The game was moved from 4 p.m. to the morning start after consultation with state officials in anticipation of an evacuation of New Orleans and an anticipated traffic contraflow order by the governor of Louisiana in preparation for the impact of soon to be Hurricane Gustav.
“Public safety was the overriding concern expressed by all parties when we met with the governor and his staff today,” said LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva. “Ten a.m. is obviously not the optimal time for a football game, but when one of the options was to not play the game at all, this is a matter of making the best of an unfortunate situation.”
Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come for the Tigers but despite the change in schedule LSU will be looking to start the season off on a winning note which would be much different than the way the headman’s alma mater started off the 2007 campaign.
Les Miles was not there to witness one of the darkest moments in his alma mater’s history. As the Appalachian State Mountaineers closed in on a stunning upset of No. 5 Michigan, the former Wolverine was preparing for week two of LSU’s season.
“We were in the office preparing for our next opponent and working the whole time and what’s happening ends up coming down the hall,” Miles said. “I didn’t get to watch anything live, but I saw what happened when it was over.”
The shocking result kicked off a season of unprecedented chaos that ended with Miles’ Tigers winning the national championship. Now, almost one year to the day later it is his new school rather than his old one that will have to hold off the Mountaineers’ upset bid.
“They play well year after year,” Miles said of the three-time FCS champions. “I think [ASU coach Jerry Moore] has done a great job in guiding the program. Certainly, they‘re in position to play strong against anybody. They have a great football team. It’s not specific to any division. They have a good football team.”
In addition to their newfound giant killer status, Appalachian State returns dual threat quarterback Armanti Edwards and a wide-open attack. LSU will face some variation of a spread offense no less than five times this season, and Miles commented on his team’s readiness for the challenge.
“It’s an issue with a team that throws the ball well, and it’s an issue with a team that can run the football as well as they do. It just requires that you be disciplined,” he said. “You have to know your responsibilities and know the call that’s being made and play your responsible technique. I think our guys understand that. It’s very similar to an option offense. We’re still going to pass rush. We’re going to have those big guys come up the field at [Edwards].”
Moore, who is entering his 20th season with the Mountaineers, will be hoping his team can follow the blueprint from Ann Arbor.
“We had very few penalties at Michigan and our kicking game was pretty solid,” he said. “Those two things alone kept us in the game and gave us a chance. I think that’s the No. 1 thing for us.”
ASU did indeed impress on special teams in Ann Arbor, nailing two long field goals and blocking two Wolverine attempts, one of them a potential game winner. It’s the type of performance Miles would prefer to see from his special teams unit, a group that needs to replace punter Patrick Fisher, as well as find more productive return men.
“Coach Joe Robinson really brought some of the stuff from Arizona in,” Miles said. “We think we’ve improved. We really look forward to the opportunity to go out on the field and have an advantage with special teams.”
Saturday also marks the final conclusion of LSU’s well-publicized quarterback derby – for now. After what must feel like an eternity for curious Tiger fans, the season opener has arrived and Miles must send a quarterback out with the first team for the first time since Ryan Perrilloux was dismissed.
“I’m comfortable with whoever that is, and we’ll see how it plays out from here,” Miles said. I can tell you that Jarrett Lee’s back is not an issue at this time. There’s nothing but health there, and from this point forward, we’ll make those decisions as we go. I have great confidence in all three quarterbacks. I can’t tell you today who will be taking the field first.”
The eyes of the Tiger nation will be watching to see who takes the field first as the field general and then shortly after 1 p.m. those eyes will turn to the tropics as the focus will shift from ASU to Gustav.