For much of Saturday night’s epic matchup between LSU and Alabama, there was an unusual, tense silence in a packed Chimes restaurant, where Tiger fans gathered by the hundreds.
But as the game went into overtime, the excitement began building, the crowd gradually growing rowdier, said Ava Salehi, a Chimes hostess.
Then Drew Alleman’s field goal kick split the uprights, solidifying LSU as the victor.
“Everyone went crazy,” she said. “They flooded into the streets, chanting, screaming, taking over. It was insane.”
From the north gates of LSU and downtown Baton Rouge to house parties throughout the metro area, LSU’s nail-biting win against the Crimson Tide caused celebrations of National Championship proportions.
“They packed the streets for about an hour, and every car that passed through was honking and high-fiving from out of their windows,” said Salehi, an LSU graduate student. “It was like everything else just stopped.”
Dianne Peltier, of Labadieville, said she watched the game with about 30 of her relatives at a house party in Donaldsonville.
“When they made that last field goal, you could have swore we were in a stadium,” she said. “That game kept you on edge, but I always knew they would win.”
The atmosphere was just as festive in New Orleans where Anna and Clint Lawrence, of Central, were celebrating their first wedding anniversary in the French Quarter.
Clint Lawrence said he could hear the game playing and fans cheering in every restaurant and bar he passed.
“It was just an awesome game,” he said. “I was up all night talking about it.”
While the final outcome gave Tiger fans something to cheer about, the low-scoring game itself provided only a handful of exciting big plays.
Even LSU punter Brad Wing’s 72-yard punt in the fourth quarter — which saved LSU from the shadows of its own end zone — got some love from the Tiger faithful.
“Our punting position last night set us off,” said Kayci Cedars, an LSU student and waitress at Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar on Burbank Drive.
Cedars was also quick to defend senior quarterback Jarrett Lee, who threw two interceptions, one of which led to an Alabama field goal.
“I love Jarrett,” she said. “I think he just cracked because he hadn’t played in a big night game yet.”
Cliff Gillio, 46, of Baton Rouge, watched the game at his home last night with his wife, Sheri, 43.
He said safety Eric Reid’s touchdown-saving interception in the fourth quarter at LSU’s own 1-yard line was what really made the difference.
“That interception on the goal line, that stopped Alabama from breaking the game open,” he said.
While the outward celebrations quelled somewhat by Sunday afternoon, the excitement lingered.
Several fans donned their purple and gold and headed to LSU’s campus to visit Mike the Tiger’s enclosure and to pose in front of Tiger Stadium.
Jimmy and Dimple Lawrence, of Livingston, snapped pictures of their children and grandchildren as the family crowded around the Mike the Tiger statue near the enclosure.
“We just wanted to show our loyalty today by coming out here,” said Jimmy Lawrence, Clint Lawrence’s father. “That team, that game, just outstanding.”
Rishea Richards and her daughter Rachel, 10, had lunch at Chimes where the game was still the topic of many conversations.
“It was crowded in there, and everyone was just pumped up,” she said. “You could feel it.”
Now that the “game of the century” is in the books, Tiger fans are looking ahead and seeing another BCS National Championship on the horizon.
Talk of the Tigers “going all the way” this season had the men in Jimmy Lawrence’s family split with some positive of a victory while others were merely cautiously optimistic.
“I don’t see us losing another game this season, and that includes the BCS Championship,” Clint Lawrence said.
His brother-in-law, Brian Stacy, countered, saying he’s definitely hopeful, but isn’t going to “count all my eggs before they hatch.”
Jimmy Lawrence offered the final word on the issue:
“We’re going to win that championship,” he said. “I promise you that.”