Countdown to kickoff: 2012 Ole Miss visits Baton Rouge
It is a pantheon of concrete and steel. It is a city that rises defiantly in the delta, alongside the father of waters. It is the humidity of autumn evenings that drapes stately oaks and broad magnolias. It is haunted, and it is loud.
Many LSU fans will know exactly where they are when they hear that preamble echo through the loudspeakers of Tiger Stadium. Some will recite the rest of the aforementioned pregame video word for word before the football is placed on the tee prior to kickoff.
When the Tigers take the field, and the next few hours of the game unfolds, fans will feel as if some of the words in that pregame video will come to life right before their eyes.
Perhaps, there is no better example of that than when the Ole Miss Rebels arrived in Baton Rouge in the autumn of 2012. Although the game certainly started as a far cry from special for the Tigers, the ending was almost poetic.
LSU was at a comfortable rank of No. 7 in the country and had only lost twice through the first 10 games of the season. Ole Miss sported a 5-5 record and needed a win against the Tigers to poke its head above the .500 mark and remain bowl eligible.
In the first five minutes of the game, there were a total of four different offensive possessions. Ole Miss struck first on their second possession when quarterback Bo Wallace called his own number with a 58-yard touchdown run. LSU responded with a touchdown of its own thanks to big plays from wide receiver James Wright and a touchdown scamper by running back Jeremy Hill.
With 9:55 left in the first quarter, the Tigers and Rebels were tied at seven apiece, and if fans were beginning to sense that they were in for a back-and-forth contest at the time, they were right.
Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief spent the entire game making short work of the LSU defense, but a muffed punt by the Rebels’ special teams unit and an interception from LSU defensive back Jalen Collins helped the Tigers keep up with the scoring pace.
Nevertheless, the Rebels entered the locker room up 21-17 at halftime, and the momentum was certainly on their sideline.
Ole Miss moved the ball with ease at the end of the first half, and the Rebels were set to receive the 2nd half kickoff and put some breathing room between itself and LSU.
That’s when Tiger defensive back Tharold Simon stepped in front of a pass from Wallace and intercepted the ball at the Ole Miss 20-yard line. Like so many times in LSU’s Les Miles era, the Tiger offense needed a turnover and the Tiger defense provided one.
And, like so many times in LSU’s Les Miles era, that Tiger offense took the gifted possession and stalled out in the red zone. LSU’s Drew Alleman converted the 24-yard field goal, and Ole Miss maintained its lead at 21-20.
Each team traded three-and-outs as well as interceptions (one for Wallace and two for LSU’s Zach Mettenberger), but it was the Rebels that took advantage of the quarter’s last possession again when they scored to take a 28-20 lead into the 4th quarter.
The Tigers scored on a red zone touchdown run from Hill and tied the game at 28 after a two-point conversion play that featured a surprisingly creative spread concept and a completed pass to running back Spencer Ware.
However, Ole Miss’s Wallace and Moncrief continued to be a thorn in the side of the LSU secondary, and that dynamic duo once again gave the Rebels a seven-point lead as the final quarter began to wind down.
LSU needed a spark if they wanted any hope of victory, and that’s when the words spoken by the pregame video became less of a hype speech and more of a prediction. It wasn’t Halloween night, and it wasn’t Tiger legend Billy Cannon blasting for an 89-yard punt return in for a touchdown against Ole Miss.
This time, it was Tiger legend Odell Beckham, Jr. taking an 89-yard punt return in for a touchdown against the very same albeit younger and more modern Rebels.
History may never truly repeat itself, but it certainly will rhyme.
With the game tied at 35 all, the contest was far from finished. Each team’s defense traded big plays, but it was LSU that fired the final bullet after a “brilliantly” dialed up toss dive to Hill from the Ole Miss two-yard line.
When the dust settled, the Tigers were on top 41-35.
In the bowels beneath Tiger Stadium after the game, Miles gave one of his many infamous rants when he implored fans to “find an LSU player, put your arms around them, and give them a big kiss on the mouth if you’re a girl.”
At the time, coach’s comments were considered harmless and endearing. It was classic Les after a big game. However, thanks to the information about what happened behind the scenes during Miles’s tenure in the purple and gold coming to light, his comments are a bit more…problematic.
Regardless, the past never really looks as good as we thought it did the more we examine it, but the game was exactly what the doctor ordered for an LSU team that was trying to make a case for a Bowl Championship bid.
The Tigers would go on to earn a berth in the Chic-fil-a Bowl (now the Chic-fil-A Peach Bowl) and lose 25-24 to an up-and-coming Clemson team under the leadership of a relatively unknown coach named Dabo Swinney.