With conference bouts at Ole Miss and at home against Arkansas still on the schedule, the Tigers stayed No. 1 in the BCS standings and remain in the driver’s seat for December’s SEC Championship game.
Of all the goals the LSU team set for 2011, taking the lead in the West Division was likely somewhere near to the top.
Just don’t get too excited, Tiger fans.
With the fits the Razorbacks – now 8-1 and ranked No. 8 in the BCS – have given LSU in recent year, it’s still too soon to crown the Tigers as champion.
“This was a very significant win and gives us the lead in the West, but it just makes the rest of these games much more important,” LSU coach Les Miles said Monday. “There was nothing settled in any way with victory last Saturday. We still have to earn our way.”
LSU, which has ridden its top-tier defense to a 9-0 record, gave up some big plays to Alabama early, but the Tigers bend-don’t-break approach paid off in the long run.
Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson, who entered the weekend averaging 123.6 yards per game, was held to 89 yards on 23 carries – only the third time the junior hasn’t gone over 100 yards this season.
“I felt the defense really had a great effort,” Miles said. “They started off with a capable back and some adjustments that needed to be made because of formation.
“Trent Richardson was certainly as good as advertised. We put the brakes on him as we got into the back end of the game.”
On the other side of the ball, one of the major storylines was the play of quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was called upon by Miles to be the team’s go-to arm for the first time this season.
It was a funk that Lee had been in before, which forced Jefferson – who missed the first four weeks of the season due to suspension and hadn’t thrown more than four passes in a game until this past weekend – to step into the driver’s seat for the first time during his final campaign in an LSU uniform.
“I felt like Jordan Jefferson came in and gave us a comfortable head in the game,” Miles said. “To me, he managed the game from that spot well.”
Jefferson was 6-of-10 passing for 67 yards, but it was his effectiveness running the option and scrambling for extra yards that helped push the Tigers into Alabama territory just enough times.
On all three of LSU’s scoring possessions, Jefferson, not Lee, was the quarterback.
Where does Miles go from here?
At every ‘Lunch with Les’ this season, Miles told reporters that Lee was his starter. But after Jefferson stepped up for the Tigers in Tuscaloosa, Miles was a bit vaguer with his outlook on the position for Saturday’s homecoming game against Western Kentucky.
“I expect that both quarterbacks will play and it is not important to me to name anyone on Monday,” Miles said. “I have given a lot of thought to it. I think we will need two and will go forward without making any real determinations at this point.”
Here are some other topics that Miles touched on during Monday’s press luncheon…
On Tyrann Mathieu’s takedown of Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick on a punt return in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a holding call on Mathieu:
“I thought that it was a very good penalty. The attempt that Tyrann made was to hit him in the chest and be legal. In other words, what happens in a position like that is that the position the Alabama man had was in front of Tyrann and in position on the ball. So what Tyrann cannot do is hit him in the back.
“So Tyrann goes running to the position to try and hit him in the chest. I think he hit him legally, but the issue became that he went high and held. That was exactly the call. It was a holding call and I understand the call. When the official calls it, sees it and is firm about it, he told me that this is what he did. He saw it better than I did.
“I saw the attempt at the collision, and he said, ‘No, he held.’ That really is the issue. I thought it was the right call. We talked to Tyrann about it during the game.”
On sophomore safety Eric Reid, who finished with six tackles, a forced fumble, a recovery on a blocked field goal and a crucial fourth-quarter interception:
“It is an interesting piece. He has played very well throughout the season. Frankly, we’ve seen that he has the ability to play like he played Saturday. We’ve told him that. To improve and play as capable as he is, he needs to take some other steps. He does that.
“He is one of those guys that understand coaching and as he matures and becomes ready to be a dominant player play after play, he will be ready to achieve that.
“The Alabama game is an example of how we will have expected him to play and how we can play week after week. We’re thrilled with his improvement and need it to stay there because that is the style of field general we would like to have back there with Brandon Taylor.”
On the 9-6 outcome, a game that some national pundits described as a letdown from the expected ‘Game of the Century:’
“I have to be real honest with you, anyone not impressed with that game, I don’t care. Obviously you have not watched football for a length of time, care anything about defense, effort, speed to the ball or two teams that fought valiantly. If you didn’t like that game, then tough.”
On Missouri joining the SEC as the 14th team, a move that became official on Sunday:
“It has always been the SEC’s desire to put us in the best, strongest and with great advantages in postseason play. I trust Mike Slive is doing the exact right things. I would hope we would have opinion about some of the inter-conference play and the cross over games as we continue to add very quality teams.
“It doesn’t appear to me that the competition that is currently in this league is getting any weaker.”