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Cessna: Saturday’s septuple overtime thriller turned Texas A&M-LSU series into budding rivalry

November 27, 2018

Scheduling teams to play the last regular season game doesn’t make a rivalry. And saying a rivalry is a rivalry doesn’t make it a rivalry. And even history doesn’t make a series a rivalry unless there’s passion on both sides.

That’s why what happened Saturday night at Kyle Field makes the Texas A&M-LSU series a budding rivalry, one that won’t take long to come to full bloom.

The Aggies did much more than put years of frustration behind them with their 74-72 victory. They managed to pass much of their frustration to LSU, something that didn’t seem possible considering the Tigers had outscored A&M 240-137 in winning the previous seven games. But since the game needed seven overtimes and became an instant classic, the Aggies have the honor of winning the series’ most infamous game. The Tigers will be remembered for losing the series’ best game, one that always will be remembered when fans also talk about the best games in Southeastern Conference history, and thus the best in NCAA history.

That’s irritating enough for Tiger fans. But LSU also thinks it got the short end of several officials’ calls. Should time have run out in regulation instead of having a second put back on the clock to allow Quartney Davis’ 19-yard touchdown reception to force overtime? Did Kellen Mond’s knee touch down before he threw what would have been a game-ending interception? And did A&M tight end Jace Sternberger hold onto a pass long enough for him to fumble? And finally, what about the pass interference call on LSU cornerback Greedy Williams on the two-point conversion try in the seventh overtime? Unbiased officials have reviewed these plays and concluded the right calls were made. And of course LSU had no problem with officials ruling that Trayveon Williams fumbled, which he did. But if it’s not a fumble, the game’s over. The bottom line is LSU fans are in denial, and that’s great for this game. That’s what happens in a rivalry game when you lose by two points — you blame the officials.

It also had to hack LSU fans that the best running back on the field by far was Williams. In the past, LSU had the best back and was the more physical team. That wasn’t the case Saturday. A&M beat up LSU the way it used to beat up A&M.

Man, that had to hurt. And LSU, which prides itself on being one of the nation’s best, missed a chance to nail down a New Year’s Six bowl and keep its slim chances of making the College Football Playoff because it couldn’t beat the Aggies. LSU slipped four spots to 12th in the Associated Press rankings and six spots to 14th by the coaches. LSU hasn’t finished in the Top 10 since 2011 — a year longer than the Aggies. This was a game LSU needed to win just as bad as the Aggies.

LSU thought it had won the game — head coach Ed Orgeron got a Gatorade bath when LSU safety Grant Delpit intercepted Mond’s pass that wasn’t because his knee was down. Orgeron’s hair was dry by game’s end probably because he was so hot.

Orgeron is a big reason this rivalry is taking off rapidly. He got the job because Tom Herman didn’t want it. Nor did Jimbo Fisher, the former Tiger assistant, who was content at Florida State until A&M came calling. Orgeron, who thought he got the first leg up on Fisher, didn’t think it was fair a second was put back on the clock. Orgeron quickly brushing by Fisher after they met in the ceremonial postgame meeting kind of said it all. He just lost a rivalry game he’ll have to hear about for the next year.

Then after that there was an altercation between LSU offensive analyst Steve Kragthorpe and a young man wearing an A&M sideline pass, evidently Cole Fisher, nephew of Jimbo Fisher. Both schools and the SEC are investigating. Kragthorpe, a former A&M assistant with Parkinson’s disease who has a pacemaker, claims he got nailed out of nowhere. LSU director of player development Kevin Faulk apparently came to the rescue of Kragthorpe by dealing with Cole Fisher.

You can imagine people’s emotions after that five and half hour classic. It was great to be a winner, lousy to be a loser. Three guys on the A&M side had worked with Orgeron at LSU - wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig, linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto and Austin Thomas, associate AD for football personnel. Kragthorpe said Craig was talking trash, but who pushed who, etc.? It does seem Kragthorpe is OK, and that’s most important. He was great to work with when he was at A&M, and I’m sure he hasn’t changed.

But let’s be honest, you almost expect some pushing, some shoving after a 74-72 game with players and coaches fighting through all the fans who stormed the field. It just all adds to what this has become, a heated rivalry game.

I’d say you might want to be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Nov. 30, 2019.

A&M junior center Erik McCoy and junior punter Braden Mann grabbed SEC weekly player honors. McCoy shared offensive lineman of the week with Mississippi State center Elgton Jenkins. McCoy keyed a line that helped A&M rush for 234 yards and allow only two sacks in 53 pass plays. Mann grabbed special team honors by averaging 53.2 yards on five punts. Senior linebacker Otaro Alaka was College Sports Madness National and SEC player of the week after racking up 11 tackles, two of them sacks.

LSU junior linebacker Devin White shared SEC defensive honors with Missouri sophomore tackle Jordan Elliott. White had a career-high 17 tackles, 12 of them solos with four for loss. He also caused a fumble that teammate Michael Divinity returned for a touchdown. Elliott had five tackles, four of them for loss including three sacks in a 38-0 victory over Arkansas.

Vanderbilt senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur and Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa shared offensive honors. Shurmur threw for 367 yards, completing 31 of 35 with three touchdowns in a 38-13 victory over Tennessee. Tagovailoa accounted for 250 yards of offense and a school-record six touchdowns in a 52-21 victory over Auburn. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 324 yards with five touchdowns and rushed for 26 yards on four carries with a score.

Vanderbilt receiver C.J. Bolar was freshman of the week. He had six catches for 93 yards. Mississippi State’s Jeffrey Simmons was the defensive lineman of the week after four tackles, two of them losses in a 35-3 victory over Ole Miss.

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