Chris Parent (@chrisparent)

Tigers Eye Improvement, Tenth Win During Bowl Prep

Cody Worsham
Cody Worsham
Digital Media Reporter

Foster Moreau’s spider senses are operating at optimal levels.

He knew, for example, something was up at the team meeting where Devin White received his Butkus Award. The excessive presence of LSU’s communications staff. Cameras. Dave Aranda, for the first time, speaking in front of the whole team.

“There’s a little too much activity,” Moreau says. “My spider senses were tingling. I was like, ‘Alright, something’s going to happen.’”

The real giveaway, though, was when a strange voice interrupted Aranda mid-sentence. Who, Moreau wondered, is crazy enough to talk while ARANDA is talking?

“That’s a recipe for disaster,” Moreau says.

It was actually a confirmation of Moreau’s suspicions, proof that his self-professed spider senses were working at peak function. The strange voice was Matt Butkus, son of Dick, awarding White with the Butkus trophy. Something was, in fact, up.

Something else has Moreau’s sixth sense engaged heading into a Jan. 1, 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl clash with undefeated UCF, too: LSU has unfinished business, and nothing – not a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M in the rearview mirror or the finish line in sight of the offseason – will distract them from that.

“I think we’re just going to come to play,” Moreau says. “I know we’re going to be ready to go, because I know I’m not going to, and I know the other team leaders won’t allow that. We’re just excited to play, and we’ve got a bad taste in our mouths. I think that’s going to carry us through. I think we’re going to fight to the end, fight to the death. I know we’ll be ready to go. Again, it’s my spider sense. I feel we’re going to be ready.”

The Seasoned Vet

Quarterback Joe Burrow will be more prepared than most for the stage. It’s his third trip to the Fiesta Bowl, his first with the Tigers after two with Ohio State.

“I wasn’t disappointed,” Burrow says. “It’ll be different because I’m actually playing this time. I’ll definitely be able to show everybody where to go. The hotel’s very big, so I’m going to have to tell them we have to leave early for meetings. I’m a seasoned vet at the Fiesta Bowl.”

Previous trips to Arizona have netted Burrow a valuable collection of bowl swag. He returned home from the past two games’ gift suites with a USB-loaded recliner and a nice set of headphones. That recliner still sits in his apartment in Baton Rouge, having made the trip from Columbus in his vehicle.

“The wrong bump,” Burrow jokes, “and the windows would’ve shattered.”

Offensive lineman Garrett Brumfield, meanwhile, is eyeing a PlayStation. He says he’s more of a PC gamer, but he’s studied the specs of the new PS4 Pro, and he likes what he sees.

“You don’t go to the Pizza Hut buffet to eat the salad,” he jokes. “You go to eat the pizza. You go to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl to get the PlayStation.”

Sunday Didn’t Exist

Jokes aside, the Tigers are more focused on the game at hand than the game systems they might land in the gift suites.

For the offense, it’s a chance to build on a breakout showing in a 74-72 seven overtime loss to A&M to close out the regular season. That game required a few extra days of recovery, both mentally and physically – particularly when the team plane was re-directed to New Orleans due to fog around the Baton Rouge Airport. That itinerary change put the Tigers back home at 5:30 a.m., an inauspicious conclusion to a difficult day.

“Sunday didn’t exist,” Brumfield jokes, noting that other than 1 p.m. treatment, he pretty much stayed in bed all day. “Sunday was not a real day.”

Burrow, following a career-high 29 carries for 100 yards, was pretty bruised up for a couple of days, too.

“Physically, that was the sorest I’ve been in a long time,” he says. “I haven’t carried the ball 30 times in my entire football career. Mentally, it was draining, being out there so long, giving so much, and losing the game.”

Still, days of reflection have allowed the Tigers to see the game through a different lens. Burrow hasn’t watched the film in full yet – he plans to before the Fiesta Bowl – but the fact that the offense scored in every overtime and put up nearly 500 yards gives them a foundation of confidence to build on.

“We made some plays in the clutch, and we were able to score in every overtime,” Burrow says. “We did some good things and some bad things just like every game, we missed some opportunities to seal it in regulation. Obviously, it’s tough when you don’t come out on top.”

Brumfield was more boisterous in his pride. He’s heard enough criticism of LSU’s offenses in his five seasons in purple and gold. To perform the way his unit did in his final SEC contest – fighting until the end, making plays in the clutch – is something he’ll never forget.

“Honestly, it was rewarding,” he says. “That’s hard to say when you lose, but to go out there and play that way with the guys we have...Not to toot our own horn or take congratulations for things we don’t deserve, but a lot of people would’ve bet their life savings the LSU offense would not stand up seven times in overtime, and we did that.”

Now, bowl prep offers the opportunity to build and improve on that success. Burrow, who didn’t arrive at LSU until the summer, is excited about getting what he called “basically a full camp” under his belt.

“This is like another spring practice for us,” he says. “We’re going to be going up against our defense. I have some things I need to work on. Everyone has things they need to work on. We’re going to treat this 15 practices like it’s spring ball.”

The Punter’s Perspective

Zach Von Rosenberg has enjoyed an unforgettable season as a sophomore, ranking seventh nationally and second in the SEC with a 45.6 yard per punt average. He also put 17 inside the opponents’ 20 and gave up just 4.9 yards per punt return.

So when overtime rolled around against the Aggies, effectively rendering him null for the remainder of the game, he was all kinds of out of whack.

“After regulation’s over, it’s pretty agonizing,” he laughs. “You realize, there’s nothing I can do now to impact this game. So you can’t even distract yourself with your process of getting ready to punt. Going to kick into the net, you can’t do that, because you’re not on offense to punt the football, you’re on offense to score a touchdown or kick a field goal.  That’s it. Field position’s out, which is so bizarre. I feel like I’m out of whack. There’s nothing to do. You just agonize and cheer on your teammates and hope for the best result, which we didn’t get. It was awful, to watch.”

The 28-year-old punter has a different perspective on most things from his teammates, but he’s on board with them one a key factor: how important getting a 10th win against UCF could be for the program.

“We haven’t done it since 2013,” he says. “Having double digit wins, only 10 percent of teams get there in a season, maybe less. Having two digits in your win column is a big deal for recruiting. Alabama’s the only other team in the SEC West with double digit wins. That definitely separates you.”

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