In the aftermath of the sitcom that was the LSU-Towson football game, you would have to hope that the bewildered combatants – the LSU Tigers, not the Towson Tigers – realize that the long, seemingly endless summer party is over.
Either that or that the party is just getting started.
They get to decide.
For now, they better realize a few things:
To begin with, neither Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss nor Arkansas are likely going to take the first quarter off to accommodate a lackluster LSU football team. Hell, Ole Miss had a lead over Alabama in the second quarter Saturday. And, without digressing terribly, allow a moment to play the comparative scores game again: Alabama’s 33-14 victory looks a lot better than LSU’s 38-22 over Towson.
Second, you don’t get mulligans in college football. All right, you kind of do against North Texas, Idaho and Towson, but you don’t when it counts.
And LSU better know what people are thinking.
Some key word, like exposed.
Heck, even lollygaggers because you just don’t get too many chances to effectively call a bunch of football players lollygaggers and it feels great to type lollygaggers.
“I thought we played down to our opponent,” LSU coach Les Miles understated.
Lollygaggers fumble a lot. Lollygaggers let an inferior team feel good about itself. Lollygaggers miss tackles galore all game long and then allow that same inferior team to drive the ball down their throats late in the game on their home field.
Well, almost their home field.
No telling what that was at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, a Hallman-esque shrine to at least 45,000 people who showed up disguised as empty seats. Perhaps there were 50,000 at the start. Perhaps there were 15,000 at game’s end.
Tailgaters? Let’s just say that the area grocery stores took a hit last week, because in nearly 30 years of traipsing around outside that stadium, that was the fewest number of pre-game partiers I’ve ever seen. The campus was relatively empty, so it was no surprise there was nothing remotely approaching an electric atmosphere.
You can debate forever the effects of a no-name opponent, the rain, the apathy among the fans, but the bottom line is this isn’t intramurals. LSU football is a big business and the guys who play it know they’re not only on scholarship, they are cogs in the program that in essence makes everything else happen in the athletic department. That money that LSU sports donated to the university side recently? Football cash. All those Olympic sports that get to compete at the highest level? Football cash. Immeasurable businesses in Baton Rouge, including those aforementioned grocery stores depend on LSU football eight weekends a year.
Should the money make LSU play better football? Not to those kids who wear the uniforms, but it shouldn’t be lost on them what their participation and responsibility means.
And then there’s the part about performance versus expectations. Many people around the LSU program with educated opinions said from the start LSU was a national-championship contender. The Tigers may still be, but the bet here is they don’t get to the SEC Championship Game. Forget Alabama. There’s a real good chance LSU will lose at Florida and at home to South Carolina.
Its offensive line is in shambles. Even my wife texted me during the game to say that LSU’s O-line is the Uh-Oh line. It brings up the old jokes about the Blew By-You protection or even the Look-out block.
That’s when the lineman turns around to the quarterback and yells, “Look out!”
The offensive line can’t take all the criticism. The line didn’t fumble. The line didn’t allow 22 points, more than half of what LSU had allowed in the previous four games total.
Had Towson somehow won, it would have been the greatest upset in the history of college football, a lower-division team beating the No. 3 team in the land on its home field.
In the second half, you knew LSU would pull away, but the damage was done.
“I must not well have prepared them,” Miles said in a way that only Miles can.
Now LSU goes to Florida, one of the most hostile environments in the game. Thw Swamp is loud and its fans are mean. What’s more, Florida, which wasn’t getting a whole lot of respect early on, is 4-0 and had the weekend off, sitting at 11th in one poll and 12th in the other.
The Gators beat Bowling Green to open the season 27-14. The won at Texas A&M 20-17 in a game after which you had to wonder if Florida was going to struggle this season. But then they won 37-20 at Tennessee and then blasted lowly Kentucky 38-0, which wouldn’t normally mean much but if you back to the comparative scores game, consider that South Carolina escaped Kentucky on Saturday 38-17 after trailing 17-7 at halftime.
Because of who LSU played and who it will play and knowing that the stakes are so high, you can certainly imagine that the Tigers will have a renewed sense of purpose in practice this week. Perhaps the coach will be able to say something like “I must have well prepared them this week,” after LSU plays Florida.
Fumbles, penalties, missed tackles, a quarterback who flashes between brilliant and bewildered. All the things that will get you beaten at Florida.
The highly quotable Sam Montgomery, LSU’s high-energy junior defensive end, was asked after the Towson game if the Tigers will bounce back this week.
“You get your heart back and your focus back and your integrity, that’s all it takes to win a football game,” Montgomery said.
He’d better be right if LSU wants to party on the right way or like a bunch of lollygaggers.
Baton Rouge sportswriter and television host Lee Feinswog has been covering LSU sports since 1984 and is the author of three books, two about LSU football. Find him and watch clips from his show at www.sports225.com.