There’s been a number of forgettable seasons in LSU football history, but perhaps none more than 2014. Deep into the Miles era, in what would ultimately turn out to be the beginning of the end, LSU delivered a ho-hum 8-5 season built on the back of a strong defense and pedestrian offense, while seeking to rebuild the team’s core after significant NFL departures.
The 2014 was year one of Fournette and Adams, as the team with significant offensive firepower built around Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry ushered off to the NFL. LSU needed to replace the entirety of their offensive production and looked to do it with freshman. There was some returning seniority: OLs Lael Collins, Vadal Alexander and Elliott Porter, DEs Danielle Hunter & Jermauria Rasco, LB Kwon Alexander, and RBs Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard. But the stand out skill players were gone and the bulk of the depth was comprised of freshmen and sophomore. All those years of early NFL attrition really started to rear their ugly head in 2014. Guys like Kendall Beckwith, Tre White, Trey Quinn, Anthony Jennings, Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, Davon Godchaux, weren’t playing purely out of talent, but need, many before they were properly primed for significant playing time. And not just playing small roles, but significant ones.
The season started with what looked to be a significant win over a game Wisconsin team. It would be derailed later that month with a loss to Mississippi State, that triggered a QB change to young Brandon Harris, who would come absolutely unglued on the road at Auburn two weeks later. And the story of 2014 started to unfold. It would be defined by youth. 2014 LSU were addicted to thrillers.
The Greatest Game of 2014: Ole Miss
By late October, things were trending up for LSU. The offense hadn’t found a footing, but the team rallied to win in Gainesville the week after taking it on the chin at Auburn. After dismantling Kentucky, LSU looked to be finding itself, winding up back in the top 25 as they welcomed #3 Ole Miss into town.
It’s easy to forget the peaks of Ole Miss in the Freeze era due to the precipitous decline and his subsequent firing for misconduct, but 2013 Ole Miss sprung an upset on then #6 LSU and the 2014 team beat Alabama AND a then highly ranked Texas A&M team, to jump their way up to no. 3 nationally. Simultaneously, Mississippi State was building their case, and the West looked to be heading toward a collision course to be determined by the Egg Bowl, for the first time in history.
Thus, wounded LSU welcomed an explosive Ole Miss team, that hung 23 points in victory, which seemed inconceivable at the time, on Alabama. Remember, this was the Ole Miss team that supposedly “cracked the formula” of beating Alabama with an explosive spread passing offense that made Nick Saban himself even change his philosophies. They weren’t expecting what LSU would bring to the table that day.
Say what you will about Les Miles, he’d never be accused of trying to bring a knife to a gun fight. A sledgehammer maybe, but not a knife. LSU’s offense could best be described as blunt force trauma in the Miles era. What it lacked in innovation and explosiveness, it made up for it in brutishness and extreme selfishness with the football. LSU wouldn’t turn the ball over, and they’d sit on it and meticulously grind minutes off the clock, often playing the very best style of defense: the one where the defense rarely needs to take the field.
That’s 2014 LSU/Ole Miss. A clashing of styles. A tale of two programs seemingly headed in different directions. But the cold hard reminder of the natural order of things.
Ole Miss struck first, cashing in on a Bo Wallace TD pass near the end of the first quarter, in a drive that covred 80 yards in just 1:19 seconds. But LSU had pieced together drives of 63 and 70 yards that they couldn’t convert to points. Ugly and frustrating, but it was immediately clear LSU would be able to move the football, something often in question in 2014, on this night.
It into the 2nd quarter that LSU really hit stride. After the teams swapped punts, LSU took the ball with 11:54 left on the clock. 17 plays, 90 yards and 9:13 later, LSU cashed it in for a FG. NINE MINUTES AND THIRTEEN SECONDS. NINE. THIRTEEN. That drive is LSU as fuck.
It would be the final points of the half. Ole Miss knew they were in for a dogfight.
The third quarter eased the game into the tempo and style LSU favored. The pace slowed. The teams were matched in a defensive showdown. Ole Miss explosive offense wasn’t running up and down the field and hitting big plays like the team that shocked Alabama and rambled by A&M. The longest drive of the quarter went a total of 55 yards and Ole Miss barely broke past midfield before punting the ball away. This was the type of game Les Miles would probably call ideal.
The 4th quarter continued the trend. LSU punted. Ole Miss punted. LSU punted again. Ole Miss punted again. The tension in the stadium escalated. Despite face planting on national television just three weeks prior, here was LSU in a backyard brawl with one of the supposed best teams in the nation. Could LSU break the stalemate? Could Ole Miss put LSU away? Which team would break?
With 11:06 remaining, LSU took back the ball from their own 5. Buried deep in their own territory seemed particularly disadvantageous for this LSU team, that struggled so mightily on offense. LSU’s power-running-grind-it-out style would truly have to click to drive 95 yards for pay dirt. Click it did.
The Ole Miss defense began to crack. LSU came with a heavy dosage of Kenny Hilliard, who hit them with runs of 2, 18, 8 and 16 before he went to the sidelines for a blow. In came Fournette for a couple of short runs, and then back to Hilliard for 2 and then 1 more. In came Fournette again, who then ripped off a 22 yard gain, running over Ole Miss defender on his way out of bounds. This would become a Leonard Fournette past time. He followed it up with what will be one of the most memorable moments in his career, gaining 6 tough yards as his face mask was being ripped off by Serderius Bryant.
Fournette had started to blossom by October, but this run really established his bad man on campus street cred. He was 18, but he was no boy. This was a man. And he meant business.
The penalty put LSU with a 1st and GL at the 3. They hadn’t thrown a single pass on the drive. This is Les Miles idea of foreplay. Naturally, with Fournette sidelined due to the facemask and Hilliard needing a rest, LSU called a FB dive on 1st and GL. No gain.
“The thirteenth is gonna be a run too...”
LSU drove the field, 92 total yards, on 12 consecutive running plays. It’s not that they attempted passes and had incompletions. LSU straight up ran the football on 12 consecutive plays from one end of the field to the other. Sex. This is like one of those when boys became men stories. This was an absolute illustration of LSU exerting their dominance on a program they believe to be lesser than them, no matter what the rankings said.
So following a FB dive on 1st and GL, it made perfect logical sense for Chris Fowler to follow up Herbstreit’s point about 12-straight running plays with... “and the thirteenth is gonna be a run too.” Everyone thought so. All the fans. And clearly, so did Ole Miss. Lining up in 22 personnel. No WRs on the field. No time to get cute. We’re gonna run this right down your throat just like we did the last 12 damn times and you are gonna like it, Ole Miss. On the 13th play, Cam Cameron turned deep into the playbook, running the perfectly timed play-action pass, a simple fake on the dive to Hilliard, rolling Jennings to the right and getting a delay route to TE Logan Stokes, who was running through the end zone with the closest defender 2 yards behind him. Stokes went to his knees to sell the route and Jennings made the easy pitch for the TD. The XP was good. LSU took control in an assertion of will moment that would remind of the best of the Miles days. It would be the only pass Logan Stokes would catch in his entire LSU career.
But the game still had 5:00 remaining. Ole Miss took the ball back, but after crossing midfield they failed to convert on 4th and 1 sneak play by Bo Wallace. Most importantly, they wasted 3:16 of the game doing it. LSU took the ball, and clearly went into a shell, on a drive that went -2 yards in 3 plays and burned only :25 seconds of game time. Ole Miss would have one last gasp.
With 1:19 remaining, the Rebels took the ball. After being pushed to 4th down, they converted and then connected on another pass pushing them past midfield. With :31 remaining, Wallace threw incomplete and then threw an INT, which was wiped off by a PI penalty. Ole Miss was now at the LSU 33 with only :14 to play. Sitting on fringe FG territory, they threw another incompletion down the sideline. On the next play, Ole Miss setup to pass again, but LSU pressure flushed Wallace from the packet and he scampered down the sideline gaining 8 yards and going out on the 25. :09 remained and Ole Miss sat in comfortable field goal position. With no timeouts remaining, Ole Miss judged that they couldn’t risk it and sent their K onto the field to try for the tie. But they struggled to pull the trigger on the decision and by the time the kicking unit trotted onto the field, the play clock expired and cost the Rebels 5 of the 8 yards Wallace just worked so hard to pick up. The true freshman kicked lined up again, now attempting a 47-yard FG to tie on the road in a hostile environment. Les Miles opted to call a timeout and give him a little more time to think about it.
Hugh Freeze got greedy. During the T.O. they opted to go back to the drawing board and send out their offense. Now with time to plan, they figured one more shot at the end zone couldn’t hurt. Ole Miss spread out and a well covered WR sprinted down the sideline, where Wallace heaved the ball. Not only was the WR blanketed by the CB, FS Ronald Martin came over the top in help and walked right in line of the pass for an easy INT to seal the game.
LSU played sloppy, turning the ball over 4 times and missing a short FG, but they kept chipping away all night. What started as runs of 1, 2, and 3 yards gradually progressed into runs of 5, 7, and 9 as LSU leaned on the Ole Miss defense until they culminated it with a fully man ball scoring drive. It was a game that hearkened back to the glory days of the LSU/Ole Miss rivalry in the 60’s.
It would be the defining win in a forgettable 2014 season. Sure, LSU couldn’t have their own run, but ruining Ole Miss’ is second best to that.
W vs. Wisconsin 28 - 24
W vs. Florida 30 - 27
L vs. Alabama 20 - 13 (OT)
W vs. A&M 23 - 17
Lots of nailbiters in 2014, including the bowl loss to ND. The Wisconsin game was fun. Florida showed the team wasn’t giving up on the season. The Bama game is probably the 2nd most heartbreaking of the Miles era behind the National Title loss and beating A&M is always a good time. Some good games in an otherwise forgettable season.
What’s the greatest game of 2014?
This poll is closed
Beating Ole Miss
Comeback vs. Wisconsin
Beating Florida on the road
Slugest L vs. Alabama