TAMPA, Fla. – A lot can be learned from a single football game.
For example: Louisiana State’s 35-21 victory over Auburn, back on September 21, taught Tigers coach Les Miles his team could beat any opponent.
Now, he’s trying to apply those lessons to Wednesday’s Outback Bowl showdown with Iowa.
“The Auburn game and the other games are certainly a view of what we’re capable of,” Miles said Sunday. “We’d like to see how good we can do in this game.”
LSU is responsible for the only blemish on Auburn’s 12-1 record.
Although the eventual Southeastern Conference champions went on to earn a spot in the national title game against Florida State, it’s been bittersweet for Miles and his players.
The Tigers (9-3) lost to Georgia the following week, stumbled against a mediocre Mississippi squad in October and fell to Alabama in November.
“To play our best is always the challenge,” Miles said. “In the last game (of the season), as you address your team, you want them to play their best.”
LSU’s triumph over Auburn is also a potential teaching moment for Iowa (8-4).
“The one thing about LSU is, they kept coming and kept coming,” Hawkeye linebacker James Morris said. “One play might not have worked, but keep working hard.
“I think they did a particularly good job and that takes leadership, it takes mental toughness, it takes composure.”
There are other keys worth studying:
— The Tigers owned a 21-0 lead over Auburn early in the second quarter, thanks partly to a fumble and a mishandled snap on a punt attempt.
“We kind of beat ourselves in the beginning,” Auburn running back Tre Mason said afterward. “Mistakes after mistakes can get frustrating, and that happened.”
— Sophomore tailback Jeremy Hill led LSU with 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns, helping the Tigers chew up the clock and control tempo.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. the whole year, being able to stop the run,” Iowa safety Tanner Miller said. “Making teams be one dimensional and try and start throwing on us.
“It’s not just (Hill). They have four capable backs who would probably start at a lot of places.”
— Auburn, meanwhile gained 437 yards, but converted just 7 of 22 third- and fourth-down chances.
The Tigers were 5 of 13 on third downs.
“Their line was getting physical and getting after them,” Hawkeye safety John Lowdermilk said. “Their running backs were hitting the creases.
“We’ve got to get them going sideline to sideline, because if they hit the creases, they’re really tough to stop.”
Auburn recovered and went on what seemed to be a charmed run through the regular season, including dramatic wins against Georgia and Alabama.
Miles doesn’t seem to hold any grudges.
“I think those teams that put themselves in position to have something good happen, you can’t discount the fact that they earned their position,” he said. “I hope they play well and that their players have a great experience in the national championship game, where they’ll look back and remember for years.”
Miles also warned about taking Iowa or any non-SEC opponent lightly.
“Year in and year out, there are great teams in our country,” he said, “and they don’t play in the SEC.
“We understand that, as well.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football