LSU plans salute with one hand, then beat Black Knights with the other

Published 10:00 am Saturday, October 21, 2023

LSU has painted Tiger Stadium’s end zones in a military camouflage motif and the team will wear American flag patches on their jerseys for tonight’s visit from the Army Black Knights.

After the game, the teams will gather to sing each other’s fight songs, much like the tradition at the Army-Navy game. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a West Point graduate, will play a role in some capacity, said LSU head coach Brian Kelly.

So, yes, there will be a somewhat patriotic theme for LSU’s first-ever home meeting against a service academy — only the second time ever, dating to the Cadets’ 20-0 victory in West Point, New York, in 1931.

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LSU — aka, The Ol’ War Skul — has a rich military heritage, dating to Gen. William T. Sherman, who left his post as the LSU’s first president to lead the Union Army’s destruction of Georgia in the Civil War. Later, LSU was No. 4 among American colleges in producing officers for World War II, behind only West Point, Annapolis and Texas A&M. More than 5,000 former LSU students were officers in World War II — a total of 12,000 served, including 16 who became generals. ROTC was mandatory until the late 1960s.

That was a long time ago. But Kelly said he doesn’t want anyone to forget.

“We’re excited,” Kelly said. “Anytime you play a service academy, the respect we have for the academies and the great leaders that are playing college football, to have them here in Tiger Stadium is a thrill. We want to honor that.”

And they will.

But one other thing he said: “We also want to beat them.”

That would seem a formality given that the No. 19 Tigers (5-2) are 32-point favorites against the Cadets (2-4), who are coming off a 17-0 home loss to Troy.

Still, Kelly, who can pick up his 300th career win, said he wants his Tigers taking nothing for granted.

“We’ll have to be focused on our improvement and playing a really physical team and can’t be distracted by anything else. It’s going to require that kind of effort,” he said.

On paper it looks more like a tune-up game before LSU’s open date next week, followed by the trip to Alabama in what shapes up as the Tigers’ key game of the season.

“The bye week’s not important right now,” Kelly countered. “We don’t go to the bye week this week. We need to focus on our process and we need to focus on Army. If we focus on anything else, we’ll get beat. This team is not a team you can play with the dimmer on. You’re either on or you off. We need to be on, locked in and doing our thing the right way.”

Kelly, no doubt, would like to see continued strides with the much-maligned defense, which was much better in last week’s 48-18 victory over Auburn. He said he’d even like to see better red-zone production — touchdowns over field goals — from his electric offense, led by quarterback Jayden Daniels, the one that is second in the nation in yards (550.4 ypg) and third in scoring (45.3).

The Cadets will have a somewhat different look than what television viewers are used to seeing in the annual Army-Navy game each year.

It’s still a run-oriented attack that the Tigers’ shaky defense have to contend with, but a rule change that prohibits blocking below the waist outside the immediate tackle box has neutered many of the elements of the old-style, triple-option offense.