ATLANTA — Michael Bonnette’s official job title is that of LSU sports information director for football, a task he executes as well as anybody in the business.
But on those game days when the top-ranked Tigers are away from home — such as this afternoon’s SEC championship game against Georgia inside the Georgia Dome — Bonnette’s duties also include keeping LSU coach Les Miles supplied with his favorite flavor of grass.
“We keep it in little tins, maybe half the size of a [smokeless tobacco] tin,” Bonnette said just before the Tigers’ walk-through at the Dome on Friday. “Just a taste if he really needs it.”
There’s no hidden joke or meaning here for those of you whose minds have returned to the 1960s and ’70s.
It’s really just the same turfgrass grown at Tiger Stadium, though Miles — tapped by the state’s turfgrass growers to become their spokesman — has playfully embraced his odd habit of munching grass ever since he was first caught on camera chewing his cud during last year’s home win over Alabama.
Miles even recently released a statement through the turf growers concerning his grass guzzling, proclaiming that “nothing beats Louisiana-grown turfgrass. It’s local, fresh and reliable. And it’s the grass of champions, whether you chew it for luck or not.”
Whether the Tigers will need luck this afternoon is open to debate. Their average margin of victory is more than 28 points a game and their closest win was a 6-3 overtime triumph at Alabama in what many dubbed the Game of the Century.
“It’s like I told my players that week, though,” Miles said. “They don’t give trophies for [beating Alabama]. Once that Game of the Century ended, there would be another one.”
Let Georgia win its 11th straight games after dropping its first two to Boise State and South Carolina and the Bulldogs would almost certainly have pulled off the Upset of the Century. Georgia already is the only team in the league against which Miles doesn’t have a winning record as he ends his seventh season.
In fact, when last Georgia faced LSU in this event, the Bulldogs prevailed 34-14 in Miles’ first year on the job.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then, beginning with LSU knocking off Tennessee in this game two years later on its way to a national title.
Just don’t ask Miles what he thinks of the distinct possibility that he’ll have to beat Bama a second time in the BCS title game to win his second national title at LSU.
“My thoughts are on the University of Georgia and Georgia only,” he said Friday. “I could give a rat about the next game.”
Yet counterpart Mark Richt — perhaps briefly thinking about the new contract he is soon expected to sign with UGA — allowed himself a brief trip into the Bulldogs’ future during Friday’s Coaches Luncheon, which annually brings close to 1,000 people to the Atlanta Hyatt Regency.
“We’re still learning what to do on defense,” Richt said of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. “We’re still not as good as we’re going to be there.”
And the Dawgs were good enough down the stretch to hold five of their SEC foes to under 15 points.
Nor was Richt without his own humorous story. Asked what made Jarvis Jones want to transfer from Southern Cal to Georgia, the coach said of the Columbus, Ga., native: “He realized he was far away from everybody he knew and he couldn’t find sweet tea.”
So maybe the Bulldogs’ second SEC title game against a Miles-coached LSU squad will end as well as the first.
Or maybe Miles will merely pull out a sweet tin full of Tiger Stadium turf at the first sign of trouble as a good luck charm to mow the Dawgs down.
Just don’t expect him to sample the Dome’s plastic grass should he get the munchies after chewing up the real stuff.
“If you see me going for their [the Dome’s] grass,” he said, “you’ll know something really big is up.”
The only thing big in this one is LSU’s superiority. Make it Tigers 35-21.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...