Scooter Hobbs column: Nothing special in the end

Published 7:07 am Monday, December 5, 2022

And, in the end, LSU was able to make the SEC Championship game somewhat entertaining, if not particularly suspenseful, in a 50-30 loss to No. 1 Georgia.

Now, if you’d told me LSU was going to score 30 points against that defense, most of it with a backup quarterback, I’d have given the Tigers a fighting chance.

But it never was really close, sabotaged again after the Tigers’ often-comical special teams saved their biggest face plant for their latest.

There were other factors at work, mostly that Georgia was a far better team.

But once again what might have been a really special season was ultimately sabotaged by (un)special teams.

But just when you wondered what hijinks they might come up with next, the Tigers, having gotten physically beaten for another blocked kick, added a brain cramp to the mix.

Really? Did no one on the Tigers’ field goal unit realize that a blocked kick is a live ball? Had no been one informed of this?

The ball was just laying there at the 4-yard line as LSU’s field goal unit trotted off the field. Georgia’s C.J. Smith eyed it warily at first, a little hesitant it seemed, as if suspicious that it was a setup and that he might be the butt of practical joke.

But he risked the ridicule and grabbed it anyway, took a 96-yard undisturbed stroll while seemingly waiting for a whistle that never came.

Yeah, that counts for a touchdown — your basic 10-point swing if you’re scoring at home. Basic football that LSU’s (un)special teams flubbed again.

The gag was on the Tigers.

“They were not alert,” head coach Brian Kelly understated. “That falls on coaching. That falls on my shoulders. I take full responsibility for that.”

It likely would not have mattered if the Tigers had been able to settle for just a blocked field goal there. Probably would still have been something close to 50-30.

We’ll never know.

What we do know is that, despite a few admirable attempts by LSU to get back in the game, Georgia had an answer for everything the Tigers did.

That’s what really good No. 1-ranked teams do.

And Georgia is all of that.

It hard for a team to give up 549 yards of offense, as the Dawgs did, and look to be in complete control of a game, but that’s what they did.

LSU actually out gained Georgia, who had 529 yards, but the Tigers got little more than a playful pat on the head for it. That’s cute, the Dawgs seem to say. Now step aside while we get ready for the trophy presentation.

LSU had to be content with putting on an air show to pick up a few style points in the second half.

The Tigers had nothing to lose by the time backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier took over for reinjured starter Jayden Daniels for the second half.

He had nothing to lose and Kelly gave him a green light to throw it all over Mercedes Benz Stadium, mostly deep, double-coverage be danged.

So many looked to have been thrown up for grabs — danger written all over them — and yet, for the most part, somehow, it was LSU receivers doing the grabbing.

Earlier in the year Kelly had to convince Daniels to take more chances, to be more aggressive. He didn’t have to tell Nussmeier twice.

Not that it had much effect on the outcome.

In fact, you never got the feeling that Georgia was doing anything more than toying with the Tigers, the big tease.

In some ways, the tables were turned from the 2019 SEC title game, when the Dawgs came in hopeful against Joe Burrow & Co., and were helplessly humbled, 37-10.

For all the Tigers did this season, they may have gotten a look at just how big of a gap they still have to close to get back to where they want to be.

“Not really,” Kelly insisted. “I mean, look, I’m not going to sit here and say ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda.’

He then promptly went through a laundry list of plays that could have, if not should have, made it more manageable at the end.

“The divide is not huge, but we got work to do,” he concluded. “I don’t believe that the gap is something that we can’t continue to close and get back here again next year. That will be our goal, to get back here and to win it.”

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