Mitchell: LSU's 2012 Nightmare
Posted Jan 1, 2013

No one was happier to see 2012 in the rear view mirror than the Tigers and their skipper, Les Miles

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Happy New Year! For LSU and its head coach, Les Miles, 2013 couldn't arrive fast enough. 2012 saw one of our sport's best coaches, particularly given time to prepare, fall flat on his face.

First was the mother-of-all nose dives in an albeit rematch against Alabama, after a 2011 regular season for the record books That was followed by a series of stumbles - the Honey Badger's Bayou career went up in smoke, there were too many injuries and ineligible players to count, followed by the bizarre mid-season departure of fifth year senior OT Alex Hurst, a prevent defense collapse for the ages, and then Monday night...

Bookend bowl blunders for the Bayou Bengals.

Despite any "expert" analysis to the contrary, this loss falls squarely on Miles and his offense. LSU lost this game in the first half when it couldn't (or wouldn't) establish a running game, leaving its talented defense to run around the Georgia Dome turf like it was a track meet.

LSU had 12 plays in the first quarter, and eight of them were pass attempts (four "runs" being sacks of quarterback Zach Mettenberger).

For the most part, LSU's defense did its part - forcing four fumbles, taking away two of them, and laying the lumber on crushing tackle after tackle. Indeed, LSU knocked star Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins out for good on the game's second play. All this with an offense that couldn't spell its defense.

In the all important fourth quarter, up 24-16, with its defense gassed and clearly in need to a break, LSU had just one yard of offense, going three and out on both possessions ...despite starting both drives near mid-field.

To make matters worse, up 24-22, with two minutes left and needing to eat clock, LSU's coaching brain trust elected to pass on 2nd and 2 and then again on 3rd and 2. Both plays ended in incompletions, stopping the clock and saving Clemson timeouts - which would ultimately prove costly for LSU.

As a result, LSU's defense was on the field for nearly 12 minutes of the final quarter.

Clearly LSU's defensive didn't wear down in a bubble. For much of the game, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis had his cornerbacks in soft coverage, and the Carolina Tigers feasted on it. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 36-of-50 passing.

Meanwhile, with his teammate Watkins sidelined, wideout DeAndre Hopkins put on a show for a Clemson crowd needing a star - a game-high 190 receiving yards on 13 catches and two touchdowns.

Clemson was unable to get anything going on the ground - certainly nothing like it's accustomed to getting. LSU's stingy run defense held Clemson to 2 ypc on 50 carries, well off its 4.5 ypc average.

However, it seemed as if the Bayou Bengals didn't even try to get its running game going. Despite rushing for 4 ypc and leading the game throughout, LSU ended the game with 29 passing attempts to just 19 rushing (when factoring for sacks). Only eight rushing attempts in the first half (again, factoring out sacks).

It was an embarrassing finish not just for LSU and Miles, but for the conference.

Hats off to LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who had 14 tackles in the first half alone. That's more than Notre Dame Heisman finalist Manti Te?o had in any complete game. Minter ended with 19 tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss.

You could say the Bayou Bengals really lost twice: if Minter has been sitting on the fence, this was exactly the kind of final big game he needed to justify the early jump to the NFL.

LSU never trailed until the game's final moment...not unlike their 2011 season. It's fair to say that Miles and his Tigers had trouble closing throughout the 2012 season - being up in the second half of all three losses.

Again, Happy New Year! May it bring for you and your loved ones warmth, health and prosperity. Or, if you're a Tiger fan, a fresh start.

Or perhaps better yet, a good finish.

Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC Columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb

Related Stories
FSNextTV: CFA Bowl Post-Game
 -by  Dec 31, 2012
USAAAB: Tuesday West Defensive Notes
 -by  Jan 1, 2013
Clemson rallies to beat LSU 25-24
 -by  Dec 31, 2012

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > LSU
[View My HotList]