The theme at LSU this week is don’t look back at last week, and don’t look ahead to next week.
That’s generally the approach during any game week, but the juxtaposition of the game against Northwestern State on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium warrants a few reminders.
The Tigers are coming off an impressive 40-27 victory against then-No. 3 Oregon in a game that was the talk of the college football world after Weekend No. 1. They know they have a short week after this one, following Saturday’s home opener against the Demons with a Thursday night date (Sept. 15) for their Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State.
But right now it’s all about the Southland Conference team that’s busing down from Natchitoches determined to knock off the high-flying Tigers.
Coach Les Miles said Tuesday that the victory against Oregon was disposed of by invoking the standard “24-hour” rule, which means the game should have been forgotten by about 10:37 p.m. Sunday. Miles hopes his team waits until a similar time next Sunday before forgetting about Northwestern State.
“Do I anticipate (LSU looking past the Demons)?” Miles said. “Not really, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to point it out.”
Quarterback Jarrett Lee pointed out last season’s game against McNeese State, which, like Northwestern State, is an in-state, Football Championship Subdivision program. That game came a week after the Tigers’ dramatic 33-29 victory at Florida in which it scored the winning points with six seconds left.
The 24-hour rule didn’t prevent the Cowboys from hanging around the next week, trailing just 16-10 at halftime and 22-10 after three quarters before LSU finalized a 32-10 victory.
Guard Will Blackwell recalled a 2008 game against Troy, a Football Bowl Subdivision program but one that was considered a prohibitive underdog to LSU, in which the Tigers fell behind 31-3 before managing the biggest comeback victory in school history to prevail, 40-31. Demons coach Bradley Dale Peveto was an assistant on that LSU staff.
“That would have been a tremendous loss for us,” Blackwell said. “We rallied back and ended up winning, but we know if we don’t take care of business, the same thing could happen again. We’re definitely not going to overlook Northwestern State.
“They’re going to be fired up for this game. Coach Peveto is coming back to LSU. It will be a big deal for him, and we’ll have to withstand the surge and try to hold down Northwestern. And as soon as that game’s over, we’ll be focusing on Mississippi State.”
Miles has experience preparing for a short week from his time as a Dallas assistant getting ready for the Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving Day game, though he wasn’t willing to share how he planned to manage his team’s time in preparing for two games in six days.
“I really don’t want to focus on what that future schedule is just yet,” Miles said. “I don’t want our guys to read what’s about to happen, I want them to read how they’re preparing for Northwestern State.”
Peveto said his experience working with Miles convinces him that LSU won’t prepare any less for the Demons than it did for Oregon or will for anybody else.
“If you know coach Les Miles, there isn’t anybody in the country that’s going to turn over a rock and dot the I’s and cross the T’s like coach Les Miles,” Peveto said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. He is very thorough in all three game plans. You’re never going to look ahead with him. He’s the best at getting teams up no matter who you’re playing, what time, what day, what scheme. They don’t overlook anybody, and I promise you he’s full steam ahead getting ready for the Demons right now.”
Defensive end Sam Montgomery is aware of the Troy and McNeese games, but said he doesn’t expect anything similar in this game.
“I know past (LSU) teams have kind of messed around and they were down at halftime and they had to work hard and come back and they won by one point or something like that,” Montgomery said. “But with the attitude and demeanor of this team, I really don’t expect it to be like that. I expect us to go out there and play just like we did against Oregon. You can’t sleep on any team at all. You can’t take any team for granted.”
The Tigers have said they were looking forward to playing Oregon from the end of last season and they had been focused on the Ducks for a month of practice leading up to last week. But, Lee said, the team can regain a similar focus as it prepares for the Demons, who are 1-0 after a 24-23 victory against Delta State on Thursday.
“(Last week) was a big win, a huge win for us against a great football team,” Lee said. “But I think all the special teams put those things behind them, and you have to move forward and focus.
“Football teams like (Northwestern State) are excited about these kinds of games, so they can very easily come in and ruin your season, and you’ve got to bring your ?A’ game and understand you’ve got to work hard and prepare for them and make sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”