“We just have to come there with a swagger,” said senior guard Herman Johnson. “Before, we would come out there to practice and it was just lackadaisical. People were walking around and stuff. But today it was more intense. We were running around in drills. Coaches were getting in people’s faces. It was something I liked. I’m tired of seeing people walking around and being lazy”
Johnson said the team was in need of a shakeup following a dismal end to the regular season. With speculation running rampant on the coaching front and a date with No. 14 Georgia Tech on the horizon, the big man was adamant about the attitude of his team going into the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“If we have one bad apple and everybody sees him, they’re going to feed off of that,” he said. “We don’t need negativity on this team. We need everything to be positive these next couple weeks.”
Johnson is not alone. Junior receiver Brandon LaFell said Miles’ call for adjustments was necessary to help the team get back on track for the bowl season.
“Coach was just telling us we need to go out there and play within the scheme and pay attention to detail,” LaFell said. “Stop getting into everything else; the crowd, the cameras, and everything else. Just go out there and play LSU football. There’s a lot of guys that make a play or two here, and they’re celebrating and doing all this other stuff. He just wants us to stay focused throughout the whole game.”
These comments call to mind the infamous hindrance of successful teams – the championship hangover. Johnson noted he sometimes felt his teammates weren’t “taking the field with pride” and that the team was not producing “LSU football.”
“It shouldn’t be that way. It should be there from day one,” he said. “It should be there all throughout the season whether we’re winning or losing. You have to stay on top of everything in this league and keep that mentality. Everything has to be done at a fast pace and almost perfect. It’s impossible to do things perfect, but you have to be close to it.”
The heartbreaking loss to Alabama could have played a role in the slip, as many people have surmised. The Tigers played perhaps their most intense, most complete game against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide on Nov. 8 and came up short. The effort and intensity on display in the 27-21 loss was missing in a lackluster outing against Troy, and again in embarrassing losses to Ole Miss and the Razorbacks.
“That was definitely a big loss for us,” said junior tight end Richard Dickson. “We go out and play a game like we did, taking the No. 1 team in the country at the time into overtime and left it all out on the field. And we still left the field thinking that we should’ve won the game. So of course that’s going to take something out of you. We’re going to get that back.”
Luckily for the Tigers, hope springs eternal in college football. Beating the Yellow Jackets would allay at least some of the fears of LSU fans, as would taking this new attitude into 2009.
“The good thing about a bowl game is it’s a whole new season,” said senior linebacker Darry Beckwith. “We can concentrate on just one game and one opponent. Just regain our focus. For the guys that are seniors and the guys that are coming back, it’s something to grow on. Having a victory in the last game, you can grow on it.”