*The picture above was taken by Steve Miley in the LSU Quad after Hurricane Gustav caused destruction to the Baton Rouge area*
We are 20 days into the college football season, and my beloved LSU Tigers have only played one game in the last 17 days. For some fans and some cities, that may be acceptable, but I am not an average fan—and Baton Rouge is not your average city.
Baton Rouge is a city that is still suffering after Hurricane Gustav ripped through it...16 days ago. The LSU campus saw extensive damage, along with over three million dollars worth of damage to several athletic facilities. There are still areas of the city without power, trees still litter the sides of streets, and cable and power lines still lie snapped.
Shocked? Well, if you live outside Baton Rouge, you probably are. That’s because as soon as the levees held the water back and out of New Orleans, the national media headed out of town and back to their desks.
Instead of the great people of Baton Rouge crying about the lack of FEMA assistance or whining about the lack of handouts, two-hour lines at gas stations, or the trouble of finding ice to save some items from the fridge, the great people of this great city helped themselves.
Neighbors assisted neighbors to tarp their roofs, cut up trees, pick up debris, and enjoy a warm shower if the neighbor was lucky enough to have a generator. Those are the kind of people that live in Baton Rouge, and my hat goes off to each and every one of them.
Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana and the seat of state government, but most importantly...it is a college town. Baton Rouge and LSU are like red beans and rice; crawfish, corn and potatoes; Abita beer and Zapps Cajun Crawtators; The Chimes and boudin balls; and purple and gold—you can’t have one without the other.
Tiger football keeps Baton Rouge sane...or makes it insane, depending on who you ask.
Now, back to me. I am not your average fan. After the Appalachian State 10:00 AM kickoff (the earliest in LSU football history), I headed home to finish preparing for the storm. I was able to spend Saturday evening watching college football, but it just wasn’t the same with the hurricane graphic plastered in the upper right corner of my TV screen.
Sunday brought some rain, but Monday brought destruction. As Friday rolled around and the Tigers game was postponed, I still had no electricity and knew I could not get through the weekend without watching college football all day.
A few friends and I headed to Biloxi over to the IP Casino and enjoyed some hot meals, drinks, and LOTS of college football...while keeping a watchful eye on Ike.
I spent the entire day at the sports bar drinking and cheering (and booing) with complete strangers, but it just didn’t feel like football season.
Sunday we headed over to New Orleans to watch the Saints beat the Tampa Bay Bucs, but it still didn’t feel like football season.
This past Saturday I spent the entire day tailgating at LSU and watched my Tigers dismantle an outmatched North Texas team, but it still didn’t feel like football season.
I hate Mondays! I don’t dislike them—I HATE them! However, I was excited to return to work on Monday. It was finally a “normal” week. My electricity had been restored a couple of days before the weekend, there was no hurricane or “areas of interest” to keep an eye on, and no wondering how long it would take to fill up my gas tank.
Most restaurants were reopened (although some still on a limited menu), most people were back at work, most cell phone calls actually went through, and most people were talking LSU football.
It was Monday when I realized this was no “normal” week at all! This was “Auburn” week.
The home team has won the last eight meetings, and the winner has represented the SEC West in the conference Championship Game six of the past eight seasons. Not even the “great” Nick Saban could post a victory on the Plains, and he still hasn’t.
To say there is no love lost between these two teams would be an understatement.
In 1988, LSU’s Tommy Hodson completed a last-second pass to Eddie Fuller in the back of the end zone. The crowd reaction registered on a seismograph across campus, coining the phrase the “Earthquake Game”.
The 1994 game in Auburn proved to be a whacky one. LSU took a 23-9 lead into the fourth quarter when Jamie Howard threw five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns, to allow Auburn to win the game 30-26. The game was coined the “Interception Game”.
1996 brought the “Barn Burner” game in Auburn as Old Auburn Sports Arena, just yards away from Jordan-Hare, caught on fire, throwing flames high into the air. The flames were seen as high as the upper deck of the stadium, prompting the PA announcer to assure fans that the stadium was not on fire.
In 1998, LSU beat Auburn on the road 31-19 under then-head coach Gerry DiNardo. This was the last time LSU won at Auburn.
In 1999, Auburn returned the favor by knocking off LSU in Baton Rouge 41-7. It was Tommy Tuberville’s first year as the Auburn head coach (and still his only victory in Baton Rouge as the Auburn coach). After the victory, Tuberville and several players lit up cigars to celebrate the victory while still on the Tiger Stadium turf. This is the last Auburn victory in Baton Rouge, the “Cigar Game.”
The 2001 game in Baton Rouge was postponed due to the Sept. 11 attacks and rescheduled for Dec. 1. The game would decide the SEC West winner and the team that would face Tennessee in the SEC Championship game the following weekend.
During pregame warmups, the Auburn team huddled on the Eye of the Tiger at midfield, digging their cleats and ripping up the turf. Auburn was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct before the game began. With the penalty moving the kickoff up to the 50, Coach Saban decided to open the game with an onside kick that was recovered by LSU.
The Tigers cruised to a 27-14 victory and then knocked off No. 2 Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game, keeping the Vols out of the National Title game.
In 2004, the Tigers traveled to Auburn as the defending National Champions. A defensive struggle ensued, but Auburn managed a late touchdown, knotting the score at nine. The extra point was missed, but a late flag was thrown, and LSU was penalized for a defensive player landing on the center. To this day, it is the only time in college football history that any team has been penalized for this.
Auburn made their second attempt, winning the game 10-9 and coining the phrase “The Extra Point Game.”
2005 would prove that kicking in Death Valley is no easy task. Both the LSU and Auburn kickers struggled to get the ball through the uprights, sending the game into OT tied at 17. LSU lost the toss and was unable to get the ball into the end zone. The Tigers settled for a field goal to take a 20-17 lead.
Auburn also struggled against the Tiger defense, but a fourth down field goal sailed left, hitting the upright and sending Death Valley into a frenzy. This game is still remembered as “The Field Goal Game.”
The 2006 trip to Auburn would end much like their 2004 trip, creating “Ref Gate.” LSU and Auburn were scoreless while the second quarter wound down. The Tigers threw a pass to the end zone, where the Auburn defender pulled the Tiger receiver away from the ball. No flag was thrown, forcing LSU to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead into halftime.
The no-flag call prompted the commentators to say, “Auburn got away with one there.” This would be said twice more before the end of the game.
On fourth down late in the game, JaMarcus Russell threw a pass intended for Craig Davis at the four-yard line. A flag was thrown by the back judge for pass interference. Auburn argued the pass was tipped, which was correct, but the contact came before the tip, which by rule is holding.
The referee signaled pass interference, but after more discussion, picked up and waved the flag off. Auburn was given the ball and ran out the clock to seal the 7-3 victory.
2007 was sure not to disappoint. With LSU trailing 23-24 late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were able to put together a drive to the 24-yard line. With time enough to run one more play, Coach Les Miles chose to throw for the end zone rather than kick a 41-yard field goal. The pass from Matt Flynn was caught by Demetrius Byrd to give the Tigers a 29-24 lead.
Although the clock showed one second remaining, replay showed the clock should have been stopped with four seconds to go. The Tigers kicked the extra point to take a 30-24 lead. Auburn was unable to get the ball into the end zone on the kickoff return, ending the game.
The 2008 matchup is likely not to disappoint. The Auburn offense has struggled under Tony Franklin’s new spread, failing to score a touchdown in last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Mississippi State. The LSU Tigers have not been tested this season, so the question marks over the LSU quarterbacks remain.
This game has all the ingredients of another classic.
As crazy as Baton Rouge has been, it was quite fitting to return to a “normal” week when the Auburn game looms...a series that has been anything but “normal.”
It is “Auburn week”—now it feels like football season!