By Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett Louisiana
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was not the first coach to prove that the best way to beat Alabama coach Nick Saban is to catch him with his pants down.
That’s what happened on a 109-yard missed field goal return by Chris Davis on the last play of Iron Bowl last month to give Auburn a 34-28 victory over No. 1 Alabama and propel it to the BCS title game on Jan. 6.
Nor was it LSU coach Les Miles, who did the same thing with nearly as odd a play — the old double pitch tight end reverse by Deangelo Peterson — on a fourth-and-1 for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 24-21 victory over No. 5 Alabama in 2010.
Saban has actually lost at least twice on the very last play of a game. Before Malzahn and “Kick Bama Kick,” there was Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and “All Up, X Post.” It was a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Tate to wide receiver Warren Holloway as time expired to beat Saban — the defensive guru and secondary genius — in his last game as LSU’s coach, 30-25, in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2005, in Orlando, Fla.
Ferentz was playing for a field goal as his team trailed 25-24 following a 3-yard touchdown pass by LSU freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell to Skyler Green with 46 seconds to play. The Iowa sideline coaches were trying to call a timeout just before the play when they realized the clock was running. Iowa fans at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium frantically yelled for a timeout to be called as the game clock went to nine seconds.
Iowa was not yet in field goal range and had two timeouts to use. This was clock management by Miles.
Some of Iowa’s players looked as confused as their sideline. LSU defenders looked around and to the Iowa sideline, expecting a timeout to be called. This worked in the Hawkeyes’ favor as LSU’s defense was not ready when the ball was snapped — much like many times this season.
In the end, no amount of Iowa planning could replace dumb luck. LSU cornerback Ronnie Prude let Holloway run deep right by him. Safety Travis Daniels left his man to try to get to Holloway, but it was too late. TOUCHDOWN.
Saban tried to ask Prude what happened after the play.
“You’re not my coach anymore,” Prude said.
And one of the best periods and one of the wildest months in LSU football history was over.
On Christmas Day just a week before, Saban was introduced as the Miami Dolphins new head coach, but he decided to stay and coach the bowl game.
Many LSU fans wanted athletic director Skip Bertman to look no further than its Capital One Bowl opponent for a new coach as Ferentz was a hot commodity and coached with Saban in the NFL at Cleveland. Ferentz was not interested.
Bertman interviewed a not overly hot Oklahoma State coach named Les Miles, but he liked him a lot.
During the Iowa-LSU game, news broke that LSU’s new coach was indeed Miles, who had just lost 33-7 to Ohio State in the Alamo Bowl.
Everyone says then and now that LSU lost to Iowa because it was distracted over the Saban exit. The distraction part was true. But LSU lost because Saban and offensive coordinator decided to start Marcus Randall and play Matt Flynn before finally inserting their best quarterback — Russell — in the fourth quarter.
Had he played the whole game, LSU likely would have won easily. Russell went on to become the Southeastern Conference’s No. 1 passer in efficiency and finished third nationally in 2006.
The LSU staff that lost that day was one of the best in school history, even excluding Saban. Jimbo Fisher stayed on with Miles as offensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming the coach-in-waiting at Florida State. He will coach against Malzahn in the BCS title game.
Assistants Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp went on to become SEC head coaches. Kirby Smart is now one of the nation’s top assistants at Alabama.
Saban was supposed to be the next Don Shula at Miami, but he begged out after two seasons of 15-17 to replace Mike Shula at Alabama.
This made him become public enemy No. 1 among LSU’s fan base, which looking back is now probably glad Iowa beat LSU and Saban on “All Up, X Post.”
Glenn Guilbeau is the columnist for LSU and New Orleans Saints football for Gannett, parent company of the Des Moines Register.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football