It felt like it wouldn’t happen. Twice.
To date, 2007 is probably the wildest college football season in the history of the sport. Before we get into LSU’s storyline, let’s remember the chaos that occurred.
Appalachian State shocks the #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines in Michigan Stadium.
Unraked Stanford, a team that would win 4 games, upset no. 2 USC, in the Coliseum, despite being 41-point underdogs.
Unranked Oregon State beat no. 2 Cal.
Unranked Rutgers beat no. 2 South Florida.
Unranked Florida State beat no. 2 Boston College.
Unranked Arizona beat no. 2 Oregon.
No. 3 Missouri beat No. 2 Kansas (Kansas!)
Unranked Pittsburgh beat no. 2 West Virginia
Seven different teams ranked no. 2 in the nation fell, without only Missouri not being a sizable underdog. On three different weekends, both the no. 1 and no. 2 team fell. That hadn’t happened once since 1996. Which leads us to LSU’s wild ride.
Twice in 2007, LSU was ranked no. 1 in the nation and fell to unranked opponents. Each time, the game went to 3 OTs. Each time, injuries played a significant role in LSU’s demise. The best Kentucky team in the last two decades and an Arkansas squad, coming off an SEC Championship Game appearance, whose backfield made them a genuine threat, were the foes. LSU couldn’t survive either game, and each time it looked as if it would end a national title bid for a team everyone in the country believed to be the best after demolishing no. 9 Virginia Tech in the second week of the season. The losses don’t even display the full insanity of LSU’s season. LSU also played thrillers against Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee on their way to the tile.
Injuries were significant. Matt Flynn was hobbled for most of the season, either playing injured or not playing at all, as was the case in the SEC Championship game. Glen Dorsey, the nation’s best player in 2007 (sorry Tim Tebow), was the victim of a brutal chop block by Chaz Ramsey (obligatory: Fuck Chaz Ramsey). Jacob Hester was so brutalized against Florida he could barely carry the rock vs. Kentucky, which proved fateful. Ricky Jean-Francois was academically ineligible for the regular season, which prove monumental judging by his performance during the National Championship.
The 2007 LSU squad may be the only 2-loss champion in recent history, but the team is often unfairly maligned as the worst team to win a championship in the modern era. LSU was truly a special team that met some unfortunate odds. Luckily, in the end, the breaks went their way just enough for them to come out on top in the end.
In a season chocked full of great games, one game truly stands out as the greatest of the season and perhaps the greatest LSU football game of all time.
The Greatest Game of 2007: Florida
I hope history remembers this game as kindly as we all do. We already voted it the best game of the Les Miles era, and nothing that happened after that piece was penned would change its status. If one were to look back and simply gaze Florida’s record and see LSU narrowly won, you might think of it as evidence of the 2007 team was underwhelming. It’s one of the blind spots of box scores: you often lose the story.
Florida rolled into Baton Rouge fresh off a tough loss to Auburn, ranked no. 9 nationally. This was Urban Meyer’s follow-up campaign to the 2006 National Champions and the first season Tim Tebow would be deployed in full. It’s also just as Tebow’s Heisman Campaign had started to pick up steam. Through give games, Tebow’s numbers looked like this:
1,300 yards passing, 11 passing TDs, 2 INT, 433 yards rushing, 8 rushing TDs
He was unstoppable. He was the entire Florida offense. And he had more than a few people believing the Gators could be a legitimate threat to repeat as title winners. That QB rolled into Baton Rouge, hungry to avenge the previous week’s loss to Auburn and put their season back on track.
LSU showed up undefeated, the no. 1 team in the nation, with a battered but still playing QB. The 2005 and 2006 matchups proved to be the type of showdowns you would expect between programs at the peak of their powers under their respective coaches. Meyer had fully transitioned the Florida offense at this point and LSU’s roster had come to full maturation under Miles, despite losing QB Jamarcus Russell. All the world expected this to be an epic and it didn’t fail to meet a single expectation.
Most games have drama bound up in a matter of plays or a sequence of events tightly grouped together. But this game felt like the string pulled tight for 3.5 hours. There was never a break in action, never a lull in activity and never a fade in attention.
Florida struck first, with a FG on their opening drive, as both teams felt each other out. LSU wouldn’t find any room on their opening attempt, punting after three plays, only for Florida to return the favor themselves. LSU’s next drive proved slightly more fruitful, but a TFL of Keiland Williams and a false start put LSU in poor down and distance and they couldn’t convert, punting again. Florida closed out the quarter with the ball and driving, ultimately cashing in to start the 2nd quarter, opening up a 10-0 lead in Baton Rouge. Tebow took the opportunity to taunt the student section, who somehow secured his phone number and harassed him in the days leading up to the game.
Game on. The crowd roared, despite LSU’s slow start. LSU took back the ball and finally found itself, blending running and passing down the field. It’s the type of drive you dream of as an offensive coordinator. Flynn to LaFell. Flynn to Mitchell. Flynn to Byrd. Carries by Hester, Williams, Holliday and Scott. The backup QB came in in the GL package and attempted a pass before running it in for a score. Every weapon played a part, exhibiting what truly made LSU’s offense tough to defend in 2007: versatility. It also showed that LSU was up for a fistfight. Florida threw the first punches but didn’t knock LSU out. The moment LSU punched it in, we knew we were in for a long night.
Florida wasn’t phased. They went right back to the well. Check out the play-by-play of their follow up drive:
Hey, good coaches stick with what works. Battering the LSU defense with a steady diet of Tebow proved more than successful when the Gators cashed in again, widening their lead back to 10 points. LSU took the ball back down 10, needing to close the gap before the half. After driving 42 yards in 1:47, Colt David missed a 43-yard FG. Florida took over and kneeled it out, content to take a 10-point lead on the road into the half.
Florida showed up to Baton Rouge ready to play. They were neither intimidated by the loudest crowd in America nor shellshocked by the previous week’s loss to Auburn. Heading into the 2nd half, LSU had it’s first true challenger on it’s hands. Despite facing little adversity in the first five weeks of the season, LSU showed no signs of cracking.
Starting with the ball in the 3rd, LSU showed they were game for the street fight, relying heavily on a ground-n-pound philosophy to grind out 70 yards on 15 plays for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-14.
And yet, Florida did not flinch. This is not a case of the home team stealing momentum out of the half to wind up taking control of the game. LSU’s score to open the 2nd half only seemed to irritate the Gators, who took back the ball and quickly drove 75 yards in 5 plays to widen the lead back to 10. After the score, neither team could generate much offense as the game pushed forward into the 4th.
LSU began a drive at the end of the 3rd, bleeding over into the 4th, navigating 31 yards into scoring position. The typically reliable Colt David again missed a FG. Time seemed to be escaping LSU along with opportunities.
Florida took the ball back and then fortune struck. On 2nd and 6, Tebow dropped back and threw a short pass that was intercepted by reserve DL Kirston Pittman, giving LSU possession on the UF 27-yard line. Five plays later LSU cashed it in for a TD, cutting the lead back to 3 points, now with 10 minutes remaining in regulation. For the first time all night, it finally felt as if LSU had stolen back momentum. The Gators were quick to respond at every turn that night, so when LSU kicked the ball off, a stop was no certainty.
In a moment of poor situational awareness, Florida, sitting on a 3-point lead with ten minutes to go, opted to throw three straight passes. Despite completing the first pass for six yards, the next two went incomplete, forcing the Gators to punt. Not only did they fail to convert, they wasted practically no time off the clock against a team that had proven they needed lengthy drives to convert to points.
LSU took the ball back with 9:20 to go on the game clock. History happened.
It’s hard to illustrate how a game-winning drive from a 3-point deficit with 9:20 could happen, but Les Miles made it so. The major dramatics were often tied to self-inflicted wounds. Jared Mitchell committed an offensive pass interference penalty, placing LSU at a 2nd and 18 and then a 3rd and 16. From there, hobbled Matt Flynn scrambled 15 yards, setting up LSU’s first dramatic 4th down attempt. Hester, of course, converted.
With the chains reset, LSU put in Perrilloux, who rushed for no gain before going back to the bench. Flynn came back in and found Richard Dickson for a 1st down, before turning back to the ground game. A no gain by Charles Scott was followed by a gritty 19-yard run by Jacob Hester. You may remember it looked something like this:
Hester became the living embodiment of the goofy Chris Berman line about “rumblin’, stumblin’, bumblin’...” A marginally talented player, Hester rocketed to mythic status based purely on his grit. Despite taking a beating from Florida defenders, Hester kept churning, puttin LSU down on the Florida 16. Naturally, Les went right back to the well. Naturally, Hester picked up four more yards. On 2nd down, the staff went back to Perrilloux, who this time picked up five yards to put LSU into 3rd and short territory. A Hester no gain pushed LSU into another 4th down attempt. Again LSU turned to Hester and this time he converted, pushing LSU to 1st and goal from the UF 5.
After attempting a first down pass, the staff went back to Hester, who picked up 3 yards. The clock ticked down below 1:30 and LSU took a T.O. to regroup. On 3rd and goal from the two, with the entire roster knowing exactly what LSU planned to do, Miles had team line up in one of those “show your guts” moments. There was absolutely no trickery, no deception, no attempt to even pretend LSU might be doing something other than what they were doing.
Nope, LSU lined up in heavy set and ran the ball right at Florida. Who carried the ball? You never might guess it was Jacob Hester, again. It paid off! LSU scored, taking their first lead of the game, 28-24. 15 plays. 60 yards. 8:11 of game clock. Though time remained on the clock, it felt like LSU 100% seized the moment and the game on this drive.
Florida took the ball back with barely over a minute remaining. After driving 34 yards on 7 plays to get into LSU territory, the clock expired. LSU held on 28-24.
48 - 7 W vs. #9 Virginia Tech
28 - 16 W vs. #12 South Carolina
30 - 24 W vs. #18 Auburn
41-34 W vs. #17 Alabama
21-14 W vs. #14 Tennessee
38-24 W vs. #1 Ohio State
A lot of tremendous games in 2007 and I didn’t even include the two losses here. But come on, who in their right mind picks anything but UF?
What’s the Greatest Game of 2007?
This poll is closed
Dominating Virginia Tech
Beating South Carolina with a Fake FG
Thriller vs. Auburn
Beating Tennessee with a backup QB
Winning the Natty, duh!