DEVILLE: Williams issues charge to teammates

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Read any history book on college football and there will always be a chapter on legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.

Rockne owns one of the game's best all-time winning percentages. But more famous than his 100-plus wins in South Bend were the words by which he used to inspire his teams of the 1920s. Rockne's words are still used to this day to light the fire of gridders everywhere, on ever level.

 

There is the famed "Win one for the Gipper" speech, where Rockne inspired his undermanned Irish team to a win over top-ranked Army rallying his team to play in memory of fallen teammate George Gipp.

 

Or the "Inside-Outside" talk made famous in the movie "Rudy," where Rockne stood on a stool in the Notre Dame locker room shaking his fists in the air rousing his troops before battle.

 

While Rockne's words will echo forever through the annals of college football lore, the words of defensive tackle Kyle Williams uttered in a distant locker room on a fall November evening won't be remembered with the same notoriety.

 

That is, by those not present.

 

However, the members of the LSU football team that were on the receiving end of Williams' scolding at halftime last Saturday took their senior captains' words to heart – and it most definitely showed on the field.

 

"Kyle Williams gave a halftime speech that spoke to the defense," said LSU coach Les Miles after Saturday's 16-13 overtime win at No. 3 Alabama.

 

Williams, LSU's most vocal leader, had some rather strong words for his defensive comrades. The Tigers trailed 10-0 and the LSU defense allowed what had been categorized as an anemic Alabama offense to roll up 207 yards and plenty of momentum.

 

"I was pretty fired up," Williams said. "They had the momentum going into halftime and we had to come back and reclaim it."

 

After LSU's coaching staff met with the team at halftime, Williams took the floor addressing primarily the defense. But his message was heard loud and clear by the rest of the team.

 

"It was really directed toward the defense, but the way our locker room was set up, everybody heard it," said senior center Rudy Niswanger. "I'll tell you, I may not remember what it was he said exactly, but I'll never forget how he said it."

 

Williams felt as if the defense was allowing the Alabama offense to dictate the tempo of the game. The Crimson Tide took it to the LSU defense with an equal balance of run and pass and it showed on the stat sheet as well as the scoreboard.

 

"I just didn't feel like we were playing together defensively," Williams said. "We were kind of pointing at one another. We weren't relying on one another and playing our brand of football. I just challenged everybody in the second half to come together and play the type of football we know we are capable of playing."

 

Fellow defensive linemate Claude Wroten said Williams' message was one of inspiration and the team answered the bell.

 

"He stepped up tonight, got in our face and said we have to play as a unit and not individuals," Wroten said. "He said when we play as a family, we can accomplish anything."

 

Needless to say, not only did the defense take what its captain said to heart, the entire Tiger team stepped up to the charge.

 

"We came back out and played like he spoke," Miles said.

 

LSU took the ball to open the second half and drove 80 yards for its first touchdown of the game. Justin Vincent's one-yard run gave the Tigers the momentum boost they needed and was the first touchdown given up by the Alabama defense in 15 quarters.

 

"We have a saying," Niswanger said. "It is called ‘Withstand the Surge.' That is just what we did. In the second half we didn't panic. We came back out with confidence and played our game."

 

LSU's defense held Alabama to a three and out on its first offensive possession of the second half. LSU safety LaRon Landry delivered a lethal blow to Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle on third down that not only shattered Croyle's confidence but crippled the Tide's psyche.

 

The Tigers limited Alabama to a mere four yards of total offense in the third quarter and less than 70 yards in the second half and overtime.

 

"I think we did okay in the second half," Williams laughed.

From here, the Tigers hold their future in their collective hands. Wins over Ole Miss and Arkansas over the next two weeks will land LSU in the SEC Championship Game for the third time in five seasons.

 

"We have all of our goals in front of us," Williams said. "It feels good. We control our destiny and we like it that way. We like the fact we can rely on ourselves rather than what somebody else does."

 

Well put Kyle.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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