This article was copied from the Times-Picayune Sports Desk Log.
LSU unable to conjure magic
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
By John DeShazier

BATON ROUGE - Somewhere around the middle of the feel-good tale, the outcome drastically changed, like Stephen King yanked the pen from Dr. Seuss and took over the writing.

Right there on Easy Street, with the sun shining and birds harmonizing and nary a vehicle present to impede progress, LSU drove into a Hummer-sized pothole. Then exited the vehicle, limping, and promptly slipped on a banana peel, wrenched its back and ended up in traction.

At least, that must be what Monday night felt like for Les Miles.

Because LSU’s first-year coach watched his team look pretty helpless in his long-awaited, long-anticipated debut at Tiger Stadium, where magic routinely is conjured at night but couldn’t be hocus-pocused up when LSU needed it most against Tennessee.

From a 21-0 first-half lead to a 30-27 overtime loss, the Tigers unraveled in Miles’ home opener.

“We needed to be on the field,” Miles said when asked about coaching his first game at Death Valley. “We need games. We looked like we were playing our second game.”

Tennessee, for the better part of three quarters, looked like it was playing its first in game about three years.

LSU was headed for a romp and Miles was poised to have accolades heaped upon him so thoroughly, he’d have needed a U-Haul to carry them home. And, still, he does deserve some credit for even managing to help put his team in such a position after the upheaval it has endured this month.

It’s impossible to overstate how unsettling, distracting and discombobulated the season has been so far for the Tigers (1-1). Games have been rescheduled and postponed, played in venues and on nights they weren’t supposed to be played, forcing the Tigers to become experts at revving and tempering their enthusiasm, often on the same day.

It’s not the way anyone wants to operate a program, especially not in his first season, especially not when continuity is such a staple of coaching and the growth of a program.

But, that said, these Tigers have exhibited warts, even in victory. Monday night, they idled when they should have been on the move. Started, but didn’t finish the job.

“We’re all disappointed,” Miles said. “We’re all miserable. More than anything, I think it was a loss of poise.”

And if that was the case - and there certainly appeared to be no reason to debate the coach’s word on that - then there’s no pretty way to spin it.

A 2-0 start, with both victories over ranked teams, fell to the ground and slithered away before LSU could grasp it. The No. 4 ranking goes with it. LSU must claw its way back up the poll, victory by victory.

“We played well to a point,” Miles said. “We came out the second half and lost our push. We couldn’t stop them and did not move the football on offense.

“When you’re into your second game, you wish you would have played with the ability to finish. And we didn’t. And that’s why we lost that game.”

Now, they must deal with a short week. Saturday is another game, this one against Mississippi State on the road - and not like against Arizona State, where the Tigers were named the “home” team because they’d been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

State isn’t a powerhouse team, by any means. But then, Tennessee didn’t appear to be, either.

“The thing that we have to do is not dwell on this game,” Miles said.

He won’t have to. LSU fans will do that for him.

And the way they’re feeling today, after a 21-point lead became a three-point loss, is a lot more Stephen King than Dr. Seuss.