Can't ask for more than a chance

No, LSU didn't play a pretty game in beating Ole Miss, 14-13, last Saturday.<br><br>And no, the Tigers haven't put together anything resembling an attractive performance in quite some time.

But with a win Friday over Arkansas, LSU will be in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game for the second year in a row. With the Tigers in position to repeat as SEC West Division champions and possibly defend their overall SEC crown, you have to show some respect for the way head coach Nick Saban and his team have weathered what the 2002 season has brought their way.


LSU starting quarterback Matt Mauck fell victim to a badly damaged foot ligament at a time when he was playing his best football of the season. His departure came a week after All-SEC running back LaBrandon Toefield was sidelined with a broken arm.


To add the improbable to injury, senior free safety Damien James decided to leave the team after the Tigers were off to a 3-0 start in SEC play.


And the latest blow came Saturday against the Rebels when Devery Henderson, the top playmaker for LSU this season, sustained a broken wrist while making a touchdown catch.


For LSU to stand on the cusp of another SEC West title after enduring this string of setbacks is a testament to the mental fortitude of the team. Execution has been lacking as of late from the Tigers, and the rigors of a 12-game regular season are taking their toll on the players still on the field. But you can't take away any of LSU's eight wins no matter how tempting it is to knock the way they earned them.


Yes, the Tigers needed a miracle play to get the win at Kentucky. But a perfectly executed play before the Hail Mary put LSU in position to escape Lexington with a win.


Yes, LSU beat a Florida team that comes up short when measured against some of the Steve Spurrier power squads. But the 2002 Gators are going to a bowl game and were in the SEC East picture until mid-November.


Through its wins and losses this year, LSU has bolstered its resolve and remains in contention for conference honors and a New Year's Day bowl berth. Not bad for a team that was considered in the rebuilding mode at the start of the season and written off by some following the unfortunate circumstances of October.


"We've been saying it's a one-game season for a long, long time," said head coach Nick Saban. "Now everybody knows it is. I'm happy that our players have put themselves in a position to have an opportunity to do this. I told them before the game everybody is always judged on they take advantage of their opportunities. We certainly will be in this one."


LSU holds a 6-4 edge of Arkansas in games played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, the site of this Friday's showdown. But the Tigers are 0-for-Nutt in two meetings with the Hogs under their current head coach at their home away from home.


The Razorbacks, like the Tigers, have had their moments of doubt this season and have battled through lapses in execution during November. But despite the chinks in the armor, they are also in position to win the West division and are intensely focused on the showdown at hand.


LSU players will no doubt say the same about their concentration as the game approaches. Perhaps the lesson learned from the rash of wounded Tigers is that it doesn't pay to look too far ahead into the future.


But mental aspects aside, the game will go to the team who fewer mistakes or manages to capitalize on those made by the other team.


Or maybe not.


LSU turned the ball over more than Ole Miss and failed to score on any of the opportunities the Rebel turnovers gave them.


All the Tigers needed was a chance to win against Ole Miss – something they didn't get against Auburn or Alabama. More specifically, it was something they didn't give themselves.

Opportunity will knock again in Little Rock on Friday, and the fight will be to see who answers: Tigers or Razorbacks.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories