We’ve been talking a lot about 2011 recently which makes today’s entry in the decade’s LSU’s moments a tad redundant.
Now, I know what you’re gonna say… this wasn’t a great moment. This was a terrible, awful, no-good, lousy moment. 1/9/12 has taken on a bit of a life of it’s own since the game, as the specter of the game has hovered over the program for the rest of the decade.
It wasn’t until the exorcism of 2019 that we finally put the demon to bed. And that’s what we’re going for here, it’s not so much the greatest moment, as the most significant event. No single game defined LSU sports in the teens more than that BCS title game.
It’s a shame that the 2011 season gets remembered for the final disappointing end and not the glorious ride that it was, because the 2011 team was awesome, and we’ll never see the likes of a defense like that again.
LSU opened the season with a 40-27 thrashing of Oregon that was nowhere near as close as the score. LSU had a 33-13 lead for most of the fourth quarter before sending in the second team, and Oregon scored a meaningless touchdown with 13 seconds left to make the 40-20 score look more reasonable.
The Tigers beat a really good 10-3 West Virginia squad which won the Big East by 26. In Morgantown. LSU dealt a 30 point loss to Florida and went on the road to beat Tennessee by 31 in the next week. And one week later, LSU came home and beat #19 Auburn by 35 points.
Offense wasn’t quite what it is now, but we were in a more offensive era of college football. And the LSU defense held the opposing offense under 10 points seven times and if we amend the language to 10 points or less, the number rises to nine.
After the Game of the Century, a thrilling 9-6 win that should get more play in LSU lore, LSU still had three SEC games left on the schedule, two of them against top ten teams (Arkansas and Georgia). LSU won those three games by a combined scored of 135-30.
And then it all came crashing down. We don’t need to relieve it, as LSU fans have been living with the staggering corpse of the game ever since. LSU played Bama in a rematch that never should have happened, and an uninspired and listless LSU team lost 21-0.
From that point forward, the magic was gone. Les Miles would make five aggressive calls against Bama in the next game, and every one of them backfired. When he should have been bold on the game’s final drive, he blinked and mistakenly went conservative. Bama drove the field and won.
LSU recruited an incomparable running back talent for the ages in Leonard Fournette. He got hurt before his final season. The same thing happened to his nearly as talented backup, Derrius Guice. Arden Key saw his career go up in smoke due to injuries.
The Tigers seemed to suffer a near Biblical rash of injuries, losing literally hundreds of man games to injuries. They lost their best players, too, not just quantity. LSU suddenly couldn’t build an offensive line and the team certainly couldn’t find a quarterback. Many complained that Miles ran too conservative of an offense, but he had All-World running backs and quarterbacks who didn’t measure up. What was he supposed to do?
Every answer became wrong. It got so bad that LSU couldn’t even fire their coach right. It took Alleva and company two tries to get rid of Miles, before they finally got it right.
It was like Charlie Brown and the football, and it could all be traced back to that one damn game.
And then the fog lifted. DJ Chark made some insane punt returns. Kick Tracy made an improbably kick. LSU throttled Georgia. OK, there was a setback against A&M, but the team went to the Fiesta Bowl anyway and ended UCF’s winning streak.
I don’t know when we put the bodies back in the Indian graveyard, but I’m glad we did. Just like that, LSU’s luck turned. The team stayed healthy. They converted 3rd and 17. And they finally had a quarterback.
The ghost of 2011 was just that… a ghost. It was ephemeral and it can’t hurt us anymore. In fact, it never could. We just kept giving it life by refusing to move on. We can now look back and celebrate 2011 as the greatest regular season team in college football history. 2019 did it with offense, 2011 with defense.
They bookend a brilliant decade of football.