The Florida game was the climax of the 2007 season.
Unlike 2003, when the climax came at the end of the season and LSU’s title-winning victories over Georgia and Oklahoma, The 2007 Tigers were never the same dominant team after winning arguably the greatest college football game of the decade.
It’s not like “everything was downhill from there,” as the adage goes, but the 43-37 triple-overtime loss at Kentucky the week after beating the Gators was an indication of struggles to come.
It also knocked LSU out of its brief stay at the top of the rankings.
You may remember Andre Woodson and the Wildcats carving up the Tiger defense for 27 points in regulation and erasing a 13-point third quarter deficit, and wondering what in the world happened to that defense that was playing Mississippi St. and Virginia Tech earlier in the year. The slight falloff of the Tiger D the rest of the season was as perplexing as it had been for Kentucky fans the last time LSU left town with a certain Blue Grass Miracle win in 2002.
You may still be feeling Charles Scott’s tears.
A week later No. 5 LSU was down 17-7 at halftime to No. 17 Auburn but eventually came back to win on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Matt Flynn to Demetrius Byrd, leaving just one second on the clock.
Thrilling and clutch for sure, but what you may not remember is how the national media blasted Miles for forgoing a potential tying 39-yard field goal to gamble on the victory. The truth is this: Under NCAA rules, the clock keeper allows the clock to run when a reception is made in the endzone until the official on the field gives the touchdown signal. Had Byrd dropped the pass, the clock keeper would have stopped the clock immediately upon the ball hitting the ground, which would have left the Tigers with about four seconds on the clock and a chance to run another play, which presumably would have been a field goal attempt.
A little something the “experts” apparently didn’t remember. And inexplicitly still don’t, a mistake against Miles Tiger fans should never make.
You may also remember senior receiver Early Doucet returning from a five-game absence due to an injury and making an immediate impact. Or the chop block on Glenn Dorsey and how he was never the same again.
And then there was Alabama.
Dubbed the Saban Bowl because so many of the now-Tide coach’s former recruits still played for LSU, the game turned out to be one of the classic games of 2007 with as many twists and turns as the Florida game. You may remember that this close affair almost wasn’t, as LSU jumped out to a 17-3 lead.
But if you remember that then you remember that once again LSU’s vaunted defense went absent as the Tide scored 24 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead late in the third quarter.
But then you might remember Flynn’s perfect 61-yard strike to Byrd for a touchdown, and how the Tiger punt team seemed to open the Crimson Sea for Javier Arenas to take it 61 yards to the house to break a 27-27 tie.
You may remember 4th and 4 and a 32-yard tying touchdown from Doucet. You may still be wondering what he had on his fingers to catch that bullet from Flynn.
And then of course the Chad Jones blitz. The John Parker Wilson fumble. The Jacob Hester leap and twist in the air for the game-winning score.
No. 3 LSU 41. No. 17 Alabama 34. You may remember wanting to vomit at just the thought of it being Saban to be the one to put the final nail in the Tigers’ national title hopes.
What you may not have known is that Miles was presented with the game ball by his players after the game, like Cholly Mac after his victory over former LSU coach Paul Dietzel in 1966.
You may not remember LSU drubbing Louisiana Tech 58-10. But you may remember being frustrated yet again with a Tiger defense that couldn’t seem to stop a lowly Ole Miss team despite a 41-24 victory.
You may remember being worried about a post-Thanksgiving day hangover against Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Arkansas six days later. You may remember that LSU was again ranked No.1 by virtue of the Tech victory, but that somehow the Razorbacks were going to push that top ranking for everything it was worth.
You may remember being right. Triple-overtime. Arkansas 50. LSU 48.
You may remember thinking how much more you hated Houston Nutt than Nick Saban.
It was the end of the national championship run. The image of a despondent Matt Flynn sitting on the turf with his head down while Arkansas players celebrated wildly behind him may still be etched in the memories of Tiger fans everywhere.
Despite what shockers were to come on the landscape of college football. Despite what miracles were to come for the Tigers.
Check back later this week for the final installment of the series.