Scooter Hobbs column: LSU suddenly has that new-car smell

Published 7:28 am Monday, September 18, 2023

Sorry, but I’m not buying the whole car dealership angle in regards to LSU’s coming out party in Starkville.

There was time, you’ll recall, back before NIL riches, when anything involving an entire college football team turned loose in a lot full of new cars would have to be be kept hush-hush, after dark and far under the table.

But the Tigers were flaunting their side trip to a auto dealership. As far as we know none of them arrived in Starkville driving new Camaros or Range Rovers — Just ask for Rocco  and tell him I sent you.

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It seemed to be discussed openly in the LSU lockerroom after the Tigers torched the fine city of Starkville en route to a 41-14 SEC-opening victory over Mississippi State.

Head coach Brian Kelly apparently felt that with Saturday morning’s early wake-up call, complicated by the  hour’s drive from the team hotel in Tupelo to StarkVegas, he might have some of the troops nodding off and napping during the trip.

He wanted them alert for the 11 a.m. kickoff. So somewhere along the way, the team buses pulled over into a car dealership and the Tigers held an impromptu stretch and walk-through in the lot, right there amidst the newest F-150s.

It was a surprise to the players and there was no word on whether or not the dealership’s owner was alerted in advance. You know, just in case any of the Tigers wanted the rust protection, window tinting or extended warranty.

OK, it makes for a good story, so run with it if you must.

Maybe it will catch on as a thing for LSU on the road. Coaches are creatures of habit when something works, and this stunt checked most of the boxes the Tigers were looking for at this stage of the season.

Anyway, with an eye on remaning road trips, alert the dealerships in Tuscaloosa and Oxford, and all the used car lots in Missouri.

The Tigers could be pre-game comparing window stickers near you.

Have fun with it all. But it looked like Kelly did the heavy lifting well in advance of his Saturday morning detour.

Those Tigers were well prepared long before their parking lot calisthenics.

But if Kelly’s latest Adventures in Culture Building turns things around, so be it.

There are more tests to follow.

So perhaps the bigger question now is: How good (or bad) is Mississippi State? LSU made the Bulldogs look as helpless as lugnuts while turning the Cowbell Philharmonic into a funeral dirge.

Who knows? Even Grambling made things interesting early. But that’s the Bulldogs’ problem to figure out.

LSU has a reference point, the Tigers found out how good they can be — and just when it was desperately needed.

If nothing else, they have a measuring stick for what they can do when paying attention.

It shows the Florida State debacle need not define these Tigers. Maybe the Orlando trip was the season’s fluke. We already knew Kelly can recover from an opening-night disaster. The Tigers just might have been kicking the tires on another turn-around.

If nothing else, Saturday’s game looked like the opening act of the sequel, this time with an SEC West jumble that looks crazier by the weekend, especially with Alabama appearing vulnerable.

In short, LSU looked like the team fans were promised all offseason — and put the FSU belly-flop well behind them.

The biggest improvement might have been with both the offensive and defensive lines.

Two stats were in stark contrast to the Florida State disaster— LSU, chosing wisely this time, was 2-for-2 on fourth-down gambles while the Bulldogs were 3 of 13 on their third down conversions.

LSU also sacked quarterback Will Rogers four times, hurried him on four other occasions and broke up four passes.

Who says there’s no fun to be had in the Starkpatch? They even found something useful for linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. to do, whether rushing or covering.

Yet most of the defensive dominance — State had one first down over its first five possessions — was overshadowed by LSU’s 530 yards of offense (despite putting on the brakes in the fourth quarter) while scoring on four of their five first-half possessions, the first three of the second half.

Malik Nabors probably started the day catching passes in that car lot to end up with 13 receptions (on 13 targets), 239 yards and two touchdowns).

All Jayden Daniels did was put on one of the great LSU quarterbacking performances ever — try out 30 of 34 for 361 yards with two touchdowns while running for 64 and two more scores. And he did was aggressively air it out deep (and dropping dimes in tight windows) like Kelly has been begging him to do and running like he loves to do.

Forget the opponent. It might have been the most dominant the Tigers have looked since destroying Oklahoma in the 2019 CFP semifinals.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at