Offense taking the field a rare sight in 2009
By MARTY MULE’
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
What was that, the Groundhog Decade, where we keep living the same events over and over, like Bill Murray in that movie?
If we sliced the recently ended decade evenly, from the first five years to the second five years, it’s amazing how much LSU football mirrored itself.
Think about it: The Tigers’ five years (2000-04) under Nick Saban ended with a disappointing season (9-3) and a disappointing loss (30-25 to Iowa) in the Capital One Bowl. The second five-year segment (2005-2009) under Les Miles, ended with a disappointing season (9-4) and a disappointing loss (19-17 to Penn State) in the Capital One Bowl.
And a case could be made that both the Cap One defeats rested largely on the shoulders of each head coach: Saban because he spent most of that bowl week traversing back and forth from Orlando to Miami working out the details of his new contract with the Dolphins instead of concentrating on his college team; Miles because of some once again muddled play-calling, and the undisciplined reaction of his team to questionable officiating.
Peel back some other layers: In the first five years, LSU went 48-16 (.750), won two SEC titles and a national championship. In the second five years, LSU, playing more games, went 51-15 (.772), won one SEC title and one national championship.
People forget it now, with Miles the clear object of their disaffection, but half a decade ago there was some grumbling and unhappiness with Saban, too. In his last season, remember, his Tigers weren’t ready to take on Oregon State (22-21) or Troy (a 24-20 donnybrook), and endured a 45-16 beat-down at Georgia.
It wasn’t the greatest season on the resume’ of the newly crowned king of college football.
Of course, nobody can or will forget this recently-completed season in which the Tigers, expected to compete for at least the SEC West title, never got any traction and struggled mightily to squeeze past such giants as Mississippi State (30-26) and Louisiana Tech (24-16).
Then there was the never-to-be-forgotten cuckoo-cuckoo clock fiasco at Ole Miss, and a somewhat similar finish against Penn State.
Combined in its five-year segments, the decade produced some highs (99 victories and the two national championships) for LSU, at the start when nobody was expecting them and at the end when everybody was. It also produced some letdowns, and the highs never generate much cache’.
From the beginning to the end of the first 10 years of the 21st Century, it would be hard to argue that anyone has gone through more good, more bad, and more ugly football than the LSU Tigers.
And we kept reliving it over and over. And over.
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Where or whom to blame? It’s never out of season at LSU to look for scapegoats in when losses are incurred - meaning, of course, most seasons. This 9-4 year there are an abundance of candidates.
The offense is the most glaring. The offensive line was never more than mediocre, the quarterback never progressed, the receivers seemed to drop as many as they caught, the play-calling was sometimes puzzling.
Consequently, LSU finished last in total offense in the SEC and 112th out of 120 Division 1-A teams with 304.3 yards per game.
That would limit almost any team.
But lost in the blame-game is the defense, whose bend-but-don’t-break performance under John Chavis got a lot of love because it didn’t give up a lot of points (16.0).
Still, the Tiger defense contributed mightily to the offensive problems. They couldn’t get off the field, consistently gave opponents plays and time the Tiger offense might have been able to use to straighten itself out.
Consider that nine of LSU’s opponents ran more plays than the Tigers. Over the course of the season that translated into an average deficit of 11 (70-59). In the four games LSU lost, the margin was 15 (69-54).
Anyone would have to conclude that if that one statistic was switched, that had the Tigers had that many more plays and their opponent had that many fewer, in any one of those games the results might have been reversed.
DIFFERENTIAL OF OFFENSIVE PLAYS