As the teams lined up for the opening kickoff, the south Baton Rouge sky filled with dark blue clouds that were moving quickly toward the north. By the time ULM punter Joel Stelley put a foot into his first kick following the Indians initial three-and-out, drops started to fall.
The kick was shanked and fielded by Ronnie Prude around midfield. As LSU's offense took the field, the rain began to fall harder. Three plays later, freshman kicker Ryan Gaudet lined up for a short field goal. As he approached the ball, the rain was falling so hard that the east side of the stadium was not visible from the press box on the west side of Tiger Stadium.
It looked as if play would resume through one of the hardest rainstorms these eyes have ever seen, but with the first bolt of lightning, both teams were instructed to retreat into their respective lock rooms. They would return some 45 minutes later.
The rout was on – sort of.
The Tigers returned to the field and appeared awfully sluggish as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. It wasn't until the 7:00 mark in the second quarter did LSU get on the board when Matt Mauck connected with Devery Henderson on a 8-yard touchdown pass, but from then it began raining (pardon the pun) touchdowns as the Tigers hit paydirt twice again before the half to secure a 21-0 lead at the intermission.
The second half was little more than a glorified scrimmage as head coach Nick Saban shuttled players in and out of the game with the frequency of a New York City subway train.
Coming out of the first game, this is what we know:
- Matt Mauck is not as bad as his numbers indicate. He did complete just 13-of-28 passes, but take into account Mauck did have six dropped passes. Also, Marcus Randall was impressive in reserve action. Let's just say our prediction of him getting bumped to third string has been put on ice for a while.
- Joseph Addai is a capable running back as he ran with authority, but we are taking into consideration he was playing against the 117th ranked team in America. Shyrone Carey will be an electrifying return specialist, Justin Vincent is adequate right now and Alley Broussard will be a star in a purple and gold uniform.
- The receiving corps is as impressive as we thought they would be, however, the group of studs and superstars to be underachieved on this night. Dropped balls were too plentiful to call it a good night for the corps, but they will be better next time. Michael Clayton strutted his stuff as usual – Dwayne Bowe's one catch sold this writer he is a big-time player.
- Saban has been looking for a pass rush, and thanks to a few true freshmen, he might have found it. Kirston Pittman was in ULM quarterback Stephen Jyles' face early and often. And isn't it ironic that one of only two sacks came from true freshman LaRon Landry, the safety that has been the object of Saban's praise throughout fall camp. Also, true freshman Jesse Daniels (also a sparkle in Saban's eye) was second on the team with four solo tackles. Oh yeah, and about Pittman, remember he has been putting pressure on Marquise Hill at defensive end. Hill's jersey was as white as snow after Saturday's muddy affair, I think you get the picture.
- Kudos to Jack Hunt. After taking so much abuse after being dragged up and down the field at the Cotton Bowl last year by Texas' Roy Williams, Hunt got some redemption picking off a Jyles and returning it 31 yards for his first collegiate touchdown.
Finally, the kickers. Saban may say Gaudet is more accurate on short kicks and true freshman Chris Jackson will be used for long field goals and kickoffs, but from what Jackson showed Saturday, he has the leg and poise to kick at this level. All he needs is game experience to solidify his job as the Tigers next great kicker.
On a personal note, I would like to send out a great big thank you the LSU Alumni Association Birmingham Chapter for inviting me to attend their preseason gathering on August 23. The folks in Birmingham were very gracious in asking me to play in their chapter golf tournament at Highland Park Golf Course. I also was asked to speak about LSU football at a dinner held later that evening. Special thanks go out to Richard Coston and Ken Lowe for asking me to attend as well as my host, Kenny Haynes. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Greg Evans and Gary Ascani, who were in my golfing group. I had a great time guys. Thanks, Matt.