Monday, July 30, 2007

College Football at its Best - LSU Tigers

Stiles Points wraps up the series College Football at its Best this week with five straight profiles over the next five, the spotlight goes on the LSU Tigers...the editor of As the Valley Shook took his time to respond to the questions...

  • And the Valley Shook

  • Q1. Explain the mystique of night games at Tiger Stadium and the pure noise. Also, why does LSU wear white jerseys at home?
    First of all, some background from "Since 1960, LSU is 202-59-3 (.771) at night in Tiger Stadium compared to a 19-22-3 (.432) record during the day over that span."

    That link is

    So yes, the Tigers tend to perform much better at night than during the day. Maybe it's the sheer heat during the day that makes the fans a little more muted during the down times of day games, and the lack of that makes the atmosphere electric from start to finish at night. Who knows. But give a bunch of Louisiana folks 10 hours to drink, eat, and drink some more, and you're bound to have a more rabid fanbase by 7pm than you would for the typical 2:30 CBS Prime Time slot.

    Regarding the white jerseys at home, some would say it's just that the lighter colors help ward off the heat, but it's actually a little more in depth than that. In fact, trusty wikipedia has a good background on it:

    "LSU is one of the few college football teams that wears white jerseys for home games. The tradition started in 1958, when Coach
    Paul Dietzel decided that LSU would wear white jerseys for the home games. LSU went on to win the national championship that year. Since then, LSU continued to wear white jerseys at home games. Then in 1982, new NCAA rules forbid teams from wearing white jerseys at home. Because of this, LSU wore purple jerseys during home games from 1983 to 1994. In 1995, LSU's new coach, Gerry DiNardo, was determined to restore LSU's tradition of white home jerseys. DiNardo personally met with each member of the NCAA Football Rules Committee, lobbying LSU's case. DiNardo was successful, and LSU again began wearing white jerseys at home when the 1995 season began. In LSU's first home game with the white jerseys, unranked LSU staged a stunning 12-6 upset victory over #6 Auburn. In 2000, LSU's new coach, Nick Saban, altered the tradition of the white home jerseys: now LSU only wears white jerseys for the home opener and for home games against SEC opponents. For non-SEC home games other than the home opener, LSU wears purple jerseys at home."

    Q2. What is the greatest LSU football game that you have seen - whether it be in-person or on television? Explain the game and why it was so great.
    Greatest in-person Tiger game I've ever seen (and I was at our BCS National Championship victory over Oklahoma) would have to be the win at Arizona State in 2005. It was our first game after Hurricane Katrina, and the game had been moved to Tempe as a result of LSU's campus being used as a staging ground for the National Guard; the campus would not remotely be able to accomdate 92,000 fans for a football game.

    A boatload of Tiger fans made the trip from South Louisiana (I fortunately only had to hop out from Los Angeles). While it was great just to see the Tigers in action again after eight months off, the game was frustrating for Tiger fans for the first three quarters as we were more or less thoroughly dominated by ASU. All seemed lost when suddenly in the fourth quarter the Tigers special teams blocked a punt and a field goal and returned them both for touchdowns, giving us the lead and instantly making it a contest. The Devils, however, continued shredding our secondary and it was back-and-forth for the rest of the game, until on a 4th down with a minute to go at the Devils' 40 yard line, JaMarcus Russell heaved a pass into the endzone where a falling-out-of-bounds Early Doucet managed to grab it with a foot in, sealing the victory. Just an all-time great emotional high.

    Q3. Who are the Tigers most hated rival - Arkansas, Alabama, or Ole Miss?
    There's no question now, it's Alabama. Anyone can sum it up in two words: Nick Saban.

    Q4. Since 1970, who are the five greatest players to wear an LSU uniform?
    Hmm, beyond #1 it's a tough one. I'll go with:
    1) Tommy Casanova, 1969-1971 (Safety, 3-time All American)
    2) Kevin Faulk 1995-1998 (RB, All American and LSU's all time rushing leader)
    3) Charles Alexander 1976-1978 (RB, two-time All American)
    4) Bert Jones 1970-1972 (QB, All American)
    5) Josh Reed 1999-2001 (WR, All American)

    I hate making that list, given I had to leave names off like QB Tommy Hodson (4-year starter, LSU's all-time passing leader), a heap of All American defensive linemen over the past decade (notably Booger McFarland and Chad Lavalais), and guys like LaRon Landry (4-year starter, including as a freshman on our national championship team).

    Q5. Make your case why LSU football, as a whole, is the best football program in the country?
    We aren't the best football program in the country right now, so I won't make that case (my vote would go to USC). But we are damn close. Since 2000, we have won one national championship (2003), two SEC Championships (2001, 2003), slaughtered two consecutive highly ranked opponents in bowl games (#9 Miami 40-3 in the 2005 Peach Bowl, and #10 Notre Dame 41-14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl), finishing in the top ten four times in the past six seasons (2001, 2003, 2005, 2006). I don't have time to sort every year right now, but I think the only other schools who can make that claim are USC, Texas, and Ohio State. Maybe Oklahoma, but we've had more recent success ( i.e. consecutive top 5 finishes). Regardless, it's a mere handful of schools with a track record remotely equivalent to ours in the 21st century. It's a very short list, and we're clearly on it.

    I want to thank And the Valley Shook for his time...tomorrow we stay in the SEC once again and focus on the Tennessee Volunteers...

    Here are a few links to stories that I found in Sunday newspapers...

    St. Louis Dispatch reporter Joe Holleman writes about co-worker Rick Hummel who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday to the sportswriter wing of the museum... "To beat writers, ballplayers and bartenders, Post-Dispatch baseball scribe Rick Hummel has been an unofficial legend for years. On Sunday, it’s official"....

  • Joe Holleman

  • Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Ron Cook writes about former Pitt head coach Johnny Majors who is moving from Pittsburgh back to Tennessee.... "Some people go through life without ever having a real home. Majors, 72, is lucky; he has two." ....
  • Ron Cook

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are closing in on being one of the losingest franchises in a sports history....
  • Pittsburgh Post Gazette

  • The New York Times Richard Sandomir writes about Mindy Ellis, the person who sculpts the faces on each Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.... "The spacious first-floor gallery where the plaques bearing the bronzed likenesses of 278 inductees hang here at the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame is part mausoleum, part fan’s paradise." ....
  • Richard Sandomir

  • (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reporter Doug Lesmerises writes about Phil Steele, the independent football guru who produces the football preview magazine.... "Twenty-five years after starting a football betting tip line from the back of his parents' house, the 1979 John Marshall High grad produces one of a handful of major college football preseason magazines." ....
  • Doug Lesmerises