No. 7 LSU aims to be hospitable to S. Carolina – to a point
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) By now, LSU coach Les Miles knows as well as anyone that football isn’t entirely weather proof, even if it can be played in rain or snow.
The mid-week relocation of No. 7 LSU’s scheduled road game Saturday from South Carolina to Tiger Stadium is only the latest of a handful of weather-affected LSU games since Miles became the Tigers’ coach in 2005.
”We certainly understand the whims of weather,” Miles said this week as he offered words of encouragement to those dealing with flooding in and around Columbia, South Carolina.
Miles’ first three games with LSU were affected by weather.
The 2005 season opener, against North Texas, was postponed to a common open date later in the season because of Hurricane Katrina. The next game, which was the first one played that season, was moved from Tiger Stadium to Arizona State because Baton Rouge was overwhelmed by storm evacuees from the New Orleans area and the campus was helping with relief efforts.
Miles’ next game was delayed two days and played on a Monday night in Death Valley because Hurricane Rita.
In 2008, the approach of Hurricane Gustav caused kickoff against Appalachian State to be moved from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. Gustav then ripped through Baton Rouge, damaging Tiger Stadium and postponing the following game against Troy until later that season.
This season, the home opener against McNeese State was called off just minutes after it began because of persistent lightning.
Now LSU is getting a home game back, in a sense.
Technically, the Gamecocks will be the home team in Death Valley – a bit of irony for a team whose chief in-state rival, Clemson, plays in a stadium with the same nickname.
Efforts are being made at LSU to show solidarity with, and support for, recovering South Carolina. Just don’t expect LSU’s charity to extend to the playing field; the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) want to remain atop the SEC’s Western Division.
It’s hardly ideal for the struggling Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3) to have a home game against the already favored Tigers moved to LSU. But coach Steve Spurrier emphasized that the competitive concerns of his program were ”on the back burner of what’s best for our community.”
”What’s best for the victims of the flood is something we all have to take into very serious consideration,” Spurrier said.
Here are some things to know about South Carolina’s home-away-from-home game at LSU:
TOUGH MATCHUP: South Carolina is giving up 170 yards per game on the ground, which ranks ninth in the SEC. Now they have to contend with LSU Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, who is averaging 216 yards to lead a Tigers ground game averaging an SEC-best 336 yards. ”We’ll do about what every team tries to do when they play LSU,” Spurrier said. ”We’ve got to get everyone up there, try and knock down the blockers, and try and get a hold of (Fournette) before he gets into the secondary.”
SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: Short of painting the end zones red, efforts were being made to make South Carolina feel more welcome than the typical SEC visitor. The LSU band was learning to play South Carolina’s alma mater and digital billboards around town were programmed to read, ”Geaux Gamecocks! Make yourself at home” (In Louisiana, the word ”Go,” is sometimes spelled ”Geaux,” in a nod to the state’s Cajun French heritage). Collection sites for donations were expected to be set up near the game and LSU planned to donate all game revenue beyond the expense of hosting the contest to South Carolina as well.
RUNNING WILDS: Fifth-year senior Brandon Wilds has returned to practice this week and is likely to start at tailback. ”Hopefully, he will play a whole lot,” Spurrier said. ”We need him out there.” Wilds bruised some ribs three games ago at Georgia and missed the past two games.
DUBIOUS HISTORY?: Steve Spurrier is on the verge of his first 0-4 start in the Southeastern Conference in his career and closer to his first SEC losing campaign in 23 seasons at Florida and South Carolina. Spurrier opened 0-3 in SEC play in his South Carolina debut season of 2005, yet rallied the Gamecocks to five straight league victories.
DEAF VALLEY?: Tiger Stadium might not be as loud as usual. LSU planned to keep some sections closed unless demand for tickets placed on sale just days before kickoff was high enough to fill the 102,000-seat stadium.
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.