The 2011 LSU football season was nothing short of unbelievable, remarkable, lucky, exciting, dramatic, inspiring, scintillating, and well, breathtaking.
The Tigers still have one game left to play as part of the 2011 season, a re-match for the national championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide, which, if the first game was any indication, should become an instant classic.
Before that game is played, though, here’s a look at the top 5 stories of the 2011 LSU football season.
1. Jordan Jefferson Foot Stomp / Suspension
Before the season even began, the Tigers were dealt a significant blow by losing their starting quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, to an indefinite suspension following his alleged involvement in a bar fight at Shady’s Bar in Tigerland. Jefferson, along with backup linebacker Josh Johns, both had warrants issued for their arrest and were booked into Baton Rouge jail.
The arrest and subsequent booking into jail by LSU’s starting QB was just one of many story lines swirling around the Shady’s incident. A video recording of the incident was leaked to the press and pictures of the victim with Jefferson’s alleged bootprint stomped onto his face were known to exist. The police even confiscated 49 pairs of Jefferson’s shoes to examine for possible bootprint matches.
The story took a life of it’s own around Baton Rouge as it occurred a little more than weeks before LSU kicked off the season against Oregon. The situation was later resolved and charges were lessened from a felony charge of second-degree battery to a misdemeanor of simple battery.
LSU went on to coast past Oregon 40-27, as well as their four other opponents following the Oregon game, and Jefferson re-joined the team and played in the Tigers 5th game of the season – a home game vs Kentucky.
2. LSU finishes regular season undefeated
Looking at the schedule before the season began it was hard to imagine LSU running the table. They started with the national champions runner-up in the Oregon Ducks, they played Mississippi State on the road who were following up a stellar season by Mississippi State standards, had to travel to West Virginia in another tough out of conference game, as well as having to go to Bryant-Denny Stadium to tangle with the Crimson Tide.
LSU played the most difficult out of conference schedule of any school in the FBS to go along with the always treacherous SEC slate of games.
As history was made game after game, Tiger fans began believing that LSU could run the table. Following a close win against Mississippi State the Tigers were able to cruise to victories against SEC foes Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn thanks in part to injuries which sidelined each of their starting quarterbacks. The only other game that would be close following Mississippi State was Alabama.
LSU scored 40+ points in 9 of 13 games. Throughout the season they scored an even 500 points total. Their competition scored a total of 137 points. This Tiger team shattered previous records set by LSU teams of the past.
3. LSU defeats Alabama in overtime
November 5th. The game of the century. The match of the millennium. The clash of titans. The catchphrases and metaphors ran deep and were incessant. Whatever you called it, even if you were plain vanilla and said “LSU vs Alabama”, it was #1 vs #2 with the homefield advantage going to the #2 team.
The only problem for Alabama is that they didn’t get to utter the famous phrase: “Who does #2 work for?!”
The game was close, a little too close. Alabama came out with the better game plan and executed better although Nick Saban called for his kicker to boot a couple of unreasonably long field goals instead of playing for field position. The Mad Hatter came out after half time having made the better adjustments which eventually helped LSU get the win to the dismay of this weeping, well-dressed man (judging from the picture I don’t see any reason for him to cry).
Through a misstep by Oklahoma State (losing to Iowa State of all teams), Alabama miraculously found their way back into the title game with a re-match against LSU on January 9th in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
4. Honey Badger
Thanks to youtube, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was dubbed as the “honey badger” at one point during the season (the actual date remains shrouded in mystery). “He just takes what he wants”, and Mathieu did. 70 total tackles (solo and assisted), 7 passes broken up, 6.5 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 QB hurries, 2 interceptions, 2 punt returns for touchdowns, 1.5 sacks, and a partridge in a pear tree (sorry, couldn’t resist).
The craze became so huge that LSU issued a cease and desist order for products including the name, likeness and/or image of LSU football student-athlete Tyrann Mathieu. But, once again, Badger don’t care – you can still buy honey badger related material around Baton Rouge.
Even Uncle Verne (Lundquist) has taken to calling Mathieu the Honey Badger. His season was so incredible that he was nominated for and invited to New York as part of the Heisman trophy presentation in which he came in 5th.
5. Gunner Kiel commits to LSU
The cherry on top of LSU’s season was the signing of one of the nation’s top rated high school quarterbacks in Gunner Kiel.
Formerly committed to Indiana, Kiel decommitted and reopened his recruitment. Alabama, amongst others, was in the mix for the prospect many compare to a young Peyton Manning but in the end it was the hospitality of LSU along with the coaching staff that landed perhaps the best quarterback recruit to ever step foot on LSU’s campus.
Time will tell if Keil can live up to the hype but now LSU is loaded at the quarterback position with Mettenberger, Stephen Rivers (Phillip Rivers’ younger brother), and Jerrard Randle along with Kiel.