Numbers, particularly those on the scoreboard after the game, are important, but they are not everything. In order to get a clearer image of a game, coaches, players, and fans need to look beyond the numbers.
For the 2005 LSU Tigers, their numbers do not tell their whole story. Heading into the Peach Bowl against Miami, the Tigers are 10-2, ranked #10 in the nation, and are coming off a 34-14 thrashing by the Georgia Bulldogs at the SEC Championship Game.
But these numbers do not give a clear picture of the Tigers' season. One number, however, puts the 2005 season in a better perspective. That number is 11.
For 11 straight weeks, without an open week to rest and recover, the Tigers took the field and played football. In 11 weeks, almost the equivalent of three months, LSU set aside their fatigue and poured their hearts on the field.
Of course, this lengthy period of constant performance was not the initial plan of the football team. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast less than a week before the Tigers home opener against North Texas. With hotels and roads jammed across Baton Rouge, the Athletic Department had no other option but to move the game back, to the Tiger's mid season open date.
This change forced LSU to prepare themselves, both mentally and physically for three straight months.
Imagine making a huge presentation at work for 11 straight weeks. Or imagine taking a test for 11 straight weeks. That type of pressure would put stress on anybody, no matter the type of person.
Yet, this is what LSU came out and did 11 times this season. Even more astonishing, the Tigers were able to win nine straight games in that 11 week span. Their only losses came at the first and last week of their stretch run.
Nine straight wins. Aside from the 1958 undefeated team, no other LSU football team can claim nine straight victories in one season. Nick Saban ended the 2003 national championship season with eight victories, but he had the luxury of an open date between wins three and four and almost a month to prepare for victory number eight.
The toughness and fortitude needed to last 11 weeks in college football cannot be imagined. Even the LSU football players had some hesitancy about how to handle their stretch.
Following the loss to Tennessee, linebacker Cameron Vaughn said the team needed to find a way to deal with these setbacks and develop the mental toughness to focus on just football.
To make matters even more interesting, the burden of preparing these players week in and week out rested on the shoulders of first year head coach Les Miles. In arguably one of the most challenging welcomes a coach has ever faced, Miles instilled in his team a work ethic that held together until the end.
Those 11 weeks were not cake walks either. Three of those games (Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama) went into overtime, while another two (Florida, Arkansas) came down to the final play of the game.
These scores and streaks are just numbers. Nine straight wins is impressive, but it does not tell what the Tigers faced before and during their 11 weeks.
Roughly two-thirds of the players on the team had family in the area hardest hit by Katrina and Rita. Players housed their relatives in their own small apartments in the aftermath of the hurricanes. JaMarcus Russell had over 20 people living with him the week before the Tigers opened their season against Arizona State.
Combine this situation caused by the hurricanes with the introduction of a new system by Miles and new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and the Tigers were destined to fail, but they did not.
All signs indicated that LSU should not have done as well as it did. So much was against this team at the beginning of the season, but the coaches and players were able to overcome these problems.
The Tigers opened their 11 week stretch with a heart-breaking loss to Tennessee in overtime. Although this defeat brought more sadness and dismay already saturated with trouble, LSU was able to rebound.
Week after week the Tigers won. They won close games and they won blow outs.
The Tigers even had a shot, albeit a long shot, at a birth in the national championship game until their final game against Georgia.
For 11 straight weeks, the Tigers allowed many residents of Southern Louisiana and Mississippi to forget about their problems for a few hours a week and cheer for their team. That, perhaps more than anything, represents the greatest accomplishment of this season.
On paper, the Tigers have had what many would consider a successful season. Although the final polls will show LSU as either 11-2 or 10-3, these numbers will never justly tell the story of the 2005 season. For 11 weeks straight, the Tigers worked without rest to bring some normalcy back to Baton Rouge.
Numbers don't tell whole story of '05 Tigers
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