That Texas A&M had a chance to win this game at the end, with a two-minute drive that got off to a promising start before controversially ending on a play that's already being examined as closely as the Zapruder film, is something of a miracle. Because by almost every statistical measure and even the look of the game to viewers, LSU dominated the game outside of a handful of plays.
The Tigers outgained the Aggies, churning out 491 yards of total offense to 228 yards for Texas A&M. LSU had 300 more rushing yards -- 384 -- than A&M; the Bayou Bengals had a dozen runs of 10 or more yards, including rushes of 46, 36, 26 (twice) and 22 yards. Leonard Fournette (19 carries for 146 yards) and Anthony Jennings (14 rushes for 119 yards) led the way. While time of possession can be a deceptive measurement of any game, LSU controlled the ball for more than 41 minutes -- which is well past the point at which time of possession becomes meaningful.
In fact, after a quick drive on a short field early in the first quarter, Texas A&M didn't manage to get on the scoreboard again until a minute and a half into the fourth. Before that Aggies touchdown, LSU was up 20-7 and seemed to be cruising to the win.
Not that the game was devoid of Les Miles' special kind of magic -- it just came largely in the first half of the game rather than the second. LSU got the chance to replay a down because referees improperly stopped a play after a forward fumble recovery. (I think.) Miles decided to kick a field goal at the end of the half on second down -- with 12 seconds left. And there were other things.
Send the punt team out. Pull them back, put the offense on. Send the punt team back out. Call timeout. Thing of beauty that is— Hunter Paniagua (@HunterPaniagua) November 28, 2014
LSU with a 14-play, 35-yard drive that took 8:19. Because, LSU. pic.twitter.com/UJuUBVvEz4— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) November 28, 2014
Again, Texas A&M did manage to narrow the gap late in the game, and had a chance to win on its last possession. But when you're trying to catch up to LSU in the fourth quarter, you're really taking your life into your own hands. Perhaps the only thing that should surprise us is that we're surprised that the end of an LSU game is once again clouded by controversy -- because that became the norm for the Bayou Bengals a long time ago.
The outcome of this game doesn't mean very much for the postseason fate of these two teams -- with LSU at 8-4 and Texas A&M at 7-5, both the Tigers and the Aggies are likely to end up in the six-team pool that determines where teams in the middle of the SEC go. There's not a set order to those bowls, so each team is likely to go to the game it would have gone to if things had gone the other way Thursday night.
But, in the narrative of these two programs, it seems to matter a little bit. Aside from getting clocked at Auburn, LSU has no truly bad losses this year. For a team with no real option at quarterback in one of the toughest divisions in the country, an eight-win season and potential nine-win campaign after the bowl isn't terrible for a down year. It will mark just the third time LSU hasn't won 10 games in a season during the decade Miles has led the program.
On the other side, there are the beginnings of questions about the direction of A&M under Kevin Sumlin. Those are largely from outside advisers, and thinking that Sumlin is in immediate danger of losing his job is probably a sign that you've taken leave of your senses. Still, it's hard to ignore that A&M's win total has gone down in each of the last two seasons -- for reasons that are a lot more complicated and problematic than a bit of LSU's good fortune at the end of a tight game.