ORLANDO, Fla. - Navorro Bowman outsmarted LSU and coach Les Miles, who once again looked like they need a "Clock Management for Dummies" book.
Miles and the Tigers embarrassed themselves with some horrific clock management in the closing seconds of a loss to Mississippi on Nov. 21. You'd think the elite program would have learned its lesson, but apparently not.
LSU took possession at its own 41-yard line with 48 seconds to go after Penn State had grabbed a 19-17 lead in Friday's Capital One Bowl. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson scrambled for 11 yards to the PSU 49, running out of bounds with 39 seconds to go.
There was plenty of time left to get into field-goal range, even with the Tigers having no more timeouts.
The ensuing play call, though, was downright stupid.
The coaches called for Jefferson to hit Brandon LaFell on a short middle screen. There was little chance the play would generate big yards - it went for 4 - and valuable clock time wilted away.
Bowman saw an opportunity to make things worse for the Tigers.
"I had a plan what I was doing," Bowman said. "I was using my brain. They had no timeouts left, so I thought about laying on the guy for a couple extra seconds to let the clock run out."
That can result in a delay of game penalty, but Bowman said he never heard an official yell get up or anything.
All of a sudden, a flag was thrown, and no one knew exactly why.
"I thought the flag was against me at first for laying on him for delay of game," Bowman said.
Instead, the officials whistled LSU offensive lineman Lyle Hitt for a personal foul.
Miles insisted over and over after the game that Hitt was merely trying to pick Bowman up so the offense could regroup and spike the ball.
"[Hitt] tried to help him up off the ground," Miles said. "He didn't hit him, pound him to the ground. He didn't jump on him. And it was pretty clear."
It was pretty clear to Penn State tackle Jared Odrick, too.
"He just picked him up and threw him," Odrick said. "He tossed him to the side. ... I would have expected a personal foul if it was somebody else, if it was our team."
There's always a fine line in sports. Had Bowman been called for a delay, he could have been a goat.
"My reasoning for what I was doing, it wasn't a positive, it wasn't a good thing," Bowman said. "It was to help my team win."
Since he didn't hear an official say anything, Bowman figured he'd do what he and every defensive player is taught, and that's to waste as much time as possible.
"Just mind games," Bowman said. "Just being a student of the game, that's all."
Hitt saw what was happening and lost his cool, playing right into Bowman's hands. The dumb penalty cost his team 15 yards, pushing LSU back to its own 40.
Bowman admitted something interesting when asked if he thought Hitt should have been called for a penalty.
"No, I don't think so," he said.
The officials saw things differently, and any time they see a player push another, there's a good chance a personal foul will be called.
"[Hitt] took action and took the game into his own hands and wasn't supposed to do that," Odrick said.
Miles was asked if his team has discipline issues and said, "I don't know that helping a guy off the ground could really be considered a discipline problem. Had he punched him, certainly, I probably would have come unglued."
LSU continued to let precious seconds slip away once the ball was placed down, seemingly unaware that the clock had resumed after the penalty. Jefferson finally took a snap with 11 seconds left and threw an incomplete pass.
The Tigers then had only three seconds to go and managed a short gain as time expired.
Much will be made of the personal foul call and whether it should or should not have been a flag. Regardless, LSU probably killed its chances with the ridiculous middle screen when it should have been throwing either toward the sideline or downfield where a first down would stop the clock.
Coaches spend so many hours preparing, studying film and analyzing every possible situation. But if they have brain cramps when those situations actually arrive during a game, it makes them look pretty silly.
Les Miles has become exhibit A in college football this season.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and email@example.com.