Monday, October 3

Status quo in Starkville for LSU


STARKVILLE, Miss. — Memo to Les Miles:
Don’t put too much stock in that victory over Mississippi State.
The least of LSU’s teams have managed it, whether they wanted to or not.
Among the accompanying headlines you could find to go along with “LSU beats its Dog” would be “Sun rises from the East” or “FEMA fumbles” or “Search for Starkville nightlife continues.”
Real news out of Starkville would have been if the Tigers hadn’t won, or even if they’d had to work up much of a sweat to win it or left much suspense for the final scene.
A little history, Les.
In the previous decade it was mostly bad LSU teams against pretty good or even really good Bulldog teams and the results were sometimes a little closer, but otherwise virtually indistinguishable from Saturday’s final cut.
LSU has no idea how to lose to Mississippi State, so beating the Bulldogs is no great shakes.
Convenient, yes. Earth-shattering? Hardly.
Curley Hallman only managed to lose to them once. His 2-9 team beat them. It almost became an annual mirage for that particularly slapstick era of LSU football.
It took a phantom Bulldog touchdown — a fourth-down, Bulldog bounce into the end zone counted — for Gerry DiNardo’s snake-bit 1999 Tigers to lose up here.
In 2002 LSU played an absolutely awful game — horrendous, almost comical — and still beat State 31-13.
So you probably need to grade this game film on a curve, OK?
My point?
Nice win. Impressive, even. But don’t for a moment think a 37-7 thrashing of Mississippi State gets you off the hook just yet for last Monday’s embarrassing melt-down to Tennessee.
They just don’t even out.
It should keep the For Sale signs out of the yard for another week, maybe even clean up the profanity in the Internet chat rooms for a spell, but no one amongst the fandom will be drinking that purple Kool-Aid just yet.
They’ve been sold fool’s gold in Starkville before.
LSU is better than Mississippi State. More speed. Better athletes. Stronger, quicker, even smarter if Saturday was any indication.
Tell us something we didn’t already know. Besides, LSU always beat the Bulldogs even when the opposite was true.
Or did I mention that already?
Tiger fans used to fall for it when it was the only thing they had to hang their hat on, when they knew it might be the highlight of the season.
They’re after bigger game (and games) now.
Mississippi State, having failed miserably lo those many years as a turn-around game, is now viewed as a tune-up game.
Winning them is expected, not celebrated, although that was a nice postgame touch in gathering the lads around the Tiger fans in Starkville to sing the alma mater.
Or didn’t you notice the yawns afterwards?
But, good game anyway.
It still kind of looked like a team slightly out of synch, a team still looking for an identity.
But at least it knows it can still hold Mississippi State’s pedestrian offense, if no one else’s, to under 30 points and less than 1,000 frequent flyer miles. In these uncertain times when nothing much seems as it once was, that’s somehow reassuring.
It kind of capped a crazy month for LSU football, one which should be able to return now to a routine.
And, thanks, Commodores, for losing to Middle Tennessee Saturday.
Preparing for an unbeaten Vanderbilt team would have made the postponements, the delays, the short weeks, Monday Night Football in Tiger Stadium and home games in Arizona seem almost normal by comparison.

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