FISCHER: Outside the Box
LSU getting dose of own medicine long time in the making
For 18 games, it went according to plan.
It was scripted. And it was perfect.
From the Oregon game to begin the 2011 season all the way until the Towson game two weeks ago, 18 regular-season games played out practically the same way and all ended with Tiger Nation singing the Alma Matter in triumph.
That’s because somebody finally kicked the Tigers in the teeth, stood their ground and - maybe most importantly - believed that they were going to be the stronger team over the course of 60 minutes.
And Will Muschamp’s Florida Gators did it the only way it could be done: By giving the Tigers a taste of their own medicine.
Dominant defense. Unyielding run-heavy offense. And the ability to out will your opponent.
People who watched Saturday’s game have seen victories like that before. But they saw them from the team in purple and gold. Not the one draped in orange and blue.
That all changed Saturday, and it makes you wonder how a script flipping could come so quickly less than 365 days following one of the worst Florida losses in the long-standing rivalry.
On that day, LSU rushed for 238 yards and held the ball for more than 35 minutes. The Tigers had only 42 rushing yards and had the ball for less than 23 minutes this time around.
It was a radical change from one year to the other. But like the endings of just about anything that stands the course of time, it didn’t happen overnight, although a sudden loss makes it feel that way. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it wasn’t destroyed in a day either. Neither was LSU’s 18-game regular-season winning streak.
The unfortunate truth is that the peak of LSU’s “civilization” came when it beat a much better Alabama on the road by three points last season. Maybe the battle took too much out of LSU, but the Tigers have never really been the same since.
LSU limped to an uninspired 42-9 win over Western Kentucky the next week (with only a 14-7 lead at halftime), and pundits like myself called it a post-Bama letdown game.
Surely, they would re-find the formula. And they did… or so we thought.
The Tigers then destroyed Ole Miss in Oxford, 52-3. But we shouldn’t have taken that to heart. Ole Miss was one of the worst teams in SEC history that had also quit on the season.
Next came the first halves of the Arkansas and Georgia games in which LSU’s offense was nowhere to be seen and its defense finally looked mortal - before second half onslaughts.
And then we all know what happened Jan. 9.
Fast forward to 2012, and in only one of LSU’s five season-opening victories - the Washington game - did the Tigers submit a complete and dominant performance. The rest have been uninspired and lacking. None of LSU’s first nine victories in 2011 (six over ranked foes) were uninspired and lacking, save for arguably a Thursday night in Starkville where LSU struggled in the red zone and the score was much closer than the game actually was.
It may seem like Saturday’s loss in The Swamp was the sudden end of LSU’s reign as maybe not the best, but the baddest, most physically feared team that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley in college football.
However, LSU has been on a course destined for this fall ever since the team submitted its last complete performance over a BCS-quality opponent Nov. 3, 2011.
It just took somebody powerful and strong-willed enough to beat them at their own game.
It happened in the postseason in January
And now it’s happened in the regular season in October.
Now, can the empire be salvaged, or will it continue to crumble? That’s the question that each and every player and coach has to look inside themselves and ask this week. Stay tuned.
Richard Fischer is the Associate Editor of Tiger Rag Magazine covering football and baseball. Reach him at email@example.com