REPORT CARD: LSU 28, Tennessee 24

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Instant replay hasn't been LSU's friend this season. Has it been anyone's though, really?

In a season where it seems instant replay has done more harm than good, LSU took another costly blow at the hands of the replay official at Tennessee on Saturday.

 

The Tigers first brush with a replay dilemma came against Auburn. There was the fourth down catch made by Jacob Hester that was eventually ruled incomplete. Late in the game, it was an obvious pass interference call that would have given LSU a sure first down being wiped away by replay officials that sent the LSU community into an uproar.

 

Saturday at Tennessee, a Chris Jackson punt appeared to bounce off the left hand of Tennessee return man Demetrice Morley and into the end zone. LSU players promptly grabbed the loose ball, which should have been a Tiger touchdown.

 

The officials on the field immediately waved for a touchback.

 

LSU coach Les Miles went berserk on the sideline.

 

But when the replay screens on the Neyland Stadium scoreboard as well as in the press box showed the ball in slow motion, it was pretty clear the ball did hit Morley's hand.

 

The result should have been a touchdown.

 

Miles challenged the call, which was then turned over to the replay official upstairs. As you can guess, the ruling on the field was upheld.

 

Afterwards, Miles wasn't exactly pleased with the outcome of that call, which had it gone the other way, would have given the Tigers a 14-0 lead.

 

"I want you to know something," Miles said. "My eyes are getting bad because I saw, it must have been a flash, but I saw that ball move when that hand went by it. And if it did, that is (a touchdown). The instant replay guy cannot wear home goggles. He has to make the right call. I cannot tell you if that is the case or not. They made, I guess, the best call they could have made. But I'll get a chance to see that I guess."

 

Miles went on to say with all of the problems across the country with replay this season, the NCAA needs to look into tweaking the process. Miles went as far as to say he feels as if Tennessee may have had a little home cooking upstairs.

 

"I have to be honest with you," Miles said. "I think replay, generally speaking, is good for college football. But there needs to be accountability on the road. I think a guy who throws a ball and gets two plays in five seconds, we need to talk to the guy who is running the clock at home too.

 

"If instant replay is reviewed negatively again beyond this game, then we need to do a better job of looking at how that is being done. Maybe we need to get someone else from another location to handle this at every stadium."

 

 

THE OFFENSE:

 

The LSU offense put together its most balanced game Saturday.

 

The Tigers rushed for a season-high 231 yards while JaMarcus Russell passed for 247 yards resulting in a 478 yards performance overall.

 

LSU held onto the ball for an eye-popping 41:06 allowing the Volunteers to enjoy just 18:54 worth of offensive time on the field. The Tigers ran 81 total plays compared to just 50 by Tennessee.

 

Russell maintained lots of poise despite taking a knee to the back of the head in the first quarter. He would throw three interceptions on the night, one of which was returned for a touchdown. But Russell offset those picks with three touchdowns while completing 24 of 36 passes.

 

Dwayne Bowe became the school's career leader in touchdown receptions when he caught No. 22 in the third quarter. Craig Davis and Early Doucet each caught touchdown passes in the game, Doucet's being the game-winner.

 

As stunning as Russell looked throwing the football, he was equally as impressive running the pigskin, which isn't usually the case. Russell led all LSU runners carrying the ball seven times for 71 yards, none of which were designed running plays.

 

Speaking of running the football, the Tigers had five different players line up at tailback. Justin Vincent started the game, but carried just once for no yards.

 

True freshman Keiland Williams had his breakout game as a Tiger leading LSU's running back by committee with 53 yards on 17 carries, including a third quarter touchdown.

 

Jacob Hester, Trindon Holliday and Alley Broussard all had their turn at tailback for LSU. Hester ran six times for 52 yards while Holliday used his blazing speed to pick up 26 yards on six trips.

 

As a whole the LSU offense performed as well as it has all season against a top notch opponent, especially on the road. Russell's three picks and a Bowe fumble did hurt the grade though.

 

Grade: B+

 

 

THE DEFENSE

 

Going into the game, the LSU defense knew Tennessee quarterback wasn't up to par.

A severely sprained ankle a week suffered a week earlier against South Carolina left Ainge hobbled and doubtful to play versus LSU.

 

Ainge was valiant in trying to play, but by the end of the first quarter, a vicious sack by Glenn Dorsey not only nicked the already sore ankle but may have injured the other one as well.

 

Enter Jonathan Crompton.

 

Dubbed the future of Tennessee Football and a Heath Shuler clone, Crompton played well in his first extensive action for the Volunteers. The freshman signal caller did manage to burn LSUI deep twice tossing a pair of touchdown passes for 37 and 54 yards, he did little else completing just 11 of 24 passes for 183 yards with an interception.

 

The Volunteers struggled to run the ball as they have all season long. The Tigers vaunted rushing defense did little to aid in the Volunteers rushing efforts as LSU held Tennessee in check for just 62 yards in the game.

 

LaRon Landry led LSU with seven total tackles and had a sack as well. But defensive statistics were at a minimum due to the fact Tennessee ran 31 fewer plays than LSU and the Tiger defense was only on the field for 18:54.

 

Grade: A-

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

LSU faked a kick for the first time this season when Chris Jackson rambled 18 yards for a first down as LSU led 21-17 early in the fourth quarter.

 

The play potentially could have been the back breaker for Tennessee. However, Russell threw his third interception of the game five plays later at the Tennessee 23.

 

Still, though, the fake punt, which was the first since LSU faked a field goal in the Peach Bowl victory over Miami a year ago, was executed brilliantly.

 

After the game, Melissa Peveto, wife of special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, said she knew the fake punt was coming.

 

"I could tell Chris was standing a little too close to actually be punting the ball," said Melissa Peveto. "Then when they snapped it to him, I started screaming "RUN!"

 

When her husband emerged, he was amazed that she noticed the formation.

 

"Isn't that something," he said.

 

Peveto actually said he noticed Jackson was a little too close as well. He knew the players on the field wouldn't notice by the alignment but said he was afraid the Tennessee coaches would catch it.

 

They did not.

 

Jackson punted only twice in the game, but averaged 52 yards per kick, including a clutch kick from deep in his own end zone in the first quarter.

 

Colt David knocked home four extra points but missed his only field goal effort, a 52-yard kick that fell way short.

 

Grade: B

 

 

COACHING

 

Tiger fans have complained about Miles' stubbornness in trying to pound the football when it has been obvious LSU has a depleted offensive line.

 

Opponents have loaded the box against the Tigers rushing attack, and until Saturday, LSU hadn't been very formidable on the ground.

 

But Miles did a great job of playing five different tailbacks in the backfield and allowed Jimbo Fisher to evenly mix the run and the pass to constantly keep the Volunteers off balance.

 

After two road losses against Florida and Auburn, the Tigers looked as if they were snakebit when it came to playing on the road. When LSU fell behind 17-7 Saturday, it appeared the Tigers were headed back down that road. However, Miles rallied his troops and LSU pulled out its biggest win of the season.

 

Grade: A-


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