Every now and then you get a glimpse of how this game of college football is supposed to be played. If you watched the Florida-LSU game late Saturday night, you saw the team you want your team to be.
LSU, now the undisputed top team in the land after Southern Cal fell to Stanford, showed a stadium stuffed with more than 90,000 rabid Bayou Bengals fans and a national television audience why the Tigers are so good.
Yes, they have excellent players. And, yes, they have tradition and fan support and all the amenities needed to rise above the crowded field of contenders whose fans like to run around thrusting their index finger in the air and claiming to be Number One.
But they also have Les Miles, perhaps the best football coach in the country. At least he was Saturday night.
All you had to see was the fourth quarter of this Southeastern Conference showdown against the former national champion Gators to see what good, tough, confident coaching means to a football program.
It was, in a compound sentence, one of the best performances you could hope for in one of the biggest games of the year under the most intense pressure you can imagine.
And the Tigers made it look easy.
Beauty and bravery
While LSU fans were stunned when Florida jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, Miles just clinched that strong jaw of his on the sideline, pulled his hat down tighter on his head and watched with an understanding determination.
When interviewed coming off the field at halftime, he hardly seemed frightened by the prospects of losing. Instead, he stated exactly what his team needed to do and would do in the second half. Make more tackles and score more points.
He didn't mention take more chances, but that apparently comes with the territory if you want to be Number One.
Down 10 points with the clock running against them, the Tigers pulled out all the stops. They faked a field goal that set up a touchdown. Then, needing only a field goal to tie and extend the game to overtime, Miles wanted no part of it. He went for the victory, going for it on two critical, fourth-quarter, fourth-down situations, making it every time, barely.
The final drive, behind the gutsy running of Jacob Hester, that gave LSU its 28-24 victory with just over a minute remaining in the game was a thing of absolutely beauty and bravery.
Not only did starting quarterback Matt Flynn move his team with confidence, but also Miles was bold enough to bring in his back-up quarterback, sophomore Ryan Perilloux, in critical situations to give him the kind of steely experience you can only receive in the heat of battle.
Guts and glory
To watch LSU pull off that final, 15-play, 60-yard, 8-minute, game-winning, risk-taking drive brought college football fans to the edge of their seats all across the nation.
To witness this excellent example of guts and glory after most fans had spent the day watching their favorite teams flounder in the face of adversity was a teaching moment.
If you weren't an LSU fan or a Les Miles fan before Saturday night's phenomenal finish you probably are now.
With all due respect to the Florida Gators, who played a heck of a football game, this LSU victory gave us all a glimpse of what it means to have a great team and a great coach and how the two combine to win championships.
There was no second-guessing, no what-ifs, no question, no doubt. That final drive should be mandatory in film rooms across the nation.
Every head coach should watch it over and over again just to see how the game is supposed to be played, with confidence and passion instead of caution and fear of losing.
What an awesome game! It will go down as one of the greatest in Tiger Stadium!
I thought that both teams played some tough football, and you have to admire the dedication, skill and sportsmanship of everyone involved... except for Tim Tebow (at least in the sportsmanship department). Shortly after the loudspeaker announcement of the USC upset and the crowd going wild, the Gators capped off a scoring drive with a TD. Mr. Tebow decided to taunt the audience, with the "Paper Tigers, I Can't Hear You" gesture. Well, Tim, that inspired me to create the above image, may it follow you through the internet wherever you go! Who's the Paper Gator, now?