half, Bo turned Sloppy into Bitchslap and Tiger Nation rejoiced. Amen, motherfuckers.
- LOTS of "Enjoy our Sloppy Seconds, Bama" and "$aban $ell Out" type signs at the game. And the Jumbotron got `em all. Tough crowd, we Tiger fans. For more, read this. I lean more towards Lenny Lemoine's comments than anyone else's. (Also, given that his name is "Lenny Lemoine," this is a brazen attempt to fulfill my wish to get myself added to his "People Not to Kill" list. Because people named Lenny Lemoine don't make "People to Kill" lists, they make "People Not to Kill" lists.)
- Orson Swindle and Burnt Orange Nation's Peter Bean put together an amusing live blog of the Sugar Bowl last night, so be sure to give it a read and chuckle: 1Q. 2Q. 3Q. 4Q. Meanwhile, Orson followed it up today with a "Ten Reasons the Irish Should Be Happy This Morning." Brilliant.