October 02, 2010
To be clear, Les Miles is still the Tigers' coach tonight. More importantly, he'll leave Tiger Stadium with all his limbs. Because after last year's clock management disaster at Ole Miss and the overall malaise of the last three years, it's not at all certain either would be the case if his fumbling, flabbergasted offense hadn't somehow been trumped by Tennessee's mathematically challenged defense in what must be one of the greatest inept finishes in SEC history. To recap:
Tennessee, desperately in need of a big win to salvage a sinking season, led 14-10 with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter after being stuffed on 4th-and-1 at the LSU 31-yard line. LSU, operating with backup quarterback Jarrett Lee, took over and proceeded to convert two third downs and a 4th-and-15 on the subsequent drive to move the ball into the Volunteer red zone with well over a minute to play – plenty of time to move in for the winning touchdown, even with no timeouts.
A pass interference penalty against the Vols moved the ball to the UT two-yard line with 32 seconds on the clock. After an incomplete LSU brought in its regular starter, the more athletic Jordan Jefferson, to take a run at the end zone on a quarterback sweep on second down, which gained a yard. At this point, with the clock ticking down and no timeouts, Clock Management 101 would dictate LSU line up post-haste and either spike the ball, try to throw a quick pass into the end zone or try to plunge straight ahead with 20-25 seconds left. Whatever they did, it had to be executed fast, and should have already been decided before Jefferson's second-down run.
Instead, the Tigers stood around looking confused, motioning toward the sideline for some kind of instruction as 180,000 eyeballs in the crowd began to strain out of their skulls in disbelief. Substitutions came on, substitutions came off, and with four seconds on the clock, LSU finally snapped the ball amid total chaos ... right past Jefferson, who futilely fell on it around the 20-yard line to end one of the most jaw-dropping last-second collapses on record.
Amid the Volunteer jubilation and a ruthless cascade of boos from the partisans, officials announced the penalty, cleared the field and set the ball at the one-yard line for a single un-timed down. Stevan Ridley took it in for the winning touchdown. They didn't bother with the extra point.
If not for the ineptitude, the ending would almost be poetic for the efficiency with which it sums up the zeitgeist of these two programs. The fates continue to pummel Tennessee with every last sling and arrow at their disposal for firing coach Phil Fulmer two years ago. Les Miles continues to skate by as the Ronald Reagan of college football in increasingly ludicrous fashion. Miles has a history of dumb luck in dubious clock-management scenarios, but never has he looked dumber or luckier than today.
But to answer my own question, no, they don't fire the head coach at 5-0.