BATON ROUGE — With an audience of 92,904 looking on, college football’s defending champions pulled the purple-and-gold drapes on the 2008 season Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Forget any miracle march to that BCS crystal trophy. Forget any chance Les Miles’ Tigers have of winning the SEC West and playing for the conference championship, which are now next to zero.
So how can a football team that lost by 30 points to Florida two weeks ago, and by 14 to Georgia in one of those dizzy 52-38 shootouts, salvage something out of the current mess?
The only thing I can think of has to do with that Nov. 8 game LSU fans circled in red, many, many months ago: Knock Nick Saban and Alabama off that lofty pedestal they now occupy.
I can’t think of anything else. Can you?
As for Saturday’s performance, it’s easy to hang the blame on Jarrett Lee, who threw for five touchdowns, three of them to the good guys, two of them to Bulldogs linebacker Darryl Gamble.
Sure, Lee’s first interception that came 20 seconds into the game had the Tigers playing catchup the rest of the day. Sure, his second pick defused a rally.
But let’s be honest: More than anything, the loss came down to two facts.
It was a matter of an LSU defense that lacks discipline and a Georgia offense that shows what a team can do with a quarterback that can make plays, a running back that has vision and breakaway speed, and receivers with the separation quickness to beat one-on-one coverage on a blitzing defense.
All you had to do for a capsule look on what happened to the Tigers was go to the third quarter. LSU is very much in a 24-17 ballgame and has Georgia facing third-and-10 near midfield.
Yes, the Tigers come with a blitz, and, yes, they’re about to get their mitts on Matt Stafford. Only there is Stafford standing firm in the pocket, and there is freshman receiver A.J. Green juking defender Jai Eugene, winding up with gobs of daylight as his quarterback reaches him on a 49-yard scoring play.
A perfect example of execution at the skilled positions.
Moments later, Miles is gambling, faking a punt at his 38 and cashing in. Moments later, Andrew Hatch is converting a third-and-4 with a 20-yard run to the Bulldogs’ 29. With the Tigers on the 25 and smelling blood, there goes Hatch, turning a second-and-6 into a third-and-23 with a flag for intentional grounding.