LSU has its long-awaited rematch – and much more at stake against Texas A&M
At the end of the movie “Rocky”, an exhausted Apollo Creed and an exhausted Rocky Balboa meet in the center of the ring after the final bell in their epic heavyweight battle.
“Ain’t gonna be no rematch,” Creed whispers to Balboa. “Don’t want one,” Balboa responds.
When the LSU and Texas A&M players met on Kyle Field at the end of their epic football game one year ago, things were a little different. The Aggies has escaped with a split decision as narrow as Creed’s – 74-72 in seven overtimes.
The Tigers would have gone for a rematch right then and there, but they knew they’d have to wait a full year – 319 days to be exact. But they started thinking about it then.
And now it’s time for the rematch – Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“We owe those guys a lot from last year,” running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire said. “Everything that we felt last year sitting in that stadium — however many hours we sat in that stadium — to understand that pain as a player, it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
The narrowness of the loss and the length of the battle – nearly five hours – weren’t the worst part of it. The worst part was the repeated instances of LSU believing it had prevailed, only to be told, no it hadn’t.
There was the victory-clinching interception that was overturned on replay – after the celebrating Tigers had doused coach Ed Orgeron in Gatorade and ice.
“I stunk pretty well after the game, I can tell you that,” said Orgeron, who continued coaching for more than an hour after the bath.
There was the Aggies spike of the ball as time expired before one second was put back on the clock. There was, on the same play, the illegal formation that was not called.
There was the possible catch and fumble that was ruled an incompletion.
Then there was the incompletion that appeared to ensure an eighth overtime before the Tigers were called for a controversial defensive pass interception penalty, leading to the deciding two-point conversion by A&M.
“We thought that we won the game three or four times,” Orgeron said.
But they lost it.
No they get another crack at the Aggies.
“We just felt helpless and then we just felt that when our time comes we’re going to do something about it,” Orgeron said, “and now’s the time.”
This game has been on LSU’s radar from the moment that game ended.
When the Tigers, who have not lost a game since that game, disposed of Arkansas last Saturday and were finally able to take an unobstructed view of the rematch, they gladly did so.
“It’s going to be on,” Orgeron said. “I’ll never forget that game last year. We’re going to be ready.”
There are so many reasons for the Tigers to be ready for this game. They would be plenty ready if both teams were winless and the game were being played in October – just because of the need to flush the remnants of last season’s loss out of their system.
But there’s more. So much more.
LSU is 11-0 and 7-0 in the SEC. It already has clinched the SEC West and it’s trying to complete just the second 12-0 regular season in school history.
It’s the last game in Tiger Stadium for perhaps the best team in Tigers history.
It’s the last game in Tiger Stadium for the seniors, most notably quarterback Joe Burrow, who in two weeks will become LSU’s second Heisman Trophy winner.
It’s bound to be the last game in Tiger Stadium for several NFL-ready underclassmen such as Edwards-Helaire, who is having what would be the most talked-about season by a Tigers offensive player in recent memory of Burrow weren’t concurrently having the most talked-about season by a Tigers offensive player ever.
There’s more, of course.
LSU is steamrolling toward its first appearance in the CFP and a victory here might even immunize the Tigers against a possible loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game next week.
But the Tigers’ ability to withstand a loss and their seeding if they win out were both weakened Tuesday when the CFP dropped them from No. 1 to No. 2 and put Ohio State in the top spot.
Certainly the Tigers’ defense and the Buckeyes’ season-long performance have created a very competitive battle for the top spot.
So on top of everything else, LSU might feel the need to give the committee a refresher course on what a No. 1 team looks like. If the committee wants to administer an eye test, Burrow would gladly accommodate as he has all season.
The Tigers finally have the rematch they’re waited a year for – and so much more.
It could be the perfect ending to a perfect regular season.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…