BATON ROUGE -- Another much anticipated LSU football season get underway on Thursday night when the second-ranked Tigers jump right into the fire with a Southeastern Conference contest against Mississippi State.
The game will serve as the major college football opener for the 2007 and will be televised to a national audience on ESPN. Kickoff for the contest is slated for 7:01 p.m. from a sold out Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
It’s the first time that LSU will make an appearance on the popular ESPN Thursday Night telecast, while the Bulldogs will be making their 13th appearance. The Mississippi State game marks the first time in school history that the Tigers will play a non-holiday, regular season game on a Thursday night.
LSU, considered by many to be the favorite to win the SEC this year, is coming off an 11-2 overall mark a year ago. The Tigers bring a seven-game winning streak into the State contest, which includes a 41-14 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to cap last year. Mississippi State is coming off a 3-9 mark from a year ago, which included a 48-17 loss to LSU in Tiger Stadium.
LSU has won seven straight and 14 of its last 15 against the Bulldogs, which includes a 37-7 victory in its last trip to Starkville in 2005. However, LSU coach Les Miles is quick to warn that this isn’t the same Mississippi State team from a year ago.
“Mississippi State is a quality football team that is very well coached,” Miles said of the Bulldogs. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Croom and the job he’s done there. He will have his team prepared and ready to play. We expect their best shot and as a result, we are going to have to go out and play with focus and execute on every play for four quarters.”
Thursday’s game also marks the second time in three years that the Tigers will open a season away from home. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina postponed LSU’s scheduled season-opener against North Texas and then shifted the Arizona State contest from Baton Rouge to Tempe. LSU used a fourth-quarter rally to win that game, 35-31.
It also marks the first time since 1991 that an LSU team will open the season with a conference opponent. That year, the Tigers dropped a 31-10 decision to Georgia in Athens.
“We understand that the environment we walk in to Thursday night will be loud and noisy,” Miles said of playing in front of a sellout crowd on the road in Starkville. “The good news is we bring a veteran team with us. We have guys on this team that understand what it’s like to play on the road in a loud stadium.”
Among those players expected to lead the Tigers on offense are a trio of seniors in quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Jacob Hester and wide receiver Early Doucet. Flynn will be making only the second start of his career and the first during the regular season after backing up JaMarcus Russell for the past two years.
“We have tremendous confidence in Matt and his ability to lead our offense,” Miles said. “He had a great spring and has done a terrific job this fall during camp. We ask a lot of our quarterback and he has responded extremely well. He has done what we need him to do, whether it is to put us in the right play, to make the right throw and make the reads on the run.
Flynn’s appearance against State will be his first significant action since earning Peach Bowl MVP honors in 2005 after leading the Tigers to a 40-3 win over Miami.
Defensively, the Tigers return eight starters on that side of the ball, including three members of a defensive front that is considered the best in the nation. Headlining the list of starters on defense are All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, pre-season All-America defensive end Tyson Jackson, linebacker Ali Highsmith and cornerback Chevis Jackson.
Last year, the Tigers ranked among the top five in the nation in several defensive categories, including scoring (12.6 points per game), total defense (242.8 yards per game), and pass defense (145.7 yards per game).
Junior Colt David will handle the kicking duties for the Tigers, while senior Patrick Fisher will serve as LSU’s punter. Other special teams duties have Doucet and speedster Trindon Holliday handling kickoff return duties, while Doucet will also double as LSU’s punt returner.
“We’ve worked hard this summer and during camp and you can just look at the players and tell that they are ready to play a game,” Miles said. “When you work so hard, practices are only enjoyed because you can celebrate that hard work with a game. Our guys are looking forward to Thursday night. It will be the first nationally televised game of the year and our guys always look forward to playing on television. There is a little bit extra enthusiasm because of that.”
I'm so pumped - I can't wait until tonight!!! Evidently I'm not the only person excited about LSU Football this year... all tickets for all LSU home games are officially sold out already!
I'm also very excited about the arrival of our new live mascot on campus this week. On Saturday, 2-year-old Roscoe made the trip to LSU, where he is expected to become Mike VI and represent the university. The Bengal-Siberian mix tiger should become LSU’s largest tiger and approach 700 pounds in three years, said David Baker, Mike’s veterinarian. Roscoe weighs nearly 300 pounds now. (see Roscoe's photo)
Roscoe is tentatively scheduled for release into his new tiger habitat at LSU on Sept. 8 – the day of the home football opener against Virginia Tech... when he will officially replace the late Mike V and become Mike VI.