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Hobbs Column: Tigers somewhat to blame for latest last-second loss

Last Modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 9:51 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

OXFORD, Miss. — There’s the usual temptation, of course, to give Ole Miss some credit for putting the finishing touches on the SEC’s Upset Saturday.

The Rebels were better prepared, more motivated and far feistier in Saturday’s 27-24 victory over LSU. And quarterback Bo Wallace had himself a game and a half.

But that wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?

Better for LSU, its fans at least, to go into crisis mode, i.e., a full-blown panic attack.

Not that LSU in any way deserved to win that game. But there was no real reason the Tigers couldn’t steal it anyway.

All they needed was one defensive stop — probably any time along the way of Ole Miss’ 14-play game-winning field goal drive that ate up but two seconds of the final 3:15 of the game clock.

It happens.

But if you want to really see the sky falling in large chunks, consider that it has become a bit of a trend.

LSU’s last four losses have had similar frustrating tales. The Tigers had varying degrees of business winning the four, but, dipping back to last year, they gave up the winning points with 2 seconds to play (Ole Miss), 1:47 (Georgia), double-zero (Clemson) and 51 seconds (Alabama).

Throw out a final two minutes, 40 seconds of four games, and the Tigers are on a 15-game winning streak. OK, they’d have had to go to overtime with Ole Miss Saturday, but you get the point.

This isn’t a what-if exercise (we’ll get to that in a minute).

But isn’t this the kind of game that LSU made a habit of winning in recent years? Wasn’t that one of Les Miles’ true Mad Hatter charms? Coming up big in “close quarters” as he likes to say?

In these last 15 games, the Tigers have only pulled out one late, come-from-behind victory themselves — last year Jeremy Hill scored the winning touchdown with 10 seconds remaining for a 41-35 win over Ole Miss.

You’ll note that two of them came against last year’s against LSU’s NFL-bound defense. This one is still cutting its teeth.

Certainly don’t blame any prevent defense, at least not Saturday. LSU played the same defense on the final drive it played all game, which is to say, unfortunately, not very well at all.

The tip-off should have come Saturday afternoon watching Florida’s dumpster fire offense running haphazardly into the teeth of Missouri.

Yes, perhaps too much stock was put into LSU’s holding the Gators to a pair of field goals last week.

It didn’t really grow up over night. A week after its alleged coming out party, LSU gave up a season-high 525 yards to the Rebels.

But that doesn’t have to be a deal killer. Only twice has a Miles-coached Tiger team given up more yards than Ole Miss got —  560 in his LSU debut at Arizona State in 2005 and 533 at West Virginia in 2011 —and the Tigers WON both games.

It’s a new age in college football. Alabama may still insist on playing defense, but the rest of the world seems intent on going to fun side.

LSU may have to just join them, at least for this year.

It’s risky. You open yourself up for wild finishes with a lot of guess work. Yet the Tigers may have no other choice with such a young defense, still prone to confusion.

But, for that matter, 27 points by Ole Miss was not unreasonable in the current climate.

Bottom line, if quarterback Zach Mettenberger doesn’t throw three interceptions, all in the scoreless first half, we’re probably not having this discussion.

Stuff happens, but those three picks were as puzzling as they were game-changing.

Two came in the Ole Miss end zone, the other at the Rebels’ 11-yard line. Think of the possibilities.

Worse, two came on first down, the other on second-and-four, certainly no reason to be forcing anything.

Yet all were thrown quite deep into what amounted to an Ole Miss team portrait.

But isn’t this what LSU fans have clamored for? Throw on first down and mostly, for gosh sakes, throw deep.

Saturday it played right into a depleted Ole Miss defense’s game plan. The Rebels made sure there was safety help deep when LSU got impatient and figured Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry could out-wrestle anybody for anything.

Turns out there are limits. Mettenberger also didn’t seem to have the same NFL zip on his throws he’d shown previous.

The Ole Miss ploy left some promising underneath routes open, but for the longest time LSU didn’t seem interested in exploring them.

They paid for it in the end — which came sooner than it should have.

Maybe today at his press luncheon Miles can explain why, with Ole Miss obviously ready to kick the short game-winning field goal, the Tigers didn’t use their final timeout until six seconds remained.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze would have preferred three seconds — that’s when he was going to use his own time out — but it was still pretty obliging of Miles to let so much time fritter away when the previous play ended with about 27 or 28 seconds still left.

He said afterwards he was more worried about getting a field goal block unit on the field. But couldn’t you call the time out first and then assemble that brigade at your leisure?

Granted, it would have still taken an LSU miracle. But stranger things have happened.

At least the annual clock management issue is out of the way.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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