Focus is on playing the game

The entire state of Louisiana is still reeling from the havoc Hurricane Gustav caused and the growing concern on Ike as it churns over Cuba and heads to the Gulf of Mexico.

Like everyone else in the region, Les Miles and his players are trying to get back to some sense of normalcy and that will happen this weekend when the Tigers face North Texas.


While the opponent is set in stone, though, the venue that the game will take place at remains up in the air.


“First off, our number one priority is to play the game,” said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva. “We want to play the game. Number two, we want to play the game in Tiger Stadium but that may be out of my control.”


Alleva said that LSU officials have had discussions with officials in Dallas (Texas Stadium), Shreveport (Independence Stadium), Atlanta (Georgia Dome), and New Orleans (Superdome)but as of now everything is still up in the air due to the uncertainty of Hurricane Ike and its final destination.


With the clock ticking and logistics that need to be finalized, LSU hopes to have a decision by the middle of the week and there is a chance the game will still be in the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium.


“I would hope that by Wednesday we would have a decision on where we’re going to play because if we’re not going to play right here we have to let the other venue and the other team know where we’re going,” said Alleva. “I think at this point the safest place to go and play the game is Atlanta but our number one priority is to play the game. Tiger Stadium is ready to go so if the storm turns away from us we will play the game in Tiger Stadium.”


Although the venue may be in doubt the one thing that isn’t is the Tigers’ opponent and Miles is eager for his team to get back on the field after what will be a two-week layoff.


“I can tell you that as we prepare and go forward from here it won’t matter who we play,” said Miles. “We have to play four quarters of quality football to develop. Our football team needs to get better and we’re fortunate to have a game that we can point to and look forward to.”


The Tigers did not get the chance to do those things against Troy so Miles made the most of the situation and put his players through a scrimmage last Thursday before the coaches hit the road for recruiting.


“We didn’t get as much accomplished as a game situation but we got a lot accomplished on Thursday,” Miles said. “We’re healthy and we’re coming off a week where we took a weekend off where our guys could go home to be with their families to help get their things squared away.”


Plenty of LSU’s players had a lot of work to do over the weekend helping their families pick up the pieces from the destruction that Gustav caused.


The focus, as it should be in this situation, has been on getting life back to normal and Miles has been impressed with the way his young men and assistant coaches have handled the situation.


The headman also likes the way they have been able to keep their focus on football during these trying times and he feels their next opponent will have the full focus of the guys wearing purple and gold come Saturday.


“Though this North Texas football team has lost two times this is a very capable football team,” said Miles. “That team has won four (Sunbelt Conference) titles that I recall and anytime you have a football team that has a tradition of winning and that knows what winning is all about, I can promise you that we will be challenged by this team.”



Change in Venue


Miles was adamant about his desire to play the game in Louisiana should Tiger Stadium be out of the picture. However, out of the possible locations that the game could be moved to one in particular could benefit LSU’s recruiting efforts.


“If we play in Texas we look forward to that being a home game and therefore be able to invite would-be prospects in that area to that game,” said Miles. “That would obviously be an advantage to us playing in Texas. We look at the fact that we recruit heavily there and a lot of players on our team have natural ties to that area. I think it’s a great idea.”


A Jump on Auburn


LSU’s first road game on the schedule is still slated for Auburn where the Tigers will have to travel to a hostile Jordan Hare Stadium.


However, that may change depending on Hurricane Ike and if the Tigers hit the road this week then it could be a dress rehearsal for things to come.


“Certainly, if we’re not allowed to play in the confines of Tiger Stadium or in this state we would look at where we’re playing and make it a likely example of when we go to Auburn,” said Miles. “That would be the advantage of travel.”


Early Departure


Should LSU be forced to move the game to another venue then there will be many obstacles for officials to overcome such as tickets, travel, etc…..


If the game is moved then the Tigers will have to fly out of Baton Rouge a day earlier than they would normally leave for a road game. It would make for a shorter week in some senses but nothing that should pose too much of a problem for the coaches.


“Thursday night, there will be some things we have to get accomplished but they’re more administrative,” Miles said. “That Thursday night practice is kind of a rehearsal practice. I think we would be ready to put the game plan on paper by Thursday night so the issue is we would be doing it on the road. So that would be the only real issue.”


Injury Update


Several players missed the Appalachian State game and one key contributor was injured when Danny McCray went down.


With the week off, LSU could see two of its top players return to action against North Texas.


“I think we’ll look forward to seeing Charles Alexander play and Colt David should be back,” Miles said. “Predominantly, I think our team is healthy with the possible exception of Danny McCray (ankle sprain).”


If McCray can’t go at his nickel position then look for someone new to get an opportunity to get on the field rather than force Chad Jones to take on a new role.


“We may look to play another safety on the high side rather than move somebody out and have to train two new guys,” Miles said. “Get Chad ready for that spot and train somebody inside. Let’s keep the same guy inside exactly like he is and really just exchange one for one. It could be Karnell Hatcher or a number of guys.”

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