I’m still obsessing about the LSU-Oklahoma game, reading everything I can get my hands (or my mouse) on, and generally relishing the little glow that comes with seeing your — well, I’m not going to go so far as to call it an “alma mater,” as that (a) seems to dignify the relationship I hold thereto a bit too much, and (b) is entirely the wrong gender for this particular issue — your undergraduate institution, in any event, taken seriously for a change.
There’s been a tremendous amount of whining here in SoCal about the season’s final results; no sooner had the post-game award ceremony ended Sunday night, than our local ABC affiliate cut to various USC-types complaining about how half of that crystal football should have been theirs. Oh, and how LSU didn’t deserve to be there in the first place, because the SEC is a weaker conference than the PAC-10.
To which I’d just like to say: Please. USC beat UCLA? Big deal. They beat Stanford? They beat Cal?
Oh wait. No they didn’t.
The SEC ends the season with 5 teams in the top 25; the PAC-10 with 2. I can’t be convinced that, by any reasonable standards, USC’s schedule was “tougher” than LSU’s. There’s a certain bias, I think, amongst the left(-coast) media [insert proper emoticon indicating dripping irony here] against taking SEC teams seriously.
A few writers seem to have gotten it, though. My favorite assessment of the team, as DN rightly points out in the comments below, is that of Wayne Drehs, over at ESPN.com. He gets it right in multiple regards, not least of which is understanding the perennial pain of being a long-term Tiger fan (and thus the joy of seeing things work out for once), and the thing that made this team so different:
Playing for LSU, you see, is sorta like playing for the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Red Sox. Over time, they’ve always seemed to mess things up in the end. But on this night, there was no Steve Bartman. No Grady Little.
Sure, things went wrong. A botched snap on the 2-yard line, a blocked punt in front of their own end zone, a pair of penalties that nullified a field goal, a costly pass interference on third down late in the game. But nobody ever freaked. They took the bad bounces, tightened their chin straps and, unlike Mark Prior and Pedro Martinez, bounced back.
Even late in the fourth quarter, while everyone else was holding their breath, while the folks in Norman were waiting for the Tigers to collapse and the folks in New Orleans were waiting for Oklahoma to conquer, the guys in the white jerseys didn’t flinch.
LSU quarterback Matt Mauck threw an interception, the Sooners pulled within one touchdown, then had the ball again deep in LSU territory, and everybody on the LSU sideline just sorta said, “Oh well.”
“It’s nothing new,” Lavalais said. “That stuff’s happened all year long. The offense would turn the ball over on our side of the field, and the defense would have to step up.”
That “oh well” quality — the ability to keep hammering away in the face of setbacks — really set this team apart from every other LSU football (and basketball, but let me not get ahead of myself) team I’ve ever seen play.
And it’s a quality I could stand a little more of myself.