August seems like forever ago.
The LSU football team possessed more overall talent than it did in 2011, returned a Heisman Trophy finalist and had the savior of its passing woes answered in the form of quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Down in New Orleans, the Saints were supposed to rally behind the seasonlong suspension of coach Sean Payton and make yet another deep run in the NFL playoffs to stick it to big, bad commissioner Roger Goodell.
Things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
As LSU students quietly file off of campus after finishing their exams, the campus couldn’t seem more aloof.
Students are just ready to pack up their things and return home for presents and relaxation after a semester of academics. But that wasn’t the case this time last year.
I remember last December like it was yesterday.
LSU just secured a 13-0 regular season and was poised to roll over Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Instead of a morose, gloomy atmosphere, it felt like the whole campus was just going to hunker down until the game.
No one was worried about having to return for the spring semester the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Everyone in Baton Rouge had Jan. 9 circled on the calendar.
The Who Dats weren’t having too bad of a season on their own.
With Payton at the helm, New Orleans was 8-3 after 12 weeks. Saints loyalists were ready to ride quarterback Drew Brees into the playoffs with hopes of snagging the franchise’s second Super Bowl.
Although the outcomes of both seasons didn’t turn out the way LSU and Saints diehards planned, you can’t deny the anticipation and excitement that filled the Quad and stately oaks before the 2011 fall semester concluded.
Flash forward to December 2012, and you get an entirely different picture.
The Tigers will find themselves bowling somewhere other than a BCS game. New Orleans won’t even get a taste of postseason play after the Atlanta Falcons intercepted Brees five times last Thursday, dropping the Saints to 5-7.
If you would have told somebody last year that LSU wouldn’t be in a featured bowl in January or that Brees completed the ball to the other team five times in a game, you would have been laughed out of the room.
But this is the harsh reality Louisiana football fans have faced in 2012 — unless for some reason you pay allegiance to Louisiana-Lafayette or Louisiana Tech, and if that’s the case, I offer my deepest condolences.
The fact of the matter is you can’t expect perfection every year.
Both LSU and the Saints had humongous hurdles to overcome to even put together the seasons they did in 2012.
LSU coach Les Miles suffered more losses than he did when LSU made it to the BCS Championship last season. The Honey Badger didn’t play a snap after being dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons, starting left tackle Chris Faulk went down for the season against Washington, starting right tackle Alex Hurst didn’t participate the rest of the season for personal reasons and running back Alfred Blue was lost for the season against Idaho.
Considering those obstacles, it’s a testament to Miles and his coaching staff for keeping this team together and finishing the season 10-2. The only two blemishes on its schedule were to highly ranked Alabama and Florida.
Not too shabby, if you ask me.
Sure, the Saints are 5-7, and there won’t be a postseason for them. But for this team to have that record after starting off 0-4 is an accomplishment in itself.
When I watched the Saints take the field during their terrible start, they looked uninspired to say the least. It was like they were missing their head coach.
I don’t know whether it’s the return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma or coach Joe Vitt, but something has clicked inside the New Orleans locker room.
No matter the disappointment some fans have for their Louisiana football teams, the one bright spot is they won’t let their support waver.
Though there are a great deal of bandwagon Saints and Tigers fans who jumped aboard only after recent success, there’s an even larger group of supporters who have been loyal from day one.
No, LSU and New Orleans didn’t meet the lofty expectations this goes around, but 2011 made it hard for them to live up to.