DEVILLE: Judgment Day for the Tigers

Matt Deville

The 2004 LSU Tiger football season opener did not go according to the plan of many. <br><br> Whether it be Nick Saban, his football team, the fans, college football analysts or even Mike the Tiger, last Saturday's 22-21 win over underdog Oregon State left many people emotionally drained, but also produced a wealth of questions concerning this football team.

First of all, could things have began on any more of a sour note than they did when the heavens opened up just as the Golden Band from Tigerland as beginning the legendary Pregame salute?

The sun shone brightly on Tiger Stadium most of the day on Sept. 4, which was by the way nine months to the day since the Tigers defeated Oklahoma for the national championship. However as the band took the field, the sky turned as black as night as if Baton Rouge was about to experience Armageddon… or judgment day, if you will. The heavens pelted Tiger Stadium and its patrons for over half an hour before the rain subsided and kickoff ensued some 50 minutes later. Then it was judgment day for these Tigers. From the opening kickoff, LSU seemed to be hexed.

Usually dependable Skyler Green fumbled the initial kickoff of the contest leading to Oregon State's first touchdown of the game. Possession after possession the LSU offense struggled. What was supposed to be an improved and more mature Marcus Randall looked very much like the same Randall that took over for Matt Mauck midway through the 2002 season.

From Randall's first pass of the game, it was obvious the fifth year senior just might not have what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the SEC. His first offering was an ill-advised pass into double coverage that was intercepted by Sabby Piscatelli. Randall completed just 1-of-4 passes in the first quarter and had hit on only 5-of-15 by halftime before being replaced by redshirt freshman hotshot JaMarcus Russell.

The bad thing is there is large amount of sympathy for Randall. Spending five years in a program, hanging in there when he could have transferred and played some place else, Randall remained loyal to the Tigers. In his final year, when he had the coaching staff and teammates believing in him, he flops in his first game as the field general of the offense. However, it was good to see him have the opportunity to score the game-winning touchdown in overtime when Russell left the game for the second time with cramps.

As for Russell, the big man did an excellent job coming into a situation where the team was behind and he was forced to rally them back. Although he was shaky at times, he engineered the final drive of regulation that landed the Tigers in the end zone for the tying score. Look for him only to get better.

As for other offensive concerns, the running game was almost non-existent, which in this opinion, was due to partly to a wet field, which can be a great equalizer. Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard were a non-factor in this game as the offensive line struggled to open holes or protect the quarterback. With two all-Americans on that line, Oregon State spent a little too much time in the backfield.

Did anyone see the matchup between Andrew Whitworth and Bill Swancutt? That was a bit of a one-sided affair. Swancutt ate Whitworth's lunch one several occasions. Should that be?

Defensively, the LSU front four got very little pressure on OSU quarterback Derek Anderson until the fourth quarter when they hit him quite often. Between the line's inability to supply adequate pressure and constant breakdowns in the secondary, Anderson was able to stand in the pocket and run the Beaver's system of a short passing offense.

It was surprising to see Corey Webster get beat as many times as he did and the middle of the defense sporting a gaping hole when Anderson hit Anthony Wheat-Brown on OSU's second touchdown.

Special teams was far from special on this night as kicker Chris Jackson missed two field goals and pooched a sky kickoff out of bounds, which he received an ear full from Saban in the aftermath. One thing Jackson did do was punt effectively. Freshman Patrick Fisher was less than spectacular and was replaced by Jackson after he shanked a punt that traveled just 11 yards.

While there is plenty of negative aspects to breakdown, there are a few positive angles also. Joseph Addai, who seemed to have gotten lost after the emergence of Vincent and Broussard a year ago, was outstanding in his double role as a running back/wide receiver. Addai rushed for just 13 yards, but caught five passes for 65 yards and was a favorite target for Russell when he was in the game.

Kyle Williams and Marcus Spears each had solid nights on the defensive line and it appears that Dwayne Bowe has officially taken over right where Michael Clayton left off.

As for some intangibles, the Tigers stared adversity in the face and pulled through. LSU was down to its last possession with less than two minutes to go, had to score a touchdown with the two-point conversion and did so. Whether or not they played well in the game, that alone will help this team more than anything, especially when you will be heading to Auburn in two weeks.

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