The players knew. Josh Dworaczyk nearly shed a tear in the locker room.
Les Miles knew. He exclaimed, “Yahoo!” during his opening statement in the press room.
The students knew. Nearly all of them stayed for the celebratory alma mater, a rarity.
LSU had one night to right the wrongs done for the first six weeks.
A loss to No. 3 South Carolina on the first Saturday night SEC home game in Tiger Stadium since 2010 would have derailed one of the most anticipated seasons in school history. The team talking and tweeting about playing for a national championship for 10 months would have been on a high-speed monorail to the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
Not on their watch.
LSU flipped the script from the previous week and edged a surging South Carolina team in front of a packed house in Tiger Stadium.
Last week, Florida held the ball 37 minutes in Gainesville. This time, the Tigers had it 37.
Florida won the battle on the ground 176 to 42. This time, LSU won it 258 to 34.
Florida stopped LSU on 12 of 13 third down chances. This time, the Tigers stopped Carolina on 10 of 13,
The Tigers were the Tigers. And they had to be.
But the battle won doesn’t declare the war over. Remember the South Carolina team that entered Death Valley Saturday night dominated a Top 5 team on its own field in front of an electric crowd the week before. It’s tough to get up two weeks in a row.
Now the Tigers have to head on the road to what will certainly be a hostile environment in College Station, Tx. A loss there all but assures no trip to Atlanta.
Well, a win sets up another larger than life game against No. 1 Alabama. In Tiger Stadium. At night.
Les Miles understands what that means.
“That was Tiger Stadium,” said the Tiger coach. “That was the place where opponents dreams come to die.”
What he really meant was that was the place where his team’s dreams could have died.
But they didn’t.
The Tigers overcame an obscene rash of injuries up front and ran the football. No one was going to feel sorry for big bad LSU because some people got hurt. Miles plugged in a pair of freshmen on the right side of the offensive side of the offensive line. He inserted a freshman at tailback.
Add it all up and you get a 50 yard touchdown gallop over the offensive right side by Jeremy Hill to give LSU a two-score cushion.
Drinks, many of which were probably not suitable for children, rained from the LSU student section.
The party was on, and so was a puzzling, yet predictable, chant.
“We want Bama!” echoed the students.
Funny what a good week can do. If the Tigers can get a win at Texas A&M, the students will get their epic matchup.
That’s because their Tigers saved the season.