Torrential rain drenched Baton Rouge on Saturday, leaving massive puddles on the Tiger Stadium turf and 6 inches of water on both sidelines.
Coach Les Miles and LSU didn’t mind one bit.
The Tigers (7-0) turned out their best passing performance of the season as sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris threw for 286 yards and three scores to push his team past Western Kentucky 48-20.
“It turned out to be a pretty nice night to me,” Miles said. “I kind of enjoyed it myself. I don’t think it affected our throwing at all late in the game.”
Heavy rain fell throughout the first half, in which a sluggish LSU team trudged to a 14-7 halftime lead. Miles said neither team would have had any success throwing the ball if those conditions had persisted.
A steady drizzle picked up again during the fourth quarter, but by that time the Tigers had pulled away from the Hilltoppers (6-2). Sophomore receiver Malachi Dupre, who hauled in three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, said catching in the rain required extra focus. But that wasn’t the hardest adjustment players had to make.
“The worst part about it is your cleats are very heavy because they’re wet,” Dupre said. “But the footing itself on the grass wasn’t that bad. If you got your feet on the ground, the grass wasn’t coming up that much. The grounds crew did a good job of keeping that field together.”
Skill players weren’t the only guys affected by the weather. Senior right tackle Vadal Alexander said the offensive linemen had to maintain proper technique and pad level to avoid slipping in the muddy trenches.
“I thought it was fun,” center Ethan Pocic said. “You don’t get to play in a lot of games like that. You’re going to remember that for the rest of your life.”
WKU had a much more difficult time handling the inclement weather. Coach Jeff Brohm said the conditions prevented his air raid offense from taking its usual amount of shots downfield and favored LSU’s run-heavy scheme.
Quarterback Brandon Doughty claimed WKU “would’ve done better on offense” if not for the rain and that the intended receiver on his third-quarter interception slipped.
Harris nears record
While sophomore running back Leonard Fournette emphatically closes in on program and national records week after week, Harris quietly has sneaked up on one of his own.
The sophomore quarterback is fourth in LSU history with 128 straight passes without an interception, nine away from tying Alan Risher’s record of 137. Harris also has thrown for more than 200 yards and multiple touchdowns in the past three games.
“It’s his work ethic, how hard he works at everything,” Pocic said. “He’s continuing to grow, and it’s awesome.”
Polls and projections
LSU finally has a spot in the top four.
The Tigers jumped one spot to No. 4 in both the coaches poll and Associated Press poll, drawing one first-place vote from the coaches and five from the AP voters. Utah’s loss at unranked USC allowed LSU to inch up in the polls.
An open date awaits both the Tigers and No. 7 Alabama (7-1), which climbed one spot in both polls after edging Tennessee, before their SEC West showdown on Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa.
As the only undefeated SEC team remaining, LSU is likely to be in the top four when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first rankings of the season Nov. 3. The top four teams at the end of the season play in two semifinal games, with the winners squaring off for the national championship.
Several national college football writers and analysts believe the Tigers belong in the top four. Former NFL receiver and current ESPN analyst Joey Galloway placed the Tigers at No. 2 in his CFP projections, and Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel ranked LSU No. 1 in his top 10.
This season marks the third time LSU has started 7-0 under Miles, who is in his 11th season. It’s the eighth time in program history the Tigers have reached 7-0. ... Miles is on his fifth winning streak of seven or more games. The only other coach in school history to have more than two such streaks is Charles McClendon, who had four from 1962 to 1979.