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Wednesday Walks Down Memory Lane: LSU -- Alabama 2001

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Ed. Note: I swear to god this feature won't be all Bama games, it just so happens this is the next one in the queue in rnolan53's Youtube page. There shouldn't be another one for a few weeks.

There were two major turning points in Nick Saban's time at LSU. This 35-21 win was one of them.

The 2001 Tigers had just lost a brutal 35-24 game to Ole Miss in Baton Rouge that brought the torches and pitchforks out. Three touchdown passes from Eli Manning paced the Rebels, while the LSU offense went into a complete shell with just 23 passes on the night and a 2-12 third-down conversion rate. The secondary (the head coach's signature position) had almost no hope against the future No. 1 overall draft choice, while a dreadfully conservative offensive series near the end of the first half got the blood boiling: shortly after surrendering a touchdown to give the Rebels a 14-10 lead, LSU took the ball at its own 31, attempted three straight runs and had a punt blocked that led to another touchdown before the half. Fans were irate. The call-in shows were jammed with fans calling for the $1.5 million man's job - Saban even brought up his daughter's reaction to the radio shows in a press conference later in the week. Heck, even yours truly was in meltdown mode -- it was probably my last "OMG WE HAVE TO GET A NEW COACH" moment.

With a big trip to Alabama coming up, Saban had to go away from his nature and embrace the simple truth about this team: LSU had a fantastic natural passer and the best receiver in the SEC, a complimentary (but not reliable) rushing attack and a defense that couldn't be counted on for big stops consistently. It was time to take the gloves off and let the players play. And then things got fun.

The Setting:

  • My third straight trip to Tuscaloosa, this time with a slightly larger crew: my buddy Patrick, sister and her boyfriend (now husband) and a couple cousins were in tow. A fun trip even with the win, as we hit up Cypress Inn with my parents and some friends after the game (where I was glued to the famous Ole Miss-Arkansas seven-overtime thriller), and later the strip with my cousin and some of her sorority sisters.

  • It was Bama's homecoming, which felt like a bigger deal than it typically was here at LSU at the time. We made sure to remain incognito out on the strip, as some of the more drunken patrons were in a fightin' mood (though to be fair, the handful we saw were Bammer-on-Bammer), and wound up at whatever bar is the Tuscaloosa equivalent to Sports/Reggie's -- they allowed almost anybody in regardless of credible ID. I also seem to recall the toilet backing up in the place.


The Game Itself:

  • Remember earlier that season when Kelley Washington torched LSU for an SEC-record 256 yards on 11 catches? Yeah, that was cute.

  • I wonder if Josh Reed ever use to remind LaBrandon Toefield how many touchdowns he probably owed to Reed and Davey? Toefield rushed for a school-record 19 touchdowns that season (3 on this day, all 5 yards or less), despite not even cracking the 1,000-yard mark. Toe was a heck of a back before injuries ruined him, but he might have been the biggest beneficiary of the Rohan-to-Reed connection.

  • My memory's somewhat rusty (and I'm not sure if every play is captured in this video), but I seem to remember the LSU running the trips-formation bubble-screen at least seven times.

  • What's funniest of all, is that big games from Reed were so customary at this point, none of us realized just how crazy he was going in this game until somebody near us with some headphones blurted out "Reed just caught his 18th pass!"

  • This was, of course, Reed's masterpiece. An SEC-record 19 catches for an SEC-record 293 yards and a touchdown -- and he probably should have had another one if not for a great fumble-pop from a Bama DB. Overall turnovers were the only reason this game was even remotely close; LSU outgained Bama by 319 yards (528-209), but at a 3-1 turnover deficit.

  • This is hard to admit, but I think the two best catches of this game actually come from Michael Clayton at the 4:43 and 4:56 marks. He'd already become LSU's No. 2 target essentially, and I don't think anybody doubted that we had a star on our hands in the 6-4 freshman.

  • Rohan Davey's 540 yards of total offense remains a conference record that he shares with Archie Manning (coincidentally also compiled against the Crimson Tide). It's a bit of a surprise that despite their amazing numbers, neither Cam Newton nor Tim Tebow were able to top 540 (Tebow did come pretty close in the 2010 Sugar Bowl with 533 yards).

For More Entries In This Series, Visit The Memory Lane Archive.