The program was in decline. The offense was in the muck and would never recover. And, of course, the head coach was moron who needed to be fired. In the midst of all of the negative vibes after 2009, just two years removed from a national title, came one lonely blog…
And Delusional Optimism was born.
Because of this, the 2010 season will always be near and dear to my heart. LSU rode a veteran roster which had experiences some rough growing pains the prior two seasons to a fun 11-win season which ended with a trip to the Cotton Bowl and a final place in the top ten.
There was no national title thanks to a devastating Auburn game, marked by Cam Newton’s Heisman-winning play, but it was still a season in which LSU asserted itself again on the national stage. This team not only wasn’t dead, it was just getting started, setting the stage for the 2011 campaign.
But there was a foundation of that run, and that was 2010. More specifically, it was, as usual, the Alabama game.
LSU lost its prior game to Auburn, a 24-17 heartbreaker to a team that would not lose a game. But LSU was still 7-1 and right after playing one team from Alabama, they had to play the other Alabama school, also 7-1 and ranked 5th in the country. Not to mention, still the defending national champion. CBS moved the game to a midday start and we braced ourselves for the onslaught.
Right out of the gate, the LSU defense forced a Bama three and out. Bama would shank the punt and LSU would be blessed with terrific field position on Bama’s side of the field to start the game. However, Stevan Ridley couldn’t find any space and the Bama defense held. LSU only made it to the 41 yard line and was forced to punt.
However, the defense would not be denied. On third and 8 for the 22, Kelvin Sheppard intercepted Greg McElroy’s pass and now the LSU offense took the field at the Bama 35. Again, LSU couldn’t muster a first down, but it was enough for Josh Jasper to boot through a 45-yard field goal and give LSU an early 3-0 lead.
Bama finally managed their first 1st down of the game on the next drive, but that was it, and the Tide punted away again. LSU took over at its own 36, but similarly could do little with it. By the end of the quarter, the defenses had dominated throughout, but Bama was on their first real drive of the game, finding Julio Jones on consecutive plays to get to the LSU 23 as the quarter expired.
On the first play of the second quarter, disaster struck. Trent Richardson burst through the line for a 22 yard gain and a first down on the one. LSU nearly had a goalline stand, stopping Richardson on the next two plays, but on third down. McElroy found Richardson on the play action for the score and a 7-3 lead.
If the defenses were dominant in the first, they completely took over at this point. The two teams combined for 19 plays on the next four drives for just 57 total yards. That’s a dismal 3.0 yards per play for the offenses. LSU closed out the half on a 9-play, 50-yard drive which, unfortunately, started on their own three. Time expired on the half with the score still in favor of Bama, 7-3.
LSu’s opening drive of the second half stalled at its own 40, when Miles reached into his bag of tricks for the first time. On fourth and 1, Josh Jasper executed the fake punt for a 29-yard gain, and the offense was in business. However, the offense couldn’t manage another first down, even after switching quarterbacks from Jordan Jefferson to Jarrett Lee. Jasper would miss a 45-yard attempt and LSU squandered a great chance to at the very least narrow the lead.
Bama would push the ball near midfield but no further, bringing out the punter content to play field position. For the second consecutive time, Bama pinned LSU deep in its own territory on the punt, downing the ball on the six.
Jordan Jefferson would give the offense room to operate by hitting Terrance Toliver for a 17-yard gain. On the next play, Jefferson would hit paydirt, finding a streaking Reuben Randle for a 75-yard touchdown. LSU was back in front by three, and the place went nuts.
It would be short-lived. The quick strike seemed to wake Alabama up, and their offense marched down the field on a steady diet of Mark Ingram runs. Ingram would close out the 73-yard drive with a five yard TD scamper, and Bama was back on top 14-10.
The teams continued to exchange haymakers. This time, it was Russell Shepard, who found room for a 41-yard run to get LSU near the red zone. The drive would stall, but Jasper would be true on his 35-yard attempt and the margin was down to a single point.
For the first time in the half, an offense failed to move the football on the next Bama possession, and Cody Mandell came on to punt. LSU took over at its own 23, converted two quick first downs thanks to longish Stevan Ridley runs. But again, the drive stalled, this time on fourth and 1 from the Bama 26. Weighing his options, Les Miles made history when he reached down to the field and did this…
Les decided to go for it, and then doubled down on the crazy by calling for a reverse that his team had intentionally never run before, solely to keep secret from their opponent. DeAngelo Peterson took the reverse 23 yards, setting up Ridley’s one-yard TD plunge.
Les Miles would insist after the game that, “We practice these things. It’s not a grab bag.” But the Les the Lucky meme already had legs, and this was the capper. Miles ate grass, called for a reverse, and delivered a knockout blow to the defending national champions.
Bama simply couldn’t recover, as the crowd reached insane levels of volume. Two plays into its next drive, Greg McElroy fumbled the football after a sack by Drake Nevis. Kelvin Sheppard added a fumble recovery to his interception from earlier in the game. Now, Les played conservatively on offense, but Jasper kicked another field goal with 5:34 left, and LSU had a 24-14 lead.
Being the horror movie villain that they are, it takes more than one deathblow to kill Bama. Bama would sprint down the field and Julio Jones would score from nine yards out to cut the lead back to three. With 3:17 left, Bama even elected to kick deep, eschewing the onside attempt.
The strategy almost worked. Facing 3rd and 13, LSU had run a mere 28 seconds of clock. Bama was almost certainly going to get the ball back and have a chance to erase a 10-point lead in the game’s final minutes. But, Jefferson would Rueben Randle for a 47 yard gain, effectively sealing the win.
Bama would force an LSU punt, but it would be with a mere 18 seconds on the clock, not enough time to mount a drive. Bama’s final play, a hook and lateral, would fall a mere 64 yards short of the end zone, as LSU claimed the victory, 24-21.
And there was much rejoicing. This was a validating win for the program, as it put LSU back on the level with Bama and marked LSU as equals in the SEC hierarchy. It also was a satisfying win for Miles, who had been widely disparaged all season and the year prior and the year before that. Or, to let Kelvin Sheppard speak on behalf of his coach, “We’re tired of all the bullshit they talk about you.”
Ole Miss 43-36
Texas A&M 41-24
There were no shortage of options. Tennessee was a wild one in which T-Bob Hebert saved our bacon by snapping the ball to nobody, but Tennessee had about 15 players on the field, so LSU got another chance to win on the game’s final play. LSU won the Florida game on a fake field goal, which almost seemed perfunctory in a Florida win at this point. Auburn was an instant classic that went the wrong way for LSU, but let’s be honest, it was a great game between two great teams. The Ole Miss game was downright insane, as the lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter, finally ending on a Ridley touchdown run with 44 seconds left. And the Cotton Bowl was the Honey Badger’s coming out party.
Phew. It almost made 2011 look sane. Almost.
What’s the Greatest Game of 2010?
This poll is closed
Les Eats Grass, Outsmarts Bama
Tennessee Can’t Count
Florida Falls for the Fake. Again.
Ole Miss Goes Back and Forth
Auburn *ONGOING INVESTIGATION*
A&M Meets the Honey Badger