One of the things you gotta love about Reese is that he refreshingly dispenses with the kind of sugary coach-speak that requires a shot of insulin to digest, especially when commenting about a bowl opponent. On Monday, Reese stopped just short of calling LSU fans classless.
"Football is their lifeblood, and it's been that way for years, but they don't always show class," Reese said. "If you're losing at halftime, they will dog-cuss you. If you go back out and win the game, they all love you. It's a half-time response over there. There were times when I said to myself, ‘Jiminy Christmas, I may not make it to the locker room.'"
Reese described Tiger fans as a "fun-loving group of people" whose tailgating contingent starts "cooking in the parking lot on Wednesday." The 10 a.m. Cotton Bowl kickoff will be no deterrent to folks who "may stay up to cook and party all night."
The festivities, though, are seldom limited to the parking lot.
"They barred alcohol in (Tiger) Stadium a long time ago," Reese said, "but if you go through the stands at halftime it smells like Sixth Street on a good night."
LSU supporters seldom lose a tailgating competition (unless points are deducted for eating things with tentacles). But, what does Reese expect from the Bayou Bengal football team come New Year's Day?
"They're a tough bunch," Reese acknowledged. "We'll have to be physical if we're going to do a good job against them."
LSU's running backs are comparable to any in the Big 12, Reese said, adding that "they run the ball well enough to beat you."
The turning point in LSU's 8-4 season, Reese believes, came when sophomore quarterback Matt Amuck suffered a season-ending injury in the Tigers' win at Florida, October 12. At that point, LSU's record stood at 5-1 after dropping its season opener at Virginia Tech. The Tigers have since gone 3-3 (including a last-second loss at Arkansas) while shuffling quarterbacks. Sophomore Marcus Randle has generally lined up under center, although freshman QB Rick Clausen (Tennessee QB Casey Clausen's younger brother) started against Alabama but got yanked in the 31-0 debacle.
"They're not happy with their won-loss record," Reese said, "but they've struggled after they lost their quarterback. It took him (Randle) a while to catch up with the passing end of it."
Davis grew up in Texas but said his close connections with the Bayou State makes the Cotton Bowl "a little bit special. We know quite a few of their players."
While Davis' Tulane team in New Orleans was but an hour away from Baton Rouge, it was worlds apart in terms of recruiting clout. The lure of the Southeast Conference, combined with LSU's cult-like following, meant that the Tigers usually signed all the in-state athletes that they wanted. But Davis has seen enough of the ones that got away to have a sense of what LSU can bring to the table.
"The first thing I thought about when I knew they'd be our opponent is that they'll be athletic," Davis said, "And they'll be able to run because they have a lot of speed."
Defensively, LSU shows an "odd front" similar to Oklahoma and Iowa State, Davis said, and are particularly adept operating out of the nickel. DT Chad Lavalais and DE Marcus Spears anchor the defensive front. Meanwhile, senior LB Brady James and junior CB Cory Webster were named to the coaches' first-team All-SEC team Monday.
"They have the ability to plan man-to-man," Davis said, "and any time you have the ability to play man, you have the ability to be a good pass defense. And they are. It's a good secondary."
Mack Brown said Sunday that the team will resume practice this weekend. December 16 is designated as ‘Game Plan' day, Davis said, where UT coaches will develop the scheme the Horns will employ against LSU. Coaches will start implementing the plan during practice the following day. The team is scheduled to arrive in Dallas on Christmas night.
"We try to have it in before we leave town," Davis said, "and then review it and tweak it before we get to the bowl site because of all the distractions."[Photo courtesy of UT Sports Information]