I have a hard time placing LSU. We don't see them every year. I don't have a strong animosity towards them. Their recent success hasn't led their fanbase to become any more boisterous than they already were. That being said, they are responsible for the single most painful loss in my lifetime. I'm sure we can all go back and forth endlessly, but the 2001 SEC Championship Game (which we'll get to in a minute) has to be viewed as the tipping point of the Fulmer Era. Plain and simple, LSU brought our mini-dynasty down. Ugh...
LSU is a long-time SEC compatriot that we haven't played that many times. They weren't in our core rotation pre-expansion, they didn't become one of our permanent West opponents post-expansion, and even the latest reordering of the schedule means we only see them in the regular season twice every five years. In recent times, though, when we do get together...it's entertaining. It's not always pleasant, but it's entertaining.
All time, we are 20-7-3 against the Bayou Bengals. Prior to 2000, though, we were 18-3-3 against LSU...so it's been a rough decade. While I don't expect that to change on Saturday, I like to believe that the cathartic process helps us move past the pain of the past and sets us up for success...so let's get to it.The bad: 2001...the last time we seriously flirted with a national championship. The Hobnail Boot? Horrible. Winning in the Swamp for the first time in 30 years? Awesome. And there we were, sitting one game away from a trip to Pasadena and the chance to compete for another crown. All we had to do was beat a team we'd already beat in a building that wasn't yet cursed for us. Sounds easy enough, right? And when we got to halftime with a 10-point lead and a laundry list of injured LSU starters, it seemed that the stars were aligned. Unfortunately, games are 60 minutes long instead of 30. I distinctly remember 4 things from the 2nd half of that game.
- Matt Mauck...I don't know if he played the half of his life or if we were really that unprepared for the backup quarterback or if it was a combo of the two. But he scrambled successfully over and over again and absolutely killed us.
- I think we were down 24-20 at the time and there was a shot of John Henderson storming up and down the sidelines yelling at what appeared to be everybody. I imagine he was telling them that he refused to lose and we'd get a stop and go on to win the game. He was half right.
- After said stop, we were driving into LSU territory about to claim our destiny...and Donte Stallworth laid the ball on the carpet. It was completely deflating and we didn't respond as LSU drove for the clinching score.
- I had these ridiculous, oversized orange and white slippers that I bought one Christmas at the mall. I wore them around the house constantly and considered them something of a good luck charm. After the game I went upstairs to my room and proceeded to fling them across to the other wall. Have I mentioned that I don't take losing well?
I'm glad that's over with. Honorable mentions to 2006 (at the time, our only loss was by 1 point to eventual champion Florida...plus they ripped our hearts out with 9 seconds left and did some Jedi mind tricks on Crompton such that it took him 3 years to recover) and 2007 (Not Erik Ainge's finest moment).
The good: There's really only one relevant example from my memory and even that is tainted by all the suck that followed it. As I mentioned last week, the 2005 season was off to an uneven start despite our lofty expectations. We'd struggled to get past UAB and turned in a completely underwhelming effort against Florida. In non-football related events, New Orleans was reeling after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita was putting everybody on edge. Rita precipitated (no pun intended...) a move of the game to Monday night and postponed the release that Louisiana was no doubt craving by that point. They didn't have to wait long. On the game's opening drive, Ainge was sacked, fumbled, and LSU recovered. They proceeded to score on the next play and the stadium went absolutely bonkers...I can only imagine what it was like to be there. The most memorable play from the first half, though, was clearly the one involving Ainge being spun around in the end zone, lobbing an underhanded pass into the arms of a defensive player, that interception being returned for a TD, and Ainge getting a faceful of goalpost for his troubles...solid football, that was. I was especially irritated during this inept first half because either my roommate or myself had managed to badly burn dinner and we spent a lot of time trying to direct smoke out the window. Plus I was supposed to be doing homework but was instead throwing books around the living room. Did I mention that I don't like to lose?
While Ainge attempted to recover his mental faculties, Rick Clausen came into the game. It didn't change much initially, as LSU should've gone into the half up 24-0 if not for blowing clock management at the end...stay classy, Les Miles. I don't really remember much of the comeback except that it seemed like it was done 7 yards at a time. I do remember the missed wheel route to Corey Anderson that would've given us the lead late in the game. I also remember spending a lot of time during one of my classes in the days that followed ignoring the professor and reading somebody's article about how Rick Clausen had a lot of heart and Fulmer was full of it for talking about how he "never doubted" Rick Clausen. Oh well, I guess he got his comeuppance for being phony by having a terrible season. So there! Wait...
Honorable mentions: Umm...2001, take 1 (first game after 9/11, The Future goes crazy, etc)?
What about you guys? What memories do you have of games against LSU? Feel free to share them below.