Mike the Tiger, LSU’s temperamental mascot, made his first regal procession around Tiger Stadium since 2013.
Unfortunately, he shook down the thunder and lightning with him.
Long after Mike returned to his luxury lair, the crazy humans across the street were still staring up at the sky and squinting at radar screens, trying to figure out how to get in one of these raucous football games that keep his furriness awake this time of year.
They couldn’t do it.
The flash, apparently official, came at 10:36 p.m.
The game was canceled.
If you were among the 90,000 or so folks — a strong crowd for a game like LSU-McNeese State — who came out, many of whom stayed to the end, you at least witnessed some sad, soggy history.
As far as anyone can figure out, and we had plenty of time in the press box to look up such things, it will go down as the first canceled LSU football game since World War I wiped out the 1918 season.
Blame the Kaiser for that one. As for Saturday night, blame it on the rain, as Milli Vanilli sang during the interminable delay. Or more accurately, blame it on the stubborn storm cell that plopped down on south Baton Rouge like a beefy defensive tackle and refused to get up until game officials cried “uncle.”
It’s kind of incredible when you think about it. Katrina and Rita didn’t cancel any LSU games in 2005. Neither did the 9/11 attacks in 2001. But one garden variety South Louisiana squall line pulled the plug on Saturday’s proceedings.
The Southeastern Conference has its rules, which stipulate you have to wait 30 minutes after lightning within 8 miles to play.
After the first flash about 6:50 p.m., the lightning never stopped, like an assembly line from the gods who were miffed that they weren’t invited to a really cool tailgate party.
“I’m sorry we didn’t play,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said, “but it boiled down to player safety. At the end of the day, we have to be concerned about our athlete’s welfare.”
The good news for LSU, if there is any, is that this game doesn’t matter a fig to the Tigers’ hopes of eventually being a College Football Playoff team. McNeese being an FCS opponent, beating the Cowboys as badly as LSU was likely to beat them wasn’t going to move the Tigers’ strength of schedule an inch.
“If you march through the conference and end up conference champion, it won’t make any difference,” coach Les Miles said. “If you’re the best 11-win team at the time, and there are some better 12-win teams, you’ll see how that might play out.”
The bad news is if the Tigers hope to be a CFP team, they needed to play, much more than the 10 total plays (including punts) that took place, going into next Saturday’s game at Mississippi State. This is a team breaking in fresh defensive schemes under new coordinator Kevin Steele, and of course a new starting quarterback in Brandon Harris.
The only other “official” start for Harris was last year at Auburn. That maiden voyage was pretty much like the Titanic’s.
“All part of God’s plan,” Harris tweeted afterward.
The Bulldogs were struggling with struggling Southern Mississippi in comparatively dry Hattiesburg late Saturday night, but playing State in Cowbell Country still will be a significant test. Especially for an LSU team that barely scratched the playbook.
“We would have loved to get onto the field, the experience of the game,” Miles said. “Returning a punt, kickoffs, the speed to the ball. There’s so much that you get.”
Miles indicated the Tigers will do more than usual 11-on-11 work in practice this week and try to find more “speed to the ball.” But it won’t replace 60 minutes of live game action.
About 10:20 p.m., nearly four hours after LSU and McNeese State kicked off, Randy Newman’s plaintive “Louisiana 1927” blared out of the loudspeakers above the north end zone, bouncing off the empty concrete canyon of seats to the south.
They’re tryin’ to wash us away, all right. And darn it if they didn’t do just that.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.