In any given football game, especially a game that isn't going the way the fans would like, the most popular guy in the stadium is the backup quarterback.
Such was the case during Monday night's BCS Championship Game, as LSU's Jordan Jefferson stumbled through series after excruciating series while backup Jarrett Lee sat on the bench watching the Tigers' offense overrun by Alabama in a 21-0 rout.
It must have been a surreal experience for Lee, who was a big reason LSU was in the championship game in the first place. It's easy to forget that Jefferson wasn't the starter for most of the year. He was suspended following a preseason fight outside a bar and didn't see the field until the fifth game of the season. Meanwhile, Lee kept the Tigers afloat. In the pivotal season opener against Oregon, a game that many thought the Tigers would lose without Jefferson, Lee led the Tigers to a 40-27 win. While his numbers weren't great, Lee managed the game, didn't turn the ball over and took advantage of the opportunities created by the defense and special teams.
And managing — keeping LSU out of trouble, putting the Tigers' playmakers in a position to score — was Lee's strong suit. Through his nine starts, Lee threw 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He led the SEC in passing efficiency. He was Mr. Stability.
But it was the last game against Alabama that did Lee in. He started, threw back-to-back interceptions, lost the confidence of his coaching staff and barely saw the field again over the last four games. So when LSU needed a manager, a stabilizing force, something to stem the Tide, coach Les Miles didn't feel comfortable going to Lee even though it might have been the right choice.
After the game, Miles acknowledged that there was probably going to be some second-guessing about not playing Lee, but he stood by Jefferson.
"We felt like with Jordan Jefferson's feet and ability to move, get out of the rush, that it was fair that he finish," Miles told ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews after the game.
"I can tell you that the pass rush — we did consider Jarrett Lee. But we felt like with the pass rush that we were getting that we needed a guy that could move the seat and not sustain that pass rush," Miles added later.