Saban not surprised by LSU's improvement since Troy debacle

Saban not surprised by LSU's improvement since Troy debacle

October 30th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron hugs wide receiver D.J. Chark after the team's 27-23 victory over Auburn on Oct. 14.

Photo by Matthew Hinton

LSU has shown dramatic improvement since losing to Troy University at home late last month.

Nick Saban isn't surprised. He can speak from experience.

Alabama's 11th-year head coach suffered an embarrassing home defeat in his first season as LSU's coach back in 2000, 13-10 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In his first season with the Crimson Tide in 2007, he sustained another inexplicable setback, 21-14 to Louisiana-Monroe at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"I think, psychologically, that it's almost just the opposite as you think," Saban said last week. "Sometimes when you have a catastrophic event, which losing to some teams would be viewed as that, especially relative to the image that everybody has of your program, it kind of ignites a team a little bit and raises the level of everybody's focus in terms of what they need to do and how they need to respond so they can do better.

"I certainly feel like that was the case back when we lost, and I see that happening with LSU's team as well."

No. 1 Alabama and No. 19 LSU will play Saturday night at Bryant-Denny in a matchup that will serve as the Southeastern Conference's lone CBS prime-time telecast of the season for a seventh straight year. This pairing looked laughable on Sept. 30, when Ed Orgeron's Tigers lost 24-21 to a Sun Belt Conference member, but they regrouped to defeat Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss earlier this month to turn a 3-2 debacle of a season into a more respectable 6-2, with their SEC record now 3-1.

In the 27-23 upset of Auburn on Oct. 14, LSU rallied from a 20-0 deficit, so what has happened since the Troy game?

"We're playing for 60 minutes," Orgeron said. "We're playing with passion and energy. We're running the football and doing what it takes to win. Obviously I thought our special teams, especially against Auburn, made a difference in the game, and I just think our team is refusing to play like they did against Troy.

"We were embarrassed. I was embarrassed as a coach. We let down the Tiger Family, but we weren't going to complain or say anything about it. We just went to work."

LSU turned the ball over four times and went 0-for-9 on third-down conversions against Troy, which has since gone 2-1, with the loss to South Alabama. Orgeron didn't duck the embarrassment of the defeat after that game, nor does he duck it now.

"Obviously we didn't execute," he said. "Obviously we didn't play with the passion or the energy that we needed to. We were not ready. We didn't come ready to play for 60 minutes. We didn't come with our hands up coming into a fight.

"We got caught, and we learned a lesson from it."

LSU's 2000 team bounced back from the loss to UAB with a 38-31 overtime upset of Tennessee and topped Georgia Tech 28-14 in the Peach Bowl to cap an 8-4 season. Saban's Tigers won the SEC championship in 2001 and won league and national championships in 2003.

Saban's 2007 Tide didn't immediately regroup from the loss to Louisiana-Monroe, losing a sixth straight Iron Bowl to finish a 6-6 regular season before outlasting Colorado in the Independence Bowl. They opened the 2008 season, however, with 12 consecutive wins and have since won four national titles.

The biggest reason Saban didn't expect the Tigers to be down for long after losing to Troy is because, well, they're the Tigers.

"They're a really good team with good players, and they're playing better and better and better as the season goes on," Saban said. "We have a lot of respect for their coaches and players and the way they've improved and are playing right now."

Alabama (8-0, 5-0) opened Sunday as a 21.5-point favorite over LSU.

Ekiyor picks Tide

Emil Ekiyor, a 6-foot-2, 322-pound offensive lineman from Indianapolis, announced Sunday he was switching his commitment from Michigan to Alabama. Ekiyor is the nation's No. 2 center and No. 105 prospect overall, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

Alabama now has 12 commitments for the 2018 signing class, with its crop ranked 16th by 247Sports and boasting the fourth-highest average per commitment behind Ohio State, Texas and Miami.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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