LSU (0-1) looks to bounce back on Saturday night in its home-opener against McNeese State (0-1), marking the first meeting between the two programs since 2015.
Kickoff is set for 7:02 p.m. CT on SEC Network+ and the LSU Sports Radio Network.
It will be Tiger Stadium’s first full capacity crowd in 651 days, dating back to the season finale against Texas A&M on Nov. 30, 2019. For many players and coaches, it will be their first normal Tiger Walk, and their first game in front of a full crowd at home. That’s exciting, especially for someone like LSU sophomore quarterback Max Johnson.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Johnson on the full return of fans. “I’ve never had a chance to play in front of a full crowd here at LSU. I’m looking forward to the energy and the excitement.”
It will also be a family reunion in Death Valley as head coach Ed Orgeron squares off against his son Cody, the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. It will no doubt be a special night for Coach O and family that will be in attendance, but he’s made it clear that once the ball kicks off, that all takes a back seat. It’s LSU vs. McNeese State — that’s the focus.
“Playing against Cody is going to be pretty cool,” Orgeron told the media on Tuesday. “He’s going to be talking some smack, he knows all of our players. He’s excited to play in Death Valley. But once the game starts, it’s going to be competition. We both have to do what we can to win the game.”
McNeese is led by former LSU assistant Frank Wilson, who enters his second season in Lake Charles.
“I believe he’s one of the greatest assistant coaches that’s ever come to LSU,” said Orgeron of Wilson. “Great recruiter — I’ve worked with Frank — great coach, and I’m glad he’s coaching my son. I love playing in-state schools, I think it’s good for the state, and we’re glad that McNeese is coming to LSU.”
The Tigers are looking to rebound from a 38-27 road defeat to UCLA in the 2021 opener, but Orgeron knows that must start with an improved effort in all three phases, specifically on the offensive and defensive lines. There were a few silver linings from Saturday’s loss, though, starting with star receiver Kayshon Boutte, who totaled nine catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Boutte also tallied an impressive 82 yards after the catch and averaged 9.1 yards per reception.
“We need to get the ball to him earlier,” Orgeron said on Boutte’s performance. “I thought he had a fantastic night. The guy is a dynamite player.”
Rushing for just 49 yards against UCLA, Orgeron emphasized that the run game needs to vastly improve in week two. Freshman running backs Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin , who impressed in fall camp and during preseason scrimmages, are both expected to make their debuts at some point in the game on Saturday, along with freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier.
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Eli Ricks recorded his first interception of the season against the Bruins, and it’s expected that many more are to come as the year progresses. Linebacker Damone Clark led the Tigers with a game-high 14 total tackles. The effort was there, Orgeron says, but players need to be put in better positions to make plays, and that’s an adjustment that’s going to be made ahead of Saturday’s game.
“I thought our players had a lot of want-to (against UCLA),” Orgeron said. “There was a lot of mistakes made, but most of the mistakes can be fixed by coaching. I take the responsibility myself.”
Fans are reminded that a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination is required for entry into the stadium. Preverification will be offered at 12 sites across campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ahead of the 7 p.m. kickoff. In addition to these 12 sites, mobile teams will be available across campus to verify proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to kickoff. Fans can also show proof of vaccination or negative PCR test when entering the stadium.
For more information, check out LSUsports.net/covid19.
Cardboard cutouts did their part in 2020, but their real life avatars can finally return to their seats in over 24 hours.
The sun will find its home in the Western Sky just minutes after kickoff, and Saturday Night in Death Valley will officially make its long-awaited return in front of a full capacity Tiger Stadium.
“I want to use (the energy),” Orgeron said. “I want us to explode at 7 p.m. CDT, not before. There’s a lot of young guys, and some coaches, that will be in Tiger Stadium for the first time, so it will be wild. It’s going to be a great night. I can’t wait.”