It’s anybody’s guess on what will terrify the Vandals most Saturday night when the team walks out of Tiger Stadium’s visitors tunnel – The 450-pound live Bengal tiger caged up on the sideline staring them in the face, or the No. 2 team in the country that demolished the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies by 38-points last week.
In the heart of the Bayou they call it Death Valley, where teams that come in dreaming of upsets and victory often leave mauled and demoralized. LSU has won 19-straight at Tiger Stadium.
Regardless, the Vandals are well aware of the challenge that awaits them there.
“Everything we do has to be another notch higher, another speed. That’s what they’re really good at, speed,” center Mike Marboe said. “That’s the biggest thing preparation wise, everything they do…is so much faster than anything we’ve ever seen.”
Speed, indeed. That speed kept the usually potent Washington offense touchdown-less and held quarterback Keith Price to 4.4 yards per passing attempt. The beat down of the Huskies moved LSU to 2-0 on the year, and 2-0 at Tiger Stadium with an average margin of victory of 32.5 points.
“They call it Death Valley for a couple reasons,” coach Robb Akey said. “I think a lot of people have lost a game before they ever go in there, and that’s talking about SEC teams.”
“Is there mental work that needed to be done (for us)? Absolutely. I’ll tell you what, this (LSU) football team is damn good. They’re going to be in the hunt for it all,” Akey said.
Over 92,000 purple and gold clad fans will be present to watch said national title contender against the Vandals.
“There won’t be anything fake about that noise, it’s gonna be loud,” Akey said.
Idaho tried to replicate the conditions in practice as best they could with loud speakers that would follow the team up and down the field at the line of scrimmage. At one point offensive coordinator Jason Gesser and quarterback Dominique Blackman walked over to signal that they wanted it louder. Safe to say they’ll get that request granted on Saturday.
As for Mike VI…
“That tiger is gonna be there…I’m sure they’ll have him located so we can see those fangs. It’ll be like going to the zoo,” Akey said jokingly. “Bringing the tiger out to practice didn’t seem to help Washington much, I had two of them ready to go so we (didn’t) bring them out this week.”
Mono e mono. That’s how LSU is going to line-up on offense much of the time to challenge the Vandals to stop them from running the football, at their core at least. Washington couldn’t stop it last week, so the Tigers didn’t try to do much of anything else late in the game.
“It’s just getting in the mindset that they’re going to run it all game. Every down it’s going to be a hard down for us,” defensive tackle Jesse Davis said. “(We’ve got to) hold the ball and let the linebackers fill it. They’re going to be doing what they’ve been doing, run the same plays, hit us in the mouth.”
LSU is averaging 279 rushing yards per game in their first two, including 242 last week against Washington.
Unfortunately for Idaho, for the first time since JaMarcus Russell the Tigers also feature a competent starting quarterback. One Zach Mettenberger who went 12-18 for 195 yards and a touchdown against Washington last week, mostly in the first half. Considering that the Vandals have allowed ten passing plays of 20 yards or more in their first two games, it’s conceivable to think that the Tigers let Mettenberger loose in the first quarter throwing the ball down the field.
Where Idaho should probably measure its success is what it can do offensively against a defense that is easily on pace to finish top five in the nation. The Tigers have given up an average of 201 total yards and 8.5 points in their first two games. It starts up front for the Tigers, who had four sacks and seven quarterback hurries against Washington’s Keith Price.
Those numbers spell danger for Idaho’s offensive line, who gave up six sacks of Dominique Blackman last week at Bowling Green, while having only opened up large enough holes for Idaho’s backs to average 2.9 yards a carry so far on the year.
The ability for Idaho to design plays to get Blackman out of the pocket as well as call plays that allow for Blackman to get the ball out very quickly will be key. Yards will be few and far between for the Vandals so setting themselves up for manageable third downs might be the only way for Idaho to be able to move the ball on this defense.
Either way, LSU is going to have more speed, strength and talent at almost every position than Idaho. But the Vandals might have a better punter.
Our very extensive game preview from The Argonaut
We were guests on ‘The Geaux Show’ previewing the game. Skip forward to the 18th minute for the preview portion of the show.
Here is our piece examining the money that Idaho gets for playing in these types of games.
The Spokesman-Review has this piece on Rob Spear’s dilemma with the 2013 schedule
We welcome Stephen Baker from SB Nation’s ‘And the Valley Shook’ LSU blog for this week’s edition of the opposing viewpoint
Vandal Nation: Les Miles is talking a lot about how Arkansas losing to La. Monroe is reason for his team to be on edge while facing Idaho. He’s also talking a lot about how he respects how we’ve played our first two games. Is this just typical posturing from a head coach trying to not give the other team locker room material or is he really worried about a letdown after dismantling the Huskies last week?
Stephen Baker: I don’t think he’s worried about losing, but he is worried about a letdown. As great as LSU looked against UW, that’s how sloppy the team looked against North Texas. It’s not like the UW game was perfect either, as the receivers dropped a lot of balls. This game is LSU’s last chance to clean stuff up before SEC play, so I do think something at stake from Miles’ perspective. No more mistakes.
VN: The perception out west is that the SEC schedules an incredible amount of cupcake games like this for their out of conference. Is it hard as a fan to get up for these types of games when OoC games like USC – Auburn or UW – LSU are pretty few and far between?
Baker: Well, I think every conference schedules their fair share of cupcakes. Check out the Big 12 schedule or pretty much every Pac-12 team that isn’t USC. That said, I think LSU’s out of conference schedule this season is a travesty. Last year was so great precisely because LSU played so many great teams OOC, and while I don’t begrudge a team one or two cupcakes, LSU is playing (no offense to Idaho fans) three of them, including FCS Towson. Now, I know the reason LSU is playing Towson is because TCU backed out of the game due to adding a conference game in their schedule change and Towson was the only team LSU could find on such short notice to fill that specific weekend. But three cupcakes and the toughest OOC game a home date with Washington? That’s pitiful.
LSU at least has the “late replacement” excuse and a tough-ish SEC schedule by getting Florida and South Carolina as its East opponents. LSU will still have a tough overall schedule, but it is sorely missing that marquee out of conference game that should have been TCU. I’m ticked about it, but part of the reason LSU couldn’t find a major conference dance partner is because no one wanted to step up to the plate and schedule a tough OOC game. It sucks. Fans pay a lot of money for season tickets and they are paying primarily for games no one wants to watch.
VN: Introduce us to Zach Mettenberger. We’ve already faced two pretty decent quarterbacks, is it just going to get worse for us this week?
Baker: “The Mettensavior” has a big arm and gives LSU a legitimate threat at quarterback. He’s completing about 70% of his passes and he has the confidence to put the ball in tight spaces. It leads to the occasional poor decision as he trusts his arm a little too much, but he is just bursting with talent. The most discouraging thing is that his primary role is still to hand the ball off to the stable of future NFL running backs. He threw only four second half passes against Washington, and LSU still scored 41 points. The passing game just keeps you honest so LSU can beat you with the rubber hose that is the running game.
VN: The Honey Badger was noticeably in attendance at Tiger Stadium for the win against Washington. Has his absence been noticeable on the field yet, or would you have to wait for conference play to really assess that impact on the defense?
Baker: I thought it would be a big deal, but the two Jalens, Mills and Collins, have been pretty spectacular so far in coverage. LSU is shutting down opposing quarterbacks almost completely, as there’s just no one open. LSU is missing those big plays on defense and momentum shifting turnovers which Mathieu provided, but the pass defense is still remarkable.
VN: What was your reaction to Washington coach Steve Sarkisian bringing a live tiger to practice to simulate the environment of Mike VI? Robb Akey did say he would bring two of them this week…..
Baker: I thought it was kind of cool, but Sarkisian probably needed to spend more time preparing for LSU’s defensive front four. LSU’s ends especially are just a nightmare to gameplan for, and Washington had no answers for a team that could generate intense pressure without blitzing.
Best/Worst case scenarios & what we’d like to find out
Best: The Vandals take the opening kickoff, set up good field position and take less than five plays for Dominique Blackman to hit Mike Scott in the back of the endzone for the go ahead touchdown. It doesn’t provide Idaho with enough momentum to actually win the game, though it does give Idaho enough confidence to ultimately make the game competitive enough for a Vandal moral victory. LSU pulls away for good in the third quarter, but coasts through the second half. Idaho loses 41-17.
Worst case: No points. Five first downs. Blackman is getting hammered so hard that Akey has to take him out in the second quarter. LSU wins 61-0.
The Idaho State Board of Education declares that Boise State is the ‘Supreme Flagship Institution of Idaho and the Universe.’
What we’d like to find out: How Idaho’s offense can stand up to one of the elite defenses in college football. With Idaho’s season on the line next week against Wyoming the Vandals will have to show some forms of life, mainly in breaking some decent runs, pass protecting and being able to convert on third downs. Granted, most of this would likely come in the second half but that would be good enough.
– For Idaho residents, the game will be blacked out in the state of Idaho on ESPN Gameplan, and can only be viewed by purchasing it via TigerVision. Click here for ordering information. The game is still available in Washington and elsewhere on ESPN Gameplan (except Louisiana) and of course will be available on the Vandal radio network (check local listings).
– We will be live tweeting the game from the Vandal Nation twitter.
– Our special food for this week will be gumbo jambalaya. Check the argonaut food blog, Crumbs, on Saturday for our recipe.