LSU’s 36-16 victory against No. 2 Georgia ended with thousands of fans on the field to celebrate the statement win.
And why not? The fans in Tiger Stadium played a major role in the Tigers’ victory Saturday night.
Now, I’m usually one of those curmudgeons who doesn’t like the idea of storming the field, spouting off regular complaints like “act like you’ve been there before” and calling as tacky as it is unsafe.
But after a week in which LSU coaches and players alike were practically begging for fans to come to Death Valley, remain for four quarters and make an impact on a game against one of the most highly-touted teams in the country, the LSU faithful answered the call.
So they earned it, and if you’re one of those curmudgeons like me who doesn’t like that sort of thing, just ask the Tigers what they thought about it.
“That was crazy,” said LSU linebacker Michael Divinity. “Just seeing the fans and how they felt and how their emotions were into the game. They were proud of us and happy that we were out there fighting like Tigers. I thank the fans.”
The LSU defense made visual requests for the fans to get involved throughout the game on big defensive plays and sometimes even seemingly inconsequential ones.
Tiger Stadium responded with an uproar each and every time, so much so that Divinity said he couldn’t hear a thing on the field.
But going into the game, one couldn’t help but notice just how much red was smattered across the stadium.
Georgia notoriously travels well, and this weekend was no exception as Georgia fans took over multiple sections within the stadium that went beyond the designated area of tickets sold to visiting fans.
The Georgia faithful got loud, too. Early on the atmosphere felt more like a game played at a neutral site than one played at Death Valley.
But as LSU began to assert its dominance in the game, so did the LSU fan base. As LSU showed a decibel reader on the scoreboard that reached as high as 107 dB’s, the LSU offense began working in relative silence as the UGA contingent in the stadium ran out of reasons to cheer.
The result was the Tigers’ most complete performance of the season in which it used the extra motivation in the fourth quarter to put no doubt which team was better Saturday night with a series of game-sealing big plays.
“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of,” said LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. “I’ve been a part of a lot of big atmospheres. They showed out today. I’m looking forward to seeing what they still have for us over the next couple weeks.”
The Tigers apparently didn’t expect the student section to rush the field. Burrow said he was getting ready for a TV interview when someone informed him that students were forcing their way onto the grass.
“I don’t know why I didn’t expect it, but I didn’t” Burrow said. “I was just looking for somebody to hug, honestly.”
Linebacker Devin White said he was in the middle of an interview when he noticed the crowd suddenly appear around him.
He said former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, brother of wide receiver Justin Jefferson, found him, grabbed him and led him to the locker room amid the chaos.
“I was doing an ESPN interview when they started coming,” White said. “Everyone just started running past me. They were tearing me up. I was happy that Jordan Jefferson ran me to the locker room at the end. But we were stuck out there for a minute.”
White didn’t mind, though. He stayed out there for a while taking pictures with fans and celebrating with them before getting back to the locker room.
“I really didn’t mind,” White said. “They’re the greatest fans in the world, and they helped us win this game.”
So the week-long call to action worked.
LSU fans showed up and came up big, and actually overcame some adversity, something one doesn’t typically think about when considering the impact of a home crowd.
Amid questions that Tiger Stadium could continue to live up its lofty reputation, the LSU faithful made as big a statement as the Tigers themselves, proving it could still get loud and rowdy when necessary.
But this won’t be the last time the Tigers will be relying on the fans to give them a much-needed boost.
LSU still has two of its biggest games of the season coming right down the pike with Mississippi State coming to Baton Rouge next week and, of course, the yearly-anticipated Alabama game coming two weeks later after a week off.
“For them to stay the whole game, it was a crazy feeling,” said Ricky Jefferson. “Especially with them rushing at the end, that’s something that will happen once in a lifetime.”
The challenge for this generation of LSU faithful is to make sure that this doesn’t feel like a one-time event, but a weekly occurrence in Tiger Stadium.
Yeah, LSU fans showed they still have it this Saturday, but their job isn’t done yet. The Tigers may be bowl eligible, but they still have a lot of football left to play.
Similarly, LSU fans may have earned a victory of their own this weekend, but this can’t be a one-time event. The Tigers want there to be a party in Tiger Stadium – day or night – every time they take their home field.