TSD is looking back at the 2013-14 academic calendar year in LSU sports.
There were numerous exciting plays, games and moments, and even a few heartfelt ones, but as always some stood out above the rest. This week I'm rolling out the five most memorable moments from this beat writer's vantage point. (They will all come from the football and basketball programs as those are the two beats I cover.)
For those curious the only criterion used in my selection was "Which moments will I remember most vividly, as if they had just occurred, 10 years from now?" I have not ranked them, so they appear in no particular order.
** You can also share your favorite moment from Tiger athletics in 2013-14 on TSD. Send a brief email with your name, hometown and favorite moment to ben85L@yahoo.com. We'll run our collection of fan responses in a free story on the site next week. Limit one moment/email, please.
JENNINGS' HEROICS HIGHLIGHT DOUBLE DIP
History will show (although you'll probably have to dig a little to find it) that on November 29, 2013, while Anthony Jennings threw his now-famous 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural to beat Arkansas, there was an LSU basketball game being played simultaneously some 700 miles away.
That's where I was – in Orlando, Fla., for the 2013 Old Spice Classic – when Jennings, playing in relief of the badly injured Zach Mettenberger, worked his magic and engineered an unthinkable 99-yard drive that was the definition of impromptu.
Believe me when I tell you there was a buzz in HP Field House that reverberated to my seat on press row. Yes, there was basketball being played, specifically LSU vs. No. 21 Memphis, but everybody in that building heard what some true freshman quarterback, thrust into the heat of an SEC battle cold, had just done to topple the Razorbacks in Baton Rouge.
So I can only imagine that the buzz in Central Florida was a sonic boom inside Tiger Stadium when Dural waltzed into the end zone all by his lonesome with 75 seconds to play, putting LSU back on top after the Tigers trailed by six heading into the fourth quarter.
In retrospect the fourth quarter of the LSU-Arkansas game, played the day after Thanksgiving, ran the gamut of emotions. There was bewilderment – Jarvis Landry's stupefying catch over Hogs' corner D.J. Dean; despair – Mettenberger's LSU career ended on the same play after a gruesome sack; anxiety – Jennings took over on his own one with the Tigers down three; and, ultimately, ecstasy – when Dural's TD catch capped off the length-of-the-field miracle drive.
TSD's Hunter Paniagua wrote about the "Hollywood ending" directly after the game. CLICK HERE to read that postgame feature.
What's interesting to me, from my perspective that day, was how the two Tiger ballgames interlaced, even if for a fleeting few moments.
LSU-Arkansas, played for the final time as a regular-season finale (that honor will go to Texas A&M beginning in 2014), kicked off at 2:30 p.m. ET. The roundballers' go against nationally ranked Memphis in the tournament semifinal tipped off close to 5:30 p.m. ET.
And so, as the football game was nearing its twilight, basketball was just getting underway. In fact Landry's catch and Mettenberger's injury were the last things I remember getting wind of before tip-off. A brief Twitter search then confirmed both for me.
By the time Arkansas punter Sam Irwin-Hill knocked a 65-yard punt down to the LSU one, with the gridiron boys down three, Johnny Jones' Tigers had jumped out to a very early lead over Memphis. It wasn't much longer, probably with about 13-14 minutes left in the first half, that the roar from Death Valley, roused by Jennings-to-Dural, trickled down to the land of Mickey and Minnie.
How news travels by Internet and phone these days truly is remarkable. Up-to-the-second feeds of that football game consumed my brain as I frantically attempted to cover hoops with whatever small slice of my attention was left over.
It was a different way to experience an LSU football game, and an all-timer at that, to be certain. There was one moment to come, however, which made me realize there are some things the worldwide web just can't capture.
In the aftermath of the football triumph, right around the time Les Miles usually wraps his meathooks around two players and belts the alma mater loudly and awkwardly in the general direction of the student section, something magical happened. Mettenberger, on crutches and streaming uncontrollable tears, joined the team and gave an unforgettable final salute to Tiger fans during what had to be one of the worst, and most painful, moments of his young life.
That's the stuff you can't just watch on YouTube and feel at one with the action. I wasn't there, but I understand you have to be there to drink in a moment like that and fully internalize it, with the surroundings, circumstances, all of it.
Ninety minutes later the basketball Tigers coughed up a slim halftime lead, falling to eventual tournament champion Memphis 76-69. As I sat in the media workroom shortly after, wrapping my mind around LSU's 23 turnovers and a near triple-double of the wrong kind from Johnny O'Bryant (12 points, 10 rebounds and nine turnovers), all I could really think of was what went down in the Red Stick, recreating how it must have looked and played out in my mind.
Sometimes in life the most memorable moments, even ones that take on legendary status, are ones you can't be present for, spaces in time you have to hear about or read about from afar. And, ironically given all the technological advances, it still gets relayed to you in a modern-day version of how things were passed along hundreds of years ago – via folklore.
But one thing's for sure: When something as immense as Jennings-to-Dural happens, no matter how you came in possession of the events, you'll never forget it.