Scooter Hobbs column: Fun with care-free gambles

Published 7:30 am Sunday, November 7, 2021

Admit it. You probably only saw the second half.

Weren’t even going to watch the expected massacre of LSU.

Didn’t want to see Nick Saban have that much fun at his old school’s expense.

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Couldn’t bear to know the gory details before meeting that stray, gloating Alabama fan at the water cooler Monday morning.

But word filtered out. Social media and whatnot, and the curiosity got the best of you.

Well, just to point out here: LSU didn’t win. Didn’t beat Alabama. Lost, if that’s the word, 20-14.

And LSU hasn’t sunk so low that it is dealing in moral victories.

“No way,” lame-duck head coach Ed Orgeron said afterwards. “We were in position to win this game, but we didn’t … Got to put our guys in better position.”

But Saturday night in Tuscaloosa had to creep up close to moral victory territory.


They had about half a dozen of the Tigers in place in the end zone when the game ended on a makeable Hail Mary, 30 yards or so, that maybe just as well fell incomplete.

It would not have counted anyway due to an LSU penalty, which would have had half of Louisiana marching on the Southeastern Conference headquarters with pitchforks.

But not bad when you can send your depleted junior varsity to the No. 3-ranked team in the country — missing 12 starters, nine on defense alone — and scare the Crimson out of the Tide before everybody finally exhaled.

Bama avoided what would have been an unmitigated disaster and can still win the national championship. LSU didn’t suffer the embarrassing whipping that both sides (fans at least) were expecting.

Orgeron may had already lost his job — and a good chunk of his depth chart is missing due to a biblical run of injuries — but he hasn’t lost the locker room.

Maybe LSU went about it all wrong from the beginning. Perhaps instead of paying Orgeron all those millions they just should have just given him house money to play with from the sideline.

“I don’t like the statement ‘nothing to lose.’ There’s always a game to lose,” Orgeron said. “We came here to win the game.”

Maybe. But the devil-maycare-Orgeron was a hoot. All of a sudden LSU was all about perfectly executed fake punts, a blatant disregard for fourth down and steady, fullon blitzing from everybody from every whichaway.

In other words, fun football — the late sack-and-strip fumble that horrified the home crowd and gave the Tigers their best chance came on “zero blitz,” the first time all season, Orgeron said, that the Tigers had run the fullon, kitchen-sink rush at an opponent.

There were complications — it’s always something.

Unable to play their usual nickel alignment, the Tigers instead went with the always-dicey nobody-you-everheard-of defense.

Technically it was the vanilla 4-3 setup — considered suicidal against today’s popgun offenses — but the Tigers were kind of forced into it because they couldn’t round up enough healthy defensive backs for such luxuries.

They were a sprained ankle or two away from summoning a clarinet player for cornerback duty.

So they threw caution to the wind and “put in about eight new defenses,” Orgeron said, pulled their ears back and hoped for the best.

Nothing was sacred. No risk too outlandish.

In the rehashing, maybe it cost them.

Alabama survived by scoring all of its points in the final two minutes of the first half and the first three of the second half.

The second Bama score came after a tipped interception in the waning moments of the first half with the Tigers attacking, not content to get to halftime with a shocking 7-7 tie.

Another turnover on a sack of Max Johnson to open the second half served up the Tide’s final touchdown — with a missed extra point to keep things interesting.

The Tigers ended up 5 of 7 on fourth-down gambles.

It was great when a fake punt led to a shocking 7-0 lead and when two others of them kept LSU’s 14-play, 89-yard scoring drive alive to pull within 20-14 and drop every jaw in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A later fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line (which failed) might have been pushing it.

“We were going for it,” said Orgeron, who never hesitated “When we walked into the stadium, we were going for it. There was no question.”

Someone is bound to notice that if the Tigers had kicked a field goal there, that 30-yard final pass play could have been a rather routine 47-yard field for Cade York to force overtime.

But it was that game-long approach — what- you-gonna-do-fire-me? — that put the Tigers in that position to begin with.

“I was proud of the guys’ effort,” Orgeron said, still not satisfied. “We should have won the game, though. These guys were not intimidated, but they wanted to win the game.”

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at