By BRYAN LAZARE
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU still feels the sting of its loss to top-ranked Alabama and probably won’t forget the setback anytime soon.
Tigers coach Les Miles spent much of his weekly media luncheon Monday dealing with situations which popped up in his team’s 21-17 loss to the Crimson Tide on Saturday.
“We won every statistical category, but the score,” the coach said. “That’s unfortunate. I told the team I wish I would have done a couple of things better.”
The defeat all but mathematically eliminated the ninth-ranked Tigers from winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship. LSU has a chance — albeit a slim one — to represent the West in the title game if it somehow manages to end in a three-way tie for first place with Alabama and Texas A&M.
For that unlikely scenario to happen Alabama would have to lose to the Aggies and Auburn, which hasn’t won a SEC game this season. Of course, LSU has to beat its final three opponents — No. 22 Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas.
The Tigers players had two priorities this season — get a measure of revenge for their 21-0 loss to Alabama in last season’s national title game and return to the national championship game in January.
Now, barring a totally unexpected series of results, there will be no titles for this LSU team.
“You can still have a championship style of effort,” Miles said. “Having a championship style of football team is still our need and want. We still have a chance to do some significant things.”
One of those significant achievements would be an appearance in a BCS bowl game, possibly the Sugar Bowl. But LSU would even need some help for that to happen, including one more loss for both Georgia and Florida, who are ahead of the Tigers in the BCS standings.
“Understand we have a good football team,” Miles said. “In a few ways, Saturday (against Alabama) proved that. We have to play like that the rest of the way and see how things come out. Ending up in a BCS bowl certainly can happen. That’s a possibility.”
LSU must close the regular season with a three-game winning streak. In the loss to Alabama, Zach Mettenberger had his best game of the season by throwing for 298 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. Moreover, Jeremy Hill rushed for 107 yards.”
The Alabama game “was our most complete game on offense,” Miles said. “Mettenberger and the receivers had great chemistry on his throws and the receivers coming out of their breaks. We rushed the ball OK. It could have been better.
“Our football understands that it didn’t get it done against Alabama. But, let’s play like that again. Throw for 300 yards and run for 200 yards. The defense has to play with the same intensity and eliminate the mistakes. We improved, but we need to keep improving.”
They’re get the chance Saturday against a staggering Mississippi State team.
The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs have experienced a rough past two weeks with lopsided defeats against Alabama and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs had won their first seven games. Last season, LSU struggled to a 19-6 victory at Mississippi State.
“We have a 24-hour rule,” Miles said. “We watch (Alabama) film (Monday) and then we’re done with that one. We’ll take the positives and move on. If we play like that in the next game, I’ll be happy. I’m glad we’re playing a good team. That’s what our football team needs now.”