I don't know about the two of you, but I'm damn proud of the way LSU played...there are still issues, but we deserved to win that one. The injuries are possibly very significant though. Do you feel better about the rest of this season? Anybody want to weigh in on the big striped elephant in the room?
I was at the game, which is a terrible place from which to judge officiating. I certainly did not see with my own eyes whether or not Peterson's catch was in-bounds, but the evidence seems pretty conclusive that it was, and that the replay official had plenty enough evidence to make the reversal. As for other calls, I just don't know.
We played hard. We played them even until injuries mounted. In particular, the injuries to Jordan Jefferson and Patrick Peterson were killers. Jefferson went out and we suddenly couldn't pass the ball. Peterson went out and suddenly Julio Jones, who had been a non-factor the whole game, catches a 73 yard touchdown pass on a catch-and-run. Charles Scott went out the game and we couldn't convert a 3rd-and-2, but I suppose that's not all that different from how the rest of the season has gone.
I loved the effort, and I have no problem with the game plan, at least from where I was sitting. It was a tough loss that came as a result of the sorts of things that decide a lot of games between evenly matched teams: fortune. The football gods were not smiling on us, taking 3 of our most important players off the field at critical times in the game. Would it have been a different outcome if Peterson, Jefferson, and Scott had remained healthy the whole game? I can't say. We'll never know.
The important thing is that the season continues, and a good season is still in our grasp. Yes, I hate losing out on the SEC, and I particularly don't like losing it to Bama, but we have to keep playing. This season could still be a good season, or it could go in the tank. We need to accentuate the positive from this and use it as a building block for the future.
First and foremost, LSU played its ass off. Those players gave everything they had and Charles Scott gave the rest of his senior year.
In the end, those injuries were the key. I mean really, name a team that can lose its starting quarterback, top running back -- who had just torn off a 30-yard run at that -- and arguably its best defensive player, in the fourth quarter, on the road, against a top-five opponent and still pull out the win.
I felt like the gameplan was pretty good, with the glaring exception of still running the option with Jordan Jefferson. At this point that endeavor is so futile its continued procession makes me question Gary Crowton's sanity. They did a solid job of working in the run and the quick passing game. Defensively, I think once Peterson started having his cramps the coaches became wary to bring as much pressure. That's understandable to a degree.
The officiating was terrible. This is beyond any objective and reasonable dispute. In LSU's last two trips to Tuscaloosa the penalty count has read LSU 22, Bama 6. There were missed calls that played a role in virtually every quarter -- including the missed interception call that was essentially called wrong twice, as instant replay failed to make the correction. These types of mistakes are now officially the unifying theme of football in the SEC this season. The story of SEC football in 2009. If that's not reason enough for Mike Slive to act, then you have to wonder what it will take. Because things will get worse before they get better.
Jordan Jefferson's injury worries me, as its clear Jarrett Lee can't threaten any good defense throwing the ball. But otherwise, this team has continued to show signs of improvement and has a great chance to finish 3-0, which will make 10-2 on the year. That's a game better than I projected and a record that'd probably win a division title in most years. It's a damn strong rebound from 2008 and LSU fans should be proud and encouraged by that.
Last thoughts on the call, which is only getting me mad due to the standard Bama Fan reaction. The tact the average Bama fan has taken is one of three, only one of which resembles reality.
ONE: It was the right call and this is LSU whining. Yes, those LSU partisans who write for CNN/SI, The Sporting News, and Yahoo are just whining. They were rooting for LSU the whole way. Look, it was a bad call. You lose all credibility when you try and justify the crappy call. It would be like us trying to justify the celebration call in the Georgia game. The only people who think it was a good call were rooting for the Tide.
TWO: It was a bad call but it evened out in the wash. This is where Bama invents some bad calls that went against them. A Bama football fan bitching about the refs is on par with a Duke basketball fan bitching about refs. Apparently, Bama defines a bad call as "any judgment call that went against Bama," which is not what most rational fans would define as a bad call. And I've watched the punt several times... no one touches it. But that hasn't stopped Bama fans from coming in here and simply inventing rules which were violated. Seriously, stop it. There was no call on a par with the missed INT except maybe the lowered top of the helmet tackle directly into Jefferson's chest, which was a textbook example of leading with the crown of the helmet. They missed it. It happens. But that was the second worst call of the game.
THREE. You would have lost anyway. This is the rational argument and while we don't know what would have happened, this at least is grounded in reality. I'd have a lot more respect for Bama if they would just say, "It was a bad call. Suck it up. How about you stop us on fourth and one and not run into our punter?"
OK, enough with the call. I'm sick of it already.
I was really proud of the way the team played. The played hard and had a 15-10 lead in the fourth quarter. In the end, injuries just caught up with the team. I can't think of a team in the country that could lose their starting quarterback, starting running back, best defensive player, their top linebacker, their starting defensive tackle, and their potential first round draft pick left tackle for extended periods of the same game and have any real hope of winning. That's just an absurd number of injuries, and always to LSU's most vital players. There's a big difference between losing Jai Eugene and Patrick Peterson. Nothing against Eugene.
The biggest problem for the team was still disorganization. Roll Bama Roll made a good point that our offense seems TOO complex. We have the players, let's just drop the gimmicks and go out and play. The sheer number of procedure and formation penalties supports the point. We are doing ourselves no favors by trying to be the most complex offense in college football. This team could benefit from some simplicity. I don't think it's poor coaching per se, but while I can live with aggression penalties, these procedure penalties are driving me insane.
The key here is how the team reacts. Last season, we took the Bama loss as an opportunity to go into the tank. This is where we find out about the mental makeup of this team. From this point on, it's about nothing but pride. If LSU can go out and hammer the next three opponents, I will feel absolutely great about this year. It's okay to lose to Florida and Bama in the long view because sometimes teams are just better than you, and this wasn't a year we had circled as a potential title year. Expectations will be higher next year, but the real goal this year was to just get back to being a 10 win program. If we do not go out and keep winning, we cannot meet the most basic goal of the season. Shrug this game off.
I've been perusing the LSU boards and I saw something that really bothered me. Fans were complaining that Miles is the next Cholly Mack, a guy who will win 10 games each year but not beat Alabama. I've often said the reason we ended up in the Dark Days of the program was for firing for McClendon for not being successful when he actually WAS successful, only to find out what real lack of success is like. If we repeat the exact same mistake, I will be beyond pissed. Winning 10 games every year IS success. That means you are in the conference race every year, and that's all you can ask of the program.
We can only hope Les Miles is the next Cholly Mack.
I really agree with the over-complexity argument, and that goes to Gary Crowon. As good of a job as he did in 2007, there were times where I would wonder why certain plays would just disappear from the playbook for long stretches, and at times it just seems like there's no game-plan. It's as if Crowton thinks "let's call this play next," without stringing things together, or getting in a rhythm. And for the life of me, I have no idea why he thinks running the option is something Jefferson needs to be doing.
Poseur said it -- this team is in almost the exact same spot as it was a year ago. The SEC West may not be winnable for this team, but 10 games still are. Last year, the senior class gave up. We'll find out if this group of players (and coaches) have learned and if they can win out there's every reason to believe this program will continue to prosper.
In the end, Miles never could win with a lot of people from the moment he was hired, simply because he wasn't Nick Saban. If you pay enough attention, his detractors say the same things about the guy year-in and year-out, regardless of his record and regardless of what happens on the field. Any landmark cited as a "prove it" will just get moved back once again, because God forbid anybody on the Internet ever say "you know, I was wrong," after they've called a coach or one of his supporters every name in the book. Every big game the guy has ever won suddenly becomes a lot less of a big game in hindsight, a viewpoint that's only mildly hypocritical.
As I've said, coaches' legacies are written over time. Les Miles' at LSU will be written long after he's gone from Baton Rouge -- whether the departure is on his own terms or not. But if people think it's easy to win 80 percent of your games, and a head coach who can do that is easily replaceable, then maybe that type of stupidity gets what it deserves. But it'd be a shame to see history repeat itself.