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November 27, 2010

Just 4 Plays Away But 10-2 is Not Bad

In July I predicted that LSU would win at least 10 games and very well could go undefeated.  I feel pretty good about that prediction.  I feel pretty sure that LSU will drop out of the top ten despite the fact that they have played 6 ranked teams this year and managed to go 4-2 in those game.  Two losses against ranked teams in away games when half of your regular season schedule  has been against ranked teams is nothing to hang your head about.  Arkansas had only previously lost to Auburn and Alabama.  Those are two teams that can beat anybody in the country.  But for the 12 games of this season LSU played well below their potential.

LSU lost to Arkansas because of 4 plays or missed plays: two by the defense and two by the offense.  Jordan Jefferson's fumble in the last play of the game , while frustrating, was not one of those game changing plays.  

The Defensive
In the first half on two third and long "certain stops" LSU gave up touchdowns of 80 and 84 yards.  While Ryan Mallett deserves credit for the passes, neither pass was more than 20 yards through the air.  Patrick Peterson missed an assignment on the first first half touchdown and Karnell Hatcher took a horrible angle in attempting the tackle. The second play was the last play of the second half where only CBS announcer, Steve Beurlein, had no clue that Arkansas would attempt a big play.  Karnell Hatcher attempted to either intercept the ball or lay a huge hit on the receiver when he took out LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in effect freeing up the Arkansas wide receiver for a big gain.  Eric Reid and Patrick Peterson were both playing deep coverage and surely one of those two sure tackling outstanding defensive backs would prevent a score.  It was a high probability, but neither defensive back could stop the receiver and Arkansas finished the last seconds of the first half with a touchdown and the score was 21-14 at the half.  The defense and special teams came out in the third quarter to make amends and they delivered by not only holding Arkansas scoreless in the third quarter and only 10 second half points for the entire half but gave LSU's offense turnovers and great field position to potentially bring home an 11 win season.

The Offense
If LSU's defense had not give Arkansas the two huge pass play touchdowns, Jefferson would have really stood out as having a much better half than Ryan Mallett.  Jefferson had something like 140 yards passing in the first half.  

To start the second half Patrick Peterson nearly broke the opening kickoff for a touchdown but was pushed out of bounds by the Arkansas kicker at the Arkansas 46 yard line.  LSU's offense only had to drive 46 yards and the game would be tied at 21 in the opening drive of the third quarter.  LSU's offense could only manage to get the ball to the Arkansas 29 yard line: only a total of 17 yards.  No problem, Josh Jasper made a field goal and the score was a very manageable 17-21.  On Arkansas' first drive of the third quarter LSU's defense came up strong.  LSU forced and recovered a fumble at the Arkansas 9 yard line.  Even a struggling LSU offense could and would score from the 9 - right? Wrong, after four plays LSU's offense had managed 6 yards and so another Josh Jasper field goal made the score 20-21.  It was at that point I realized that LSU was very unlikely to win this game and unfortunately I was right.  Like all of the crazy way too close games that LSU has played this year, I had watch until the end just in case the Mad Hatter had something left in his hat.

LSU did have a chance after those very disappointing drives.  In the fourth quarter LSU was running a hurry up - pass crazy offense that was driving the field with about 3 minutes to go when for some reason a decision was made to run the ball.  Then on a first and goal from the Arkansas 8 yard line the LSU center managed to snap the ball completely over the 6'4" Jordan Jefferson causing a 19 yard loss. The next play Jordan Jefferson rushed for eight yards and after he was well into his slide an Arkansas defender launched himself in a clear helmet-to-helmet (personal foul) tackle that connected as Jefferson was seated on the ground.  The helmet-to-helmet blow should have caused Jefferson a concussion but did cause him to loss his grip on the ball that was already touching the ground.  The Arkansas crowd booed loudly wanting a replay official to rule the play a fumble but after the review, it was confirmed that Jefferson was down.  I would not mention the helmet-to-helmet shot but CBS showed the play several times trying to double check whether Jefferson was down.  LSU retained possession, called a timeout and kicked a field goal.  The score after the field goal was 23-31 which was the final score.  Arkansas wide receiver, Cobi Hamilton secured the on-sides kick that followed and the game was nearly over.

LSU's defense did manage to stop Arkansas' offense one last time and force a punt.  That gave LSU a last chance to drive 94 yards, score a touchdown and convert a 2 point conversion for overtime.  That was not going to happen.  Not with this LSU offense this year.  LSU has some of the best talent on both offense and defense but LSU's offense has to get better.  To me, it seems like with a few tweaks LSU ought to have a great shot at an undefeated season and a BCS National Championship next year.

Congratulations to an outstanding game to Arkansas wide receiver, Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton caught only three receptions.  Two of those are the receptions that went for 80 and 84 yard touchdowns in the first half. As noted previously, Hamilton also secured the last chance on-sides kick that allowed Arkansas to at least run the 2 minutes and 44 seconds down to less than a minute for LSU's wish of a come back.

Not many teams won 10 games this season and still fewer did so while playing against 6 ranked teams.  Make no mistake, LSU is still one of the elite football programs in the nation.     


Anonymous said...

will,I tell you the truth..I did not want to go play in the Sugar Bowl,and play Ohio State again..That seemed like a downer, to me..I much rather play in the New stadium, in Dallas,and the Cotton Bowl..That does seem like a reward.
Geaux tigers..10-2,is OK with me.

Anonymous said...

I agree,playing Ohio State would be something I do not want to do.
The New Dallas stadium, look better.
I am very proud of what this LSU team has done.
But for some bad plays on defense,and the offense not stepping up..We would have beaten Arkansas.
10-2 is still OK.I do not have perfect friends,what about you?

Anonymous said...

Losing to another Big 10 team in a bowl game would certainly benchmark how far the Tigers have fallen. LSU is a team with 5 star talent and a 1 star coach.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, 10 - 2 looks great compared to 7 - 5. If the ball bounced the other way LSU would have lost to NC, Tenn, Florida, so 7 - 5 and a trip to another "who cares" bowl could have been our fate and Less would be on his way to Michigan for sure!

Anonymous said...

I'd rather play Ohio State - we've lost to the last two other Big 10 teams we've played (Penn State and Iowa). I'm not sure I want to add Michigan State to the list of Big 10 teams we can't beat.

Anonymous said...

When you feel sorry for your self..Just look around.
USC lost to Notra Dame..Very bad.
Ole Miss, has a good QB..But keep losing.
Florida,recruited every 5 blue star player, in the big blue sky..Trouble is,they do not know how to play football.
Is you go to the Sugar Bowl.they make you play Ohio Stare..Terrible,if you win, it means nothing,and if you lose, you get band from the SEC.
If you go to Auburn, the FBI want to have a quiet talk,No thanks.
I like LSU.

Anonymous said...

If losing to Ohio State this year would be bad, what was last year's loss to Penn State? Really bad?

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