Nothing a guarantee in Nashville
Saturday, October 08, 2005
By Scooter Hobbs
Nashville, Tenn - Before snickering too loud and too long at Vanderbilt’s chances of upsetting 11th-ranked LSU tonight, consider the Tigers’ last couple of visits to the Commodores’ cozy home stadium.
On its last trip to Nashville, 1997, the Tigers had to block a Commodore extra point with no time remaining to escape with a 7-6 victory. It was an LSU team that upset No.1-ranked Florida 28-21 the very next week and eventually went 9-3.
Seven years earlier, the 2-0 Tigers, riding high after whipping Georgia in the season opener, had an allergic reaction to the Vanderbilt wishbone attack and managed to lose 24-21. It basically sealed Mike Archer’s fate as LSU’s head coach.
And those two Vanderbilt teams weren’t nearly as good as this one, which has captured some hearts around the South with a 4-1 start, 2-0 in the SEC and sharing the East Division lead with Georgia.
So maybe current Tiger coach Les Miles isn’t just baying at the moon when he expresses concern about tonight’s 6 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2.
He would, however, probably admit that LSU (2-1, 1-1) has a big edge in talent.
“I think we’re concerned about our season, concerned about our team,” Miles said. “We know that Vanderbilt’s very capable.”
“They played us pretty well last year (in Baton Rouge) and we were on our way to being a pretty good team,” LSU tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “They look a lot better this year.”
“They’re more physical this year,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams added. “I think the that’s the main difference these guys have shown this year. They’re playing a little more physical football than they have in the past.”
For all their rare success this season, the LSU visit will be the Commodores’ first against a ranked opponent, which they haven’t beaten since 1983.
And perhaps Vanderbilt had the LSU game circled a little too boldly on its calendar after getting off to a 4-0 start.
The Commodores were upset last week 17-15 by Middle Tennessee State.
“They’ll probably be even more fired up after losing one they thought they should have won,” Williams said. “I think they got caught up and excited about us coming to town and being an ESPN game, and playing them in their stadium. Things happen but they’ll be ready.”
A Vanderbilt victory would leave the Commodores 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1950.
“It would just kind of verify the fact we’ve all been feeling that this team is good,” Vanderbilt tight end Dustin Dunning said.
“I’ve really not addressed too much history,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “We’re not worried about what Vanderbilt’s done in the past. We’re trying to do what we’re doing this year. We got off to a great start and we just want to keep it going for us, for our team.”
LSU’s biggest concern will be Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, the preseason All-SEC pick at the position and the conference leader in passing yards and total offense.
LSU’s defense struggled in two previous games against veteran quarterbacks, having to rally for a 35-31 victory over Arizona State and blowing a three-touchdown lead before losing to Tennessee 30-27.
“As long as Cutler is on his game, they can give anybody trouble,” Williams said. “He’s good, and he’s mobile. We’ve got to get upfield, get in his face and get to him quick.
“I think we’ll have some opportunities to get at the quarterback. The thing we’ve got to do, is just play our game.”