LSU And Saints Fail To Keep It Together For Sixty Minutes

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Boo-Hoo Works Overtime On The Bayou

By John Ventola

A month ago Louisiana football fans found themselves in the doldrums after the New Orleans Saints got off to a miserable 2 and 4 start and LSU lost its first two Southeastern Conference (SEC) games. Both teams rebounded over the next month to return to respectability, if not championship form. The Saints topped Green Bay and Carolina to claim top position in the weak NFC South Division while the Tigers won three consecutive SEC games over Florida, Kentucky, and Ole Miss. However, just when both squads had refilled their fan bases with feel good vibes, they let last minute leads disappear and lost gut wrenching overtime contests to the San Francisco 49ers and Alabama Crimson Tide on their home fields.

The two day stretch of heartbreak leaves LSU with three SEC Western Division loses and a 7-3 overall record heading into road contests at Arkansas and Texas A & M to finish the regular season. The Saints, meanwhile, relinquished a fourth quarter lead for the fourth time this season and suffered their third final minute loss of the season. Still they find themselves with a 4-5 record that keeps them atop their division by half a game. Each team lost three point leads in the last minute of regulation when they allowed the opposition to drive to game tying field goals in the last seconds of regulation.

LSU outplayed Alabama in most facets of their matchup, outgaining them 102 to 6 during a dominating third quarter, and seemed poised to upset the Tide when

Hat

LSU Controlled Ball For Two Thirds Of Game

outstanding linebacker Kendell Beckwith fell on a fumble by running back T.J. Yeldon at their six yard line with only 1:13 left in the game. When Terrence Magee ran into the middle of the line on first down for no gain there was a lot of pushing and pulling by the Tide as they tried to pry the ball loose.

Foolishly LSU offensive guard Vadal Alexander took the bait and retaliated with a push of his own in the scrum, getting a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. More foolishly a game official, who should have called offsetting penalties on both teams for the two-team melee, threw his flag, and changed LSU play calling for the series as it now faced first and goal from the Alabama 21.

With the controversial call in his pocket, and knowing that Tigers would keep the ball on the ground and not risk an error by erratic quarterback Anthony Jennings, Nick Saban expertly worked the time clock with his remaining time outs to conserve as much time as possible for a final :50 second drive. During the next three plays and subsequent 39-yard field goal by Colby Delahoussaye to take a 13-10 lead, the Tigers ran only seventeen seconds off of the clock. Six seconds had expired on the initial Magee dive play.

Needing to pin down Alabama and force the Tide to move many yards with no timeouts should have been the plan, but Les Miles’ strategy to squib kick and avoid a long runback backfired when kicker Trent Domingue hooked the kickoff out of bounds, putting the ball on Bama’s 35 yard line. More importantly, no time expired as the ball was not touched by anyone before going out of bounds.

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims then led his team down the field to a tying 27-yard field goal with three seconds left. He converted a third and 4 by scrambling for five

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Sims Stepped Up And Was Difference Maker

yards, hit receiver Christian Jones for twenty-two yards on another third and 4, and finally passed for 16 yards to DeAndrew White to set up the chip shot, tying field goal from the Tiger ten-yard line.

A jubilant LSU crowd went from excited to hushed as they had not only seen an almost sure upset victory disappear, but they had also become witnesses to how momentum, coaching strategy, and a few key plays is often the difference between winning and losing. As country artist Luke Bryan would sing, they had a “front row at the best show” in college football football Saturday. And, the Tide (pun intended) had turned.

For the second straight meeting in Tiger Stadium, with LSU needing only one play to be victorious (failed to convert a third down in 2012 that led to game winning screen pass touchdown by Alabama), Saban showed why he is making double the money of Miles. Their head to head clashes since Saban returned to college coaching shows Saban with a 6-3 lead, proving again that you get what you pay for—even in college coaches. Alabama has defeated LSU four straight times.

Sims kept up his late game momentum and led the Tide to the game winning touchdown in overtime by completing two passes, the first a 24-yard completion to the Tigers one to open the session, and then after a penalty and a running play, a six yarder for the touchdown. While Sims will never be confused with former Tide signal-caller A.J. McCarron, he stepped up at important times and was the difference maker in the game.

His opponent Jennings passed for only 76 yards on eight completions in 26 attempts. An interception he threw with a minute left in the first half led to a 27-yard field goal by Alabama and let the Tide carry its first lead into the halftime lockerroom. Basically another Miles (offensive coordinator Cam Cameron) decision had backfired and dearly cost the Bengals. Why pass on your side of the field with under a minute left in the half, a certain risk with Jennings at the helm? Why not go into half tied 7-7?

The Saints continued their pattern of losing late when they let 49er quarterback escape a fourth down and 10 situation, roll (yep, talking Saints now and not Alabama) right and

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Saints Lose Third Game In Final Moments

hit a wide open Michael Crabtree downfield. Crabtree had managed to get behind the Saints zone coverage and haul in the 51-yard reception with 1:05 left. After San Francisco tied the game with a field goal twenty one seconds later, Drew Brees’ last play Hail Mary completion to Jimmy Graham was negated because of a push-off penalty called on Graham.

San Franciso jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead only eleven minutes into the game and led 21-10 at halftime. Two second half touchdown passes to Graham gave the Saints a short-lived lead before the final 1:52 of frantic action. After both teams punted in their first possessions of overtime, Brees was sacked, fumbled, and the ball was recovered at the Saints 17 yard line. 49er coach Jim Harbaugh wasted little time in trotting out placekicker Phil Dawson for the first down 35-yard field goal to end the game.

The Saints defense, like it did in losses at Cleveland and Detroit, had victory costing breakdowns in the final minutes of the game. Combined with three turnovers by Brees, he had his overtime fumble plus two regulation interceptions, the defensive lapses have the Saints coaching staff looking for ways to get a complete game effort from everyone. The lack of consistent offensive production keeps almost every Saints game close and the defense has proven themselves vulnerable to last drive collapses. .

Both loses make it a definite Blue Monday in the Bayou State. The red beans will not taste as good today as sports fans gather at the local eateries to hash over the bad fortunes of the local teams. While many enjoyed a couchon de lait and other local delicacies in ideal weather Saturday on the Tiger campus, and the partying continued outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Sunday Saints pre-game fare, the local fan bases would give it all up for a consistent taste of winning football from either team.

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