Two years ago in Tuscaloosa, the drama between LSU and former coach Nick Saban reached fever pitch.
It was their first meeting since Saban left his post in Baton Rouge, and LSU put together two touchdowns in 93 seconds to secure a fourth quarter, comeback win.
But, how the events played out was just as important as the win itself.
When Matt Flynn, who finished with career highs of 24-of-44 passing for 353 yards and three touchdowns, found fellow senior Early Doucet on a 32-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 34-34, the Tiger faithful saw it as poetic justice. Then, when Jacob Hester ran the game winner across the goal line from one-yard out, it was official.
With a handful of Saban’s final recruits, LSU had beaten Alabama. That was the storyline.
Two seasons later, Doucet, Flynn and Hester are gone, and there are only two players left from Saban’s time at LSU: defensive tackle Charles Alexander and outside linebacker Harry Coleman, both sixth-year players as members of Saban’s final recruiting class in 2004.
Yet, don’t expect this trip to conjure up the same type of emotion that 2007 did – at least when it comes to Saban and his time at LSU.
Instead of Flynn under center, this trip to Tuscaloosa will see sophomore Jordan Jefferson taking the snaps. Needless to say, his association with the Alabama headman is not quite as strong.
“I never met Saban when he was here,” Jefferson said. “I met him when he was at Alabama, because they recruited me a little at first. But, I came to LSU … I felt this was a better school.”
For linebacker Perry Riley, who sits second on the team with 55 tackles, the connection to Saban is no different than his connection to most coaches across the country.
“I have never even met him,” he said.
According to running back Charles Scott, one of the spoken leaders from the offensive side, the players from the Miles era made an effort to move away from the LSU fan bases attempt to make the match about our-coach-over-your-coach.
Go figure, huh?
“We never got into the personal deal that they were trying to hype up between him and coach Miles,” he said. “It was always LSU versus Alabama to us.”
Is it time for the LSU fans to follow suit, to bury the hatchet, so to speak? Let bygones be bygones?
Most have, and the rest should, for it seems that Miles and his players never even batted an eye to the chatter.
“I have a lot going on in my life,” Miles said. “I have four kids who are running rampant around Baton Rouge, and even though there may well have been questions centered around that issue, it was never my view.
“It’s truly always been about LSU versus Alabama in my mind.”
This weekend when the two top-10 teams collide, you can bet that Miles’ focus remains the same.
A win and LSU moves into the driver’s seat in the West, which has been goal number one from the start.
“Our team wants to compete for the Western Division championship every year, and certainly that’s this game,” Miles said. “I don’t think that there is anything other than the want to play well for that reason. I don’t think we need to put other pretense on this game.”