REPORT CARD: LSU 21, Tennessee 14

By mid-morning last Saturday, the crawl across the bottom of the ESPN's screen read that Kirk Herbstreit was reporting that it was expected LSU coach Les Miles would be the coach at Michigan early next week.

In an unprecedented move, Miles called a press conference to refute the claim a little over two hours prior to his team was to take the field against Tennessee.

Certainly many blamed the talk of Miles' supposed imminent departure in the days leading up to the Tigers game against Arkansas as a factor in that loss, and it seemed Miles wasn't going to allow it to be a distraction of any sort again. He quashed the report and kickoff eventually came.

Much like in its game against Arkansas, LSU squandered first half opportunities for touchdowns, had to settle for field goals, and found itself down at halftime, 7-6. Fresh off of their only loss after being down at the break this season, the Tigers came out in the second half and did what they do best – fight and battle just enough to eke out a victory in the end. This time, however, it wasn't the miracle throw from quarterback to receiver, or a dive over the top for a score. This time, the defense generated points and made the stop it needed to for LSU to earn a conference championship that has eluded its seniors their entire collegiate career.

Indeed there were times when the Tigers shot themselves in the foot – nine penalties for 44 yards. Indeed it was again an incomplete performance – the offense and defense seldom seemed able to put together consecutive positive performances. But for this banged up team that came into the SEC Championship Game without its starting quarterback, without its All-American defensive tackle, with a defensive lineman playing in his first game of the season because he had been suspended, and against another team that was lucky to just be in the game and had less distractions, they never lost heart.

With purple and gold heavily outnumbered in the stands by orange, they never lost focus of one of the goals still remaining on the board and achieved it. Now, they may have a chance to put another goal back on the board thanks to Pittsburgh and Oklahoma.


After being in the doghouse since before the season and getting himself thrown even farther to the back of it during the course of the season, Ryan Perrilloux took over the reins of LSU's offense one week after arguably the most disappointing defeat in the program's history. Despite a lack of appreciable playing time over the last half of the season, Perrilloux looked like he had been at the helm all along. His 20-of-30 passing performance for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception, combined with nine rushes for 14 yards and a run for a two-point conversion, were enough to earn him MVP honors.

Jacob Hester set the tone for the offense from the start with a bulldozer-like run, and ultimately surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season with 23 carries for 120 yards. The receiving corps stepped up when it needed to, held onto passes (including an absolute highlight, one-handed grab by Demetrius Byrd), but still had one instance where a player lined-up improperly.

All-in-all, the offense's performance netted 464 yards, but succeeded in adding a minuscule six points to LSU's point total for the night. With a chance to put a dagger in the Volunteers heart, Trindon Holliday fumbled the ball away, and Perrilloux's only INT of the night came on the Tigers ensuing possession.



Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini, in all likelihood coaching in his final game for LSU, brought pressure often, but still left a lot to be desired at times when it seemed the Tigers would have benefited from an extra body flying toward Erik Ainge. There were times where Tennessee utilized its own version of the Wildhog offense, and LSU fell victim to a running quarterback á la Darren McFadden. Receivers were left open on the ends at times for gains, and it certainly seemed to be a case of "bend but don't break."

With 9:54 to go in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Zenon stepped in front of an Ainge pass on third and five and returned it 18 yards for what would prove to be the game-winning score. Down by seven points, the Volunteers reached the Tigers 21 yard line before Denarius Moore dropped what would have been a sure first down. On its 13th possession of the night, Tennessee got to LSU's 14 yard line when Ainge completed a 47-yard pass to Arian Foster with 2:48 left in regulation.

Unfortunately for Ainge, he found Derry Beckwith on the very next play at LSU's seven yard line to seal the Volunteers fate.

Coming into the game, the much maligned Tigers had given up a myriad of points and yards. Against Tennessee, they held their ground when they needed to and stepped up to make the regular season mean more than just 10 wins.



Colt David was called upon in the first half to be the point-maker for the Tigers and succeeded for the most part with two 30-yard field goals. His one miss, another 30-yard attempt, would have more than likely given LSU the lead at the half but was just wide right.

Patrick Fisher did what he needed to as LSU's punter – getting the Tigers out of the end zone with a booming kick, pinning Tennessee at its nine with another boot, and completing a pass on a fake punt to Quinn Johnson for a first down to keep a drive alive.

Tennessee's one long return of 50 yards led to a three-and-out, and its longest punt return of seven yards didn't put the Volunteers in a great position to do anything.



LSU coach Les Miles put false reports to rest before the game and had to deal with distractions for two weeks in a row regarding Michigan and Nebraska. On top of that, LSU was without its starting quarterback and other personnel that could have made the difference in a game with a championship on the line.

Offensively, the Tigers put in a game plan for Perrilloux that was more than manageable and, at times, he thrived. Defensively, the Tigers were helped out by the return of Ricky Jean-Francois, were able to pressure Tennessee at times, and did enough in the end to confuse Ainge into thinking covered receivers were open when they weren't.

If there is any real beef to be had, it's that LSU as a team made the same mistakes before the ball was snapped that it has made all season long. Nine more penalties were added to the Tigers total, and those fouls certainly put them in difficult positions to work themselves out of at times. That's simply disciple, but it isn't something that is simple apparently.


Tiger Blitz Top Stories