Morning kickoff provides unique challenges for LSU players, fans

BATON ROUGE, La. — As legendary college football media personality Beano Cook once noted, “Dracula and LSU football are both at their best after the sun goes down.”

That begs the question of what the Tigers will look like this week. The vampire most closely associated with their Saturday morning kickoff against Arkansas is  Count Von Count of “Sesame Street” fame.

For his part — and he’s probably right — LSU coach Ed Orgeron thinks it is going to be tougher on the fans than it is on his players. The home crowd hasn’t had to prepare for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Tiger Stadium since 2011, and it’s only the 12th morning start in Baton Rouge since 1959.

So Orgeron is dispensing sound advice to the Tiger faithful, who are presented with the challenge of squeezing a full day of partying into a much smaller window.

“We’re going to need all our fans to come on up early, drink some coffee — put a little something in it and get in Tiger Stadium and come enjoy the day with us,” Orgeron said with a virtual wink and a nudge. “Because it’s going to be a great game.”

Last year’s rescheduled game against Florida had a noon local start, and it felt as if both the crowd and the team had trouble clicking in a 16-10 loss to the Gators.

When it comes to preparing for brunchtime football, Arkansas has a leg up. The underwhelming Razorbacks played a role in ESPN wanting this game nowhere near a primetime slot, and this will be their third 11 a.m. CT kick this season. Maybe it’s just meant to be for a team with bacon on its helmet.

At any rate, the Tigers must tweak a number of things to prepare for the early start. Orgeron cut practices 15 minutes short Tuesday and Wednesday. Lights out for the Tigers on Friday is 9 p.m. If any player wants to catch his high school alma mater in a playoff game, he will probably have to leave at halftime.

It’s going to be different for everyone on the LSU sideline.

“I’m usually up at 10 on game day, go to chapel, go eat and take an extra nap,” said senior receiver DJ Chark.

That schedule won’t work this week. But this is not a totally foreign experience for Chark. Like other veteran Tigers, Chark recalls last year’s Citrus Bowl, which also kicked off at 11 a.m.

“An 11 o’clock game is a stretch,” Chark said. “You can’t be sleeping on the field. It’s a little drag. It’s definitely a bit different than a 2:30 or 6 o’clock game. Hopefully you fall asleep early, because you’re not used to it.”

For players and fans, there is no choice but to embrace the schedule. It’s best to treat an event that comes around less often than the Olympics — a morning kickoff at Tiger Stadium — as a unique spectacle.

After all, attitude is everything when it comes to overcoming adversity. And few things adjust attitude better than a full mug of coffee. Maybe with a little something extra.

LSU is 5-5 in past 10 years against Arkansas:

  Year Result Site
 2016  No. 19 LSU 38, Arkansas 10  Fayetteville
 2015  Arkansas 31, No. 9 LSU 14  Baton Rouge
 2014  Arkansas 17, No. 20 LSU 0  Fayetteville
 2013  No. 15 LSU 31, Arkansas 27  Baton Rouge
 2012  No. 8 LSU 20, Arkansas 13  Fayetteville
 2011  No. 1 LSU 41, No. 3 Arkansas 17  Baton Rouge
 2010  No. 12 Arkansas 31, No. 6 LSU 23  Fayetteville
 2009  No. 17 LSU 33, Arkansas 30  Baton Rouge
 2008  Arkansas 31, LSU 30  Fayetteville
 2007  Arkansas 50, No. 1 LSU 48  Baton Rouge

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