Scooter Hobbs column: Vols return to scene of crime

Published 10:50 am Friday, October 7, 2022

Few places budget for a Game Management Director Emeritus but LSU needed all the experience it could muster that day, maybe some rare sanity, for a game that had just gone totally off the rails.

Remember, this would have been 2010, the Les Miles days — for my money, the exact date (Oct. 2) that the Les Miles Era hit critical mass.

If there had been a shark in the area, the Tigers would have jumped it without apology.

When Miles starts feeling embarrassed over a win, as he later admitted to, you know you’re in uncharted territory. He had already copyrighted the term “Unexplained Victory.”

But this was the most bizarre and unlikely, oddball and nutty-wacky-crazy ending to a football game I’ve ever seen — made the Bluegrass Miracle look mundane, it did.

Anyway, this is how Stickles ended up bestriding one of the two flags resting in the end zone, all while Tennessee players celebrated and the rest of Tiger Stadium booed lustily.

Tennessee led 14-10 and — yada, yada, yada — LSU ended up facing second-and-goal from the 1-yard line with the clock steadily ticking down and both teams fresh out of timeouts.

LSU chose this very moment to try to insert its goal-line package. So a half-dozen substitutes trotted in leisurely, apparently oblivious to the ticking clock.

Oh my goodness! What are they doing!” shouted LSU radio announcer Jim Hawthorne.

Nobody knows what to do!” Doug Moreau, the color commentator, chimed in.

Seemingly, seemingly …

But this is what could always happen when you tried to out-confuse Les Miles.

Tennessee countered with the only thing it could do to still lose the game, and a fine Southern tradition it was: Namely, Hold my beer.

The Vols’ own counter subs employed, by conservative estimates, at least 13 players, probably more — they may still be counting them for all I know. But it was a bunch too many.

In the midst of this three-ring circus, only a Miles team could have stumbled onto having 11 out there, somehow all in legal spots.

But it still shouldn’t have mattered since quarterback Jordan Jefferson was apparently going to just stand there and let the clock run out.

That’s when center T-Bob Hebert, who if he didn’t get the game ball, should have, decided, just before 0:00, to just snap it anyway. Way past the unsuspecting Jefferson, who ended up under a pile of celebrating Vols.

T-Bob, who later said he didn’t know how much time was left but knew it couldn’t be much, threw his helmet in disgust.

Which brings our story back to Ted Stickles and the delicate matter of how many Vols were on the field.

The verdict, one of the all-time reprieves in gridiron history, was one more untimed down for LSU. It took a while to round up enough shocked Vols for it, and it was somewhat anticlimactic when Steven Ridley barreled in from a yard out.

LSU 16, Tennessee 14.

And, still, still that wasn’t the funniest part.

By strict football rules, LSU should have kicked the extra point, since the Tigers theoretically (probably) could have given up two points on the try and let the Vols tie the score.

The officials even begged for order and decorum to announce as much.

But with the field having turned into the final scene from “Blazing Saddles,” the head official finally gave up and got on the microphone to proclaim:

“Never mind.”

Maybe they didn’t want to milk the gag too far. It had long since quit resembling football.

It took a month before LSU fans quit laughing. Back in Tennessee there were dozens of reports, verified by YouTube, of beer bottles thrown through flat-screen TVs.

Nobody in the postgame news conference ever really made any sense out of it, although Miles did finally manage a smile and gave the OK for his team to celebrate.

But later, after settling back in the press box and opening up the laptop to try to explain it all in English, I looked over at a sports writer buddy.

“I don’t know what I’m going to write,” I told him. “I sure don’t know what you’re going to write. I just know that when we finish, our lives are never going to be the same.”

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com