A few preliminary things. I updated the chart I made a few days ago with Ole Miss’s performance against LSU when renked. Their last win over LSU when both teams were ranked was 1962. I also updated the blog about the overall series that I published here for the first time in 2010.
Next week, I will release my top 25 blog, but you can already click the heading “ratings site” to see the full list of teams.
Since LSU has a bye week and just had another game with a great finish, I think this week will be the perfect time to the blog I’ve been planning on with the crazy LSU finishes over the last 15 years. It will also be fun because obviously the next game is Alabama, and there were some crazy finishes when Saban was at LSU too. It’s not just a Miles thing. If you want to get an early start on Alabama, I also have a blog about that series of course.
On to the game, I was leaning toward Ole Miss winning, but for some reason I’ve been picking the wrong teams in close games the last several weeks. I also picked Penn St. and USC, for instance.
However, I had a feeling it would be a game like the one that was played and that we would see an improved LSU team from Miss. St. and Auburn. A couple of guesses for potential LSU wins were 17-14 (the score LSU won by in 2003) and 17-16 (the score LSU won by in the disputed 1972 game).
I knew there was a risk Ole Miss would get things going on offense, so I thought they might win by something like 27-24 as they did last year. If things went more poorly for LSU, maybe 28-17, something like that.
The LSU defense was dominant at times, but what I like about this defense is if you get one first down you’re not off to the races. You have to fight for the next one and the one after that. So it stopped or drove Ole Miss back at least three times from borderline field-goal range. There were a few other key stops in the vicinity of midfield as well.
If you had told me the final score would be 10-7, I would have known that favored LSU.
Comparison to recent games and trivia
As a fan, I feel vindicated by this game. When we went to Oxford last year, we were still playing for a national championship, and we got derailed by Ole Miss with a late field goal. Ole Miss only has one loss, so they’re not out of it, but it was still nice to return the favor.
Also, in 2009, we made some mistakes right at the end that potentially cost the game as well, so I felt like this helped even the score. Down by 2, the Tigers drove to the Ole Miss 32, the edges of field goal range. After an incompletion on first down, LSU went backwards. QB Jordan Jefferson was sacked, knocking the Tigers out of field goal range, but it was only third down. When the play ended, 17 seconds ticked off the clock before LSU called a timeout. Miles said he thought a timeout had been called, but the clock ticked down from 0:49 to 0:32 before it was actually stopped by that timeout. LSU then lost more ground on third down, leading to a 4th and 26 with 9 seconds left. I don’t know what that took up so much time either, but the Tigers completed a 42-yard pass for a first down at the Ole Miss 6. They could not get the final play off though, and the game ended.
We did get wins over the Rebels in 2010, 2011, and 2012 of course, but it’s nice to get one back that they likely feel they should done better with clock management to give themselves a chance at coming back at the end. To be honest, I thought that might be the kind of thing LSU would do at the end of the game.
It also adds something to the fun when you get a win as an underdog. If you’re supposed to win, it’s usually just more of a relief instead.
LSU has not beaten Ole Miss by more than 7 points at Tiger Stadium since 1995, but somehow LSU has won 6 of the last 7 at home against the Rebels. Ole Miss has still won two of the last three at home against LSU after four straight losses.
LSU is now 24-23 under Les Miles when trailing at some point in the fourth quarter, not only the only team with a winning record but also the only team over 35% in such games. Texas is second since 2005 in both wins (18) and winning percentage (34.6).
Here are a couple more factoids for you: In the last 20 years, only 2 teams have defeated a Top-3 opponent while scoring 10 or fewer points… LSU did it both times: 2011 at No. 2 Alabama (9-6) and 2014 vs No. 3 Ole Miss (10-7). LSU has won 5 out of six games when hosting top 10 teams since 2010. I shouldn’t have to mention the exception.
I correctly anticipated Anthony Jennings would feel the pressure, but I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed to handle it better than Bo Wallace did. While he did turn the ball over twice, they were both long throws and the defense performed well to keep them from being very damaging. Also, it didn’t seem to damage his ability to focus and handle the rest of the game.
Bo Wallace, by contrast, really seemed overwhelmed at times, and not just when he head-butted an LSU player or when he started jawing with the crowd (It reminded me of when Tim Tebow tried to show up the LSU crowd in a loss). He did not turn the ball over until his last throw of the night, but that was obviously a lot more crucial of a mistake.
Also, the interception that was negated by a pass interference was a horrible throw. It was arguably uncatchable, but I’ve studied this rule at length since the Auburn game in 2006 (when LSU was denied an obvious pass interference when the referees picked up the flag). It has to be very clearly uncatchable or it is interference, so the call could have justifiably gone either way. The interpretation that likely prevailed was that the receiver theoretically could have fought off two defenders (the one flagged and the one who caught the ball) and made a play on the ball, but that doesn’t mean it was anything but a bad throw.
Ole Miss’s only score was technically off of a turnover, but it still required an 80-yard drive. So the Tigers really should have been ahead in the early going of the game since one of the fumbles was at the Rebel three-yard line, and after another good drive the LSU kicker missed a 28-yard field goal. He would also make a 21-yard field goal (which was ultimately necessary for the win of course), but that also indicates how close they were to more points on that possession.
LSU did have, surprisingly, over 400 yards of total offense, and they needed just about every one of them, so I don’t think my analysis in picking Ole Miss to win was really that far off. I knew the Ole Miss defense was overrated (at least by those who predicted the LSU running attack would be stopped cold), but I don’t think anyone anticipated giving up that many yards to an offense that had struggled so much in the passing game. (Jennings was still only 8/16 for 142, but that’s better than 7/15 for 120 against Kentucky or 10/21 for 110 against Florida.)
Time of possession is widely considered over-rated, but not for these teams in this game. If your defense needs to hold the other team to 7 points, you want them on the field as little as possible. 36 minutes of possession is pretty substantial.
It seems especially crucial for this LSU defense, which got shredded by Wisconsin, Mississippi St., and Auburn, but only when the Tiger offense could not move the ball against those teams.
I REALLY don’t mean to slight the Ole Miss defense here. I don’t blame them for giving up these yards given the time of possession battle I mentioned. Also, LSU was not just clumsily tossing the ball around and dropping it. The “land sharks” (classic SNL references ftw) deserve primary credit for least three of the four LSU turnovers, and partial credit for the other one. Stopping a team at the three with a turnover is still a stop even if they drove 96 yards to get there (it was actually 69).
Some of the big plays were posted in .gif (moving image) format here: http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/p/53243724/gifs—hillard—buga—stokes—freeze/
As if the game wasn’t emotional enough, I just want to express profound sympathy and admiration for what Miles has gone through over this time. I don’t know how he does everything he does under normal circumstances, but with how big of a game this was and the media circus and so forth, I don’t know how you can deal with all that and the loss of a parent in the same 24 hours.
Also, the LSU fan who had a heart attack and died in the fourth quarter. I hope he learned of the outcome somehow. May he become another Tiger Stadium ghost who watches over us. Someone wrote a comment about that before the game, so I thought I’d share:
“When The Golden Band From Tiger Land plays the “Duuuun, dun, dun, dunt” – those four notes that send chills up the back of the Tiger faithful, the Chinese Bandits reemerge. Billy Cannon slips through another tackler. Bert Jones gets another second on the clock. Hodson hits Fuller in the back of the end zone on 4th down again. Matt Mauck finds Skyler Green one more time. Tyrann Mathieu returns that punt against Arkansas down 14-0 and the ghosts cascade down onto the field with the roar of 100,000 wild Louisianians and the dreams of opponents begin to die.
Welcome to Death Valley.”
Anyway, Martha Miles 😉