BATON ROUGE – I never thought after a day of watching blowouts, surprises, strange PSAs from universities around the country, and rain delays that tested the ability of studio analysts on all of the ESPN family of networks that it would be after 11 p.m. before I saw what I was waiting to see in LSU’s 28-24 win over Wisconsin in Houston.
There is something always amazing about the first weekend of college football and isn’t that first Saturday even better when the first game kicks off in Ireland at 7:30 in the morning. It’s like your Saturday American version of the early AM English Premier League game. And Penn State and UCF put on a good one.
It was hours of SEC Network watching as the time kept ticking toward the 8 whatever pm kickoff for the LSU game. It also marked the first dilemma for fans trying to watch both the Arkansas-Auburn game when it was delayed and the start of USM-Mississippi State. Could fans find the alternate SEC Network channel to get the game? Thanks to Cox for putting them back-to-back in the channel lineup.
Then there was finally the LSU-Wisconsin kickoff and that wasn’t real smooth either. Georgia and Clemons were playing a late afternoon version of the CBS SEC tilt (in length) and threatening to go past four hours. So the LSU game was delayed to 8:15 p.m. and then the start announced for ESPNU. A quick flip to ESPNU proved fruitless unless you wanted to see the post-game interview with Nick Saban for the fourth time. Turns out the game was starting on ESPN after all.
But as many of you know, nothing really for LSU fans was worth seeing for most of the half except for a pass and catch by Anthony Jennings and Travin Dural. By the way, if you haven’t figured out from the end of the Arkansas game, the bowl game and this game that Jennings favorite target is, well … I don’t know what to tell you.
Sean McDonough, who for LSU fans is probably best known for calling LSU’s home run that beat Miami by Warren Morris in the final game of the 1996 College World Series, did a strong job with the game along with Chris Spielman in the booth. McDonough sets the stories well, but also let’s Spielman get in and do his thing.
When running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball for the first time, McDonough’s basic call was “Big … Powerful … Fast.” Spielman did a tremendous job showing on Wisconsin’s first touchdown an end zone replay that showed LSU’s ends getting caught in the same spot that led to plenty of open space. He was also right on top of the first LSU touchdown pass, saying LSU had to throw on first down, seconds before the Jennings-Dural hookup.
While this crew has seen more Big Ten and Wisconsin probably in comparison to the SEC, I thought they worked hard to hit all the major story lines and it appears LSU was forth coming in the night before meetings with the announcers. Those meetings may not be important to fans when coaches and players meet with TV crews, but if you think the other team is mentioned more, a lot of it comes from material given them in those meetings.
Spielman coached both teams most of the night from the booth, but he usually had to right replays (kudos to the truck) to get those.
McDonough made a good point late in the game when they were discussing the fake punt that earlier turned the game, it was McDonough was saw Les Miles ways early on as he did the play-by-play of the LSU game that was moved to Arizona State where LSU faked a punt deep on its own side of the field. Oh if people had only know what was to come. Although I think Wisconsin knew and still couldn’t stop as Spielman pointed out was a well-executed fake punt.
“Typical Les. Into the bag of tricks,” said McDonough in the final 90 seconds.
It took the studio to invoke the “Mad Hatter” theme of Les Miles, but in the end the LSU team that at least one of the announcing crew said was not the type that could come back in the second half kept alive the nation’s longest non-conference regular season victory streak, a number that LSU fans can say was proudly discussed on air. Of course at the time it was discussed as it, “it might be ending.”
But LSU’s streak is still alive, still growing and will come home alive and well next Saturday. The Tigers did what they have done so many times to shock and stun even their most diehard fans. They rallied for a win over a nationally-ranked foe.
McDonough got a key stat as well in that last minute that it was the 22nd fourth-quarter rally under Miles at LSU. A nice stat to end with.
As one media member tweeted, “Never boring. Never boring.”