HOOVER, Ala. — One-hundred-and-ninety-two days have passed, and still no answer.
What exactly went wrong on Jan. 9, 2012?
How did an LSU team that won its first 13 games, 10 of them by 21 points or more, suddenly fall so flat?
After beating Alabama on the road, how did the Tigers come to suffer such a dominant, painful, blow-out loss to the Crimson Tide in New Orleans, essentially their backyard?
As you’d expect, the 21-0 defeat against Alabama in the national title game was a hot topic at Southeastern Conference Media Days, but more than six months later, a definitive answer is hard to come by.
Coach Les Miles: “What happened was we played our 14th game, and we didn’t play as well as we did in our (first) 13.”
Safety Eric Reid, whose vaunted secondary let Bama quarterback AJ McCarron have a career day: “That’s it, we lost. Alabama scored more points than us. It’s not that hard.”
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., part of a passing attack that gained just 53 yards: “I tell everybody the same thing. I just honestly don’t know. That day, they were the better team and they beat us.”
Reid gets that question “every day of the week,” and he understands why.
Fans would like to hear some reason, any reason, for how things went so wrong.
Maybe that the magnitude of the game got to them and they played too tensely. Maybe that they thought they’d beaten this team once before and would do it again. Perhaps a sense of invincibility set in after going 13-0 through the SEC.
Bad gumbo, Jordan Jefferson — anything.
But no such answer came.
The last time I tried to analyze a surprise beatdown, it was also by Bama, when the Crimson Tide shellacked the favored Florida Gators for the 2009 SEC title.
Eventually, the answer came back that after a poor start, UF had a calm confidence that the ship would right itself.
The Gators felt that surely, someone else would step up and make a big play, and things would turn around.
They didn’t, and even though it wasn’t a great answer, at least it was something other than the almost incomprehensible, “We didn’t play well.”
That’s not supposed to happen in an Alabama-LSU national title game.
But it did.
And that’s why it’s so hard for the Tigers to relive it.
Miles said he hasn’t watched much film, joking that “There weren’t that many plays for us on offense.” Beckham said he hasn’t watched any, choosing instead to move on.
It’s hard to derive any value from a film session when the end result is so simple yet seemingly impossible: LSU just didn’t play well, and there isn’t one moment, one bounce or even a handful of plays that would have made it any end any differently.
Sometimes there is no good answer, but one thing is clear:
The Tigers don’t know exactly what they did or didn’t do, but they definitely don’t want to do it again.
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