The time was Feb. 13, 2010 and then Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly flew to Louisiana to deliver the keynote address at the opening of the Eddie Robinson Museum which was dedicated in the memory of the former Grambling State football coach.
It was Kelly’s first impression of the Historically Black College University that the late Robinson, he died in 2007, made famous for being more of a father figure than just football coach to many of his players.
More than 12 years later, and with Kelly now in his first season at LSU, he’ll enjoy his second HBCU experience when the Tigers (0-1) host cross-town Southern University (1-0) in the first meeting between the two schools.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by the SEC Network.
“One of the biggest honors I had was getting an opportunity to speak at the Eddie Robinson Museum when it was opened up,” Kelly said during his weekly news conference Tuesday. “It was a great honor and, just being immersed in the history of the HBCU. So, for me, as a head football coach and somebody that’s been in the business as long as I have, I’m really excited about this game, because really it brings in the historical perspective and how important it is.”
Besides the historical context of matching Baton Rouge’s two colleges on a football field for the first time, the game represents Kelly’s first opportunity to coach a game inside of Tiger Stadium.
His debut against Florida State didn’t go according to plan.
The Tigers twice trailed by two touchdowns in the second half, the final time 24-10, when they became more assertive offensively with a hurry up approach in the final nine minutes to pull within the final score.
Junior transfer Jayden Daniels flourished in LSU’s up-tempo system, leading the Tigers on scoring drives of 15 and 11 plays, respectively, to give the Tigers the opportunity to win or tie the game.
Daniels accounted for 323 yards and two touchdowns in his LSU debut, showing off his versatility as a runner and effectiveness as a passer. He threw touchdown passes of 22 and 2 yards, respectively, to Jaray Jenkins in the final four minutes of play.
Defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo, who replaced an injured Maason Smith who has been lost for the season with a torn ACL, came up with a fumble recovery at the 1-yard line to provide the Tigers with their final opportunity.
Daniels directed the Tigers 99 yards in 1 minute, 20 seconds and spotted Jenkins in the back of the end zone on the final offensive play of the game. The team’s extra point failed when placekicker Damian Ramos’ attempt was blocked.
“Coming off a difficult loss, you can imagine there’s a lot of emotion, but we had to get right back to work,” Kelly said. “We were in film study, as well as scouting report, weight training, medical, all those things had to be accomplished all at once. We got all that accomplished, and now we’re excited about the weekend.”
Southern unleashed an 86-0 demolition of NAIA Florida Memorial in the debut of first-year coach Eric Dooley.
“Playing a HBCU is a great thing for this university and certainly for Baton Rouge,” Kelly said. “Historic in nature to have two schools from the same city uniting and celebrating this community. The accomplishments, the programs. The Human Jukebox is on display at halftime, one of the iconic bands in all of college football. It’s just exciting to bring in Southern.
“They played last week against obviously an overmatched opponent in Florida Memorial,” Kelly added. “They did what they should have. They dominated their opponent and certainly looked good in doing it.”