Over the course of a 12-game football season, the tests each week are all going to be a little different.
Some tougher, some more mundane.
Thing is, all 12 games create a mosaic of a season, especially for a team with sky-high hopes.
That means one bad week can have an unwanted and lingering ripple effect for the rest of the season, to the point of spoiling a season.
You have to wonder if there hasn’t been a little discussion along those lines this week as No. 2-ranked LSU prepared for Northwestern State.
The Tigers (1-0) and Demons (1-0) kick off at 7 p.m. in LSU’s 2011 home opener and the lone game at Tiger Stadium of the opening month.
For LSU, the danger of coming out flat – especially with a Thursday night road game at Mississippi State looming on the closer-than-usual horizon – is real and has undoubtedly been brought up throughout a week when coming down to earth has a several day process after the Tigers throttled Oregon 40-27 last week.
Recent memories of lethargic victories against McNeese State last season, Louisiana Tech in 2009 and Troy in 2008 were likely rekindled to illustrate a point now and then.
“This is not a game you can take lightly at all,” LSU guard/center T-Bob Hebert said. “They’re going to throw some things at us that we have to be ready for, for sure.”
First and foremost, the Demons will take the field armed with a ton of energy.
For one thing, this is the first time Northwestern State has met LSU since 1942, and when a little in-state brother gets a rare shot at big brother, adrenalin won’t be hard to find.
Add in the presence of third-year Demons’ coach Bradley Dale Peveto – a former Tigers’ assistant – and his never-slow-down personality, and there should be some red flags squarely in LSU’s line of sight.
“They’re well-coached; I can see a lot of Peveto on the field,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “He is very competitive and coaches with passion. He has a strong feel for his players and I know that they’re going to be very ready to play.”
All the politically correct talk aside, this is a game in which LSU is clearly the superior team and should win decisively if it plays to its capability.
Coupled with the raw fact that the Tigers left plenty of room for improvement, even after their impressive win against Oregon, and the thought of peeking ahead should be an afterthought.
“These teams coming in here are excited and want to beat us,” quarterback Jarrett Lee said. “It’s our job to stay focused and make sure nothing like that happens.”
Northwestern State came into the season with designs on being in the thick of the Southland Conference race and battling for an FCS playoff spot.
The Demons were 5-6 last season and a four-game mid-season winning streak had them knocking on the door in the Southland penthouse.
A veteran corps group is back from that team, but Baton Rouge product Paul Harris, the starting QB, is not. He was suspended after Northwestern State’s season-opening 24-23 victory against Division II Delta State for a sideline squabble and won’t be on the field vs. LSU.
Without Harris, the Demons reached down deep to rally back from a 17-0 deficit and edge Delta. But their defense – which is poised to be a team strength – allowed 421 yards and 27 first downs.
That should make for some opportunities for Lee and the Tigers’ work-in-progress offense to test their limits and see what works best moving forward into the teeth of the SEC schedule.
With LSU relying heavily on a running game that generated 175 yards against Oregon, Lee was 10-of-22 passing for only 98 yards and a touchdown.
He said he felt comfortable back in the starting role for only the second time since 2008, and there were a handful of dropped passes that kept the fifth-year senior from having a better day. But Lee said there’s plenty of room to get better.
“I’m trying to be more in sync with those receivers,” he said. “There were a couple of miscommunications from the sideline that I had that were my fault and we need to get those fixed.
“There’s no doubt we need to throw the ball better and I think if we get a couple of things fixed we will,” Lee said.
If not, leaning on Spencer Ware and Michael Ford wouldn’t be the worst alternative in the world. Those two both flirted with 100-yard rushing nights vs. the Ducks, giving Peveto’s defense plenty to think about.
Peveto talked this week about emulating McNeese’s effort last year and delivering the first blows early to let the Tigers know they have showed up to play.
He will also bring his entire 115-man roster to the game half and the Demons will arrive an hour earlier than usual to let the players soak in the atmosphere.
Don’t mistake Peveto’s gestures for a white flag or the notion that his team will simply go through the motions, though.
“We’re going to be very aggressive,” he said. “We’ve got some surprises coming. We’re going there to try and win the game. There’s no doubt about that.”
Which means the LSU defense has to be on its toes.
Even then, though, there was leftover room for improvement.
“We’ve got to keep grinding,” senior safety Brandon Taylor said. “We missed a couple of tackles and had some blown assignments and were supposed to check into some different coverages. We can always get better and that’s what we need to do this week.”
This week, after all, counts the same as any other. One of 12 during a long season that tell a story when it’s all said and done.
Notebook: Peterson comfortable with his new role ANALYSIS: LSU-Northwestern State
ANALYSIS: LSU-Northwestern State