theknightswhosay

Crazy Finishes, Part I: Tennessee

In College Football, General LSU, History, Rivalry on October 31, 2014 at 6:54 PM

This is the first of an indeterminate number of posts detailing some of the crazy finishes of LSU games in recent years. I made 2000 the cutoff for these. Saban (whose first year was 2000) had some crazy endings too, but I think for an established top team like LSU to have so many crazy finishes is one of the things that has made the Miles tenure unique.

I won’t categorize them all by team. Some might be by year, for instance.

This isn’t too relevant to anything this season, but this is mostly laying the foundation for the 2010 game, which was similar in a way to the Ole Miss win on Saturday. The Tigers gained a fair number of yards, certainly more than the other team, but still didn’t manage to win without a lot of drama.

Also, the pullover Dooley liked to wear and the background to the Tennessee press conferences were primarily black with some orange (third video), so I guess it’s not a bad thing to post on Halloween.

I guess you could say LSU came back from the dead to win that game. Also, Philip Fulmer looked like a strange troll or something.

Philip Fulmer

Anyway, this series isn’t played often, but there have certainly been some memorable games even going back to Nick Saban’s first season at LSU.

One of the defining games of that first season was an overtime win over #11 Tennessee. LSU really needed a win after losing by 17 on the road against a ranked Auburn team and then coming home and suffering an upset to UAB. If LSU loses that game for a third consecutive loss going into the Florida game, things would have looked pretty bleak. At the time, it was only LSU’s fourth win over the Vols in history (in 25 games).

So even though they got blown out by Florida anyway, I still think that Tennessee win was very helpful to the team going forward. After Florida, the Tigers won four in a row, becoming bowl eligible for only the fourth time in 12 seasons.

The end of the game was interesting. LSU had a 46-yard field-goal attempt blocked, leading to the overtime period. The Tigers scored a touchdown on their first play in overtime. After two plays of their possession, Tennessee had the ball at the LSU 11 with a first down. On second down, the Vols advanced the ball to the LSU 4, but the Tiger defense held, giving LSU the win after two incomplete passes.

There was a fairly close loss in early 2001 at Tennessee, but LSU once again didn’t start out that season well and Tennessee was in the top 10.

Tennessee was poised to go to the national championship game when they (surprisingly) met the Tigers again in the SEC Championship game. I say surprisingly because LSU started SEC play 2-3. The Tigers were not intimidated though. After facing an early 17-7 deficit, they would outscore the Volunteers 21-3 in the second half, finally putting the game out of reach with a touchdown to go up 11 with just over two minutes remaining.

Les Miles’ first home game was actually a loss to Tennessee. It didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence, I have to say. LSU got out to a 21-point lead (seemingly picking up where they had left off in 2001) and then it seemed they were trying to coast to victory. They knocked out the Tennessee starting QB, which seemed like a good thing at the time, but it wasn’t. The Tigers managed only three more points before losing in OT. LSU transfer Rick Clausen came off the bench to lead a second-half comeback to finally win a game in Tiger Stadium. (He did start one game for LSU that the Tigers eventually won, but he was removed from that game after a poor first quarter.)

In 2006, LSU got revenge by winning with a touchdown in the final seconds at Tennessee. After another somewhat exciting SEC title game in 2007 (again won by LSU), the Vols’ next trip to Tiger Stadium appeared to be a win just like the last one had been…

When I saw the snap in the waning seconds of the LSU @ Tennessee game in 2010, I turned off my television in disgust. After angrily pacing around and grabbing some refreshment (I do not recall if it was an alcoholic one), I turned the TV back on in time to see what appeared to be an emotional Tennessee player, but he didn’t seem happy. Then I saw what seemed to be a replay of an LSU touchdown.

Not from the game I saw. The only LSU touchdown in the game I saw was a long run from about midfield by LSU QB Jordan Jefferson. At some point I saw the score. I wear glasses, so I questioned whether the “6” I saw was really a 6 or whether it was the “0” I had seen when I was turning the TV off.

This video is the first time I saw the whole thing. In the video, I also noticed for the first time the LSU band was playing the fan-favorite song Neck after the game ended. (When this song is played, the fans say something you can’t quite make out in the video… let’s just say it’s not suitable to type out here.)

Even if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, after the errant snap I mentioned, you can see Derek Dooley apparently trying to get off the field and take his team with him. Curiously though, the officials (often the first people off the field) hung around. More than a minute elapsed before there was any suggestion that there might be another play. Another 30 seconds later, and the call was finally made. Illegal participation on Tennessee. When the announcers count them, there were 13 Tennessee players.

Dooley’s explanation of events is possibly even more fascinating. He mentions that CBS was trying to interview him and he was glad he didn’t do that.

Incidentally, Dooley had given LSU just about all they could handle as the head coach of Louisiana Tech the season before. The Bulldogs only lost to the #9 Tigers by 8 points. That’s one reason I always sort of defended him, but he did seem out of his depth in other SEC venues at times.

Back to the end of the game, I understand at this point that Miles had lost communication with the press box. Miles had retrieved his headset, but I guess Gary Crowton, who was then the offensive coordinator, was on his way downstairs. I don’t think coaches normally hang around a press box when a game appears to be over. Anyway, the way Miles discusses it, he made the play call himself. The next snap was not made until nearly three minutes after the previous one.

This was Les’s rambling after the game. Unlike Dooley, he doesn’t get around to describing the end of the game until about 3:45.

He was responsible for the final play call (the successful one) but didn’t have a good answer as to why so many seconds ticked off the clock before the illegal participation.

One of the reporters mentions toward the end that LSU had a lot more yards than Tennessee but (obviously) had trouble turning yards into points and also committed four turnovers. Sounds familiar.

LSU blew out Tennessee the following year in Knoxville, and the two have not played one another since. It’s unclear when they will play again, but no sooner than 2016 (unless somehow Tennessee and LSU both make the SEC championship game or the same bowl/playoff game next season).

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