Despite geography, Tigers, Huskies share many ties
For two schools so far apart, ties run surprisingly deep between LSU and Washington, which will meet at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1983.
First, there are the colors — both purple and gold, though not exactly the same shades.
Then there are athletes and administrators with ties to both schools.
Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward is an LSU graduate and Baton Rouge native. Woodward went to Washington as special assistant to the president for external affairs when former LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert (a Washington grad) was named UW’s president in 2004.
Before leaving to become NCAA President in 2010, Emmert named Woodward athletic director in 2008.
“I doubt I have much purple and gold left from my LSU days,” Woodward said. “But surely LSU runs deep in my veins. It’s my alma mater, I grew up in Baton Rouge, I sold peanuts in Tiger Stadium.
“I told our kids who are traveling to respect it, but to play their hearts out.”
Former LSU All-American sprinter Cheryl Taplin, a Seattle native, is in her sixth year working in the Washington football office, the last four spent as an assistant to coach Steve Sarkisian.
One of just five women’s track and field athletes elected to the LSU Hall of Fame, Taplin was a three-time NCAA champion, a five-time Southeastern Conference champion and a 16-time All-American from 1991-94.
“Most people from here ask me how it feels to be going down there, being an LSU Tiger and rooting for Washington,” Taplin said. “It’s really a no-brainer. Of course I’m an LSU Tiger at heart, but this is my job.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be a great experience for our players.”
Washington has no players from Louisiana, but LSU has one player from Washington: redshirt freshman fullback Devante Meullion, a walk-on from Seattle’s Chief Sealth International High School.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger said he is his own toughest critic, though he did take exception to media criticism of his play in the Tigers’ 41-14 win last Saturday over North Texas.
“No one can criticize me as much as I criticize myself, though I know y’all will rip me in the newspapers,” Mettenberger said earlier this week. “That’s part of it. I wanted to be 26-for-26 for 300 yards, but we got the win and I can keep improving from there.”
Mettenberger was 19 of 26 for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also took a shot on a corner blitz that left him with a bruised chest, a play on which many including ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich said Mettenberger was holding the ball too long.
“He is a terrific quarterback,” Matich said. “But Washington, I think, will blitz him and disguise coverages to see if they can make him hold the ball a little longer in the pocket like North Texas did.”
Mettenberger agreed he needs experience.
“It’s been a year since I’ve played a full game,” said Mettenberger, whose previous starts came in 2010 in junior college. “It’s going to take more time to get my feet fully under me.”
Wing is ready
LSU held punter Brad Wing out of the North Texas game because of a hamstring problem in his left (kicking) leg that Wing admitted has bothered him much of preseason camp.
“It’s been an ongoing pain in the hamstring,” Wing said. “They said all it’s going to take is one punt and it’s going to tear and I’d miss a lot of weeks.
“I took the one week off to save more weeks down the road. I feel great. I’ve been in there doing a lot of rehab. I did a lot of kicking (earlier this week) with no pain at all, and that’s the first time in a long time.”
Meanwhile, freshman punter and fellow Australian Jamie Keehn filled in capably for Wing, kicking three times for a 41.0-yard average. Keehn let his first punt snap squirt through his fingers, but recovered to grab the ball on the bounce and send it down to the North Texas 16.
Wing said Keehn put his Australian rugby talents to good use.
“Once I saw it hit the ground I was probably the calmest person in the whole stadium,” Wing explained, “because I just knew. That’s second nature to us. He got off a good kick, but I knew that was going to happen.”
Remodeling the dogs’ house
Washington is playing all six of its home games this season at the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium undergoes an extensive $250 million renovation.
The project will remake the 92-year-old stadium’s lower bowl and south upper deck and includes removing the track around the playing field and adding a football operations center behind the west end zone. The Huskies are expected to move back in next season.
This will be just the third meeting between the Tigers and Huskies, with LSU winning the first two encounters.
In 1983, LSU routed No. 9-ranked Washington 40-14 in front of a then-Tiger Stadium record crowd of 82,390, as Jeff Wickersham threw for 259 yards and ran for three touchdowns.
LSU won 31-23 at Washington on Sept, 5, 2009, as Jordan Jefferson threw for 172 yards and three touchdowns to help the Tigers win their first game on the West Coast since their trip at USC in 1984.
ESPN will televise Saturday’s game, with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter) providing the call.