LSU hopes to erase bad memories vs. Ole Miss
LSU coach Les Miles and the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers can't escape reminders of how they botched the final seconds of last year's 25-23 loss at Mississippi.
It came up after LSU nearly did the same in a win against Tennessee earlier this season made possible only by a late defenive penalty against the Volunteers, and now that the Tigers are hosting Ole Miss this Saturday, it's a hot topic again.
''I don't want to point finger directly at Coach Miles but that game should have ended in so many ways and it just didn't. It came down to that. So we have to focus more on managing the clock and things of that nature,'' running back Stevan Ridley said. ''To end that way was kind of embarrassing. ... We just have to learn from our mistakes, learn from our issues and make sure it doesn't happen again.''
Ridley marveled at how LSU did all of the hard stuff late in last year's Ole Miss game to even to get as close as it did.
First came a TD with 1:17 left, followed by a successful onside kick. Then LSU advanced into field-goal range before losing yardage and wasting time before finally completing a long pass to the 5-yard line with a second left. Because the clock stopped on the first down, LSU could have gotten to the line for one more play. It didn't happen and Ole Miss wound up celebrating a second straight win over their longtime rivals.
''That sticks with me. That was a terrible, terrible way to lose a ballgame,'' LSU star cornerback Patrick Peterson said. ''But things happen. Like Coach Miles said, we weren't prepared for that moment.''
The Tigers (9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) are hoping late-game clock management won't even be an issue this year against the struggling Rebels (4-6, 1-5).
LSU has been a much better team this season and retains far loftier goals. While Ole Miss must win its final two games just to be bowl eligible, the Tigers aim to finish 11-1 for the first time since winning a national title in 2003. That should get LSU an at-large bid to its first BCS Bowl game since the Tigers won the national title in the 2007 season.
The Tigers even believe that with a little luck in the form of losses by some of the four unbeaten teams ranked above them, they might even sneak into the BCS title game.
''We just have to go out there and continue winning games in a good fashion,'' Peterson said. ''Let's finish this season out with a bang. We have an opportunity to finish this season out 11-1. It's been a fun, fun trip. We just want to continue winning games on Saturday and we'll see what the outcome is at the end of the year.''
Peterson and defensive tackle Drake Nevis have led an LSU defense that has ranked first in the SEC all season and allowed LSU to win comfortably even in some games when the Tigers' offense sputtered.
''We are getting ready to play one of the best teams in America- LSU,'' Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. ''LSU has one of the finest defenses I have ever seen. ... They are big, huge, fast, and give up very few points.''
Nutt said he wouldn't underestimate LSU's offense, either, which features Ridley in a running game that averages 181.4 yards. While LSU doesn't throw a lot, they have three potential big play receivers in Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard. LSU also has been good on special teams with Peterson ranked second in the SEC in kickoff and punt returns and Josh Jasper the leading field goal kicker in the conference, not to mention his success on fakes.
''Offensively they have weapons at the wideout and they have a good offensive line,'' Nutt said. ''They also have good special teams. We are playing the No. 5 team in the nation. We have to get ready.''
Ole Miss is hoping to counter with dual-threat quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who is 75 yards from breaking Norris Weese's single-season school record of 542 yards rushing by a quarterback. Masoli could present some similar challenges that LSU struggled with in its only loss against Auburn and Cam Newton. The Rebels also have a deep threat Markeith Summers, who has three TDs in four games, and they have a strong power runner in Brandon Bolden, who has five 100-yard rushing games and 11 TDs.
Then there's the emotional component that seems to make statistical comparisons irrelevant, as Ridley, a Mississippi native, pointed out.
''Ole Miss circles this game like we do Auburn and Alabama. My closest friends go to Ole Miss,'' Ridley said. ''After the first loss, I said that they would not beat us again. Then, they upset us again last year. Ole Miss always plays strong football. Coach Nutt is an awesome coach. We have to make sure it doesn't happen a third year.''