GREEN BAY, Wis — Travonte Valentine saw the field early — real early — and all because of a helmet.
Greg Gilmore, LSU's starter at nose tackle, lost his helmet on the second play of Saturday’s 16-14 season-opening loss to Wisconsin, giving Valentine the floor. Players must exit the game for at least a play after his helmet is removed on the field, in accordance with NCAA rule.
Valentine, the top-ranked junior-college tackle in the nation in 2016, played significantly, entering on the third play and then returning to start the second drive. He rotated with Gilmore throughout, appearing gassed at times during his first major college game.
LSU dismissed the 350-pound Valentine last summer before allowing him back on the team during the second week of preseason camp — a quick fix for the nose tackle spot in new coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense.
Aranda played a host of inexperienced guys up front. Gilmore, though he's a fourth-year player, started just the second game of his career, and true freshman outside linebacker Michael Divinity played heavily. Fellow rookie Rashard Lawrence saw significant action, too.
“It was good for them to get those snaps, because we’re going to need them all year long,” defensive end Lewis Neal said. “We’ll watch film, improve on our mistakes and execute better.”
The Packer is a picker
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers attended the game and was the guest picker Saturday morning for ESPN’s “College GameDay” pregame show.
Rogers, as you might expect, picked Wisconsin to win. He also picked Alabama to beat Southern California on Saturday night, saying Packers teammate (and former Dutchtown High and Crimson Tide star) Eddie Lacy told him to do it.
Skylar Stecker, daughter of former New Orleans Saints running back Aaron Stecker, performed the national anthem before kickoff.
Aaron Stecker, who played for the Saints from 2004-08 and was a 10-year NFL veteran, is a native of nearby Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. In 2013, at age 11, Skylar Stecker sang the national anthem at a Saints preseason game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
All flags atop Lambeau Field were flying at half-staff Saturday in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Matthew V. Thompson, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 23.
Funeral services were held Saturday in Thompson’s hometown of Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee.
Six true freshmen played in Saturday’s game, many of them on special teams: Divinity, Lawrence, linebacker Devin White, safeties Eric Monroe and Cameron Lewis and tight end Caleb Roddy. … LSU's captains for the game were running back Leonard Fournette, center Ethan Pocic, linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, kicker Colby Delahoussaye and cornerback Tre’Davious White. … The game officials were from the Big 12.