This article was copied from the Times-Picayune Sports Desk Log.
Saturday's game could be the best or worst thing for LSU
Friday, September 30, 2005
By John Deshazier

The best thing for LSU could be getting back on the football field Saturday.

The worst thing for LSU could be getting back on the football field Saturday.

So far, we have no idea what to expect of the Tigers, except that they’re capable of yielding gobs of points and yards weekly, of mounting a stunning and monumental comeback on the road and of being on the wrong side of a disheartening, historic collapse at home.

Which means they could thump Mississippi State today, or they could find a way to toss the game away.

All that appears to be apparent from the first two games is that there will be few, if any “gimmes” on LSU’s schedule, that the Tigers may be equal parts hero and villain.

Granted, Arizona State and Tennessee, the first two opponents, aren’t Arizona Tech and Tennessee-Martin. Each was, and remains, nationally ranked. Both will play in bowl games, perhaps in a BCS bowl.

But the Tigers’ stirring victory over the Sun Devils, a home game pushed to the road because of Katrina, should have been a springboard against Tennessee. It appeared to be, with LSU taking leads of 21-0 and 24-7.

But the 30-27, overtime loss provided lots of room to doubt and shout.

“We had an opportunity to put a good football team away,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams lamented. “We got complacent.”

That’s why today’s game could be the best thing to happen for first-year Coach Les Miles, whose team needs a lot more than Listerine to wash the taste of Monday from its mouth. On the heels of the largest home collapse in the history of Tiger Stadium, the Tigers need to play, and play well, in the worst way.

They need to show they can stop a team for an entire block of 60 minutes. Prove they can handle and rebound from defeat since they failed to prosper after victory, even after a two-week break gave them ample time to come down and prepare for the next game.

Otherwise, the venom that flows from Monday becomes only more potent for the man who had the misfortune of following The Man, St. Nick.

Mississippi State would seem to be a favorable tonic, considering the Bulldogs (2-2) still are a notch below LSU in talent, still are attempting to recover from NCAA penalties levied in light of violations committed in past years.

The Bulldogs might not be 51 points worse than LSU, like last year, but they also aren’t yet on LSU’s level. Sylvester Croom inherited a mess; Miles, a mansion.

But, when you watch a team snap like LSU did Monday night, growing more passive as the hours passed, you wonder what kind of lows it might be capable of if it can’t ride the emotion of a home-opening crowd to victory against an opponent that, for 2½ to three quarters, looked awful.

If the Tigers can play Tennessee back into the game, seemingly forgetting to do all the things that generated a 21-point lead, then they’re capable of playing down to Mississippi State, or of allowing Mississippi State to play up.

What’d they learn from Monday?

There’s no way to tell until later today, when they are tested by the Bulldogs, who have played twice as many games (four) as an LSU team that Miles insists needs game action.

Will the Tigers fall or stand? Will they bite or be bitten? Will the groans and shouts cease -- for a couple of days, at least -- or swell to a level that Miles will be searching for earplugs?

The best thing for LSU could be getting back on the football field today.

The worst, too.