January 9, 2012 sucked. To lose the way we did, in the Superdome of all places, to that man and his team will haunt LSU fans forever. Everything about 2012 would be about one thing for the fans. Revenge against Alabama and Nick Saban. November 8 was circled on every calendar in Louisiana on Jan. 9, 2012. Revenge is what we hoped for at any rate.
The two weeks leading to this game were absolutely brutal. Everywhere you turned, ESPN was showing the highlights to the BCS Championship game. I ate it up. Every moment needed to be relived in painful detail after painful detail. I did it to prepare myself for the worst. When you plan for the worst, you aren’t shocked and appalled when it happens. Our defense was stout, but you could never be sure what the offense was going to do. I remember the tailgating being unusually subdued for this game. There was the delusional optimism sure, but it was tempered with a strain of realistic expectation. Could we win? Sure, but the guys would need to play the game of their lives.
I wanted two things from this game. One was a small measure of redemption against an opponent that embarrassed us, and the other was to be a part of a living, breathing, full throated monster. I got both.
Oh man was the crowd hot. From the time the Golden Band from Tigerland took the field to the opening kickoff, I think I only had one clear thought.
So this is Death Valley when we give a crap. It’s freaking loud and awesome and I love it.
The first quarter didn’t net much scoring action. The offense was unspectacular, the defense beautifully brutal. Mettenberger completed a couple of short throws, but nothing overly impressive. LSU put together one decent drive for a field goal, but this game looked like it was going to be won or lost in the trenches. The offensive line, Jeremy Hill, and the defense needed to win us this game. Everything and everyone was tense. The only outlet was to scream your lungs out at the field.
Please don’t be the Game of the Century again.
The second quarter brought highs and lows. Despite the wall of noise, AJ McCarron and the Alabama rushing attack started to find their groove. After LSU pinned them at their 8 yard line, Alabama marched down the field and scored to open the quarter. LSU quickly went three and out on their next possession, but a fumbled punt put LSU in business near the red zone. Jeremy Hill broke a long run down to the Alabama 13, but a bone-headed penalty by J.C. Copeland set us back. LSU shooting themselves in the foot?!? YOU DON’T SAY? After going nowhere on the first three downs, we decided to run fake field goal that everyone saw coming. Now we were screaming out of frustration.
After the turn over on downs, Alabama took all of 57 seconds to score their second touchdown. The crowd was in shock and half time couldn't come soon enough. We had been on the cusp of retaking the lead, but instead were down 11 points.
Please don’t be the BCS Championship again.
As bad as the first half ended, the start of the second half was that good. The defense came out and got two quick three and outs, which gave the crowd some life. Then LSU put together a methodical and confidence building touchdown drive. Mett completed three huge third down passes and the offensive line started to get push up the middle, allowing Hill and Spencer Ware to grind out tough yards. Hill finally put the ball in the endzone from the 1 and we were back it business, but Mett was the key with those third down passes. What seemed like a trench battle was quickly turning into the Mett show. Mett finally looked like he was delivering on the hype. It was everything we wanted from the LSU offense, namely, tough running interspersed with clutch passes. The crowd started going ballistic again. We finally got what we wanted, and we were thrilled. One drive was all it took to get us to believe again.
We’ve got a chance…
After the defense stalled Alabama’s next possession, Mett hit J.C. Copeland on a screen for 42 yards to end the third quarter. The offense was clicking and Death Valley was back to full song heading into the fourth. Three plays later, Mett hits Jarvis Landry for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone and the place comes completely unhinged. That roar is still the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. The crowd believed, the team believed, the guy next to me grabbing my shirt and yelling that his boss was going to buy him a golf club believed. I believed.
Defense needs to hold and we got this…
Then the scoring came to an abrupt halt. Alabama went three and out twice and LSU couldn’t get out of its own way, failing to convert a fourth and one in Alabama territory and missing a long field goal. The only positive was that a ton of clock had been eaten up. The guy next to me was still talking about his golf club, but I was still too optimistic to care.
We can and will do this.
Alabama had proven earlier that it didn’t need a lot of time to score. Everyone forgot that fact. It came back astonishingly quickly though. McCarron threw three quick passes to Kevin Norwood before hitting the dagger to T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon ran 28 yards untouched into the endzone. The crowd really didn’t know how to react. I mean, how can you react when you can’t breathe? Someone sucked all the oxygen out of the building. Golf club guy left. Death Valley was dead.
I stood there and took it all in. Really, what else could I do? I had just witnessed the best football game I’d ever seen played live. I was part of the living, screaming monster that is the real Death Valley for four hours and it was fun and terrifying in all the best ways. And I had seen that monster die.
I got what I wanted, just not in the way I had imagined.
Final: LSU 17, Alabama 21
Other entries in the Best Games of the Les Miles Era: