This time, 50-yard line at Superdome marks LSU dominance


NEW ORLEANS — Maybe it’s the new turf.

The playing surface at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is different than the rug that was on the floor the last time LSU played here, a humbling 21-0 defeat to Alabama in the 2011 national championship game.

Psychologically, the LSU program has never fully recovered from that night. Not once in the ensuing five seasons has LSU mounted a realistic threat to Alabama’s hegemony of the conference and the country. It was as if the Tide stole a piece of LSU’s pride on that miserable January night.

Perhaps no spot is more symbolic of that defeat than the Superdome’s 50-yard line. The Tigers never crossed it in the first half and only made one feeble and short-lived expedition into Alabama territory in the second. This is where LSU’s dream of being a true national power died.

On Saturday night, the dream was revived at that same 50-yard line.

Brigham Young’s offense is, at best, feeble. Jim McMahon isn’t strolling back onto the field for the Cougars, at least not beyond his role as BYU’s honorary captain in the stadium where he led the Chicago Bears one of the greatest routs in Super Bowl history back in January 1986.

But the fact the Cougars didn’t cross midfield a single time against LSU was symbolic. Ed Orgeron’s culture change is indeed underway.

Heading into the season, slippage seemed inevitable for the LSU defense. This was a unit that allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country last season and lost the bulk of the talent that achieved that feat. Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams were picked in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Davon Godchaux will start for the Miami Dolphins. Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith look like they will be major rookie contributors for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively.

Yet with five players making their first career starts, LSU’s defense pitched its first shutout since 2014. It allowed minus-5 rushing yards, fewest by an LSU opponent since 1982, and it did so without three suspended starters.

“We had a great defense last year,” LSU junior safety John Battle said. “Two first-rounders. Godchaux will be a hell of a guy in Miami. But I think we’re going to do a good job this season. We’re going to focus more on the small details than last year. Not let little things slip, giving up late touchdowns in the fourth quarter like we did last year. We pride ourselves in finishing this year.”

Battle said there’s a good reason the Tigers were able to play so many freshmen on defense with none of them getting exposed.

“Coach [Dave] Aranda does a great job preparing everybody and getting those young guys ready to go,” Battle said. “I was excited to see them.”

There’s another player Battle and every other member of the Tiger family will be even more excited to see than any of those talented freshmen. That, of course, is junior outside linebacker Arden Key.

Thanks to LSU’s opening night dominance, Battle didn’t even realize Key was missing. But when the name was mentioned, his eyes lit up immediately.

“Oh, man,” he said with a grin. “That’s going to be a sight to see. K’Lavon [Chaisson] and Corey [Thompson] and [Ray] Thornton did a great job holding the edge. But I can’t wait to get Arden back, honestly. We get him rushing the quarterback, we get those tipped passes and those free picks.”

Key is so dynamic that Aranda builds his entire game plan around the pass rusher. What fans witnessed against BYU — 97 yards of total offense — was merely Plan B.

Meantime, Alabama spent 2017’s opening night in Atlanta proving that it still sits atop the college football world. But the Tigers may have found a path to get back there themselves.

It was here all along, buried at the 50-yard line.

The post This time, 50-yard line at Superdome marks LSU dominance appeared first on SEC Country.

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