Although one game remains in this regular season of college football for the LSU Tigers, the home portion of the schedule is complete – and it couldn't have gotten here any quicker.
First and foremost, it should be noted the Tigers finished the home slate undefeated - undefeated in a season at Tiger Stadium for the first time in 30 years, 32 to be exact. LSU last turned in an unbeaten record at Death Valley in 1972.
The 1972 season was a memorable season in the annals of Tiger football lore. It was that year LSU "turned back the clock" against Ole Miss. With one second left, Bert Jones connected with Brad Davis for a touchdown tying the game at 16-16. Rusty Jackson's PAT gave the Tigers a thrilling and controversial 17-16 win over the Rebels.
It was only fitting that prior to the kickoff of Saturdays Ole Miss-LSU contest, Jones was introduced as one of the game's honorary captains.
After building an early lead, the Tigers fell behind upset-minded Ole Miss and were forced to rally for yet another come-from-behind victory on their home turf. For the fourth time in seven games in Tiger Stadium this season, LSU trailed in the fourth quarter but virtually willed their way to a win.
However, that might be the reason the end of this year's home slate is such a welcoming sign because the Tigers continually had to rally for victories against lesser opposition. In the first game as defending national champs, LSU needed the benefit of three missed extra points by Oregon State's Alexis Serna and an overtime period to knock off the Beavers on national television.
Toss in a last minute touchdown against Troy, two fourth quarter Joseph Addai scores versus Alabama and Saturday's 250-yard effort from Alley Broussard against Ole Miss and the home slate has been – well exciting.
At least the powers that be at LSU can be thankful for a string of nail biters to spice things up because the teams visiting Tiger Stadium were far from enticing for LSU patrons. Arkansas State, Mississippi State then a couple of open dates flanking games versus Vanderbilt and Troy was not a big hit at the box office.
However, you couldn't tell by the season's final attendance figures. Despite hoards of empty seats at the Miss. State and Arkansas State games, not to mention the snoozers with Vandy and Troy, the final ticket totals resulted in record attendance figures including total fans that passed through the gates of Tiger Stadium as well as average attendance.
It was announced Saturday that over 630,000 fans turned out for LSU's seven home games this season and an average of 91,000-plus filled the stands each game. Can you imagine what it would have been like if a ranked team – one ranked team – had squared off with the Tigers this season. LSU did not face a team ranked in the top 25 at home this year and only 6-4 Alabama was the only visiting team with a winning record.
But it all changes next season.
From the worst home schedule (probably ever), the Tigers will entertain one of the most highly anticipated tilt of games in years. Not only will Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas all come calling on LSU, the Tigers get Auburn (who possibly could be a defending national champion) as well as a highly attractive non-conference battle with Arizona State in the season's second week. And don't forget the Mean Green. North Texas, albeit from the Sun Belt Conference, visits for the season opener – a North Texas team that has captured every SBC title since the league's inception.
Looking back at the 2004 home schedule, it wasn't always pretty watching week after week the Tigers lack the motivation in facing one bad team after another. But in the end, it is a "Just Win Baby" kind of world and that is just what these Tigers did each week. Unbeaten at home for the first time in 32 years, not too bad for a team some professed to be a disappointment by some national scribes and talking heads. But an unblemished slate in Tiger Stadium is something even the mighty national LSU Tigers couldn't accomplish (how could you forget that loss to Florida?).
All right, enough about football.
As I sit writing this column, John Brady's Tigers are running up and down the floor before me and are putting the finishing touches on a win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the championship game of the Louisiana Classic. The Tigers whipped Tulane on Friday night and currently lead Ooohh-La-La 79-60 with just over four minutes left in the game.
Just a few thoughts on Tiger hoops:
Man oh man, Brady promised offense this season and is Tigers are delivering. Up and down the floor they go, scoring points in transition and at will from virtually everywhere on the floor. Brandon Bass has 30 points and Antonio Hudson has been lighting it up from beyond the arch.
If LSU continues running the floor like this, fans should begin coming around. The problem with the poor turnout in years past has been the Tigers lack of electrifying offense. But these Tigers are finally showing the offensive potential everyone knows they have and if they keep it up, with it will come more butts in the seats.
However, I do have to scold LSU fans just a bit. This tournament was designed to attract more fans. With scheduling Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane and Louisiana Tech, the idea was to draw fans from around the state. The placement of the tournament on the schedule was to coincide with the LSU-Ole Miss football game on Saturday. The idea of sandwiching these games around the football game would encourage the 100,000-plus fans on campus to find their way into the PMAC.
It didn't happen.
A little more than 6,000 folks turned out for the Tulane game and looking around the building this evening, it looks like less than that. Some fans find it trendy to bash John Brady, his coaching style and his team, but without support things will never get better. So get out and see this team play. It can be assured you will see something you will like.
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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