LSU’s offense explodes in Ole Miss victory

Dave Moormann
LSU’s Josh Jasper punts as Eric Reid, a former Dutchtown standout, runs up the field. Jasper was named SEC special teams player of the week after kicking three field goals in the Tigers’ 43-36 win over Ole Miss.

If any Southeastern Conference football coach can get into the unorthodox mind of LSU’s Les Miles, it is Houston Nutt of Ole Miss.

Nutt did it at Arkansas when he used Darren McFadden at quarterback to defeat LSU in the 2007 regular-season finale. He guided Ole Miss past LSU the previous two years, including last season’s 25-23 debacle in which Miles helped Nutt along with more clock mismanagement in the waning seconds. Adding insult to defeat was having quarterback Jordan Jefferson spike the ball after time had expired.

It was as if Miles were the Henry Winkler-played coach in “The Waterboy,” who falls to pieces each time he sees his main adversary. Finally, the Adam Sandler-played quarterback suggests that his coach put a pleasant thought in his head when viewing his arch-rival.

The simpering coach envisions a baby’s head atop the body of the opposing coach and gains new-found confidence with this approach. The quarterback then plays all but flawlessly in leading his team to victory.

It’s doubtful Miles used such tactics to get the best of Nutt last Saturday when the Tigers closed out their regular-season home schedule with a highly entertaining 43-36 victory. Jefferson, on the other hand, was nearly flawlessly in enginnering the victory that improved LSU to 10-1 overall, 6-1 in the SEC, and kept the Tigers fifth in the BCS standings.

Jefferson, though, may have benefitted from a new approach Miles and his assistants seem to have taken in the past few weeks. Rather than trying to run a series of intricate plays that led to the confusion on the part of everyone, the Tigers apparently have simplified their offense and run what works best for their players.

Jefferson was so effective in leading LSU that the Tigers' re-energized offense tore through Ole Miss’ outmanned defense as easy as if taking candy from a baby. Hard-charging Stevan Ridley and speedy Michael Ford kept Ole Miss off balance with their feet, while Jefferson’s accurate arm confounded the Rebels through the air.

In completing 13 of 17 passes, Jefferson threw for a career-best 254 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Whatever LSU did to revive its spirts, the results were the same as they were for Sandler’s team on the movie screen.

“I have to give lots of credit to [offensive coordinator] Gary Crowton,” Miles said. “I think he has taken a bunch of criticism this year, and he called a magnificent game....He did exactly what we needed to do, and he operated the offense extremely well. We talked to the team about improving, and Jordan Jefferson did exactly that.”

LSU needed every bit of its offense to combat an Ole Miss team that took advantage of a defense confounded by running quarterbacks dating back to the McFadden loss. Taking a cue from Cam Newton-led Auburn, which handed LSU its only setback, Jeremiah Masoli continually froze defenders in their tracks.

Likewise for running back Brandon Bolden.

LSU never backed down, though, and its offense seemed to grow in stature with every Ole Miss score. The Tigers were brimming with confidence and couldn’t wait to get their hands on the ball. Only an inabilaity to score touchdowns in the red zone marred what otherwise was a superb performance.

“It was about time for the offense to come in here and help the defense out,” Ford said, “and I think we did that.”

LSU was never better than on its game-winning drive that covered 51 yards in eight plays, including the final 7 on Ridley’s run with 44 seconds left. Ford, Jefferson and Ridley split the carries behind an offensive line that bowled over Ole Miss.

Let’s see if that same momentum will sustain LSU against Arkansas in LIttle Rock on Saturday. Arkansas doesn’t have a running quarterback, and its defense yielded 31 points to Mississippi State.

The Tigers still aren’t picture perfect, but no movie can every top their dramatic flair.