LSU paid $425,000 to the Bulldogs, a Division I-AA opponent that was supposed serve as an appetizer for the Tigers to the main course that is the Southeastern Conference.
But despite trailing 28-0 at halftime, the Citadel players showed the size of their fight by outscoring LSU 10-7 in the final thirty minutes of play, falling only by 25 points, 35-10, in a game they were supposed to lose by four or more touchdowns.
"In the first half, there was a tremendous physical difference in the two football teams on the field," Citadel head coach Ellis Johnson said. "I thought LSU showed that they were a very superior team.
"I thought it was better the second half," he continued. "When we came in at halftime, I wasn't terribly disappointed in (the players), I was disappointed for them. I didn't think we were having any fun. We were playing hard and trying hard, but I think we were getting frustrated and I don't think they believed that they could play at that level.
"So we were challenged to come out after halftime and raise it a notch, and I think we did."
LSU scored on three of its first four possessions of the game, jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead on TD rushed by LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis. The Tigers racked up 317 first-half yards while limiting the Bulldogs to 106. A Citadel fumbled punt return in the third quarter led to a Matt Mauck six-yard touchdown run that resulted the 28-0 halftime score.
Following intermission, it appeared the Tigers grew complacent while the Bulldogs got psyched up, with the statistics flip-flopping to prove it.
The Citadel outgained LSU offensively 116 yards to 42, and was able to recover a Michael Clayton fumble that would lead to their first touchdown of the season. LSU's sole score of the second half came when Damien James intercepted Citadel backup QB Joe Call's pass and returned it for a touchdown.
"Whether LSU was as intense as they were the first half, I don't know," Johnson said. "But other than the one turnover for touchdown — which took away a lot of our momentum — we played as well as they did or better through the first 20 minutes of the second half."
Citadel quarterback Jeff Klein (9) tries to elude LSU linebacker Bradie James (11) during first quarter college football action. Klein completed a pass on the play. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
The Bulldogs were able to perform as well as they did offensively by shaking up their offensive strategy a bit. LSU anticipated a straightforward r unning game from The Citadel, and practiced to face a mix of draw plays and throws out of the shotgun.
But when Jeff Klein, an Auburn transfer, began running play-action bootlegs, the LSU defense was stymied.
"We were just putting plays together," Klein said. "It helps to have a positive play and then another one. Then you're third-and-two instead of third-and-nine. Then there's not as much pressure on the offense."
"We rolled (Klein) out a bit early on, which kept (the defense) from getting to him a little bit," Johnson said. "Later on, the pocket protection was pretty good. The second half, I thought it was a conditioning element. We were in a good enough condition, and I thought we were a little bit fresher. We did some good things while we had the football."
The Citadel also shrugged their usual 3-5 defense for a more traditional 4-4, though the change may not have had as much affect on the game as LSU's ineffectiveness offensively.
"I think we'll find some positive things on the film that we can build on," Johnson said. "If we eliminate the things that we're doing poorly — offensive penalties, drops, not catching punts, not covering kicks well — a lot of that was not due to LSU.
"Obviously, some of it was. They've got some great athletes that just out-manned us at times, but I though we did some things very poorly in the kicking game. That's what concerns me right now."