On the Tigers’ second play he finished what he started, trotting into the endzone for a 7-0 LSU lead it would not relinquish in a 41-13 victory.
“I told [LSU linebacker] Kelvin Sheppard before the game ‘I think I might house this first one,’” Scott said. “My heart was beating really fast. When the line broke open I was thinking, ‘Oh man I might have been telling the truth.’”
Scott’s career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns kick-started one the most bizarre season openers in LSU’s history. Changes in the schedule due to Hurricane Gustav saw the Tigers start their season at 10 a.m. in front of what appeared to be roughly 60,000 fans.
“I have to give it to the state of Louisiana,” LSU coach Les Mile said. “The crowd that was there really represented us well. I’m very thankful they came out to support these Tigers at 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s the earliest kickoff I’ve ever had except when I was in the ninth grade and we played junior high football. Thanks for being out there, thanks for being loud and thanks for being Tiger Stadium.”
As questions abound about the approaching storm, LSU fans at least found some answers about the 2008 team, as quarterback Andrew Hatch won the starting job, completing seven of 14 passes for 77 yards and touchdown. The Tigers’ defense, which introduced six new starters, also held the Mountaineers’ prolific spread attack to 239 total yards.
“I told them they needed to play with intensity for four whole quarters, and they certainly played with that style of intensity for a good two. But they have it,” Miles said. “We probably tried to force the pass, just to get some of these young guys some experience. I thought they played good, I thought they handled it well. We have the earmark of a solid offense.”
The first half alone told the story of the game.
As Scott powered his way to 144 yards and his two scores in the first 30 minutes, Hatch and Jarrett Lee combined for 130 yards and touchdowns to Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell, respectively. The effort was good enough for a 31-0 lead, and allayed at least some anxieties across the state.
“It was a great thing to get a win for the fans,” junior defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois said. “We put a great positive image and thought in their head before the hurricane. This game was dedicated to the state of Louisiana.”
One of the main questions entering the game was whether Jean-Francois and the LSU defense could contain ASU quarterback Armanti Edwards. The answer was a resounding yes.
Edwards put up a respectable 155 yards on the Tigers secondary, but completed just 13 of 31 passes. And as impressive a runner as Edwards is, the LSU front seven held him to a mere 20 yards on six carries. The South Carolina native did draw blood on the defense, however, as he dodged a sack and lofted a deep ball into broken coverage to cut LSU’s lead to 31-7.
“They’re so much faster than Michigan was,” Edwards said. “It was just a problem of us executing, we knew they’d have tight coverage, but we couldn’t execute one-on-one like we wanted to.”
Following an error-plagued start to 2007, LaFell flew out of the gates to start the season.
The Houston native finished his day with 87 yards and hauled in both of Jarrett Lee’s touchdown passes, prompting LaFell to call it “a Texas thing.”
Leading 17-0 in the second quarter, Lee avoided a sack and found LaFell wide open for a 31-yard score. Then, with just 10 minutes left in the game, the junior caught a short crossing route and took it down the sideline for 39 yards and a 41-10 lead.
“I saw [Lee] stumbling and thought he was going down,” LaFell said of his first score. “But then he wound up and let it go and I thought ‘Oh yeah. He found me.’”
The Tigers’ scoring was capped off by field goals of 21 and 33 yards by sophomore kicker Josh Jasper. Senior Colt David sat out with a sore foot and could have been pressed into playing time, but Miles chose to rest the preseason All-SEC kicker.
The punting game was not so successful, as junior Brady Dalfrey shanked several punts and finished the day with a meager 25.5 average. Jasper attempted one punt and managed to send it 45 yards downfield.
“Dalfrey will come back and have a good year. There’s always a piece to game adjustment that must be made,” Miles said. “That’s something that he’s learning but doesn’t quite have a grasp on, and that’s why we gave another guy the opportunity to punt it. If he makes his adjustments and gets comfortable he’s got a very, very strong leg.”
With a successful opener behind him, Miles final comments about the day were of a nature more important than wins or losses.
“I know that this storm is bearing down on us. I know that there are some serious considerations given in the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I can only tell you that we’re with you. Our prayers and our strong want to not be adversely affected by this storm for this state are coming from our team.”