Being in a tight game with a Les Miles-coached LSU team is supposed to be fatal for everyone except Alabama. You're playing into the strength of Miles, the knack of pulling out a win with a touch of magic and wackiness, despite his own clock-management gaffes. But instead, it was Notre Dame that ended up pulling out the last-minute victory at the Music City Bowl, and officiating might have had more to do with it than anything magical or bizarre.
The referees, provided courtesy of the Pac-12, missed an LSU touchdown on the field on what was a bang-bang play in real time. No major deal; it's easy to miss those things, and that's why college football now has instant replay. And the touchdown was reviewed -- but the mistaken original call was allowed to stand, to the amazement of seemingly everyone except the broadcasters, who defended the decision long after most people had declared it ludicrous.
You can SEE his knees, you idiots pic.twitter.com/uC1Lvg702F— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) December 30, 2014
Blown calls happen, though, and LSU still managed to take the lead for the first time with about six minutes left in the third quarter -- only to allow the Irish to tie things, 28-28, a couple of minutes later. Neither team would score again until Notre Dame kicked a field goal as time expired, Miles using his two timeouts to ice the kicker instead of preserving clock, and win the game. By that time, the Tigers' vaunted defense had allowed 449 yards of total offense to Notre Dame amid rumors that John Chavis could be headed to Texas A&M.
On the other hand, there were some signs Tuesday that LSU's offense could be more effective next year than this one. Leonard Fournette ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, adding another score when he ran a kickoff back 100 yards for another touchdown. Travin Dural added another four rushes for 61 yards. Redshirt freshman John Diarse had a 75-yard catch and run for a score.
But there are still some questions that LSU will face this offseason, coming off a year in which they put up an 8-5 record tied for the worst of Les Miles' time in Baton Rouge. What Chavis decides to do and who is named to replace him, if necessary, is just one of them. There's also the issue of whether the bursts of productivity on the offensive side of the ball Tuesday can be turned into consistent success throughout the 2015 season. That will do more to determine their fate than a frantic few minutes or a bad call.