Coming into the 2005 season, LSU was heralded as an extremely talented team, but with the addition of new coach Les Miles, an all new coaching staff as well as a new quarterback, just how good could these Tigers become?
Each week as LSU struggled to win again and again, the obligatory statement would be uttered, ‘wait until this team plays a complete game.'
Unfortunately, that never came to pass in the regular season. The Tigers played 12 games, of which they won 10, and never played their "best" game. The "best" meaning all three phases of LSU's game clicked on all cylinders and the Tigers dominated an opponent.
The good thing for LSU was that even though the Tigers never could quite get on the same page at anytime during the regular season, Miles' team was blessed with enough good fortune and luck to squeeze out 10 wins and a trip to the SEC Championship Game.
While one would hardly call LSU fortunate, granted the Tigers suffered through three game postponements due to two catastrophic hurricanes, LSU thrived on the fact Auburn's John Vaughn missed an eye-popping five field goals.
Do you remember two blocked kicks on consecutive possessions and JaMarcus Russell's last second touchdown pass to early Doucet at Arizona State? How about the Tigers giving it away five times with 100-plus yards in penalties versus Florida and still managing to grab a victory?
You have to admit fortune did smile on LSU throughout the season. But even the most fortunate teams eventually run out of gas as the Tigers did in the title game against a rested and hungry Georgia squad.
Now you might ask 'is it a shame LSU waited for its final performance to be its best?' The lasting impression of the 2005 season will forever be the Tigers 40-3 romp over No. 9 Miami. LSU finished the season ranked in the top 5 and will debut Miles' second season rated among the nation's elite.
At any rate, here is our final opinion of each phase of the 2005 LSU Tigers.
The lingering question from 2005 will be ‘were the Tigers playing the right quarterback all season long?'
Sure JaMarcus Russell led LSU to 10 wins and a berth in the conference championship game, but would the Tigers have been better served with Matt Flynn at the helm? That is one of those questions that will never truly be answered, but for one game anyway, Flynn looked like a star.
Russell had his moments, most notably the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to Dwayne Bowe at Alabama.
Speaking of Bowe, here is another guy who had his ups and downs. Sure he led the team in touchdown catches and was LSU's go-to guy, but will anyone allow him to forget the dropped touchdown pass against Auburn that would have made Vaughn's missed field goals irrelevant?
One this is certain, though, can you imagine how good LSU might have been had Joseph Addai not tweaked an ankle against North Texas. At the time of the injury, Addai was leading the SEC in rushing. Post injury he was never the same, that is until he ran wild on plenty of rest against Miami in the Peach Bowl.
The offensive line looked tired and work down after playing 10 straight games and was anything but dominant in the SEC title game. But with a few weeks rest, it was nice to see seniors Nate Livings, Brian Johnson, Andrew Whitworth and Rudy Niswanger all go out with a dominating effort in the pasting of Miami.
Two weeks into the season and it looked as if the defensive powerhouse Nick Saban had built was gone.
After defensive debacles at Arizona State and in a home loss to Tennessee, defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was being shown the door by many fans as the Tigers ranked last in most statistical categories.
But each week, LSU improved on that side of the ball. By seasons end, the Tigers had arguably the best defense in the SEC and finished ranked in the top five in virtually every statistical ranking in the nation.
The Tigers featured arguably the best defensive tackle tandem in all of the college football in Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten. Melvin Oliver and Chase Pittman grew into a dominating force at the bookends and an underrated linebacking corps made plays all season long.
The cornerbacks began the year on somewhat of a suspect note; however Ronnie Prude and Chevis Jackson improved with time. LaRon Landry didn't have the "money" year he needed to have to be a high draft pick as a junior, but it is likely you won't see him in purple and gold next season.
As a whole, the defense should be commended the highest for LSU's 11 wins. In several games, with the offense sputtering, the defense delivered when it counted.
LSU demonstrated two seasons ago you don't need dominating special teams to win a championship.
In 2005, the Tigers weren't all that great at kicking field goals, but Chris Jackson could arguably be the most valuable player of the team with what he did punting the ball. The Tigers ranked among the national leaders in net punting and Jackson made downing the ball inside the 20 look easy.
One shouldn't criticize Jackson too harshly on his field goal stat. He did pound a couple of kicks through from beyond 50 and made, without a doubt, the most clutch field goal in years for LSU, knocking home a 44 yarder to force overtime in the Auburn game.
It was a shame Skyler Green didn't get more opportunities to show off, but his punt return for a score – subsequently his only TD of the season – propelled LSU to a win over Auburn.
Bonus points go to a pair of blocked kicks in the win at Arizona State. A blocked field goal and punt no doubt changed the complexion of a game LSU looked doomed to lose.
Despite all the Tigers accomplished in 2005, a portion of fans still aren't willing to give Miles his just due.
If you happen to be one of those fans, at least hold your judgments until after year two. Miles inherited a team stocked full of Nick Saban's talent and the Tigers were expected to win a bunch of games this season.
Miles will show his net worth in 2006 as he will be forced to pick a quarterback from a talented trio of contenders, fill seven vacancies on the offensive and defensive lines and play a road schedule that includes trips to Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Some have said Miles is the next Mike Archer. That is not a fair statement due to the fact Archer was never a head coach before inheriting the Bill Arnsparger fortune. Miles was not only a head coach, but he accomplished some great things at Oklahoma State prior to his coming to Baton Rouge.
In closing, give Miles some time to put his stamp on this program. You might be surprised in what you find here in a year or so.
REPORT CARD: The 2005 LSU Tigers
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