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Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Hobbs Column: 14 points a safe bet, right? Not anymore

Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 12:00 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — LSU fans really are an amazing, unexplainable bunch.

So, help me figure this one out.

It was a miserable day here most of Saturday and it grew worse and even less inviting as kickoff for the Auburn game approached.

Yet the fans piled into Tiger Stadium. Not capacity, certainly. But a lot more, relatively full, than could have been expected when you combine the weather with the ready availability of high-definition equipped living rooms and sports bars.

So then the rain got really serious, right on cue, right at kickoff, right as everybody was settling in.

Les Miles called it a “stiff dew” and all I can say is that I’m now officially done trying to translate him.

This was truly miserable. Even the press box sprung a leak.

And the fans settled in, all poncho-ed up, ready to do battle.

They were a hearty lot, too.

At times it was raining sideways, tough to see the field, and they stuck it out as LSU played through it, looking every bit like the national contender this game was supposed to affirm.

The Tigers were clicking on all cylinders, so to speak, verily ravaging the poor Auburns left and right, by land and by air and mostly by Hill, Jeremy.

The fans were rewarded for their suffering with a 21-0 halftime lead and, even better, it was right about then the rain stopped.

Not only that, the respite came a hint of a rare but welcome September cool snap.

Perfect football weather.

Persistence pays off.

So it was about then, as a second half awaited with all due comfort and amenities, that all the fans evacuated the stands and went home.

These fans really don’t know when to come in out of the rain.

At the least they had the drill backwards or, perhaps, were also confused about the difference in a “stiff dew,” whatever that is, and a good solid rain shower.

It’s also possible that they were playing by the old rules, thinking that a 21-point halftime lead is a pretty good excuse to beat the traffic.

Those standards, apparently, don’t really apply anymore, not even in the SEC, not even with LSU.

It’s a new age. The up-tempo, no-huddle offense has infected the SEC. LSU is not immune to it.

Those who stuck around ended up with some squirming to do before the Tigers held on and won 35-21, which looks a lot more comfortable as a score print than it played out on the soggy turf.

Auburn never got closer than 14 points. Ordinarily, you’d think that would be comfortable enough. But the game did get to the point where you could imagine an Auburn miracle finish, and the Auburn-LSU series is nothing if not known for the oddball and the unexpected. Who’s to say an onside kick couldn’t become part of the lore and legend of the series.

And it’s a new age we live in.

I’m not sure that LSU actually did anything wrong.

Oh, they might want to re-think the wisdom of the fake field goal, at least when a field goal would have served their purposes just fine, and particularly when it needs nine yards and the runner is the holder and erstwhile special teams grunt.

Those three points would have looked mighty comfortable late in the game.

But the Tigers can’t be accused, as often happened in the pre-Cam Cameron offensive era, of sitting on the ball.

Zach Mettenberger’s first pass of the second half became his first interception of the season and Auburn quickly cut the lead to 21-7.

Did LSU get gun-shy and go into a shell? No.

Mettenberger got the green light and threw on the next play, too. Later in the drive he threw on three straight plays to set up Jeremy Hill’s third touchdown run and a lead back to 28-7.

So at that point the ill-advised fake field goal complicated things and it was 28-14 late in the third quarter. Mettenberger was slinging it again, all the way down the field. He finally hit Jarvis Landry on a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 35-14 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Not sure that would have happened in years’ past, pre-Cameron.

The Tigers didn’t go totally stupid. Yeah, at that point they were trying to milk the clock, even when Auburn pulled within 35-21 with just over six minutes remaining.

They had just enough in the tank to finish it (without another first down), but this is going to take some getting used to.

Two-touchdown lead? Six minutes left? Yeah, you figure if you just don’t gift-wrap anything, that’s in the bank.

Maybe in the old days.

But these up-tempo outfits don’t play by the old rules.

Even in the first half, when LSU totally dominated and had a 223-104 edge in total offense, Auburn actually ran six more ball plays than LSU did. By game’s end, Auburn ran 85 plays, LSU 66.

Explain that to me?

Traditional defenses are still trying to figure it out, particularly one like LSU’s that is unquestionably talented but still a bit of a work in progress with so many new faces. It took its toll in the second half on LSU’s defense. The Tigers should get some major credit for a late goal line stand — while fighting exhaustion — that spared the few fans left the cover-your-eyes anxiety of sweating out an onside kick.

But it’s a new world.

• • •

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

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