All posts by Scott Rabalais

Scott Rabalais is a sports columnist and sports writer for The Advocate. A Baton Rouge native, he began working at the paper in 1991 and has covered LSU athletics since 1992.

LSU sets spring football dates; Spring Game on April 16

Arden Key, Lewis Neal and Christian LaCouture celebrate after a sack. (Travis Spradling)

Arden Key, Lewis Neal and Christian LaCouture celebrate after a sack at Alabama. (Travis Spradling)

LSU will hold its annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, the school announced Wednesday.

Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. in Tiger Stadium. Details on television and radio coverage will be released later.

The school also released a number of spring football dates, including the start date of spring practice on March 7. LSU will have 15 spring practice dates, including the spring game.

The Tigers, coming off a 9-3 campaign, are heading into their 12th season under coach Les Miles.

LSU returns 18 starters from its 2015 team, and are working on what is currently rated as the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruiting class. Five members of that recruiting class – cornerback Savion Smith, linebacker Michael Divinity, running back Devin White and wide receivers Dee Anderson and Stephen Sullivan – enrolled earlier this month and will participate in spring practice.

KEY DATES

  • Feb. 3: National signing day (start of football signing period)
  • March 7: First day of spring practice
  • March 14: LSU pro timing day
  • March 31-April 1: LSU football coaches clinic
  • April 16: National “L” Club Spring Game (3 p.m., Tiger Stadium)
  • April 28-30: NFL draft

 

Leonard Fournette’s season may be over, but his race to be FBS rushing champion continues

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Leonard Fournette’s season may be over, but the race to be the first SEC back in 66 years to lead the nation in rushing goes on.

The LSU sophomore’s 212 yards rushing Tuesday night in the Texas Bowl against Texas Tech gave him 1,953 yards for the season, an average of 162.8 yards per game in 12 games.

Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama has 1,986 yards rushing in 13 games, an average of 152.8 yards per game. But since 1970, the NCAA has determined its rushing champion by yards per game and not total yards. In that regard, Henry has some work to do.

To pass Fournette, Henry would have to rush for 293 yards in Thursday night’s second College Football Playoff semifinal in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. That would put Henry at 162.79 yards per game, eclipsing Fournette’s 162.75 average.

If Alabama wins, Henry’s average could of course rise and fall depending on how he would do in the CFP National Championship Game, Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona.

The last SEC back to lead the NCAA in rushing was John “Kayo” Dottley of Ole Miss in 1949.

Former LSU All-American Marcus Spears: If Miles doesn’t make changes, he won’t make it

ATLANTA – Former LSU All-American defensive end Marcus Spears says he wasn’t in support of getting rid of Les Miles, but feels strongly that if Miles doesn’t make changes his days could be numbered as LSU’s coach.

“If he doesn’t make changes he won’t make it through the whole season,” said Spears, a college football analyst for the SEC Network, speaking Friday during a media session at SEC FanFare in advance of Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.

“I wasn’t a big proponent of Les getting fired,” Spears said. “But if not (offensive changes) now, then he’s stubborn. Because the offense has been stagnant.”

Spears, who played at LSU from 2001-04 under Nick Saban, said LSU’s talent is good enough to compete with Saban-coached SEC heavyweight Alabama. But doing that will require a different philosophy and/or different coaches on offense, Spears insisted.

“I’m interested to see if he makes a change offensively,” he said. “If he does, and it works out, we’ll forget all about the year 2015 and they’ll have success.

“If he doesn’t do anything to adjust this year, it won’t last long.”

 

 

LSU vs. Texas A&M: Five memorable games

Now positioned at the end of the regular season, the LSU-Texas A&M game is poised to grow as a rivalry in the seasons to come. Of course, these two have been big rivals long before A&M joined the SEC in 2012. In a series that began in 1899, the Tigers lead 30-20-3, 3-0 since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. LSU holds a 23-10-1 lead in Baton Rouge and is 4-0 against A&M under Les Miles. Here’s a look back at five memorable games from this ancient series:

Jan. 1, 1944 – LSU 19, Texas A&M 14: The Tigers travel to Miami for this Orange Bowl meeting with the Aggies by train and in cars with wartime fuel stamps saved up by LSU fans. They return home in 18 used cars purchased by a booster. In between, Steve Van Buren runs for two scores and throws for another in the Tigers’ first bowl win in four tries.

Sept. 19, 1970 – Texas A&M 20, LSU 18: The Tigers lead 18-13 with less than a minute left and the visiting Aggies pinned at their 21. On third down, Aggie quarterback Lex James launches an 89-yard touchdown pass to Hugh McElroy, who scores with :13 left. The Tigers recover to go 9-3, win the SEC championship and come within a score of upsetting eventual co-national champion Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Sept. 2, 1989 – Texas A&M 28, LSU 16: A No. 7-ranked LSU team expected to be a national title contender sees its hopes evaporate in the time it takes A&M’s Larry Horton to return the season’s first kickoff 92 yards for a score. The play is a portent of a dark age to come as LSU would finish 4-7, the first of six straight losing seasons.

Jan. 7, 2011 – LSU 41, Texas A&M 24: A crowd of 83,514 packs Cowboys (now AT&T) Stadium for this Cotton Bowl showdown, the first game between the Tigers and Aggies since 1995. LSU claws out of an early 10-0 hole with 288 yards rushing and three Jordan Jefferson to Terrence Toliver touchdown passes to finish 11-2 and No. 7 in the polls.

Oct. 20, 2012 – LSU 24, Texas A&M 19: Johnny Manziel runs wild against LSU for a half, but the Tigers gradually corral the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, forcing him into three interceptions as the Tigers rally from a 12-0 deficit for the win. Jeremy Hill rushes for 127 yards, including the game-winning 47-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left.

Senior struggles: LSU’s senior class one of the smallest, least productive in SEC

Which bowl game is LSU headed to? 1 of 3 options appear likely

Healthy Hawk: LSU coach Les Miles expects left tackle Jerald Hawkins to start against Texas A&M

CBS’ Gary Danielson: Lack of a QB has been Les Miles’ downfall

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Les Miles holds his weekly press conference amidst growing speculation of his dismissal.

(Patrick Dennis)

CBS Sports college football analyst Gary Danielson likes Les Miles, but in a podcast on CBSSports.com he said he understands why the LSU coach is on the hot seat.

“Since 2011, LSU in the SEC is 19-12. And that’s not good enough at LSU,” Danielson said. “That might be good enough at Purdue (Danielson’s alma mater), but at LSU that’s not good enough. That’s the job. When you take that job at LSU, Alabama, Florida, USC, Ohio State and Notre Dame you are measured differently than everybody else, and Les realizes that.”

LSU hasn’t measured up in recent years mainly because of an inability to attract and develop quarterbacks, Danielson said.

“This program has not grown to the level people have expected it to grow,” he said. “There was a formula set. This team competed for championships with JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn. Since then, that position (QB) has not been filled. The only time it was at a championship level was with Zach Mettenberger and he was a transfer.

“I think that has been Les’ downfall. The lack of a quarterback to make his system go. I don’t quite know why, but when you keep getting beat by Alabama when that’s your measuring stick, it’s going to happen.”

Danielson understands why Miles has support from his current players.

“Of course, his kids are going to back him up,” he said. “And I back him up. He’s a great guy. I would love my son to play for Les Miles. But in the high-stakes world of SEC football … but if there’s any grumbling just under the surface whether Les is on the hot seat next year, the SEC recruiters will destroy LSU this offseason. Les Miles knows he needs a vote of confidence or needs this decision to be made.

“He’s in there saying (to LSU administration), ‘I’m a damn good coach. You back me up or let me go.’ ”

Danielson believes Miles would be an attractive choice for a number of schools if he wants to continue to coach.

“He might not be unemployed for two hours,” Danielson said. “I think a lot of Big Ten schools, a lot of Big 12 schools, who would look at Les Miles and be lucky to have him.

“Now, would he be able to go from LSU to USC? I’m not so sure about that. But there are a lot of places that would take Les Miles and feel like they’ve got a good hire on their hands.”

To listen to the full podcast, CLICK HERE.

LSU versus Ole Miss: Five memorable games

There probably isn’t another LSU rivalry that contains more memorable games that the Tigers’ series against Ole Miss. Finding five memorable games between LSU and Ole Miss isn’t the problem. The problem is keeping the list to just five:

Oct. 31, 1959 – LSU 7, Ole Miss 3: No. 1 LSU versus No. 3 Ole Miss stands as the game of the 20th century for the Tigers and Rebels. Billy Cannon’s 89-yard punt return is the most legendary single moment in LSU football history, but it would be a mere football footnote if Cannon and Warren Rabb don’t stop the Rebels’ Doug Elmore on a goal-line quarterback sneak in the closing seconds.

Nov. 1, 1969 – Ole Miss 26, LSU 23: Archie Manning passes and scrambles the Rebels to a second-straight three-point win over the Tigers, costing LSU a perfect season. The 9-1 Tigers eventually choose to stay home after the Cotton Bowl picks Notre Dame to face No. 1 Texas.

Dec. 5, 1970 – LSU 61, Ole Miss 17: As oranges rain down from the Tiger Stadium stands, the Tigers clinch their only SEC title under coach Charlie McClendon. Tommy Casanova returns two punts for scores, Craig Burns another, as the Tigers punch their ticket to Miami for an Orange Bowl battle with eventual national champion Nebraska.

Nov. 4, 1972 – LSU 17, Ole Miss 16: Bert Jones some how gets off two passes in the final four seconds, the second to Brad Davis for a 10-yard TD as time expires. Rusty Jackson’s PAT leaves the Rebels singing the “One Second Blues,” an actual song that is recorded after this heart stopping (clock stopping?) encounter. “Entering Louisiana,” reads a billboard put up on the Louisiana-Mississippi state line after this game. “Set your clocks back four seconds.” “In my opinion,” then Ole Miss coach Billy Kinard says years later of the two plays in four seconds, “it ain’t no human way for them to do that.” “I don’t know why they were all upset,” Jones recalls 20 years later. “If they watched the film they would have known we were out of bounds.” “Bert starts all that crap,” Davis shoots back. “I was inbounds.”

Nov. 22, 2003 – LSU 17, Ole Miss 14: In a game in which the SEC West and the Tigers’ national title hopes are at stake, Matt Mauck throws a pick six on LSU’s first offensive play. Eventually, the Tigers rally for a three-point lead. With 1:50 left, Ole Miss faces fourth-and-10 at its 42. Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais shoves left guard Doug Buckles backward, tripping up quarterback Eli Manning to end the Rebels’ last threat.

Rabalais: ‘Strong indications’ LSU’s Les Miles coaching for his job vs. Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Scott Rabalais’ Heisman Watch: Find out where Leonard Fournette stands now

 

‘I know LSU is going to come back’: One recruit, at least, says Tigers’ skid won’t affect his decision

LSU bowl projections: Week 12

  • Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Peach Bowl vs. North Carolina
  • CollegeSportsMadness.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
  • Brad Crawford, SaturdayDownSouth.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan
  • Zac Ellis, SI.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma
  • Pete Fiutak, CollegeFootballNews.com: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan
  • Dan Harralson, Football.com: TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Florida State
  • Sam Kahn Jr. (SEC blog) and Brian Bennett (Big Ten blog), ESPN.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan State
  • Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan
  • Stewart Mandel: FoxSports.com: TaxSlayer Bowl vs. North Carolina
  • Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan
  • Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • Timothy Rapp, BleacherReport.com: Peach Bowl vs. Houston
  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Texas Bowl vs. Texas Tech
  • Erick Smith, USA Today: Peach Bowl vs. Houston
  • Phil Steele, PhilSteele.com: Peach Bowl vs. North Carolina

Bowl guide

  • Sugar Bowl: Jan. 1, New Orleans
  • Peach Bowl: Dec. 31, Atlanta
  • Citrus Bowl: Jan. 1, Orlando
  • Outback Bowl: Jan. 1, Tampa
  • TaxSlayer Bowl: Jan. 2, Jacksonville
  • Texas Bowl: Dec. 29, Houston

Rabalais: ‘Strong indications’ LSU’s Les Miles coaching for his job vs. Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Going long: How opponents are rolling up long returns, lengthy passes vs. LSU’s defense, coverage units

LSU chat replay: Will Les Miles tweak Tigers’ offense vs. Ole Miss? Answering the ‘what if’ questions

LSU vs. Arkansas: Five memorable games

LSU and Arkansas have had a long and storied rivalry that began way back in 1901, long before the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992. The Tigers lead the all-time series 37-21-2, 14-9 since Arkansas joined the SEC and 6-4 under Les Miles. In Baton Rouge, the Tigers have only lost twice to the Razorbacks, holding an 11-2-1 lead, Arkansas’ last win coming in 2007. LSU and Arkansas have still played more times in Shreveport than any other site. The teams met there 25 times from 1913-56 with LSU holding a 16-9 edge. Here’s a look back at five of the series’ most memorable games:

Jan. 1, 1947 – LSU 0, Arkansas 0: Hall of Famer quarterback Y.A. Tittle recalls this Cotton Bowl as the coldest game he ever played. Rain, sleet and snow leaves fans shivering in the stands in Dallas. LSU piles up a 271-54 edge in total offense and 15-1 edge in first downs but can’t manage to score in a game that becomes known as the Ice Bowl.

Jan. 1, 1966 – LSU 14, Arkansas 7: The Razorbacks are ranked No. 2 and riding a 22-game winning streak going into this Cotton Bowl, but a 7-3 Tigers team pull what ranks as one of the program’s all-time greatest upsets. Joe Labruzzo scores on a pair of 1-yard runs and Jerry Joseph’s fourth-quarter interception denies Arkansas a national title.

Nov. 29, 2002 – Arkansas 21, LSU 20: The year of the Bluegrass Miracle for the Tigers is also the year of the Markham Street Miracle for the Razorbacks. Trailing 20-14, Matt Jones hits Richard Smith for a 50-yard gain, then finds DeCori Birmingham in the back of the end zone on a 31-yard TD pass with :09 remaining. The win propels Arkansas, not LSU, into the SEC Championship Game.

Nov. 24, 2006 – LSU 31, Arkansas 26: Darren McFadden scores on an 80-yard run to pull Arkansas within 24-19 of LSU, but Trindon Holliday returns the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score. Felix Jones added another TD for Arkansas but LSU’s defense holds, allowing the Tigers to run out the final 1:31. Arkansas finishes first in the SEC West, but it is LSU that winds up in the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame.

Nov. 23, 2007 – Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3OT): Working out of the “Wild Hog” formation, McFadden leads the Razorbacks to an upset of No. 1 LSU in Tiger Stadium. McFadden rushes for 206 yards on 32 carries and three TDs and throws for a fourth score. LSU can’t keep the game going in the third overtime, as Matterral Richardson intercepted Matt Flynn’s two-point pass, but the Tigers recover to win the SEC championship and a second BCS national title.

Scott Rabalais: To catch up with Alabama, Tigers must turn the tide in the recruiting battle, especially up front

 

LSU bowl projections still trending sweet

Despite last Saturday’s 30-16 loss at Alabama, LSU is still projected to land in a CFP bowl if not one of the CFP semifinals. Of 16 bowl projections polled by The Advocate this week, 14 had the Tigers playing in the Sugar Bowl while two had LSU in the Peach Bowl. If the season ended this week, No. 2 Alabama would be in a CFP semifinal while No. 9 LSU would go to the Sugar as the highest-ranked available SEC team. 

  • Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • CollegeSportsMadness.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • Brad Crawford, SaturdayDownSouth.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • Zac Ellis, SI.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
  • Pete Fiutak, CollegeFootballNews.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • Dan Harralson, Football.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma
  • Mike Huguenin, GridironNow.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma
  • Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma
  • Stewart Mandel: FoxSports.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
  • Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com: Peach Bowl vs. Notre Dame
  • Mike Norris, BleacherReport.com: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU
  • Greg Ostendorf (SEC blog) and Max Olson (Big 12 blog), ESPN.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
  • Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU
  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma
  • Erick Smith, USA Today: Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor
  • Phil Steele, PhilSteele.com: Peach Bowl vs. North Carolina

Bowl guide

  • Sugar Bowl: Jan. 1, New Orleans
  • Peach Bowl: Dec. 31, Atlanta

Inside look at why, how LSU’s offensive line struggled so much vs. Alabama’s mighty front 7

AP college football picks: Alabama has a tough follow-up; Baylor braces for its big test

Scott Rabalais: To catch up with Alabama, Tigers must turn the tide in the recruiting battle, especially up front

LSU vs. Alabama: Five memorable games

LSU hold Brad Wing mobs Drew Alleman after his game-winning field goal against Alabama in 2011. (Bill Feig)

LSU hold Brad Wing mobs Drew Alleman after his game-winning field goal against Alabama in 2011. (Bill Feig)

Alabama leads the overall series 49-25-5 but only 11-9 in games played in Tuscaloosa. Since a landmark 20-10 LSU win in 1982 in Birmingham, the road team has gone a remarkable 23-9-1 in this series, with the Tigers posting 11 of those victories.

Nov. 8, 1969 — LSU 20, Alabama 15: Allen Shorey scores a pair of touchdowns and converts a crucial fourth down in the final minute to make Charles McClendon the first former Paul “Bear” Bryant player to beat him in a regular season game, this after losing to his mentor the previous five years. “Coach,” McClendon says as they meet at midfield, “this has been a long time coming.” “I know it, Mac,” Bryant replies, “but don’t ever think I like it.”

Nov. 6, 1993 — LSU 17, Alabama 13: “Tide could lose, pigs might fly” reads a headline in that Saturday’s Mobile Register. A 3-5 LSU team is a 25-point underdog in Tuscaloosa to a No. 5 Alabama squad riding a 31-game unbeaten streak. After a scoreless first half, Jay Johnson and Robert Toomer score on a pair of 2-yard runs and the Tigers’ defense holds Bama in check long enough to preserve what is perhaps LSU’s most stunning upset ever.

Nov. 4, 2000 – LSU 30, Alabama 28: “We’ve got a saying,” receiver Quincy Jackson taunts after Bama’s 1998 win in Tiger Stadium. “The Tide don’t lose in Baton Rouge.” Alabama’s 14-0-1 unbeaten streak at LSU since 1971 finally comes to an end thanks in part to a replay on scoreboard that shows Erin Damond recovering a bobbled punt by Domanick Davis at the LSU 14 with the Tigers clinging to a 23-21 fourth-quarter lead.

Nov. 3, 2007 – LSU 41, Alabama 34: Almost as soon as former LSU coach Nick Saban leaves the Miami Dolphins to take the Alabama job in December 2006, this game is dubbed the “Saban Bowl.” With both teams 4-1 in the SEC, No. 3 LSU has to win to stay on track for a national title shot. Tied 34-34 with less than three minutes left, Chad Jones sacks John Parker Wilson to force a fumble that sets up the winning TD run by Jacob Hester with 1:26 remaining.

Nov. 5, 2011 — LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT): The first 1-2 regular-season showdown in LSU history is billed as the Game of the Century. It certainly is for the defenses. Neither team can crack the end zone, with LSU safety Eric Reid thwarting the Tide’s best chance by ripping away an interception at the goal line from tight end Michael Williams. After Bama misses a field goal in overtime, Drew Alleman drills a 25-yarder for the win. For LSU, though, the victory brings only temporary satisfaction as Alabama comes back to dominate LSU 21-0 on Jan. 9 in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.