At LSU, some of the lasting images of the past few seasons has been Sam Mongtomery, pounding the Tiger Stadium turf or motioning for the crowd to get on its feet before a big play.
The extra motivation is often not needed in Tiger Stadium, which, as LSU coach Les Miles put it, is often a place “where dreams go to die.”
Montgomery is one of the most interactive and animated players on the field. But he does so for a very specific reason.
“I feel like it’s one of those things where I control the wave of the ocean,” Montgomery said. “When the wave of the ocean is in control, you can control the tide. Anything can go.”
Controlling the Tide is exactly what Mongtomery and his teammates are aiming for in Saturday’s matchup with No. 1 Alabama. They’re hoping the 92,000-plus in attendance can help contribute to their goal. In recent years, when Tiger Stadium is at max capacity on a Saturday night, an LSU win has been all but guaranteed.
Since Miles took over in 2005, the Tigers are 36-1 in Saturday night games at home, including a current streak of 15 wins in a row. The lone loss came in 2009 when No. 1 Florida beat LSU 13-3.
LSU owns a 22-game home winning streak — a school record, and the longest current streak in the nation.
“Home-field advantage is tremendous, especially in Tiger Stadium and especially in a big game like this one,” safety Eric Reid said. “I really don’t know how to explain it. When the crowd is there, and you hear all those people cheering for you, it’s a great thing, and it makes you want to play better for them.”
While Tiger Stadium victories have become routine in recent years, LSU faces a much taller task this Saturday, with top-ranked Alabama looking to snap the streak. Despite the supporting numbers at home, the Tigers will also be play the unfamiliar underdog role, with oddsmakers pegging the Tide as a 91/2 point favorite to win.
“I’m not even paying attention to that,” offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. They’re the No. 1 team, they’re No. 1 for a reason — because of the way they’re playing this season and what they’ve been able to accomplish. For me to be picked second in this contest, it doesn’t faze me at all.”
Since 2000, LSU is 22-3 against conference opponents at home, 10-2 against top-25 opponents at home and 8-2 against top-25 Southeastern Conference opponents at home.
The Tigers added to that streak earlier this season with a 23-21 win against then-No. 3 South Carolina, in a game where the crowd’s impact was strong enough to spark Miles’ dark description of Tiger Stadium for opponents.
The Tigers also beat the odds last season when they traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and quieted 101,000 fans in Bryant-Denny Stadium with a tight 9-6 victory.
“I certainly like Death Valley the way it is, especially with the South Carolina game and the way that the crowd kind of came apart of that game,” Dworaczyk said. “It almost felt like the stadium was just sitting on top of those guys. You want to have that atmosphere, but then you look back at last year in the regular season and we go win in Tuscaloosa with the atmosphere and their crowd and the way their fans are.”
The players said they rarely pay any attention to point spreads before matchups, but a good portion of the team did feel they have a little something more to prove, despite the No. 5 tag in front of their name.
“We felt like we were the underdog going into the season (and) all season long,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “Last year, we were the underdogs. It’s just a chip that we put on our shoulder. A lot of media don’t really give us any credit so far. We’ve got to go out there and earn respect. We’re really not worried about being the underdog or whatever other people have to say about us. We’ve got to just go out there and show them what we are.”
LSU being picked to lose a game is a rare occasion in recent seasons.
Players said they’ve grown accustomed to it anyway.
“I think we’re used to that,” Reid said. “It’s nothing new to us and we’re just going to go out there and play hard. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, (or) how good the analysts say they are. We just go out there, and we tackle.”
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