LSU fans have perhaps never been prouder of a Les Miles coached team. Sure the Tigers spanked Ohio State 38-24 to win the 2007 BCS National Championship. Such an accomplishment earns a program much more national press, large spectacular trophies and yes, visits from Snoop Dog. But that LSU team was heavily favored to beat the Buckeyes. The Tigers were considered a faster, more talented team.
That was certainly not the case entering Saturday's game against Mr. Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. LSU was a 6 ½ point underdog, and many people seemed to think that number was too low. As a matter of fact, the buildup towards this showdown was weak at best here in Baton Rouge. Both teams may have been 7-1 overall, 4-1 in the SEC … but the perception was the two programs were heading in opposite directions. The Tigers hadn't won a huge game since that BCS triumph, while their former coach Saban was distancing his program from the one he once built in Baton Rouge. LSU's 1-5 record against Top 10 teams since 2007 and the fact Bama had beaten the Tigers two games in a row certainly didn't help. Sure, there are plenty of LSU fans who are now proclaiming "they always believed" and "they never doubted Coach Miles and the Tigers". This reminds us of people who claimed to be in Tiger Stadium for Billy Cannon's 1959 "Halloween Run". They multiply exponentially after the fact.
But that's A-OK, because everyone should be happy. As a matter of fact, they should be elated. Saturday's 24-21 victory over Alabama was earned fair and square. LSU beat Alabama, period. There was no lucky bounce, no crazy set of circumstances, no once-in-a-blue moon scenarios. Dare I say, Miles out coached Saban. LSU not only called a brilliant fake punt, a tight-end reverse on a crucial 4th and 1 and a gutsy passing play on a 3rd and 13th, they executed them all perfectly.
And what about the Tigers who pulled off those plays? None of them were recruited by the coach who stood on the Alabama sideline. Not successfully, anyway. The young men wearing the white jerseys and gold helmets Saturday were brought to LSU by Coach Miles and his staff. This is Les Miles' team through and through.
There was Drake Nevis blasting through the Bama offensive line to sack Greg McElroy and force a crucial fumble, Reuben Randle making thrilling receptions (a player who chose LSU over Alabama) and blue-collar running back Stevan Ridley crashing in for what wound up being the game-winning touchdown. So many players who played large parts in this all important upset, it's impossible to list them all.
It's cliché to say any college football team has "a great group of kids". It's even easier to say that after a win like LSU pulled off against Alabama. However, fans seem to listen more, so here you go. As someone who interviews this team on a weekly basis … spring football, fall practice, game weeks … I can say that LSU indeed has a great group of kids. The police blotter compared to other powerhouses is minimal. The players answer "yes sir" and "no sir" to questions. They speak clearly and look at you when doing so. They complement each other and their opponents. And when you see guys like Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard hug after recovering that huge fourth quarter fumble … you truly get the feeling it's real, not artificial.
But the season isn't over. LSU has to finish the drill. We know the Tigers have simply not played well in the type of game they face this Saturday, an instate foe in UL-Monroe. Earlier this year the Tigers vowed to give their best against McNeese State. LSU won 32-10, but it felt more like 10-3. We'll see if they keep an inferior opponent in the game. We'll see if they allow Ole Miss to beat them for a third year in row. We'll see if they can play well shortly after Thanksgiving against a very talented Arkansas Razorback team. This team still has much to prove.
But for the moment, things are wonderful in Baton Rouge. The fall weather is invigorating, the Tigers are #5 in the BCS and Les Miles is beginning to build a legacy of his own.
So what if Miles eats grass? We suck the heads on crawfish. You know, those mudbugs we find in the ditch. You tell me who's crazy.
I know who just beat Nick Saban.