Tigers confirm season will get under way Saturday as scheduled
Hurricane Isaac did minimal damage to the LSU campus, allowing the Tigers’ season-opening football game against North Texas to be played as scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
University officials spent Thursday assessing damage on campus and ensuring that the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and the Maddox Field House could remain fully functional as medical support facilities for victims of the storm while the game takes place. The field house has been used for special needs patients since Monday, and the PMAC was scheduled to be used as a field hospital beginning Thursday.
Moving the game to another weekend was not possible because the Tigers and the Mean Green have different open dates.
“Our options are limited as far as opportunities to play this game,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “We understand there are portions of the state that are still recovering from the storm and there may be some fans that cannot, for various reasons, make it to Tiger Stadium. We wish those people and everyone adversely affected by the storm our best wishes for a full recovery.”
The effects of the storm on the stadium included water damage to the press box and some areas of the Stadium Club, all of which can be restored by game time. LSU is assessing the availability of grass parking lots and will announce any closures of lots on Friday.
The only visible damage to the outside of the stadium was a torn banner on the exterior of the south scoreboard which lists LSU’s three national championship seasons.
Ford regains eligibility
LSU running back Michael Ford is eligible to play Saturday. Coach Les Miles said Monday that Ford and linebacker Tahj Jones were facing an eligibility issue and were awaiting a ruling on their appeals. On his radio show Thursday, Miles said: “I think Ford will get an opportunity.”
Jones is still awaiting a ruling on his appeal.
Muncie gets his chance
With Jones’ eligibility in question, junior Luke Muncie has ascended to starting strongside linebacker, and middle linebacker Kevin Minter said Muncie is ready for the opportunity.
“They’re almost the same kind of player — athletic linebackers, relentless motor,” Minter said. “You’ll see a little better coverage from Luke sometimes. They’re both neck and neck.”
Muncie came in as a strongside linebacker but has worked at both outside positions as needed. Minter said Muncie reminds him of himself when he became a starter for the first time last season.
“Luke hasn’t played much and feels like he has a lot to prove, like a lot of players on this team,” Minter said. “We expect a lot from Luke this year. He’s definitely ready. He’s talked about this since the end of last season. He’s good. You’ll see.”
Loston says he’s ready
Safety Craig Loston has had to fight through injuries throughout his college career, and this year’s preseason camp was no different.
But Loston said he is sufficiently recovered from a turf toe injury to play — and likely start — Saturday night.
“I’m feeling good,” said Loston, who returned to practice last Saturday. “(The toe) got big on me and I had to work to let it go down and learn to adjust to it. I feel pretty good.”
Loston, who received a medical redshirt after missing most of his freshman season in 2009 because of a wrist injury, missed four games last season because of a concussion.
Versatility at running back
Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard bring versatility to the top of the depth chart at running back. Blue (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) is the Tigers’ tallest running back and has excelled as a receiver, and Hilliard (6-0, 225) emerged as a power back during the second half of last season.
“Alfred is a little quicker than me, but he has power as well,” Hilliard said. “I think Alfred will get the job done between the tackles. I can get the job done outside the tackles too.”
Though J.C. Copeland is LSU’s No. 1 fullback, the Tigers can play Hilliard and Blue at the same time.
“You’re going to see a lot of that,” Blue said.
Mingo much improved
Miles was asked which players that are returning from last year’s team are the most improved. “KeKe Mingo,” Miles answered without hesitation, referring to defensive end Barkevious Mingo.
“KeKe improved routinely last fall,” Miles said. “When that happens and guys come back the following fall they’ve done it once and now they recognize things more quickly and they get to the ball faster. Certainly Keke has great speed and he’s gotten faster and stronger.”
Mingo was clearly pleased that Miles had taken note of his progress.
“I definitely think I’ve come a long way,” he said, “I’ve worked on being better against run blocks, being a better all-around player, just being stronger, getting in the film room, learning to play the game the way it’s meant to be played and being a better leader for this team and leading those young guys.
“Given time to work on anything, you should get better at it. I think I’ve gotten better at what I do.”
Roll with it
North Texas coach Dan McCarney believes last year’s game at Alabama should give his veterans a good idea of what to expect from the environment in Tiger Stadium.
He’s more concerned with how the youngsters respond.
“It’s the new guys, the young ones,” McCarney said. “You hope they don’t spend too much time watching the stands, watching replays, watching videos, watching the tiger in his cage. You’ve got to take care of business with that guy across from you.”
Alabama took a No. 2 ranking into a 41-0 victory over the Mean Green last September. North Texas returns 15 starters and 35 letter-winners.
Bring it home
A year after setting the school’s single-season attendance mark, McCarney said he is disappointed North Texas will only have five games at home this year.
McCarney inherited the 2012 schedule from Todd Dodge, who coached the Mean Green from 2006-09.
“That’s the thing I don’t like,” McCarney said. “We want to make sure that hopefully doesn’t happen again in the future.”
The home schedule for North Texas includes only Texas Southern next week, in addition to four Sun Belt Conference opponents. The Mean Green begins its second season at $79 million Apogee Stadium.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Hotard contributed to this report.