With a chance to go down as one of the greatest, Tigers take second

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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NEW ORLEANS -- For weeks leading to Monday night's BCS national title game, there was a growing sentiment that if LSU beat Alabama, the Tigers would be considered on the short list for the greatest team in college football history.

Greatest team ever? Not quite. The Tigers became the first SEC team to lose in the BCS title game and it turns out the SEC champions weren't even the best team in the SEC.

From first (the nation's No. 1 team) to worst (their worst game of the year): the Tigers were dominated 21-0 as the Crimson Tide captured their eighth major national title.

On the Tigers' way to New Orleans, they beat eight nationally ranked teams. No one had ever defeated more in a season. Yet against Alabama, they couldn't even muster eight first downs against Alabama.

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They finished with five first downs, crossed midfield exactly once and their best player Monday night was, gulp, their punter.

Former NFL quarterback Bobby Hebert, father of LSU reserve offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert, was furious by the Tigers' offensive offense. "I'm 51 years old, and I guarantee I could have gotten more than five first downs," he said.

Hebert, who works for a New Orleans radio station, opened LSU coach Les Miles' postgame press conference with a question. Actually, it wasn't a question, but more of a rant.

"Coach, did you ever consider bringing in [backup quarterback] Jarrett Lee, considering that you weren't taking any chances on the field?" Bobby Hebert said. "Now, I know Alabama's defense is dominant. But, come on, that's ridiculous: five first downs?

"I mean, so it's almost an approach, I'll tell from you the fans' standpoint, that how can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee? So what if you get a pick-six? It seems like the game plan that -- not pushing the ball down the field, considering it's like a Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. I know the pass rush of Alabama, but there's no reason why in five first downs -- you have a great defense. LSU is a great defense, but that's ridiculous."

Ridiculous is pretty much how Alabama made LSU's offense look. The Tigers were outgained 384 to 92. LSU gained 2.1 yards per play. The Tigers ran 44 plays on offense and only two were longer than 9 yards.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive line Michael Brockers said the Tigers were "flat" and "didn't have energy."

"We didn't execute our game plan," Claiborne said. "As a defense, we can't control what the offense is doing. We're just trying to keep the offense out of the end zone. We came out a little flat tonight. We just couldn't put it together."

Despite the loss, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson still felt the Tigers deserved to be voted No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll (they finished second, and I voted for LSU second).

"I think we should," Jefferson said. "All the major accomplishments we made to get here.

"It [the season] still was tremendous. We beat eight nationally ranked teams and won the SEC conference. We accomplished the majority of what we wanted to, but we fell short of the last one."

For the first time all season, LSU felt exactly like its previous 13 opponents -- practically helpless.

"It was very frustrating," Brockers said. "You see our offense usually come out and scoring when you really need them. It didn't happen tonight. We can't do anything about that. A loss is a loss. We have the same record as Alabama. We lost to them, they lost to us.

"We were second tonight. They were the best team. They were out on podium, holding up the crystal ball."

LSU won the first game, but Alabama won the rematch. Brockers said it was impossible to predict who would win a third meeting, if they had one.

"I couldn't even tell you," Brockers said. "It's like flipping a coin. You might flip it twice, you might get heads twice; you might get heads or tails. These are two great teams. Tonight was not our night. Those guys did all the right things and deserved to win."

Miles said the Tigers "had a great year" and "a quality a run as there is in this country."

"We fight like hell," Miles said. "And we finished second ... it's supposed to be painful."

As the confetti rained down to the Superdome turf, LSU punter Brad Wing was one of the last Tigers to leave the field. Before he ducked into the tunnel leading to the locker room, Wing decided to glance into the stands.

At that moment, the Superdome video board flashed to a glowing crimson red Alabama Crimson Tide logo. The Tigers couldn't avoid it. Not tonight. Just like the game, everywhere the Tigers looked, all they saw was red.

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