Rachel Street

Youth Movement Creating Buzz For Surging Tigers

Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications

The LSU brand appears to be everywhere you look these days. Turn on the NFL, and you’d be hard pressed to find a game that doesn’t feature at least one former Tiger. On any given week, there are as many as 50 former Tigers on NFL rosters, the most of any team in college football.

Flip to Major League Baseball’s Championship series and you’ll find infielder Alex Bregman and pitcher Will Harris starring for the Houston Astros.

Tuesday was opening night for the NBA and six former Tigers are currently in the league, including 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick Ben Simmons, who made his debut for the Sixers on Wednesday evening.

In late September, former LSU women’s basketball standouts Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus led their team – the Minnesota Lynx – to the WNBA Title.

But, the biggest buzz around LSU right now is that of the surging young football team, which is coming off a 27-23 win over 10th-ranked Auburn last Saturday in Tiger Stadium. Down 20-0 early in the second quarter, the Tiger defense stiffened and the offense, behind a 70-yard jet sweep from Russell Gage, got life as LSU methodically worked its way back into the contest.

Head coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers, never “blinked” and “galvanized” during a gut-check moment in the second quarter. Down 23-14 at halftime, there was no panic for the LSU Tigers. Instead, it was leaders like Gage and DJ Chark who assured Orgeron and the coaching staff that, “We got this.”

And it wasn’t just vets either, the young guys had something to say about it too.

Behind 15-tackles from sophomore Devin White and a gritty performance from young linemen like sophomore Rashard Lawrence and defensive backs like freshmen Greedy Williams, they held Auburn scoreless over the final two quarters. In the decisive second half, Auburn managed only 64 total yards, including six through the air, four first downs and just two completions.

Meanwhile, one of the vets, Chark unleashed the Magic of No. 7, returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown that ignited a Tiger Stadium crowd during the opening moments of the fourth quarter.

That set up a 42-yard kick by freshmen Connor Culp that would prove to be a game winner. His second came with only 38 seconds remaining, extending the lead to 27-23 and proved to be crucial as it forced Auburn to have to go the length of the field in order to win, rather needing a field goal for victory.

With the 2007 National Championship team back in Tiger Stadium as a group for the first time in 10 years, the Magic was back in Death Valley. Tiger Stadium was loud, Tiger Stadium was intimidating and Tiger Stadium made a difference.

Death Valley was at full strength on Saturday and “The Comeback” as its now been dubbed, will long live in the minds of those who saw it happen, as one of the best moments in Tiger Stadium history.

This LSU football team appears to be growing up right before our eyes. There are still hurdles to get over, but with back-to-back SEC wins over No. 21 Florida and No. 10 Auburn, this team appears to playing with a lot of confidence and heading in the right direction.

Moving beyond this current season, the bulk of this freshmen class who have started and played more than any other freshmen class in college football, are quickly become veterans experienced in SEC road games, big wins, and overcoming tough losses.

It’s that class, along with sophomores like White, who will form the very foundation on which LSU football under Ed Orgeron will be built. Given their performance as of late, including an offensive line that has featured as many as four freshmen at one time, that foundation appears to be very solid.

LSU won’t return to Tiger Stadium for nearly a month as the Tigers head to Ole Miss on Saturday followed by an open date and a trip to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama the first Saturday in November.

With only two homes games left on the schedule – Nov. 11 against Arkansas and Nov. 24 against Texas A&M – it’s a great opportunity for LSU fans to see what this youth movement is all about. After all, if you blink, these guys will be all grown up before you know it.

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