In losses to Auburn and Florida and a near-miss against Tennessee, the Tigers weren't outplayed per se. Against Ole Miss, LSU allowed an inferior opponent to blow them off of the line on both sides of the ball for the better part of three quarters, made critical mental errors and looked about as sharp as a year-old razor.
With just one SEC victory to its
credit, Ole Miss entered Tiger Stadium last Saturday to play the role of
spoiler. They nearly succeeded. Only
Saturday night in Death Valley
finally seemed just like a Saturday night in
This issue's report card, however, is not being relegated to LSU A.D. Skip Bertman or LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe's promise to the students that the ticket controversy was a one-time thing. It's not a condemnation of those Tiger not-so-faithful who bought tickets and let them go to waste at some point this year.
JaMarcus Russell looked the part of the nervous graduating senior who knew November 18, 2006 would be his final performance in Tiger Stadium.
Just one problem. He's actually a redshirt junior with leaving early for the NFL on his mind instead. Quite possibly it was the ugliest 19-of-35 for 217 yards and three touchdowns performance ever. Open receivers were missed, passes were thrown (specifically two that somehow Early Doucet miraculously came down with) that were forced and passes were thrown that easily could have given Ole Miss possession of the ball. Truthfully, Russell's 217-yard passing night was a direct result of a mixture of poor play calling and poor execution.
More times than not, LSU's offensive line was opening holes for the Rebels instead of fellow Tigers, and the fact that Russell was sacked three times and LSU rushed for less than 100 yards bears that out. Russell was hurried numerous times, and it didn't help that early on he was under center instead of in the shotgun.
On average, Ole Miss gives up 160 yards on the ground. On average, Ole Miss gives up 200 yards through the air. LSU's total offensive output was 308 yards, more than 50 yards below average.
Have to give the Tigers credit for pulling out the win though.
For a second week in a row, LSU's defense for the most part looked like somebody else's defense. And that's really an almost nonsensical statement considering the Tigers allowed less than 200 yards of offense to the Rebels – more than 70 yards below Ole Miss' per game average.
Brent Schaeffer had a woeful 6-of-14 performance that garnered 72 yards through the air for Ole Miss, but BJ Green-Ellis assisted him with a 96-yard rushing performance.
Another problem the Tigers fought in the first half was their inability to get off of the field. Third down conversions, third and long conversions, were an afterthought for Ole Miss at times, as was a fourth down conversion on one occasion.
Darry Beckwith's absence appeared to affect the Tigers, but credit Ole Miss. They popped LSU in the mouth early and kept doing so until the Tigers figured out they needed to wake up and make stops to give the offense opportunities to save what looked like a lost cause.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Ole Miss converted a fake punt, they converted an onsides kick, they averaged nearly 39 yards on four kickoff returns and hit field goals of 38 and 45 yards. They only allowed LSU six return yards on kickoffs and just 11 yards on two punt returns.
Maybe we should just grade Ole Miss' special teams instead, because the good night they had obviously translates into an abysmal night special teams-wise for the Tigers.
Reverse all the statistics above to look at them from LSU's perspective. The Tigers allowed an opposing team to covert an onsides kick for a second straight week at home, and throw in the kicker (no pun intended) – a potential game-winning PAT attempt was blocked that ended Colt David's streak of 77 consecutive extra points made.
David also missed badly on a 48-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter that would have put the Tigers within a touchdown of the Rebels, but he atoned for his misses with the game-winner in overtime.
LSU was either a team looking ahead or thinking about what could have been against Ole Miss.
By the time the Tigers took the
field last Saturday, they knew there was no possibility of playing for the SEC
Championship and knew that Alabama failed to knock Auburn down a few more
notches in the bowl selection process. So, in addition to lingering thoughts
that a win over
The lack of intensity, of focus and
the plan of attack, on the offensive side of the ball especially, almost cost
LSU what luster still remains for the 2006 season. Once again this season, the
Tigers' chances hinged on a fourth down conversion. But this time, instead of it
having to come on the road against
You think there would have been uproar after losing a third straight road game this year to a Top 10 ranked opponent? Try losing at home to an unranked Ole Miss team with a potential bid to the Orange Bowl still on the line.
Still, an ugly win is always prettier than the most beautiful of losses.