Tharold Simon was bored.
By his reckoning, North Texas attempted to throw two passes his direction last Saturday.
One was swatted down at the line of scrimmage — perhaps the ball Anthony Johnson sent ricocheting toward the 10th row in the south end zone — and the other was so off the mark as to be uncatchable.
The Tigers toyed with the Mean Green like a beach ball tossed into Mike VI’s habitat, and it showed. Not only in the 41-14 final score, but in the fact that the Tigers made enough mistakes and slogged through their self-generated out-of-the-blocks malaise to come nowhere close to covering the 43-point spread.
It was the kind of game that had Tiger fans bolting early for the exits, the ones who bothered to show up at all. It was the kind of game that made Simon want to bare his soul.
“We just weren’t playing LSU-styled football,” the Tigers’ latest shutdown corner said. “We weren’t playing tough, mean. We were just going through the motions. We felt this was an easy game, and we just wanted to get out of there.”
Who says there are no exhibition games in college football? For LSU, the North Texas game certainly looked the part, except that it did count in the win-loss column.
Otherwise, there was definitely something missing.
Maybe it was the drama of LSU’s last three regular-season openers against BCS-class competition. It was definitely also the Tigers being victimized by their own success.
LSU goes for an NCAA record-tying 39th straight regular-season nonconference win Saturday, a phrase almost as long as the achievement. Banished are the parties like 1999, when LSU needed a late long pass from Rohan Davey to maintain possession and pull out a shaky 29-21 season-opening win over San Jose State.
The Tigers have since grabbed such drama by the scruff of the neck and shaken the life out of it. It’s been so long since LSU lost one of these “contests,” back in 2002 at Virginia Tech, not even Josh Dworaczyk was around.
“No,” said LSU’s eternally cheerful utility lineman, “but I probably played with somebody who did.”
Saturday’s game, however, is something to stir the blood. The Washington Huskies are in town, not just as some sacrificial rent-a-win, but a fellow BCS resident with a pedigree and tradition. The Huskies may have fallen on hard times in recent years, but there’s old money in their lineage, and what historically has been the best football tradition in Pac-12 behind only Southern California.
Yes, the Huskies are another prohibitive dog (pun intended), more than three touchdowns worth. But this is a dog that could easily bite with its passing dangerous passing game if the Tigers wander too close to those jaws.
In a nonconference menu that follows up with Idaho and Towson, this is definitely the main course.
“We can’t take this team lightly at all,” Simon said. If the Tigers do, “They’ll break our hearts by pulling out a victory in our home stadium.”
That’s a pain the Tigers haven’t endured in awhile, either. LSU is seeking its 19th straight home victory, which would tie a school record.
Yes, Washington has a puncher’s chance of driving LSU’s two long streaks and national championship hopes into an early grave. But only a chance. For that to happen, the Tigers would have to provide a big self-inflicted assist. The talent disparity plus Washington’s extensive injury list — no truth to the rumor the Huskies team hotel is across the street from Blue Cross headquarters — makes that seem unlikely.
And there’s another thing. A team on Washington’s level will have the Tigers’ full attention.
The Huskies are too high-profile to sneak in and steal one. They would have to earn this massive upset. And that’s going to take a remarkable turn of events.
There is one other thing the Tigers can treat the Huskies to besides an upset. And that’s a bona fide Tiger Stadium experience. The last time Washington was here, way back in 1983, more than 83,000 folks crammed themselves into what was then about an 80,000-seat venue, mainly because of an overflow student section.
There was no lack of elbow room last Saturday. Empty seats dotted the stands, and the legendary crowd noise was reduced after a couple of scores to a golf gallery-like murmur.
Here’s hoping Death Valley will be in full-throated roar Saturday night, something to match the ear-ringing decibels coach Steve Sarkisian had pumped into his team’s practice sessions this past week in Seattle.
In other words, here’s hoping for a real game, not just an exhibition.