Scooter Hobbs column: Back to normal, except for the football

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, September 12, 2021

BATON ROUGE — This McNeese-LSU game Saturday was relegated to ESPN’s streaming service, sports TV’s version of off-off-Broadway.

Makes it harder to find, with a lot of hoops to jump through.

Which was probably just as well. Louisiana has suffered enough lately. The rest of the state didn’t need easy access to this brand of football.

It was hard enough on the eyes of those of us who were here. You couldn’t blame it on the weather — unseasonably mild for this time year, certainly no hint of the storms these opposite sides of I-10 have endured over the last 13 months.

And Tiger Stadium looked great, all spiffed up and relatively full with capacity limits, at least in the beginning.

Gosh, but the pregame parking lots came alive again after last year’s quarantine. Full-blown tailgating with all the sights and aromas. No sign of the hurricane that brushed Baton Rouge last week or the still-battered scenery the Cowboys left behind in Lake Charles. Smiles abounded.

Conviviality reigned, McNeese blue mixing with LSU purple around a lot of pots and grills that smelled like football again. Normal must at least be on the horizon, happy days just around the corner.

Welcome back, Tiger Stadium.

Then the game started. Uggh. It was a game that verily demanded more buffering from that streaming service. Two teams coming off disappointing losses, and it was like pulling teeth … or dealing with more insurance adjusters clogging up the recovery process.

Whatever it was, it will never replace football — unless you’re fond of watching 19 punts.

McNeese?

At least the Cowboys can take solace that they brought out the sporadic boo birds in Tiger Stadium. That’s always a good indicator for an outmanned opponent, a suggestion that the trip wasn’t completely wasted beyond picking up a good paycheck.

They even scored a touchdown late on a 44-yard pass from Cody Orgeron against his dad Coach O that seemingly came out of nowhere in the midst of eight sacks in the waning moments.

It didn’t mean much and few were still around to see it.

Most everybody from what had a been a festive early crowd had seen enough by then and hightailed it home.

McNeese did what it could.

The Cowboys even seemed to get more pressure on LSU quarterback Max Johnson than they did last weekend against Division II West Florida’s quarterback.

Of course, that may be more of an indictment of LSU than a feather in the Cowboys’ hats.

Not sure what the Tigers’ excuses would be.

But, oddly enough, replacing both starting offensive tackles with freshmen (due to injuries) was not the answer to their protection problems, nor did the Red Sea suddenly open up for running lanes.

The Tigers gained more yards last week on the road against UCLA

(379) than they did at home against McNeese

(306).

Maybe give the McNeese defense some credit.

Or maybe the Tigers’ offense was just scratching the surface last week on how truly bad it can be.

They mixed in a plethora of dropped passes to their woes Saturday.

They got more varied and creative with the running game and still spent most of the night running into a brick wall.

At least McNeese got paid.

I’m not sure what the Tigers got out of this game — certainly not the hoped for most improvement of the season between Game 1 and Game 2.

The Cowboys, they should fare much better on their return to trip to Baton Rouge this week to play the Southern Jags.

A SWAC trip should be a better fit for McNeese to ease back into the Southland Conference.

LSU had no excuses.

LSU at home looked no more ready to get into Southeastern Conference play than it did when 2,000 miles from the league at UCLA last week.

Central Michigan might be a real test.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com