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The Goal - See 'em all!
Tigers toy with Bulldogs to climb up to No. 3, 34-24;
CFF enjoys tailgating with Bayou Bengal fans
Baton Rouge, LA - The LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0) coming off an emotional, hard-fought victory at Auburn the previous Saturday did what needed to be done to defeat a quick-starting Mississippi State team (1-4, 0-2) to finish the weekend rated No. 3 in the AP poll. The Tigers did what USC, Georgia, and Florida failed to do - win! On the other hand, Alabama's defeat of the Georgia Bulldogs vaulted them past the Tigers to No. 2 which will have all our new Bengal friends seething when Alabama comes calling on November 8. The fact that Lou Saban bolted Baton Rouge to go to the pros and made his way to Alabama has the Tiger fans wanting to beat Bama bad enough, but for the defending, undefeated national champs to get leap-frogged in one fell swoop? You think there was damage left by Hurricane Gustav in Baton Rouge? Wait'll you see the storm brewing in the "real Death Valley" before November 8. There will be a little more excitement around the LSU campus than what we witnessed Saturday, even though we found the LSU campus a tremendous tailgate experience. Expectations anticipated before the trip landed on the money thanks to several great, new LSU friends we met up with!
MSU's Derek Pegues returned the opening kickoff 59 yards to put Adam Carlson into position for a 42-yard FG and a short-lived 3-0 lead. LSU retaliated right away with Colt David's 38-yarder, and then the Tiger's moved ahead to lead 17-10 at the half before scoring two more times in the third to lead 27-10 to control the balance of the game. Charles Scott, who netted 141 rushing yards for his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, scored on two one-yard runs to end the first period scoring for the Tigers and to start the second period scoring. The TDs resulted in scoring drives of 88 and 61 yards respectively. The Tiger defense held after MSU's Pegues intercepted a pass at LSU's 37, but later the Bulldogs' DT Jesse Bowman recovered a Tiger fumble at the 47, and Christian Ducre ran in from the five to close the gap 17-10 before the half ended on the night LSU fans attempted to turn Tiger Stadium into a "Gold-out ".
LSU's first drive of the second half almost went for naught, but TE Richard Dickson alertly jumped on a fumbled pass reception by Brandon LaFell in the end zone to extend the LSU lead, 24-10. QB Jarret Lee, starting his first game in place of injured Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch, completed several key passes on the next drive to set up David's 39-yard FG for a comfortable 27-10 Tiger lead. He finished 18 of 27 for 261 yards, 1 INT, and 1 TD.
In the fourth, MSU got clicking with a 74-yard drive on 18 plays culminating in a 1-yard TD by Anthony Dixon. The Bulldogs almost got another drive started when on a third and four, a dropped pass by the MSU receiver prompted one LSU fan to comment it was the "break of the night". The ensuing punt put LSU on the MSU 48. Three plays later, Lee drilled a pass over the middle to Demetrius Byrd who sprinted 43 yards for the Tigers final TD of the night. MSU's Tyson Lee led his team 68 yards completing a scoring drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Ducre with 2:40 left to close the gap, 34-24. The Dogs attempted an onsides kick, but an illegal touch gave the ball to LSU who held on to win, something three of the other top five teams could not do this past weekend. Two of those three teams appear on the LSU schedule over the next three games. The Tiger visit the Gators in the Swamp in two weeks, followed by a trip to South Carolina before returning home to face the UGA Bulldogs. The Mississippi State Bulldogs return home on Oct. 11 to host currently undefeated, No. 21 Vanderbilt before visiting 1-3 Tennessee. No, there's no mistake in that last sentence!
Extra Points: Visiting Baton Rouge to see the Tigers play was a great experience as anticipated. As expected, and one of the reasons CFF looked forward to going to a game in Baton Rouge, the LSU fans are great hosts and great partiers. It was well worth the experience. Things didn't start out as well as planned on Friday. I headed to Chimes, a sports bar highly recommended right outside the LSU campus, but it took an hour and a half to find a parking space! LSU might be at the top of the polls for football, but when it comes to campus parking, it's at the bottom. Nowhere could signs be found for public parking. When the visitors' center was found, the small lot was full. I was given directions to the Law school lot, but even a car on the street there had a ticket on the windshield. Not until I gave Chimes another go around, I followed a young, nice-looking business woman in a dark business suit with tight pants and followed her to her car to finally get a spot on the side street. Gumbo and a Po-boy along with a few cold beers while watching Sports Center got me back on track for my much anticipated trip to Tiger Country.
That night, I hit Ivar's, another sports bar right under I-10. Catfish nuggets started things off while watching my Mets blow another game while UConn-Louisville was featured on another TV. The highlight for me there was eyeing a display with a gold LSU helmet, a white one, a purple "Crown Royal", and a fourth that look surprisingly familiar! Of all the... The dark blue one was what I thought it was - a Juniata College football helmet! The alma mater's head gear was on display with two LSU helmets right in Baton Rouge, the heart of LSU country. I got to talk to the owner, Mr. Quigley, to ask about the significance. He played ball at D-3 Marietta in Ohio. Regarding the JC helmet, a coach presented it to him about 13 years ago. We couldn't come up with the name. I thought later that it might be from former head coach Rob Ash, who went on to Drake and is now HC at Montana State.
The next morning, I headed out early knowing where free game day parking was and assuring myself I'd get one. I knew the campus pretty well now. I parked and walked to where I wanted to be. I figured I'd start the day with a few Bloody Mary's at Chimes while watching Game Day. Great start! I picked up a few sixes of local Abita beer to bring to tailgates I'd been invited to. My first stop was to meet Mike and Carol Barish and friends by the G&G Express, their friends' RV unit on South Campus Drive near the Stadium. They had a great tailgate set up, got pictures taken with a lot of people excited to hear about my game travels, and got a brief tour of the G&G Express also known as "Stinky". Brandon Soileau took me over to meet Mike the Tiger in his new 15,000 square foot habitat, one of the largest in America. Mike wasn't around, and I had a few other stops to make. One thing about the campus though, there's so much building going on. New baseball and softball facilities and other sports arenas - biggest on-campus tack facility I'd ever seen. On Saturday, Tiger fans seem well organized in setting up tailgates in the tight spaces all around campus to make the most of the restricted space I found the case to be on Friday.
I next met up with Diane Hughes, a co-worker from my company living and working in the Baton Rouge area who not only has a daughter, Molly, in the Marching Tiger band and a son, AJ who aspires to do the same next year, but until she was eight years old, she grew up in Boonton Township, NJ as did I and went to school with one of my sisters. My trip to BR from NJ proved several times over that the world is a very small place! I caught up with Diane at the Anderson-Feazel LSU Indoor Fields (The IFF) where we watched the band and Golden Girls practice their routines before game time.
Next stop, Will Gosnell's tailgate. Will lives in Atlanta and had read the NY Times article back in August and invited me over to swap tales. I took me a while to find his spot and luckily he intercepted me. The map-reading got tougher, and I lost an Abita bottle somewhere along the way as the poly bag with the six-pack gave way. Will introduced me to a lot of die-hard LSU fans. Some had the canopy set up with an electric fan hanging from the top as they watched two TVS with other games going on. Great set-up on a hot, sunny afternoon. Ate and drank there with Will who kindly pounded on my back to dislodge a piece of burger. Thanks, Will! He didn't want to be the cause of my streak to come to an end. We agreed to keep talking this year if the BCS comes down to LSU-PSU!
Headed back to meet Mike and Carol who wasn't at the tailgate when I stopped by earlier. She introduced me to all her LSU fans, her daughter and her LSU classmates who are all Tiger die-hards who had a lot of interest in achieving The Goal! Turns out Carol's from Pottstown, PA and even worked in Hackettstown (NJ) Hospital where my kids and young Guest Game Analysts, Eric and Alex, were born. Mike is an LSU fan, former Jersey guy and big Michigan fan with ties back there. Talked a lot of football, some baseball, drank, and smoked cigars. Mike is just itching for Saban to bring his team to Death Valley this year, and that was before the Tide rolled in at No. 2!
The weekend on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge was great experience and definitely worth doing again some time. I love going to Louisiana. They always seem to have a good time down there. I'm glad I got to go there as one of my first stops after finishing The Goal last year. It helps me justify continuing to do this to St. Laurie, who Carol told me to bring with me next time. I think she'd love it. Geaux Tigers (but not against the Nittany Lions)!
Somebody else traveled down from Jersey to be at this game. NY Giant DB Corey Webster was on hand as an Honorary captain for his alma mater. We had just attended the Giant win over those other Bengals from Cincinnati the week before when we saw the Giants win, 23-20, in OT. The Giants had a bye this week.
At the end of the first quarter, LSU introduced their 2008 baseball squad who won an NCAA Super Regional. WR Jared Mitchell ran from the bench to high-five all his teammates from his other LSU team. He plays outfield for the LSU baseball squad. It was fun to see.
One friend at Mike and Carol's tailgate asked me what other Campuses I planned to see games at, and I mentioned Clemson among others. He reminded me not to forget that "this was the real Death Valley!"
My seat in section 612 was very similar in position to the seats we've enjoyed at PSU's Beaver Stadium over the years. I found the excitement and noise level from that perspective to be the same. I believe, however, that if the game were against Alabama, Florida, or some other rival of greater intensity, the decibels would ratchet up, just like at PSU when Ohio State, Michigan, or Notre Dame comes calling. I'm also sure that at the lower level, the noise intensity coming down at you makes for a much louder atmosphere. Announced attendance was 92,710.
I noted that the "Gold-out" did not get quite the cooperation I've seen at PSU's "white-outs". Of course, I felt inclined to wear my blue #119 jersey, and there were still a lot of purple and white shirted LSU fans.
One of the concessions on the LSU campus was Murphy's Pizza. In Jersey, that's an oxymoron. Who ever heard on anyone named Murphy who could make a good pizza?
I don't know which ESPN station covered this game, but there seemed to be a lot fewer TV time-outs than what we've sat through during other games seen on ESPN this year. The few noted seemed to take long, but they didn't come with the frequency we've noted at the two Rutgers games we attended this year.
LSU's Golden Girls of 2008 rate right up there with North Texas State's 2006 Dance team in my book!
Great earth-shaking fly-over (F-16s?) before the start of the game.