Key plays keep LSU alive in BCS hunt; check out highlights from the win over Alabama
BATON ROUGE - Maybe CBS on Monday picked LSU's game at Ole Miss on Nov. 17 for its national telecast because it thinks the No. 3 Tigers will keep the struggling Rebels (3-7 overall, 0-6 in the Southeastern Conference) in the game, thus guaranteeing another cinematic finish to a fall Saturday afternoon.
Considering LSU's last four finishes, that's not a bad bet.
The Tigers, 8-1 and leaders of the Southeastern Conference West at 5-1, scored with 1:26 left to beat Alabama 41-34 Saturday. They scored with one second left to beat Auburn 30-24 on Oct. 20. They missed a field that would have won the game with no time left in a 43-37, triple-overtime loss at Kentucky on Oct. 13. They scored with 1:09 to play to beat Florida 28-24 on Oct. 6.
"If the Lord gives you a heart, and He says, 'OK, in this heart there's this many ticks, this many beats.' Well, I think I've used a share of them up these last couple of weeks," LSU coach Les Miles said at his weekly press luncheon Monday.
"There's quite an electrical charge being around this football team. There's an excitement, a quality kind of competitive fire that you feel. And it definitely ignites you and it helps you as a man and certainly as a coach."
But he doesn't want that every week. Miles, whose team will host 4-5 Louisiana Tech Saturday at 7 p.m., addressed his heart and those of countless members of the LSU nation at his usual 6:45 a.m. meeting Monday. Miles feels the Alabama game would have not needed another cardiac finish had his team played smarter. For LSU was on the verge of a knockout blow in the second quarter with a 17-3 lead and about to get the ball in good field position.
"We started out that game 17-3 ahead and it's third down and 12 and they throw an incomplete pass," Miles said. "If we get the ball right there it might well be 24-3. And the feel of the game would change very distinctly. Instead, there was a personal foul. It gave the opportunity to our opponent to get a first down, where they would not normally have the ball. On the ensuing play, we bust coverage and it's a 67-yard touchdown pass."
The game was on.
"The change of events there are very significant, and our team has to understand that," Miles said.
Defensive end Tyson Jackson roughed Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson on that third down, giving the Crimson Tide 15 yards and a first down.
"You can't give opponents extra opportunities like that because countless times they'll turn around and put points on the board right after," strong safety Craig Steltz said.
"That gave our opponent life," Miles said. "It got a loud stadium in the game. We have to recognize that we control that. We control a lot about Saturdays that we play, and certainly we had the opportunity to be off the field. There was a focus on that this morning at 6:45 with the team. It was a nice lengthy meeting that went through some of those issues. We showed that third and 12 and first and 10 in film today."
Alabama kept the momentum and rode it to 24 unanswered points and a 27-17 lead with 1:19 to play in the third quarter. Then LSU quarterback Matt Flynn threw perfectly to wide receiver Demetrius Byrd for a 61-yard touchdown, cutting Alabama's lead to 27-24 with 20 seconds to play in the third quarter. Game on.
"I didn't think it was the beginning of the end before that," Flynn said. "But that was a big play. It was a play that was definitely needed. They had just scored. That stadium was rocking. It was loud. The touchdown kind of silenced the crowd for a little bit."
Miles also showed film of offensive tackle Carnell Stewart's false start and unsportsmanlike conduct calls that made a fourth-and-one play a fourth and 21. Patrick Fisher's punt from his 17 turned into a 61-yard punt return by Javier Arenas for a touchdown and a 34-27 Alabama lead with 7:33 to play in the game.
"We showed change of situation," Miles said. "To me, it's got to be something that every guy in that room commits to. And I'm talking coach and player. Everybody needs to be on the same page there. That awareness needs to be made and made again, and I will. We'll improve it with more awareness, some coaching. Don't get me wrong. I do not in any way absolve the coaches or myself. We'll all improve."
Miles wants heart-smart play.
"The mistakes are going to be fixed," said Flynn, who threw three interceptions in a second quarter that also featured nine penalties against LSU.
"There was more attention to the mistakes and how we can improve a really strong team that has not played its best football to date," Miles said. "We understand we have to eliminate mistakes, play a little smarter. Understand the penalties that occur or the mistakes change the situation of the game. You don't want to give any gifts, nothing easy."
So maybe LSU will play a game before the regular season ends that will do a heart good.
"It would be a whole easier to put up a lot of points early and end the game," Stewart said. "Then we'd get a chance to put some of the younger guys in. I don't think we've done that since the Middle Tennessee game. That'd be nice. It's about time for us to stop cutting loose with all these close games."
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