2007 proved a monumental year in the life of Paul Crewe. That fall would be my final semester of college. I would meet the woman I would eventually marry. And it would be the last time I stepped foot in Tiger Stadium in some time. Fortunately, magic happened that evening.
I was born and raised an LSU fan by my dad, who went to and graduated from LSU. However, due to the distance from my home in Dallas and the female persuasion, I headed to College Station for Texas A&M. Even there, I still followed LSU just as much as I did A&M. Even with my large fandom towards LSU, I had never been to a game in Death Valley. The Aggies were up in Lincoln facing a hapless Nebraska team so I had an open weekend and my dad decided to make a trip to LSU, which sounded like a good idea with a game against an opponent like Auburn.
As customary with my dad and his friends, we did our tailgating starting at 6 in the morning. Through connections, my dad was able to get us a tour of the locker room and walk on the field, giving me and my brother the full experience. That same connection informed us to come find if we couldn't get our hands on tickets. Starts getting closer to game time and we are all empty-handed, so as a last ditch effort, we get a hold of his friend 30 minutes before kickoff. He lets us in and we wind up about six rows up in the student section. Seats that would wind up being the best spot in the house.
The details of the 2007 season are not lost on anyone. LSU, of course, claimed it's second national title in four seasons. It was the third year of Les Miles, following a pair of 11-win campaigns that generally kept the fanbase energized and optimistic. We entered the season as one of a handful of favorites to claim the Crystal Ball (R.I.P.). We dismantled our first three opponents by a whopping margin of 137-7, becoming nominal favorites early on. Everyone loved Gary Crowton and our new, high-powered offense. Even losing all the firepower we did, somehow we were clicking on all cylinders right out the block.
Then the lumps came. A tough test at home vs. South Carolina. A closer-than-it-should-have been battle vs. Tulane and a guy who we'd learn was a pretty special back: Matt Forte. The war with Florida. A road trip to Lexington against a better than usual Kentucky and back home against the always tough Auburn. Five straight weeks and only one "gimme" opponent, that actually played us well.
During the Kentucky game, you could feel the pain the players brought onto the field. Matt Flynn was banged up. Jacob Hester was plum exhausted from carrying the entire Florida defense around Tiger Stadium the week before. Everyone looked a step slower. A beat off. They hung tough, but this wasn't the team we watched dismantle Virginia Tech just five weeks before. This wasn't even the team that disposed of South Carolina just three weeks before. The slogging weather didn't help anything. They battled to three overtimes until their bodies basically gave out, seemingly ruining our dreams for a National Title. Much worse, how could this team even rebound to play No. 18 Auburn the next week?
The heartbreak of the Kentucky loss lingered. Would the team be ready? Could they motivate themselves to play up, even though National Championship hopes were seemingly dashed? Auburn showed up with a pair of shocking losses to undermanned teams in South Florida and Mississippi State. Yet, they rallied to take down Florida at the Swamp and fight off a tough Arkansas squad in an ugly 9-7 victory. All of this mostly on the back of a Will Muschamp defense that hit as hard as anyone in the SEC. Regardless, Auburn is never a team you take for granted, as LSU fans are well aware.
I'd be lying if I said I vividly remember the first three quarters of this football game. Auburn took an early lead but LSU knotted it up with a long screen-pass touchdown from Keiland Williams on the back part of the first quarter. Auburn took control in the second, while LSU failed to sustain any consistent possession. For the life of me, it looked like the team was still dizzied from the Florida war and loss to Kentucky. Auburn took a 10-point lead into the half. The stadium didn't so much seem stunned as in a quiet state of dissolution. Were we watching a team slowly unravel?
The third quarter opened positively, winning back some fans. Fifty-six yards on 8 plays resulting in a field goal isn't sexy, but after a 2nd quarter of 36 yards and a turnover, any sign of progress is welcomed. 7:00 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, LSU held the ball near the 50. Flynn took the snap out of shotgun and rolled right, finding a wide open Brandon LaFell streaking down the field. Flynn heaved the ball, but short, causing LaFell to come back to it. LaFell bobbled the ball and it lead to an interception.
The game continued on, uneventfully enough. Then it happened.
Three minutes and fifty-eight seconds left in the third quarter is the moment Chaz Ramsey decided he was tired of getting his ass kicked by Glenn Dorsey. Dorsey was doing regular Dorsey-like things with five tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup. Chaz Ramsey didn't like it. Not one bit. So he went dirty, chop blocked the shit out of our best player's leg and incapacitated him for the rest of the game. LSU stood toe-to-toe with Auburn that third quarter, but the Dorsey injury was a gut punch. You could almost hear the audible sighs... "Anybody but Dorsey. Please don't be Dorsey" as the players cleared from the play and Dorsey writhed in pain on the grass.
To this day, Chaz Ramsey remains infamous among LSU fans. FUCK Chaz Ramsey is our third favorite fight song. If this game did not end the way it ended, it would undoubtedly be remembered for this play and this play alone. In context, it's one of those moments where you question whether or not LSU could really overcome all of this. The five straight weeks of physical football. Matt Flynn playing banged up. Hell, everyone showed up beaten and bruised with dreams dashed. Could they really muster up enough to overcome a touchdown deficit against a strong defensive team?
Like the 2007 squad so many times that year, they answered the bell. Drake Nevis subbed in, generated good pressure and LSU forced a stop to get the ball back. LSU took the ball back at their own 33 and immediately took a shot down field to Demetrius Byrd, who reeled it in, picking up 58 yards in one fell swoop. However, the drive stalled after three consecutive shots to the end zone. Colt David nailed a chip shot. Auburn took possession again but LSU snuffed them out quickly. This game would be decided in the fourth quarter.
An incomplete pass would be LSU's only flaw on the 8 play 85 yard drive that gave them the lead 20-17. Well, that is, unless you believe Jacob Hester's touchdown should not have counted. LSU ran a beaut of a play-action rollout designed to get Hester the ball with a blocker out front, almost like a screen. Flags came flying and the official commenced a review that seemed to take hours in the stadium. Fans waited with baited breath. Penn Wagers on the review? This can't go well.
"First of all, there is no foul on the play... The result of the play is a touchdown."
BOOM. The stadium erupts immediately into a feverish pitch. Tommy Tuberville is as Tommy Tuberville should be: livid. It's worth noting LSU utterly dominated Auburn though this point in the 2nd half. Prior to the TD, they amassed 233 total yards in the 2nd half to Auburn's 48. Whatever Les or Glenn or Bo said at halftime, worked. LSU dug deep into the recesses and came back stronger. Somehow. Someway.
But Auburn wouldn't go quietly. On their next possession they were stuffed again. LSU took the ball, drove and scored another FG. Auburn ball with 8:12 to go. At this point it seemed academic. LSU would crush them, just as they had the entire second half. After all, they only had 64 second-half yards until this drive. Instead? Auburn turns in a beautiful 9-play, 82-yard drive capped off by a beautiful TD pass from Brandon Cox (Brandon Cox!) to take a narrow one-point lead. Wes Byrum nearly missed the extra point, but slipped it through. This left only 3:21 on the clock. LSU fans were exasperated.
Then Auburn did something hokey, out of fear of Trindon Holliday. They opted to squib the kick, giving LSU the ball at their own 42 needing only a field goal to win. Plenty of time to cover not much ground. A couple of broken pass plays lead to Flynn scrambles of 10 and then seven yards. LSU sat pretty on the Auburn 41, the clock stopped at 2:32 when Flynn scrambled out of bounds. Another called pass was batted down, putting LSU in a 3rd and 3 and outside field goal range.
What does Les Miles do? Naturally he turns to his third-string running back and the option. Auburn defended well but Richard Murphy hurdled juuussssttt far enough for the refs to provide a
quality extremely favorable spot to convert to a 1st down for LSU. The result of the play gave Crowton enough confidence to go ahead and try that bad boy again, this time to the other side. Similarly, Murphy picked up three more yards.
Second-and-7 from the Auburn 35. In range for Colt David, but not favorably so. LSU turned to their iron man. Jacob Hester. But not in the way you envision Jacob Hester. Instead, they line up in Ace formation and run a toss sweep... to a running back whose best skill is getting north/south between the tackles. Hester was never one to let something like that stop him, though. Carnell Stewart, Lyle Hitt and Richard Dickson got three key blocks to spring Hester forward for a first down.
First and 10 from the Auburn 25, 1:28 to go. Another option and Flynn picks up a couple. Clock is ticking. Down to 50 seconds when LSU gets their next play off, another play-action rollout, this time a pass to Richard Dickson for a gain of one. Surely LSU uses their timeout here? Nope. Clock is still ticking.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
LSU finally breaks the huddle with only 17 seconds to go. They don't seem urgent.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Flynn lines the guys up and then seemingly points to the clock like, "OH SHIT."
11 seconds and he bends to take the snap.
Two more seconds tick away before the ball is snapped.
Flynn drops back. Protection is strong. As soon as he hits the back step of his drop the ball goes up...
The game was solid, back and forth, making you grip at your hair with both hands as no one knew how this game was going to come to a close, except for one man. The Mad Hatter himself, getting his home crowd riled up as the remaining seconds ticked away until about 8 was left on the clock. After that, it was just magical. Watching that flight of the Matt Flynn pass, seeming like everything else was in slow motion and finally finding it's resting place in Demetrius Byrd's hands, right in front of the student section.
I know the comparison on the volume in Tiger Stadium and Kyle Field is always up for debate on any message board at any given time. I can tell you firsthand, I went to A&M for five football seasons (I tell myself that instead of partying through most of my freshman year) and never once did a sound resonate like that one did after Byrd came down with that pass. It was deafening. My brother was yelling right next to me and I couldn't even hear him.
It was the best live sporting moment of my entire life, and will be something I could never forget even if I tried.
I sat on the South endzone, directly above the Auburn band and a large contingent of their fanbase. They were rocking and rolling on that Rodgeriqus Smith TD, keeping a steady buzz all through LSU's final drive.
I can still vividly remember screaming, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING" as the offense slowly broke the huddle with the clock ticking down. It was clear this would be the final play of the game. It's the type of clock mismanagement that Les Miles gets poked fun of for all the time, especially when he's sitting on a timeout and all you need is a field goal to win the game. The number of fucks Les Miles gives is exactly zero.
So of course we tried to get it all.
The ball goes up. All I can see is Demetrius Byrd going to the ground and an Auburn defender flying off into the area behind the endzone. It's unclear what, exactly, happened. The student section, in unison, rises up and down, as if levitating on a cloud of the spirit of Glenn Dorsey. The eruption makes it's way across the stadium, from North to South.
I have chills just typing about it now. It's a moment I'll never, ever forget.
Seconds later, here's me:
"THAT IS THE CALL OF THE YEAR" Mike Patrick bellowed.
Matt Flynn made what is maybe the most perfect throw in the history of LSU football.
Demetrius Byrd made what is maybe the most dramatic catch in the history of LSU football.
Death Valley exploded to a level I'd never heard before.
The play was so dramatic, so daring, so full of guts, that the announcers didn't even realize the dire clock situation and what would have occurred pending an incompletion. Not until LSU lined up for the XP did Mike Patrick realize, "AND LOOK AT THE CLOCK. IF THAT BALL IS INCOMPLETE... THEY LOSE. THEY LOSE."
Later he notes, "Well here's the situation. If that ball is incomplete, you have a timeout in your pocket when a field goal would have won the game and you have blown it. And everything is gone. Your season is done."
But we didn't blow it. We didn't lose. Nothing was gone. And our season was most certainly not done. And that's what makes this one of the three best games in the Les Miles era.