When you are undefeated and playing for a national title, big plays are rather easy to point out. The 2011 LSU Tigers made a lifetime of plays on the field and some of their highlights will live on forever in the rich history of LSU Football.
But I think there were a handful of plays that stood away from the rest that made the season even more unique and special for the team and the fans. It seems like LSU’s defense made more plays this season than many teams’ offenses have done in college football. The Tigers’ defense forced thirty-turnovers this season, allowing the Bayou Bengals to be plus twenty-two this season in turnover differential.
Now back to the big plays. The first big play that set the tone this season happened way back on September 3rd when the LSU team had just come off one of the most-followed weeks in school history.
The Tigers opened the season on the road in Dallas against the 3rd-ranked Oregon Ducks. Although the Ducks offense had all the big eye-glaring numbers going into the game, it would be the LSU defense that would serve notice for the rest of the nation that the Tigers were going to be thick as thieves this season!
With the game tight early on, Sophomore defensive back Tyrann Mathieu began his jacking, slash-scoring frenzy with a scoop and score. LSU began to take control of the game on the Honey Badger’s big play that eventually led to the Tigers 40-27 win over the Ducks. (And you can best believe that The Honey Badger’s name will be coming up with other big plays in just a few moments. )
Ok another big play took place in week four of the season as the Tigers were trying to finish the toughest month of September ever in the programs’ rich history. That game was a non-conference, nationally-televised event that had #2 LSU on the road for the third time in less than a month to take on the high-scoring #16 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. After another hot start to a game the Tigers looked to be in control of the contest until late in the third quarter when the Mountaineers cut the Tigers lead to 27-21.
But then, in the blink of an eye the Tigers got a huge 99-yard kickoff return by Morris Claiborne to put the game away and end any threat of a home team comeback by WVU. Claiborne’s return for a touchdown was one of many huge special-teams plays this season by the Tigers.
When you’re 13-0 the big plays and the placement of them is a challenge as it is with LSU. So now I’ll move up to the Alabama Game where a number of big plays took place. In a game where a three-yard run was considered a nice gain, the Tigers had plenty of big plays.
Bennie Logan’s blocked attempted field goal by Alabama helped add to the Tide’s kicking troubles in LSU’s 9-6 win over the Tide. Morris Claiborne’s pick that stopped a Tide drive was key in that game as well.
But no plays in perhaps the entire season were bigger than Eric Reid’s interception against the Tide. Alabama opted to try to hit their tight end on a play that resulted in a battle for the football that allowed LSU Reid to come up with a big interception.
That interception led to the Tigers being able to win and get off another big play as Drew Alleman’s 25-yard field goal lifted LSU to an impressive 9-6 overtime road win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
And the other couple of other plays came late in the season. In their final home game of the season the Tigers were in a heated showdown with fellow SEC West foe and 3rd-ranked Arkansas. The Hogs stunned LSU early to take a 14-0 lead in Death Valley over the Tigers. But during the rest of the game, the Tigers would go on to outscore the Hogs 41-13, blowing out Arkansas 41-17. And the Honey Badger upped his stock even more in that Tigers win.
After a Kenny Hillard touchdown run that seemingly got the Tigers back into the game against the Hogs, Tyrann Mathieu blew the doors off the hinges so to speak when he electrified the crowd with a 92-yard punt return that gave the Tigers momentum and control of the game for good.
And finally I’ll wrap up with the same player-scoring in a similar situation. With his team in need of a big play in the 2011 SEC Title Game against UGA, the Honey Badger did it again! After a dismal start to the biggest game of the year for the Tigers LSU used another sweet-as-honey kind of play to get the team amped up!
Down 10-7 and with their offense without a first down, Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62-yards for a touchdown to help open the floodgates in a 42-10 rout over UGA. The Tigers had outscored both Arkansas and UGA a combined 83-13 after falling behind by double digits in both of those games.
Will there be more big plays? I’d have to say without question there will be. Who will they come from? Well that’s what makes this season and this LSU Team so special: From big blocks on scoring drives, to special teams tackles by Ron Brooks and Jarvis Landry, to kickoff and punt returns and blocked kicks, the LSU Tigers have made a ton of plays in 2011.
I just told you about the ones I liked? Which ones do you think were big?