Losses were Chick-fil-A and the Peach Bowl's gains.
3rd-ranked Miami, at the time, was only two thought-to-be easy wins and a conference championship matchup against Florida State from a trip to the Orange Bowl and a bowl game in their home stadium. Unfortunately for them, Georgia Tech had other plans and pulled off the upset, and despite a win against Virginia for Miami, Virginia Tech was able to maintain their hold on the Coastal Division and eliminate all BCS hopes for Miami.
Miami and the swagger they always carried around was fun to watch if you were a more modern fan, watching them get in their opponents' head with their trash talking and other methods, and while it was toned down after the NCAA stepped in much earlier, they still exhibited it in other fashions. You liked the change of pace that they brought to college football until you had to play them. Then, you despised them like they were a conference rival you have had history with and would want nothing more than to beat them all over the field.
LSU was even closer to a BCS berth. The Tigers went into the SEC Championship game ranked 3rd and facing the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs. Any hope of a BCS National Championship Game bid was eliminated earlier in the day when Texas thrashed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship and Southern Cal beat #11 UCLA 66-19. Despite that, a trip to the Sugar Bowl (being held in Atlanta due to Hurricane Katrina) was still within grasp. Unfortunately, D.J. Shockley and Georgia had other ideas, putting forth a dominant effort in a 34-14 win.
The commissioners for the Peach Bowl had to be ecstatic when they were able to snag two teams that were both ranked 3rd in the nation in the last three weeks of the season. LSU fans may have been upset that they went from the sweet taste of sugar to a less-sugary taste of peaches, but the team was the exact opposite. The players were pissed they were that close and wanted to exact some revenge and unleash that frustration on a team that everyone loved to beat just a little bit more than any other foe. They were also welcoming the nearly month-long break because they so desperately needed it.
But back to that aforementioned hurricane. Katrina wreaked havoc throughout the lower parts of Louisiana in the last week of August. Due to the destruction that it caused in the area, LSU's season opener again North Texas was postponed back to October 29th. Hurricane Rita created another two-week break between their first two games, Arizona State and Tennessee, the Tigers started an 11-straight weekend stretch of games beginning with the Tennessee game. The tiredness of pulling off such a task could have had an impact against Georgia, and the break that came with preparing for the bowl game was welcomed from the LSU players with open arms.
LSU was also looking to replace their starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell. An injury to Russell's shoulder in the SEC Championship game would cause him to miss the Peach Bowl and hand the reigns over to backup Matt Flynn, who went 3 of 11 for only 31 yards, a touchdown and an interception in that game against Georgia. Before that, Flynn only came in for garbage time against North Texas and Ole Miss, so there were questions as what to expect from this backup after having a little over 3 weeks to prepare for Miami.
The last variable out there was Coach Les Miles was going into his first bowl game as coach of the Tigers. No one really knew what to expect in terms of bowl preparation from the new leader at the helm. Miles had a 28-21 record at Oklahoma State and lost his last two bowl games there. At the same time, he never had the talent at his disposal that he did with LSU, so questions were still left in the air. All of those questions would be answered very quickly.
After a missed 50-yard field goal from Chris Jackson, Miami took advantage and put the first points of the game up on the scoreboard on their first drive with a 21-yard field goal from Jon Peattie. Those three would be the first and the last from Miami the rest of the way.
LSU tied it up with a field goal near the end of the first quarter from Chris Jackson, and following a stop on a 4th down sneak from Miami quarterback Kyle Wright, Matt Flynn connected with Craig Davis for a 51-yard touchdown on a 3rd & 11 following two penalties that forced them to pass. Before the Hurricanes knew it, LSU had scored on their next 6 possessions and they were down 40-3 in the 4th quarter. Miami Coach Larry Coker had no way to stop LSU or do anything on offense. It was, and would remain, as Coker's biggest deficit in a loss in his career at Miami.
Some stats to chew on:
- LSU outgained Miami 468 to 153 in yards.
- Miami converted only 1 of their 12 3rd downs. That one conversion was on the first drive of the game that led to their lone field goal.
- Miami only averaged 3.7 yards per pass and 2.3 yards per rush
- The first drive of the game was the only time Miami got inside LSU's 35-yard line
Now, when you kick a team in the mouth that hard who is known for their cockiness and swagger, they usually react in an emotional way when someone pushes their buttons. Unfortunately for them, they couldn't even get a win in that regard.
The Peach Brawl In The Tunnel
At least Miami tried to put up a fight somewhere inside the Georgia Dome. The details are few and far between, but it all started when Dwayne Bowe, a Miami native, took one of Miami's gameballs and taunted some of the Miami players with it up into the tunnel. Linebacker Jon Beason, amongst other Hurricanes, took off in pursuit of the bragging Bowe, but that only led to more disaster.
No one knows fully what happened in there, but what we do know is Khalil Jones and Andrew Bain, both of Miami, were knocked unconscious from a hit from a helmet. Jones got the worst of it, requiring a dozen stitches to close the cut on his head where the helmet made contact.
It was the Hurricanes worst lost on the field in the last seven years. It's something this team had never been used to and they reacted in a likely way for their team. Even that wasn't the end result they expected.
What We Learned
The questions leading into the game about Les Miles' postseason resume were answered in a resounding way. Miles was a cool, calm and calculated individual that showed he knew how to gameplan and that LSU would remain in contention for a long time to come.
Miami followed that loss with a 7-6 record in 2006, which led to Coker being fired, and a 5-7 record in 2007. The Hurricanes have yet to make it to a bowl game as prestigious as the Peach Bowl since there loss to LSU in 2005. There's a number of reasons as to why this has happened, but this downward spiral all started in Atlanta, Georgia.