Another photo finish. Another ridiculously entertaining game, to the final seconds.
And contributing to that: Les Miles either has the brassiest, heaviest pair in all of college football, or his mind is the size of a peanut. Or maybe both.
The scene: Tiger stadium. 30 seconds to go in the final period, Auburn leads, 24-23; but LSU has the ball on Auburn's 23 yard line as the result of an inexplicable decision to squib kick the ball instead of boot it deep.
National title hopes for LSU hang by a thread. So do Auburn's dreams of winning an SEC Championship.
Auburn's sideline is filled with that sick, queasy certainty of doom that associates said field position with a last second field goal which will torpedo their tiny lead. Tommy Tuberville stands on the sidelines, pulsing pressure waves of uncertainty as LSU allows time to tick down on 3rd and 7. Tuberville decides to save his TO to ice the kicker, because surely LSU is planning to move the ball into slightly better field goal postion, so they'll use their final--
But they're not. No timeout called. We're down to :25, then :20.
We hit :15. Flynn breaks the huddle and moves into the shotgun. What the hell?
:11. LSU appears to be in no hurry. No one's calling a timeout. This really makes no sense at all.
:10. Auburn's filling the box with four down linemen and four DBs, with one safety playing shallow and a cornerback playing man-to-man on both of LSU's wide receivers.
:09. This is a really bad idea. LSU is in field goal range. They don't need a TD here to win. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
:08. Ball's snapped.
:07. Flynn looks, then releases. The pigskin goes parabolic. It's headed for...
:06. Demetrius Byrd. He's streaking up the left side of the field on a basic fade route, well covered by Auburn's Jerraud Powers.
:04. No way, no way, no way... he can't.... he--
:02. It's a catch! It's a catch in the endzone! NFW! Despite excellent coverage by Powers, Byrd makes the biggest grab of his life.
:01. Clock stops at one freaking second.
ESPN's Mike Patrick's initial reaction is to go ga-ga: "Whoa! What a call! That is the call of the year!" he crows.
Then he notices the game clock at one second, and starts to think about it.
Todd Blackledge: "Oh my god, you're right. You're right. I got so caught up watching the play, I didn't even see where that clock ended up."
Which, of course, is technically untrue. If the pass fell incomplete and everything else unfolded the same way, with :01 on the clock, LSU could have gone for the FG attempt. But if the clock operator was a tad slow, or the pass was thrown a heartbeat later, or Byrd bobbled it... you're looking at a big Auburn upset.
With :01 remaining, Auburn tried to do some lateral-ish stuff on the kickoff return, but failed. Game over.
Here's the kicker. Miles apparently had no idea how closely he flirted with disaster, as evidenced by his post-game interview on the field:
Holly Rowe: "Weren't you worried about the clock?"Uh, yeah. But coach, you didn't have 18 or even 16 seconds. You had 8. And if Flynn takes one extra breath, if Byrd cuts in just a little more instead of fading out, if the clock operator BLINKS, it's :00 with LSU down by a point.
Les Miles: "We didn't use our last time out, we could have called time out after that. Absolutely not. We felt like with 18 seconds, 16 seconds on the clock we were in great shape."
Ignorance is bliss, sometimes.
And the thinnest of margins separate goat from hero. One second and a catch: Miles is beloved. A heartbeat and an incompletion: Miles' skull rides on a pike high atop Tiger stadium.
But hey: it made for a hell of a college football game. Again. Thanks, Les, for being crazy in all that you do.