TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The newest fan-favorite feature of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium is this set of crimson strobe lights rimming the place that, during timeouts and other breaks in action, makes the proud stadium look like an over-priced disco.
It puts a creepy red tint on the joint that makes you look around like, What alternate planet have we wandered onto?
It’d probably be more at home at the Ice Capades than the SEC.
But the really nutty stuff was all in purple and gold, down there postgame on the green turf where LSU players were rolling around in youthful glee, running from one corner of the stadium to the next in search of small pockets of their own fans.
It was quite the scene, quite the takeover of a foreign, once invincible stadium.
“LSU players are celebrating like they haven’t won in eight years,” was the way Alabama radio announcer Eli Gould described it as it unfolded.
Uh, Eli, where you been the last eight years?
You’re Alabama. You can’t imagine the pain and the anguish, the suffering and the frustration — sometimes bordering on futility — that these people have been through.
Unlike some, they were never of a mind to accept the fate. Plus, they alone were forced to wonder if Nick Saban hadn’t left if they might be Bama instead of Bama.
For years, they’d been told by frustrated mates in the SEC West they were the chosen ones to bring down the mighty, insufferable Tide, that they were the school with best chance to match Bama’s talent.
Oh, there was the disclaimer — except for a quarterback and a head coach, of course, seemingly the only stumbling block.
So how’d you like Joe Burrow Saturday? All he was doing was padding his national-best passing percentage with a 31-of-39 strafing of a Nick Saban for three more touchdowns.
The head coach?
“We got tired of hearing their stuff,” Ed Orgeron said after the game. “I told the team, ‘Tonight we draw the line.’ We had enough.”
So afterwards the Tigers’ players partied on, bouncing around and hugging, with some, including the lovably Cajun-gruff head coach, even crying manly tears. Later Saturday night, they’d get all back to the Baton Rouge airport and be met by another delirious mob in the hundreds, reaching through the fence to get a fist bump from them.
“The whole state of Louisiana deserved this win,” Orgeron told ESPN before he could get off the field. “They beat us for eight years. We got tired of hearing their stuff. Man, it was time.”
In other words, you’d have thought LSU just won the national championship.
LSU hasn’t. Not yet.
But seeing Burrow get carried off the field on the shoulders of teammates who’d follow him anywhere, you’d have thought the quarterback had just won the Heisman Trophy.
He hasn’t. Not yet. Although at this point it may be a formality.
The trophy wasn’t waiting for him in the locker room.
But it’s kind of like that scene behind the 18th green at the British Open when the leader would have to quadruple-bogey not to win. So they’re getting a head start engraving the name on this prize.
Over the summer, Burrow’s odds to win it were 200-1 in Las Vegas, basically an afterthought. He was even money heading into Saturday’s game. Now, after doing the same things he’s done all year, but in that stadium against that team in that raucous environment, the official betting line might as well be ... “Don’t bother.”
On that stage, the three touchdown passes he threw in the first half, that was just stat-padding. Overrated for Heisman purposes. But when he had a clutch answer for every Alabama threat to get back in the game, even using his legs, that was watching a Heisman being won right before your eyes. Against a Saban defense, no less.
It didn’t hurt — and this should make Tiger fans feel even better — that more people watched CBS’s telecast than have viewed any game on any network in any time slot since the original LSU-Alabama Game of the Century in 2011 (which was in prime time).
More fun facts: Bryant-Denny Stadium first opened in 1929, minus the silly disco lights. In all those years, the 46 points LSU hung up was the most ever scored by an opponent in a regulation game.
It doesn’t scare away any Heisman voters that Burrow is as well known for his grit and toughness as an arm that always seems to rise to the occasion.
LSU’s quarterback is no more of a prima donna than its lovably gruff and Cajunblunt head coach.
Getting hit? He likes it. Even if by Alabama.
“It makes me feel like a real football player instead of just a quarterback,” he said.
“Growing up you watch the (Heisman) ceremony, you watch what it means to people, how much they want to win that award,” he said when asked about the Heisman. “But when I got to college, I realized all that matters is team success.”
It appears this team will follow wherever Burrow leads.
Unless the Tigers can figure out a way to lose to two of the three remaining opponents — Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M — they’ll be in the SEC championship game. If they go to that still undefeated, they probably won’t even have to win it to get a seat in the College Football Playoff.
Well, Orgeron had told everybody that “We’re coming.”
Not quite there yet.
But Saturday they got over the biggest mental hurdle.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com