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Hobbs Column: Friday's game ended with a bang and a lump in your throat

Last Modified: Saturday, November 30, 2013 8:23 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Well, that was 99.5 yards that LSU and Les Miles certainly will never forget.

Probably Arkansas, either.

I’m guessing when Miles, with no other options, sent true freshman Anthony Jennings to guide a patched-up offense against what looked to be ridiculously impossible odds in a desperate situation, he probably sort of wished Jennings had seen more honest playing time during some of LSU’s runaway victories.

That would have made it more believable after starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger went down with a knee injury.

Instead, the whole thing was starting to take on the hokey angle of a bad sports movie.

But maybe that’s Miles at his best.

Having a more prepared Jennings would have been the easy way, the traditional way.

And nothing ever seems easy or traditional with LSU.

Maybe it was another odd-ball Mad Hatter plan. It wouldn’t be the first time that still being oblivious paid off for an untested quarterback before the reality set in.

Maybe it was better that way.

Maybe Jennings didn’t know any better than to think he could complete 3 of 4 passes, including the 49-yard game-winner to another freshman, along with a 21-yard scramble that might have been the key to the whole crazy sequence.

It was certainly a game LSU fans will never forget, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Miles happier and more emotional after a game than this one.

Lost in all the euphoria, however, was another angle.

By the time Arkansas kicker Sam Irwin-Hill’s punt rolled dead inside LSU’s 1-yard line, perhaps it was worth asking not what the odds were, but what in Sam Hill the Tigers were doing in this nasty predicament in the first place?

Wasn’t Arkansas a winless team in the SEC? Didn’t LSU just announce with an exclamation point against Texas A&M the week before that the Tigers were going to regroup and pay attention the rest of the way after losing to Alabama?

Legitimate questions, even at the risk of raining on the parade of a truly thrilling LSU comeback.

And I’m for giving the Tigers a pass on this one. Just file it away as a thrilling victory and excuse the Tigers celebrating like they’d just pulled off a big upset.

Never mind that, rivalry game or not, it never seems to matter what Arkansas has done before playing LSU. In fact, it’s these downtrodden Razorback teams that seem to give LSU the most fits.

On the other hand, in 2011 for a legitimate showdown when LSU was ranked No. 1 and the Razorbacks were ranked No. 3 in the nation, the Tigers rolled easily and impressively to a 41-17 thumping. Go figure.

True, for three quarters Saturday, the Tigers seemed disinterested in being anywhere near Tiger Stadium, but it was hard to blame them.

It was a weird place.

It was a stone-cold dead crowd to begin with, as dead as I can remember it at the start.

The crowd and the team had to know they were in for a game by halftime, but when LSU came out for the second half, players and stadium still looked bored and lifeless.

Of course, for three quarters, the crowd couldn’t get a word in — not even a good, solid Tiger Bait — over the incessant, over-amped caterwauling of those boxcar-sized speakers in the joint.

LSU seems to think the way to get a crowd into the game is to shock them by pumping music into the place at ear-splitting decibels. Instead it seemed to crunch everybody into their seats, begging for it to be over so they could watch the game. It’s like a picnic interrupted by an air-raid horn.

LSU fans should be taunting Tiger opponents, not being constantly tortured by their own game administrators.

Then an amazing thing happened.

The crowd defiantly wrestled control away from the speakers, shut them up and, seemingly realizing the desperate situation, got into the game at full vocal force.

Miles said it seemed like the stadium seemed “fuller” at the end.

It only sounded like it, maybe the loudest per capita fourth-quarter in stadium history once they seized control and shut up the boom boxes.

And, at the end of a lackluster day capped by thrills and chills at the end, the stadium had one of its most poignant moments.

I’m the last guy to get sentimental about a college football game, but that was pretty special when LSU gathered for the usual alma mater victory sing-a-long.

Afterwards Miles explained that Mettenberger would not be at the postgame press conference.

Nobody was expecting Mettenberger. Players don’t normally come to press conferences on crutches. But that wasn’t Mettenberger’s excuse.

He was afraid he’d start crying again.

Too late. The secret was out. He’d just been out there for the alma mater crying like a bearded baby for 20 minutes on national television. CBS evidently had some time to kill, and basically gave LSU a 10-minute recruiting plug.

It was quite an emotional scene, and it told you something about Miles’ real strength as a coach and his hold on his team.

Mettenberger is from Georgia, never cared much about LSU growing up and is, in fact, finishing college at his third school.

It has the sound of the classic college mercenary.

But as he stood there on crutches, an arm draped around Miles with every teammate seemingly wanting a long hug and more and more tears flowing like a river down his cheeks, it was pretty obvious the place had a hold on him.

“Don’t pretend for a minute that it doesn’t touch a coach,” Miles said of the scene.

A day that started with such lackluster sure did end with a bang.

• • •

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

Posted By: Skipper M. Drost On: 12/2/2013

Title: Hobbs Column

Great Article Scooter Hobbs!

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