ARLINGTON, Texas - LSU fans, Oregon fans and one lone Tennessee diehard waiving an orange “T” flag in the distance, were among the thousands who came for the party outside Cowboys Stadium.
ESPN brought its “College Game Day” program to the nation’s biggest game hours before No. 4-ranked LSU beat No. 3 Oregon 40-27.
Oregon fans cheered when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, toting the NBA championship trophy with him onto the stage, picked the Ducks to beat the Tigers.
LSU fans cheered louder when Game Day regular Lee Corso donned an LSU mascot tiger head, signaling he was going with LSU to win.
In between, about 60 members of the LSU band, rousted from their beds at 5:30 a.m. to make the 8 a.m. ESPNU start of the show, played tunes, Tigers fans booed Nick Saban’s appearance on a giant TV screen next to the stage and begged Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III to come play for LSU as he made an appearance after beating TCU 50-48 Friday night in nearby Waco.
ESPN’s Erin Andrews, sideline reporter for Saturday’s game, said that like college football fans everywhere the Game Day crew was glad to have a game to look forward to after such a scandal-filled summer.
“We’re all excited to have a game after the offseason we had,” Andrews said.
She said the fact that Game Day was here for the LSU-Oregon game wouldn’t preclude the show from making an appearance on the LSU campus this fall. She rated LSU as one of her top-five game day experiences.
“I tell everyone, if you’re a true college football fan, you’ve got to go to a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium when they’re playing an SEC game that really matters,” Andrews said. “They’re among the best hardcore fans in the SEC.”
And, yes, the University of Florida grad said she’s had fried alligator in Baton Rouge - and she found it delicious.
Because of Tropical Storm Lee, there were some concerns before Saturday’s whether the Tigers would be able to fly directly back to Baton Rouge following the contest.
LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Herb Vincent said the team had contingency plans set to fly either to Alexandria or Lafayette to avoid much of the storm then bus home. But Vincent said after the game the team was going to try to make it through to Baton Rouge as planned.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee said the snap that went awry on third-and-12 at the LSU 39 in the first quarter, setting up Oregon’s second field goal was the result of a faulty snap count.
Lee stepped out of shot gun and shifted to his right, he said to make a signal to his receiver on the right flank. As he did, the ball was snapped back where he had been, with Oregon’s Boseko Lokombo recovering at the LSU 20-yard line.
The Tigers defense held Oregon to a field goal, leaving LSU in only a 6-3 hole at the time.
Jefferson, Johns left home
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette confirmed that quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns were not part of LSU’s traveling party for Saturday’s game.
Both players are indefinitely suspended after being charged with second-degree battery from their alleged roles in a bar fight the morning of Aug. 19 near the LSU campus.
Injured guard Josh Dwoarczyk, who is facing knee surgery, did make the trip. Also sidelined was offensive guard Josh Williford for an undisclosed foot injury.
Lee’s dad takes in game
His team opened its season Wednesday, so Jarrett Lee’s father, Stephen, the quarterbacks coach at West Texas A&M, was able to make the six-hour trip from Canyon, Texas, to Arlington to see his son play.
Because of schedule conflicts, the elder Lee said it was likely the only chance he’d have to see his son play in person this season.
West Texas A&M, by the way, is the alma mater of LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe.
“I don’t really care if we’re ranked No. 1 or not. That’s so far away from ever really counting. I appreciate the fact that we’re close enough to end up No. 1, and that’s really all I care about. If we continue to play well, we’ll earn our way.”
LSU coach Les Miles
Starting lineup sewn up
LSU had several starting positions listed as either/or on the depth chart it released mid-week. The starters became official shortly before kickoff and there were no surprises.
Sam Montgomery started over Lavar Edwards at right defensive end, and the Tigers started in their nickel scheme with Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon starting at cornerback and Tyrann Mathieu at nickelback.
On offense, Spencer Ware was the No. 1 running back, ahead of Alfred Blue and Michael Ford. T-Bob Hebert started at left guard, Will Blackwell started at right guard and Brad Wing was the punter, ahead of Drew Alleman, D.J. Howard and James Hairston.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Rabalais, Les East and Scott Hotard contributed
to this report.