After making his first college start at Auburn last season, Brandon Harris isn’t too worried about the hostile Southeastern Conference environment he’ll face in Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday.
But LSU’s sophomore quarterback has never tried to direct an offense over the sound of 61,000 clanging cowbells.
Fans ringing cowbells is a longtime tradition at Mississippi State games, though the SEC banned them as “artificial noisemakers” from 1977-2009.
The rules have become increasingly lenient in recent years, and now fans are prohibited from using the cowbells only from the time the center is over the ball until the play is blown dead.
Harris knows how much additional crowd noise can affect a game, and he said LSU’s indoor practice facility does a good job of simulating a raucous crowd.
“It’s important that I communicate with all our guys and we echo the call as a total offensive unit,” Harris said. “If you get too busy worrying about the crowd, the play clock gets down and you get yourself in trouble.
“Ringing a bell and crowd noise are two different things. I think the bells are going to be louder than crowd noise.”
The last time the Tigers played in Starkville, in 2013, Davis Wade Stadium’s capacity was only slightly more than 55,000. But an expansion to the north end zone completed last year made room for a few thousand more fans — and their cowbells, of course.
LSU coach Les Miles said the cowbells don’t distract him, but he wouldn’t mind seeing some painted purple and gold.
“I think we need to petition to get some cowbells in our stadium,” he joked. “I think it would be an enjoyable piece, as well.”
Mills injury update
Injured defensive back Jalen Mills is healing “extremely fast,” Miles said on his radio show Wednesday.
“The swelling in the ankle is down,” Miles said. “The utility for him is there. I really expect him to return to play in routine time. I don’t know exactly what week or what time, but I can tell you, right now he is way ahead of the curve.”
The senior injured his ankle during practice Aug. 19 and had surgery a few days later. Miles referred to the injury Wednesday as a “high ankle” injury. Mills was expected to be out at least six weeks from the time of the injury, a source told The Advocate. His projected return date is uncertain, but a rough estimate would be the Oct. 10 trip to South Carolina.
Mills started all 39 games of his three-year LSU career before this season. Rickey Jefferson is replacing him at safety, and Dwayne Thomas is playing nickelback in place of Mills.
Sophomore wide receiver Trey Quinn felt healthy just in the nick of time — even though he participated in just one play in Saturday night’s cancellation against McNeese State.
Quinn missed more than two weeks of practice with what he calls a “nagging” neck injury, but woke up pain-free Saturday.
“God blessed me with something,” Quinn said. “Night before, I felt it nagging a little. Come game time, I felt great.”
Quinn said he’s fully healthy as LSU readies for a crucial game at Mississippi State. He spoke to media Tuesday for the first time in at least two weeks.
“I wouldn’t say I fell behind,” he said, despite having to wear a green no-contact jersey. “When I was in film sessions and watched practice, I was able to take mental reps. I really knew what was going on when I got back.
“It’s still tough taking two to three weeks off of football after you get started in camp. I don’t think I missed a step.”
Quinn, who was in for one of LSU’s five offensive snaps against McNeese, watched preliminary rounds in the Ultimate Fighting Championship during the lightning delay that eventually canceled the game.
“It was crazy,” he said of the near four-hour delay. “Ridiculous.”
Harris to Dupre
LSU ran only five offensive plays against McNeese, but one of them has kept sophomore wideout Malachi Dupre up at night.
Dupre got open on a deep route on third-and-10 when McNeese State blew a coverage, but Harris was late to recognize it and underthrew him. Dupre said Harris went through his progression properly.
“They played a coverage where he wasn’t supposed to be open,” Harris said. “Pre-snap, I knew he wasn’t going to be open. So I’m getting ready to check the ball down or extend the play, then out of my peripheral I see him running wide open.
“Nine times out of 10, I’ll make that throw. That’s no problem of a throw for me.’
Had the two sophomores connected for a 66-yard touchdown, it wouldn’t have counted because the game was canceled. That doesn’t stop Dupre from thinking about the score that could have been.
“I know it wouldn’t have counted,” he said. “At the same time, it would have been gratifying for myself to know I scored a touchdown early in the game.”
The SEC broke its own record with 10 teams — including all seven Western Division members — in this week’s AP poll.
Miles, however, thinks there’s still room for improvement.
“I thought we should have had 25 ranked teams in the top 25, to be honest,” Miles joked Wednesday during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “They didn’t quite use all of them or rank second teams. I think we’re a talented league.”
LSU was 14th in this week’s poll. The other SEC teams in the poll are No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Auburn, No. 10 Georgia, No. 16 Texas A&M, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 21 Missouri, No. 23 Tennessee and No. 25 Mississippi State.
Teuhema and Clark practice
Sophomore defensive ends Sione Teuhema and Deondre Clark practiced Wednesday after not dressing out for the team’s canceled season opener last Saturday.
When asked if they will travel to Starkville with the team on Friday, Miles said, “They will ... if, in fact, they make the travel squad. I would guees that they will.”
More on refunds
On the heels of the LSU athletic department announcing it will refund fans who bought tickets to the McNeese game, StubHub communications manager Cameron Papp confirmed Wednesday the company is issuing full refunds of tickets and parking passes purchased through the company’s website.
Ross Dellenger, Sheldon Mickles and Marcus Rodrigue contributed to this report.