DEVILLE: LSU dominating most important stat

Here's an idea. Stand up, walk over to the wall and bang your head against it 16 times. This is the equivalency of watching LSU's 21-17 win over Florida Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.

Eleven penalties and five turnovers marred the Tigers first win over the Gators in Death Valley since LSU's 28-21 triumph over No. 1 Florida in 1997. Heck, it was only the third Tiger victory in Baton Rouge since the days of Charles McClendon.

 

In the wake of LSU's 34-6 win over Vanderbilt two weeks ago in Nashville, two obvious problems for the Tigers came glaring up from the stat sheet – penalties and turnovers. Against the Commodores, LSU was flagged 14 times for 133 yards. While the Tigers did improve on that stat (if you call it an improvement) garnering just 11 penalties for 84 yards against Florida, they made up for it by turning the ball over five times against the Gators compared to the four giveaways in Nashville.

 

What does this mean?

 

Nothing in terms of wins and losses. LSU won both games and are 4-1 on the year and ranked No. 7 in the nation heading into this weekend's SEC Western Division showdown with the Auburn Tigers. While it is some cause for concern with LSU committing the same careless errors week after week, the only stat that matters is the final score.

 

Saturday afternoon, as I sat in the press box in Tiger Stadium, I mulled over the stat sheet at the end of the third quarter and came to the conclusion that LSU was a far superior football team to the Florida Gators. The Tigers had almost tripled Urban Meyer's team in total yards and defensively had held the Gator offense in check holding quarterback Chris Leak to less than 50 yards passing and had sacked him three times.

 

Florida, not LSU, was winning 17-14.

 

"How is this possible?" I asked myself out loud staring at the stats. "LSU is dominating this team in almost every statistical category."

 

"Every one except the most important one – the scoreboard," a voice came from my left.

Lee Feinswog, a longtime Baton Rouge sports personality and a Tiger Rag columnist, proved to me again why he is the seasoned veteran and I am the young punk.

 

"That is the only one that matters," Feinswog said.

 

Like the old adage states, the best team doesn't always win the game. That was the case when LSU defeated Kentucky in the Bluegrass Miracle in 2002.The Wildcats outplayed Nick Saban's Tigers, but LSU still won the game. It was true just four weeks earlier when the Tigers had soundly whipped Tennessee, but the Volunteers stayed the course and rallied for an overtime win.

 

On Saturday, the best team did win. LSU dominated Florida in every statistical category including offense, defense, special teams and – in the end - the scoreboard.

 

Watching Les Miles and his team belt out the alma mater following Saturday's win was a sight of joy as the embattled coach finally got his first win in Tiger Stadium. While he knew his team escaped a near catastrophe winning despite five turnovers and almost a dozen penalties, the first year coach couldn't suppress a smile as he sprinted to the locker room.

 

Miles addressed the miscues in his postgame press conference with a rather stern look in his eye in saying, "we'll get these things fixed."

 

While driving away from Tiger Stadium Saturday, the postgame radio shows echoed Tiger fans bellowing as if LSU had lost the game. Negative remarks came flying from every direction concerning most especially Miles in general and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The radio show hosts Charlie Hanagriff and Gordy Rush tried earnestly to answer the question or rebut each remark before they finally had had enough.

 

LSU fans call themselves the best in college football, but even in the wake of a victory (a rare one at that), they cannot be satisfied with the win.

 

The following is a post taken from Tiger Rag's own message board posted during the third quarter of the LSU-Florida game Saturday when LSU was leading the game 14-10:

 

"It is presently 14-10. Whether we win or lose I don't care. Fire Les. I have never seen a coach so scared to win the game. This conservative style of when he has a lead is killing me. Fire him!!"

 

Fire him even if he wins the game? That's a voice of reason.

 

While the postgame ranting went well into the night, the most troubling part of the game was when Miles elected to go into halftime with a 14-7 lead, the fans booed him for being too conservative.

 

With approximately two minutes left in the half, Miles called back-to-back running plays seemingly satisfied with taking the touchdown advantage into the locker room (Remember, LSU got the ball first in the third quarter).

 

But fans chose to boo instead of cheering their team that is winning the game.

 

Then came the "We Want Saban" chant from the student section in the third quarter when Florida took a 17-14 lead. It was the same students that cheered Miles when he and his team left the field with a victory about an hour later.

 

Remember, even the great Nick Saban was booed in the same season in which he won the SEC title and a Sugar Bowl. LSU is possibly on its way to that same fate, if the Tigers can eliminate some recurring mistakes.

 

So the next you feel the propensity to boo, jeer, ridicule or criticize, remember the final stat sheet is the one that matters most – the scoreboard.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.

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