After the Arkansas game, Lenn Robbins of the New York Post asked LSU coach Les Miles if he believed his team might be the greatest in collegiate football history. Eight days later, the Tigers laid sole claim to another superlative:
Worst first half ever authored by the offense of a team this great.
How bad was it? Well, LSU tied a record that can never be broken — fewest first downs in the first two quarters. And this goose egg wasn’t laid by Podunk State against Almighty A&M. This was the championship game of the nation’s best conference, and this monstrosity had been concocted by a team considered the nation’s finest by such a distance it was believed LSU could lose to Georgia and still play for the BCS title. But would an aggregation that couldn’t manage one crummy first down on such a stage deserve a mulligan?
First-half numbers: LSU had 12 total yards, 123 fewer than Georgia, and had completed two passes, one of them underhanded. It trailed 10-0 after one quarter and was still 10 points down six minutes before half. And was the man beneath the white hat concerned?
“That defense,” said Miles, speaking of his own,” and the way it was defending — when they got 10, I thought that would be it [for Georgia]. Quite frankly, we just needed to get it started offensively.”
To Miles’ other attributes — darn good coach, intriguing wordsmith, eater of grass — we can now add “ace prognosticator.” Georgia didn’t score again. LSU started scoring on Tyrann Mathieu’s punt return and never stopped. And we on the periphery can only stand back and wonder: If the Tigers can go an entire first half without benefit of an offense against a opponent of quality, might this be one of the finest teams ever assembled?
What transpired Saturday night beneath the Georgia Dome was truly breathtaking, and I mean that literally: You could see the air — and the life — sucked from the buoyant Bulldogs. Georgia started bold and fast and smart and, if not for two dropped touchdown passes and a missed field goal, would have had a lead so big even Miles would have blanched. But then the Honey Badger started running back kicks and John Chavis’ defense threw a hammerlock on the Bulldog offense, and midway through the third quarter a game that was nearly a runaway one way had gone the other.
Of Mathieu, the eloquent Miles said: “He really is the ‘Honey Badger.’ He takes what he wants. He takes what he gets his hands on.”
Which pretty much describes the Tigers in toto. Down 14-0 against Arkansas, they won 41-17. Down 10-0 against Georgia, they won 42-10. Nobody doubted that this was the nation’s best team before the past two weekends, but now there’s no doubt.
Miles: “Never are they out of it. Never was there any question that they would get their feet, get their bearings and compete.”
This doesn’t mean that this demonstrably superb team will win the national championship. The Tigers will almost surely have to play Alabama again, and how would you like to have your road to the BCS title blocked by a bunch coached by Nick Saban that you had to move heaven and Earth to beat the first time? We can argue forever the fairness of that, but Les Miles wasn’t really in the mood Saturday.
“It’s a tremendous conference top to bottom,” he said. “[Alabama has] a great team. We’ll look forward to competing against them. But I’m going to enjoy this night first.”
And why not? After a unbeaten regular season that closed with come-from-behind comprehensive routs against Top 15 opposition, why should Miles or the Honey Badger or any Tiger fear man or Saban? Tell the truth: When last did you see a team this powerful, this fast, this unyielding?
“That second half, we basically got it going,” Mile said. Then this: “This is a quality group. It’s a great team.”
By Mark Bradley