2011 team could use forgiveness

<p class="p1">The SEC Network replayed the 2011 LSU-Alabama Game of the Century Monday night.</p><p class="p1">It reminded me that I always thought that time would have healed some LSU wounds by now and that in-house history would be treating that Tigers team better.</p><p class="p1">Never quite happened.</p><p class="p1">LSU fans never did forgive Les Miles for going 13-1 that season against one of the toughest schedules LSU has ever played.</p><p class="p1">Remember, LSU did win that Game of the Century, 9-6 in overtime over the Tide in Tuscaloosa.</p><p class="p1">Sad for that team, nobody seems to remember that now.</p><p class="p1">Miles never quite lived it down that he didn’t go 14-0 and win the national championship. Mostly (the way people remember it) it was because he let quarterback Jarrett Lee lounge on the bench the entire game while Jordan Jefferson was serving the championship crystal up on a platter to Nick Saban and Alabama in the BCS championship rematch in the Superdome.</p><p class="p1">It wasn’t much of a game.</p><p class="p1">But the original that year, the one that the SEC Network reaired, now that game …</p><p class="p1">The other conferences — remember, this was at the height of the nationwide SEC Fatigue plague — were quick to write it off as two bad offenses playing Stone Age football.</p><p class="p1">The Big 12, Pac-12, whatnot, almost sounded like hucksters trying to lure you into their booths on the midway for some of their pop-gun offensive tomfoolery where they actually score touchdowns.</p><p class="p1">They conveniently forgot that, when not playing each other, both LSU and Alabama averaged more than 40 points per game that year.</p><p class="p1">And none of them would have wanted to subject any of their slick offenses to what was going on in Tuscaloosa that night.</p><p class="p1">A few years later, ESPN did the math and deciphered that on the turf that night were 42 future NFL draft picks — 28 of them (14 for each team) on the two defenses.</p><p class="p1">And whatever it may have lacked in scoreboard gymnastics, it was the most intense game I’ve ever been to.</p><p class="p1">As someone said, it felt like sudden-death overtime from the opening kickoff, way before it went into overtime and LSU won with its third field goal.</p><p class="p1">Funny, but what I remember most about that game was well before the kickoff, out in the parking lots around Bryant-Denny Stadium.</p><p class="p1">A sports writer buddy and I made an ambiance run through the atmosphere, a chore reserved only for the biggest of games on the odd chance an anecdote might hit us over the head and wrestle its way into our works of prose.</p><p class="p1">We were sidestepping the anticipation and dodging those bolts of pre-game electricity in the air, both of which were thick with nervous energy. You could almost see the sparks, hours before the game.</p><p class="p1">But the fans …</p><p class="p1">LSU and Alabama partisans were no strangers to each other, and neither fan base is especially known for its calm, respectful demeanor in advance of a big game.</p><p class="p1">But this whole scene was surreal if you’d been around them before.</p><p class="p1">Not a whole lot of intermingling. They kept a respectful distance. But there was scant taunting. None that I remember. Mostly they seemed to be spying each other out the corners of their eyes.</p><p class="p1">As they eventually started making their way toward the stadium, a group of LSU fans would pass a Bama contingent, both sides, it seemed, would just nod macho-respectfully at each other, as if to say, “We’re at the top of the food chain, let’s give ’em a good show.”</p><p class="p1">And that they did, from start to overtime finish.</p><p class="p1">The next day the Alabama newspapers were full of columns about how Miles had outfoxed Saban again to sneak out of Tuscaloosa with a 9-6 win over a better team.</p><p class="p1">It was Miles’ misfortune that those two teams were so much better than everybody else that year — and, well, Oklahoma State missed an extra point to lose to Iowa State — that Saban got his revenge in New Orleans.</p><p class="p1">As evenly matched as they were, there was no way LSU was going to win the rematch.</p><p class="p1">Yeah, giving Lee a chance at quarterback couldn’t have hurt.</p><p class="p1">But Monday’s reairing of the original game was a reminder that Lee started that game and was rescued in the first half by Jefferson, a move that Miles had been anticipating for several weeks while running roughshod through the schedule and giving the more mobile Jefferson more and more meaningful playing time.</p><p class="p1">The rematch fiasco assured that the 2011 LSU team will never get its due.</p><p class="p1">Had LSU played (and surely beaten) Oklahoma State, it would have gone down as one of the best teams in recent history.</p><p class="p1">It’s schedule would have demanded — No. </p><p class="p1">In all, teams on LSU’s schedule that year went 7-1 in bowl games, the lone loss by Georgia in triple overtime.</p><p class="p1">The Tigers beat the winners of the Rose (Oregon), Orange (West Virginia — which scored 70 points on Clemson) and Cotton (Arkansas) by a combined 63 points.</p><p class="p1">But it couldn’t beat Alabama twice.</p><p class="p1">Time to forgive and forget.</p><p class="p1">That team deserves a better spot in LSU history.</p><hr /><p class="p2"><strong>Scooter Hobbs</strong> covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com</p>””<p>FILE: LSU kicker Drew Alleman celebrates with punter Brad Wing after nailing the game-winning field goal against Alabama. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)</p>

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