A new head coach. A devastating hurricane. Opening season games rescheduled. A heartbreaking overtime loss in what became the home opener, played on a Monday night rather than the traditional Saturday night due to another hurricane.
Then ten straight weeks of games. Ten straight wins. Then the eleventh game, in the eleventh week. For the conference championship. For a trip to the Sugar Bowl. For a chance to contend for the BCS National Championship crown, should one of the other favorites stumble.
But the hurricanes and the eleven weeks of practice, preparation, and playing take their toll, and the worst loss of the season is suffered. Adding injury to insult, the star quarterback is lost.
Cast down, sentenced to the next rung below the hallowed Bowl Championship Series.
Ranked number ten, facing number nine. The second-team quarterback is at the helm, in his first college career start. All of the pundits pick the number nine opponent. The fans pick the number nine opponent. On the same turf as the crushing loss three weeks before…
Oh, there were a few souls outside of Louisiana who picked the Tigers to beat Miami. Lou Holtz, God bless him, appears to be the only soul inside the USC-crazed ESPN crew without Trojan-emblazoned blinders on; he picks LSU as the winner of the 2005 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. By the end of the night, Lou is vindicated.
Things went great for the Miami Hurricanes.
For about five minutes.
On their first possession, they drove solidly down the field. The LSU defense, which collapsed against Georgia in the SEC Championship, held the Hurricanes to a field goal. It would be the only points Miami would score for the entire game.
It would be a game of few penalties, and fewer turnovers. Only one, an interception by the LSU defense against Miami’s freshman quarterback, put in the last four minutes of the game. It would be a game where many different words would be used to describe the play of the Fighting Tigers, of what happened to Miami, but it all keeps coming back to one word in particular.
LSU dominated the line of scrimmage, on both sides, from their first offensive series onward. The Tigers would score on eight straight possessions, beginning with the series that tied the game at three apiece.
Miami managed a mere 153 yards of total offense. Three of those yards was their total for the second half. The number-one pass defense in the country would give up 196 airborne yards and two touchdowns, without netting a single interception. The third-ranked overall Miami defense would give up a total of 468 yards, the most it has given up all season. The Miami offense would manage only six first downs. None of those were in the second half. The 37-point loss would be their worst bowl loss in school history.
This was the LSU team many expected to see this season. The team was disciplined, poised. The team was supportive of their new quarterback, and bent over backwards to take as much burden off of him as possible. The team was confident with Matt Flynn at the helm.
JaMarcus Russell is an incredible athlete. His play this year has been light-years better than last season. Yet Coach Les Miles may have to take a serious look at the position in the off-season. The better man for the job may have just led his team to a 40-3 victory over the last Hurricanes of the year.