Coming into the BCS national championship game, Tyrann Mathieu, aka “The Honey Badger,” had a freight train of hype surrounding him that was going to carry him to the 2012 Heisman Trophy. However, after last night's disastrous game, it looks like that train has left the station.
Now, before LSU fans go and jump me in the comment section about how Mathieu had a better statistical game than he did in the first game, stop. Yes, he did have more tackles (6) than he did in their first game (4). Just like he had more pass deflections (2) than he did in their first game (0).
However, on the biggest stage, with ESPN play-by-play man Brent Musburger saying his nickname “Honey Badger” for what seemed like every 10 minutes, he failed to come up big—or at all.
Mathieu did little to stop Alabama’s wide receiver Kevin Norwood last night, allowing Norwood to catch four passes for 78 yards, with his longest catch being 26 yards.
New York Times columnist Pete Thamel tweeted out on Norwood’s long catch that NFL front-office people told him that Mathieu is not the same caliber of corner cover as teammate, and projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft, Morris Claiborne.
That long pass wasn’t Mathieu’s only misstep. College Football Talk’s Ben Krecheval tweeted out his thoughts that Tyrann wasn’t having a great game after missing on a tackle.
The combination of missing tackles and allowing a deep pass is one thing. However, what led to Mathieu earning all of his Heisman hype was his big-play ability when returning punts. In the two games leading up to last night’s BCS championship game, Mathieu had two game-changing punt return touchdowns.
Last night, Mathieu’s stat line for punt returns: one return, one yard, for an average of 1.0 yard per return.
If Mathieu could have returned his one opportunity in the fourth quarter for a big gain—maybe even a touchdown—it could have sparked the struggling LSU offense and brought the game to 15-7.
Instead, he was tackled for just a one-yard gain, and eight plays later LSU punted the ball away again.
There were a number of people responsible for LSU’s miserable performance last night.
However, none will feel the ramifications as much as the “Honey Badger.” Last night he saw his chances at being the favorite for next year’s Heisman Trophy fizzle out, much like the honey badger's consciousness does after he is poisoned in the famous YouTube video. Whether Mathieu can get right back up shortly after remains to be seen.