Tigers clear path to BCS title game
BATON ROUGE - LSU's trip down Interstate 10 to New Orleans for the Jan. 7 national championship game just cleared a lot of traffic. Now if it could just find the right outfit.
"Here we are three games from the end of the season with everything that we want to play for in front of us, and we still haven't played our best football," LSU coach Les Miles said Sunday night following a mistake-riddled 41-34 victory over No. 17 Alabama Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Tigers (8-1) took over first place in the Southeastern Conference West at 5-1 with the win and can clinch a berth in the Dec. 1 SEC championship game, which would likely be the final exit ramp before New Orleans, with a win at Ole Miss (2-6) on Nov. 17.
LSU hosts Louisiana Tech (3-5) Saturday at 7 p.m. and closes the regular season at home on Friday, Nov. 23, against Arkansas (6-3) which could be dangerous with Heisman Trophy candidate tailback Darren McFadden. The Razorbacks beat No. 23 South Carolina 48-36 Saturday as McFadden rushed for an SEC-record 323 yards.
"We would like to put together four quality quarters of football and not make mistakes," Miles said.
Nevertheless, LSU moved from No. 3 to No. 2 in all the major polls Sunday, including the Bowl Championship series rankings that will decide the two teams that meet in the Louisiana Superdome for the BCS national title. Ohio State (10-0) is No. 1 in the BCS with an average point rating of .995 to LSU's .941. Oregon (8-1) is third at .918. Kansas (9-0) is fourth at .843, and Oklahoma (8-1) is fifth at .839.
"If we improve and play well, everything that we need to play for is right in front of us," Miles said. "That's a long way away. That is something we don't want to focus on."
Immediately following the win over Alabama, Miles was much more demonstrative about his team's mistakes, which included 14 penalties for 130 yards and three interceptions by quarterback Matt Flynn.
LSU needed a fourth-and-three touchdown pass of 32 yards from Flynn to Early Doucet with 2:49 to play and a fumble recovery at the Alabama 3-yard line 70 seconds later to pull out the win. Alabama (6-3, 4-2 SEC) came back from a 17-3 second quarter deficit to lead 27-17 late in the third quarter and by 34-27 midway through the fourth quarter.
"I promise you this, that'll never happen again," Miles said.
Miles said he appreciated the game ball the team presented to him for beating former LSU coach Nick Saban.
"But I told them that will be the last gift they give me for quite some time," he said.
Players said they really wanted Miles to beat Saban, and Miles said such emotion could have backfired.
Seniors Tyson Jackson, Carnell Stewart and Jacob Hester all drew 15-yard penalties for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct at critical times.
"That will be addressed slowly and painfully," Miles said.
That said, Miles likes the way LSU continues to win games in the final moments.
"It's a feel coming off the field that our team is a special group of guys," he said. "They love to compete. We have to build on a little smarter component. We can't turn the ball over and be penalized. We have to control the things we can control and not give our opponents more opportunities than they deserve. ... We are going to talk about technique and talk about ways to fix it."
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