Time flies when your having fun

This can't be. The regular season can't be over. Didn't LSU just play the University of Louisiana at Monroe the other day? Where did it all go? <br><br> It must be true, then, that time flies when you're having fun. How else to explain what must have been the quickest season in the annals of LSU footbal

Surely it was one of the most glorious, historic campaigns ever waged by the Tigers.

 

It's not over by a long shot, either. The Tigers are playing in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday with a chance to reach the national-championship game against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

 

That's not the issue, though. The concern is how LSU could speed through its regular season just when fans were settling in and enjoying the wild ride. It was such a wonderful trip that everyone wanted to see it last forever.

 

That may explain why senior offensive guard Stephen Peterman came out of the sanctity of the locker room and stood in the north end zone, where he addressed fans on the Tiger Stadium public address system. He thanked them for their support, as had Coach Nick Saban minutes earlier following the Tigers' 55-24 victory over Arkansas in last week's regular-season finale.

 

"It's a bittersweet moment," Peterman later said in an area situated near the Tigers' post-game locker room. "It's great to get the win, but it's sad because I'll never get to play in Tiger Stadium again."

 

As athletic director Skip Bertman reminded others, the seniors have put together the winningest four-year period in school history. During Saban's four-tenure, LSU has posted a 37-13 record, including an SEC title two years ago.

 

Nothing was quite like this season, though. It began with the promise of a strong offense and question marks in key defensive positions. The offense didn't disappoint, and the defense developed into one of the best in the country as "young players came through" where needed, Saban said.

 

Freshman LaRon Landry, who was shaken up against Arkansas, had become the starting free safety by the end of the regular season. Jessie Daniels, another first-year player, added speed at strong safety and in the Tigers' dime package.

 

An equally pleasant surprise was senior linebacker Eric Alexander, a converted defensive back, who returned one fumble for a 25-yard touchdown and caused another against Arkansas. For good measure, senior defensive tackle Chad Lavalais won All-America honors.

 

Like an Academy Award acceptance speech, no name should be left out.

 

"Everybody contributed to the success of the team in their own way," said Saban in a reference that went beyond the players and included the fans, the administration and the entire state of Louisiana.

Senior wide receiver Devery Henderson called it "a very special team," and Saban said the Tigers formed "one of the best team-chemistry groups I've ever been associated with."

 

No matter what happens from here on out, Henderson said, it can't erase the accomplishments of the Tigers' mind-numbing regular season. It all happened so fast that it's hard to digest what really took place.

 

One week LSU scratched its way past Georgia, 17-10, with the Tiger Stadium crowd supporting its team with the same fervor the baseball fans routinely display in Alex Box Stadium. The next week, or so it seemed, LSU was being mentioned in the same breath with fellow college football heavyweights Oklahoma and the University of Southern California.

 

LSU strung together an 11-1 regular season that was nearly unsurpassed in its entertainment quality. In addition to a bone-crushing defense, LSU thrilled record crowds with more single-season touchdowns (58) and points (420) than ever before.

 

The victory over Arkansas was indicative of the Tigers' prowess. Stunned early, in battling to a 17-17 tie, LSU erupted for 38 consecutive points. Henderson's lone catch went for a 22-yard touchdown 51 seconds before halftime in giving LSU momentum and a 27-17 lead.

 

Quarterback Matt Mauck threw all four of his touchdown passes to different receivers. Bilketnikoff Award semifinalist Michael Clayton was the recipient of one, lifting his school-record career total to 20. Sophomore tight end David Jones scored for the first time. Skyler Green found the end zone, too.

Throw in freshman tailback Justin Vincent's team-high 112 yards rushing, including two touchdowns, and it's plain to see how LSU has created such a juggernaut.

 

"It's just execution, that's all it is," Mauck said of LSU's prolific scoring ability. "We have good enough talent guys who can do it."

 

Mauck has suggested he might skip his senior year to enter dental school. In the face of swirling emotions, Mauck has taken a pragmatic approach to the situation. It's indicative of the level head he maintains on the field. It's also why he can make such good decisions when roadblocks are thrown his way.

 

"Adversity follows everybody," said junior cornerback Corey Webster, who intercepted two Arkansas passes. "You have to stare it in the face, and overcome it."

 

Part of this season's pleasure has been watching the manner in which the Tigers have done just that. They've never ceased to amaze with their creative ways of scoring and of keeping the opposition from doing the same.

 

Time and again, they've done it in such fashion that they seem to reinvent themselves in every game, if not on every play. Those fans yearning for more at least have the satisfaction of knowing the Tigers will be involved in a high-stakes postseason.

 

Who knows, maybe the best is yet to come? It's hard to imagine anything being much better than what preceded it, but all great performances are followed by an encore.


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