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PALMER: Loss caps difficult 2012
Written by Hunt Palmer, Senior Writer   
Tuesday, 01 January 2013 00:36


ATLANTA—It was never easy.

Not in 2012, at least.

It was a year that began with a merciless beating on the carpet of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Monday night it ended with a knife to the gut under the roof of the Georgia Dome.

And while the wound that was gouged open 12 months ago may never totally heal in Baton Rouge, it was ripped wide open again as Chandler Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal soared through the pipes to propel Clemson to the Chick-fil-A Bowl victory podium.

The wound will be left to bleed for nine months until the Tigers take the field again. For the second consecutive season, the offense mustered its weakest effort of the season in its final performance. It was billed as an offense that would thrust LSU toward another national championship run. It just never came together

It was never easy.

In 2011, LSU scorched Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl and proceeded sustain the momentum right through the greatest regular season in school history.

Mighty Oregon was no match for LSU. Neither were trips to Mississippi State and West Virginia.

Traditional SEC powers Floirda, Auburn and Tennessee were victims of three straight maulings by a combined score of 124-28.

No. 3 Arkansas. 41-17.

No. 13 Georgia. 42-10.


But not in 2012. And not just on the field.

Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu was booted from the team. Veterans D.J. Welter, Tahj Jones, Tyler Edwards and Evan Washington failed to qualify academically and missed the regular season.

It was never easy.

On the field, the Tigers struggled to put teams away week after week.

The worst Auburn team in a century pushed LSU to the brink in Week 4 and had the ball with a chance to win the game. A week later, Towson pulled within 15 midway through the fourth quarter.

Even in what may have been LSU’s best performance, the South Carolina win, the Tigers managed to make it tough. Early in the fourth quarter LSU marched inside the South Carolina 10 yard line twice before settling for field goals. Finally Jeremy Hill busted a 50 yard touchdown to swell the lead to 11, but South Carolina cruised down the field for an easy touchdown and attempted an onside kick with 1:41 to play.

Same story the following week in College Station.

After Hill’s 47 yard gallop gave LSU a 12 point lead, Johnny Football and the Aggies roared back for a quick score and had a shot at an onside kick to get the ball back and win the game.

Mississippi State threatened to do the same before Craig Loston picked Tyler Russell off and covered all of the green Tiger Stadium had to offer to put that game away.

Ole Miss took a lead into the fourth quarter before Odell Beckham went all Billy Cannon and dashed the Rebels’ dreams.

Surely lowly Arkansas wouldn’t pose a threat. Ha! Tyler Wilson had one play from the 18 yard line to win that one.

It was never easy.

“It was a different team,” said junior linebacker Kevin Minter. “Throughout the whole season we tried to get a feel for who we were.”

Brad Wing’s suspension added more dysfunction to a team whose cup was already runneth over in that department.

It figured LSU’s last go at it in 2012 wouldn’t be a gimmie. Clemson’s offense entered the game ranked sixth in the country in scoring, and that offense torched the Tiger defense in the first half for 248 yards on 54 plays. Still, LSU clung to a one-point lead thanks to an early turnover and a blocked extra point.

The game dripped of the earlier contests with Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Eventually, LSU would take charge once the defense caught up.

The similarities bordered on eerie when Hill busted free for a 57 yard touchdown to put the Tigers on top by eight just 17 seconds into the second half.

Easy, right? Not a chance.

LSU squandered a gift turnover at the Clemson 29 yard line, settling for a 20 yard chip shot from Drew Alleman.

Clemson would draw within eight at the 9:26 mark when Catanzaro split the uprights.

LSU would have a chance, make that two, to ice the game on offense.

The first three and out resulted in a punt and a Clemson 77 yard touchdown drive. When the two-point conversion failed, LSU took over with 2:43 to play and a razor thin lead.

After an eight-yard completion, Mettenberger to Boone, LSU had second and two.

Easy, right? Not a chance.

LSU went to the air twice. Mettenberger missed an open Jarvis Landry for what would have been a first down, and then Clemson end Malliciah Goodman swatted the third down attempt to the turf, stopping the clock again and allowing Clemson to preserve all three timeouts.

When asked what he would do differently, Miles appeared mystified.

“Call runs that get first downs,” he said. “I don’t know what those are. Call passes that we can protect our quarterback. I don’t know which ones those are either. We threw a couple of balls, got them batted down.”

Hill, who finished the night with 124 yards on 12 carries, did not touch the ball in the fourth quarter. He wouldn’t get another chance as Tajh Boyd, the game's Offensive MVP, took over possession at the Clemson 20 facing the two point deficit.

After two incompletions and a sack, LSU had Clemson in a fourth down and 16.

Easy, right? Not a chance.

Boyd found Deandre Hopkins, who finished the night with 28 fewer yards than LSU’s total output, for 26 and a first down.

You know the rest.

Now it’s up to LSU to respond to a disappointing 10-3 season and a slew of underclassmen heading for a paycheck. The questions about clock management, prevent defense and a continuously mediocre offense will swirl for nine more months.

It won’t be easy.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 January 2013 08:19

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