GameDay: Football Season Arrives in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE – One of the most anticipated and long-awaited season openers in recent LSU football history finally takes place on Saturday night when the 13th-ranked Tigers host McNeese State in a non-conference contest in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers and Cowboys will kickoff at 6:39 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on SEC Network’s alternate channel with Adam Amin (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) and Olivia Harlan (sideline reporter) on the call.
The game can also be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network as the legendary Voice of the Tigers Jim Hawthorne starts his 33rd and final season calling LSU football games. Hawthorne is joined in the booth by Doug Moreau, while Gordy Rush will report from the sideline. Fans can tune in to 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge to hear the radio call of the game or they can listen on the internet in the GeauxZone on LSUsports.net/live.
The game will be only the second time LSU and McNeese State, members of the Southland Conference and a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school, have met in football. LSU won the other meeting, 32-10, in Tiger Stadium in 2010.
LSU returns 16 starters on offense and defense and all of its specialists from a team that posted an 8-5 overall mark and reached a bowl game for a school-record 15th straight year last season. The Cowboys, under the direction of head coach Matt Viator, nearly beat Nebraska in last year’s season-opener before a rash of injuries sent the McNeese to a 6-5 overall mark.
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“We have tremendous respect for McNeese and what Coach Viator has done there,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Our players have seen the film from last year’s Nebraska game and they understand that this is a quality opponent that we are facing. They have talented players on both sides of the ball and a tremendous quarterback.”
Against the Cowboys, LSU will look to slow senior quarterback Daniel Sams, a former starter at Kansas State who joined McNeese a year ago. Sam rushed for 711 yards and threw for another 624 in his first year at McNeese despite being slowed with a thumb injury.
The Cowboys return a total of nine starters from an offense that averaged 32.4 points and racked up 396.5 total yards (221.9 rushing, 174.6 passing) a game in 2014. McNeese will spread the field and give the Tigers an offensive look similar to what they will see in games against Mississippi State and Auburn in weeks 2 and 3.
Defensively, the Cowboys return seven starters to go along with highly-touted Texas A&M transfer Isaiah Golden, who will start at right defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Golden spent his true freshman season with the Aggies and even started against LSU in Tiger Stadium in 2013.
Sophomore Brandon Harris has been tabbed as the starter at quarterback for the Tigers and will start his first game in Tiger Stadium on Saturday. Harris played in nine games last year with his lone start coming at Auburn. Harris finished his rookie season with 452 yards and six touchdowns and added another 159 yards and three TDs on the ground.
Harris will be surrounded by talent when he steps on the field as the Tigers return 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette at running back along with three starters from a year ago on the offensive line. LSU also returns its top four wide receivers from 2014, led by junior Travin Dural, who caught 37 passes for 758 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, LSU’s front is anchored by a pair of returning starters in tackles Devon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture, while linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Jamal Adams are key returnees from a unit that led the SEC in total defense in 2014.
First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele along with first-year defensive line coach Ed Orgeron have made an immediate impact with some of LSU’s young defenders. LSU is expected to play three true freshmen and another seven sophomores on defense against McNeese.
LSU brings a school-record 12-game winning streak in season-openers into the contest and the Tigers also have the nation’s longest regular season non-conference winning streak at 49 straight wins. LSU is 39-0 in non-conference regular season games under Miles, which includes a 31-0 mark in those games played in Tiger Stadium.
“We had a really good offseason and that led into what has been a very good camp,” Miles said. “We are ready to play and excited to finally get the season underway. I like this team and the way they come to play and practice each day. It’s going to be fun to take the field on Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium.”