As with every football game at any level, there was a strong undercurrent of emotion last week when LSU and West Virginia squared off in Morgantown, W. Va.
As predictable as that was, nobody could’ve guessed there would be a hug involved.
Sure enough, though, right there in the middle of the field and on national television, Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery pulled it off.
“That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” LSU running back Spencer Ware said Monday.
On WVU’s first offensive series, Mountaineers’ center Joe Madsen got into a fracas with several defensive linemen and was flagged for a personal foul.
With players from both teams bowed up in case the situation accelerated, Montgomery stepped in – apparently to play peace-keeper.
When things had died down, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Montgomery swallowed up back judge Dale Keneipp in a brief bear hug before the man in black-and-white gently pushed Montgomery away.
Montgomery said he’d been hassled all day Monday in class, fellow students asking him “Sam why’d you do it?”
“The reason I did it was because I guess it was a lot of heat in the battle and I don’t want us to get a flag or a penalty,” Montgomery said. “So I just hugged the ref and said ‘You know it wasn’t none of us.’ And he was like ‘Don’t hug me on national TV.’ So it was pretty funny.”
Senior Brandon Taylor tugged Montgomery away from the official before any more illicit hugging happened.
“I told him you can’t do that because you get a flag for touching the refs,” Taylor said, trying and failing to suppress a smile. “You got to expect that from Sam. You never know what he’s going to do.”
Since the hug, Montgomery and Keneipp have become popular on YouTube.com.
“I didn’t see it when it happened, but I saw it on YouTube and I was like ‘Sam what are you doing?’ ” Ware said with a chuckle. “I don’t know. That’s Sam.”
The hug might’ve served its purpose. The Tigers were flagged only five times in the 47-21 victory, while West Virginia drew 10 penalties.
“Oh no he was very humble with the flags,” Montgomery said. “He showed our team a lot of respect and especially our defense.”
“He didn’t want the hug.”
Not his specialty
Like the hug, other minor gaffes were fodder for humor after LSU dismantled the Mountaineers.
With LSU driving in the fourth quarter, the offensive coaches dialed up an end-around to tight end DeAngelo Peterson. Lee handed off to Ware who pitched to Peterson, coming around from the right side.
Irvin sniffed out the play and blazed past Lee to make the tackle for an 8-yard loss.
“I did miss a block,” Lee said with an ear-to-ear grin. “I tried to get width and get out there and I thought D-Lo was going to be already behind me when I got my width and got out there, but that guy flew right by me and there was nothing I could do about it.
“I haven’t had to lay any blocks here. We’ve got other guys who are better than that.”
Numbers don’t lie
Understandably, LSU’s defensive crew didn’t have a very enjoyable Monday.
At practice for the first time since surrendering 533 total yards and 463 passing yards to the Mountaineers, the Tigers defenders sat down, watched video and were informed exactly what went wrong by their coaches.
“We got chewed out real good (Monday),” Taylor said. “And they worked us out pretty good.”
The numbers stuck out like a fistful of sore thumbs.
Missed tackles: 17
Yards after catch: 106
Missed interceptions: 6
“Our scheme had us in position to make a lot of big plays and we just didn’t,” safety Eric Reid said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and get that fixed.”
That will happen this week with tackling circuit drills, and undoubtedly, a pickup in intensity.
By the time LSU’s defense takes the field at Tiger Stadium against Kentucky, there should be a noticeable edge.
“Last week was an eye-opener for us,” Reid said. “It gave us something to refocus on.
“Especially after the way the coaches handled our meeting, I think we’ll be ready for this week.”
Ware not worn out
After another game with 20-plus carries at WVU, Ware shrugged off the idea that he’s getting physically worn out after four weeks as the Tigers’ No. 1 tailback.
The sophomore has carried the ball 77 times, which is tied for the second most in the SEC with Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell, for 318 yards (ninth in the league).
Lee said Ware hasn’t shown any signs of not wanting the ball. Quite the opposite in fact.
“He gets hit hard but he always come back to the huddle smiling and that’s what you want from your tailback,” Lee said.
“That’s just Spencer. That’s just the kind of player he is. He doesn’t say much. He just does his job. He runs so hard and protects so well.”
Ware flashed a different skill against West Virginia with a couple of spin moves on a game-sealing drive that led to 20 rushing yards on plays when he appeared to be stacked up at the line of scrimmage.
“He makes them miss, he spins, he runs over them, he’s just a special player,” Lee said.