LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is returning to the stadium where he earned Defensive Most Outstanding Player honors in January in the Tigers’ 41-24 victory against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
In a memorable performance, Mathieu forced two fumbles, recovered one, made an interception and had a sack. But he also remembers getting beat for a touchdown in the first half.
“Like I tell coach (Les) Miles all the time, I remember giving up that touchdown in the Cotton Bowl, but I couldn’t dwell on that play,” Mathieu said. “There’s always another play. If I had dwelled on that play I probably wouldn’t have made those (other) plays that I made. It’s all about getting back up when you fall down.”
Six years ago, Darrion Weems was preparing for his junior season at McMain High in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck.
The young offensive lineman and his family evacuated to Memphis, Tenn., where they spent a week in a hotel watching Katrina’s destruction from afar. From there, they went west to live with Darrion’s maternal grandmother in Los Angeles.
Weems hasn’t been back to New Orleans since.
When he lines up at left tackle for Oregon against LSU on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound senior will begin a quest he hopes will take him home to the Crescent City for the BCS championship game in January.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Weems said, “but that would be a dream come true my senior year.”
While living in Los Angeles, Weems played for Taft High, where he developed into a Super Prep All-American. Before that, he said he never really envisioned himself playing college football.
But like most kids in south Louisiana, Weems cheered for LSU on Saturdays in the fall.
“I was an LSU fan all growing up,” Weems said. “I used to watch them on TV all the time.”
A second-year starter on the Oregon line, Weems wonders if some of his old friends from McMain will be watching when Oregon meets LSU in the nationally televised opener.
“Hopefully,” he said, “they’ll be rooting for the Duckies. But there’s no guarantees in that part of the country.”
Miles praises Ducks’ ￔD’
Oregon’s high-scoring, blink-and-you’ll-miss-a-play offense gets so much attention that its defense often goes unnoticed.
But that’s not the case with Miles.
“Defensively, I’d like to tell you they are less talented, but they’re not,” Miles said. “They have great speed and they attack the ball. They are an athletic group.
“They come from all over the field. Although that offense is touted, that defense plays as well and is as difficult to attack as any.”
LSU’s offensive scout team has worked throughout the preseason to simulate the speed of the Ducks offense and the rapidity with which that unit runs its plays.
The speed of the players is a key to Oregon’s defense as well.
“I think this is as talented of a (defensive) team that we’ve seen,” Miles said. “They have speed at all of the key positions. They play outside linebackers that are very fast on the edge. Their safeties have the speed. Their corners are new to the field, but I’m sure they are as talented as they’ve had. They match up with the fastest teams that we will line up against.”
A game from the O-line
With two of the Tigers top skill players on offense - quarterback Jordan Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard - unavailable because of disciplinary action, the team’s veteran offensive line feels a need to take on even more of a leadership role.
“That’s been said plenty of times with all that’s gone on around here,” center P.J. Lonergan said. “That’s what’s going to have to happen. The offensive line is going to have to step up and play their ￔA’ game to make sure we’re playing well. It comes with us being the most veteran group on the team.”
LSU goes into its 118th season of college football with an overall record of 720-390-47, a winning percentage of .642. The program ranks 12th in NCAA history in victories and 14th in winning percentage. LSU is 20-4 all-time against Pac-12 schools and 22-7 in domed stadiums with a seven-game winning streak. Overall, the Tigers have won 33 straight regular-season nonconference games, the nation’s longest streak, and won 17 straight games in September. LSU is also 84-28-5 in season openers, having won eight straight and 14 of their last 15. Dating to 2001, the Tigers have been ranked in 119 of their last 122 games, including 77 of 79 under Miles. With Jefferson sidelined, South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia (17-13) has the most wins of any active Southeastern Conference quarterback.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Hotard, Scott Rabalais and Les East contributed
to this report.