The 2003 season continued to roll on, and the evidence was mounting that not only was LSU's offense beginning to match its defense, but that maybe this team belonged in the national discussion.
A week after the destruction of Auburn, the Tigers feasted on Louisiana Tech, 49-10. It was a night of big plays galore. The offense gained 653 yards at more than nine yards per play, Matt Mauck completed 18 of 20 passes and threw four touchdowns, while Alley Broussard had another 100-yard day. And of course the defense held future NFL QB Luke McCown to just 152 yards, while racking up six tackles for loss and two intereceptions, including a pick-six by Jack Hunt. That game was your intrepid student reporter's last night in the LSU student section. It was my senior year, and I figured that if I was going to do it one last time, better a night game against a patsy than the annual Friday afternoon Arkansas matchup. Sadly, this game appears lost to the internet, or at least to Youtube.
Afterwards, La. Tech coaches and players, whom had already been slaughtered by the Miami Hurricanes that season commented that LSU was better. Compared to a team that was still packed with future first-rounders like Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Sean Taylor and Antrell Rolle, that was some high praise.
The next week, LSU traveled to Tuscaloosa.
- 2003 was a rough year on the Capstone. Dennis Franchione had very, very unceremoniously dumped the Tide after pulling a 10-win season that was ultimately fruitless due to a postseason ban. Seriously, even I felt bad for them. The search that followed seemed a bit bungled, with a couple of strikeouts before settling on then-Washington State coach Mike Price, who was coming off his second PAC-10 title and Rose Bowl appearance. It always seemed like a weird fit to me, but I remember Price being very enthusiastic for the job, something that had to really mean something to the Bama fan base that had just been jilted. God, remember how highly ol' Franny Fran was regarded back then? Long-story short, "Destiny" intervened, and Alabama was suddenly in the market once again for a coach right as spring practice ended. Unsurprisingly, the timing ruined any chance of a big name taking the job, and former Tide quarterback and NFL assistant Mike Shula was tapped for the job.
- Yours truly made what was, at the time, my fourth consecutive trip to Tuscaloosa with my dad, younger brother and some family friends. My previous trips at this point had included the Josh Booty goal-line debacle and the 2001 Rohan-to-Reed evisceration. For this trip, however, I was under no illusions of exciting expectations. We did have a great time with my cousin, her sorority sisters and her boyfriend's frat brothers. We spent most of the tailgate making Auburn jokes and watching Georgia destroy them. There was the occasional "LSUWHO?" bit, but I just smiled and countered "its okay...y'all are about to find out" with a smile.
- Bama came into this game 4-6 and 2-4 in league play. The team's biggest brag point was a seven-point loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, impressive because at this point in the season the Sooners were completely dominating everything in their path. It had to be a tough gig for Shula. He took over after Price had already begun installing his one-back spread type of offense, and aside from the highly recruited Brodie Croyle and a solid running back in Shaud Williams, there just wasn't a ton of veteran talent on this roster.
- LSU started off with a field goal drive, and a one-play touchdown strike from Mauck to Michael Clayton, set up by a 34-yard Skyler Green punt return.
- None of Bama's first quarter drives went beyond three plays. They gained all of 13 yards.
- It's weird seeing a wide body like Chad Lavalais settle under a tipped ball for an interception like that, but with six tackles, a tackle-for-loss and another pass batted down, it was that kind of night.
- 17-0 at the half might as well have been 117-0, and in the second half LSU went run-heavy. Broussard and Justin Vincent would finish with a combined 27 carries for 162 yards.
- The Broussard touchdown at the 3:50 mark in the video. Fantastic hustle and leg drive. Combined with Vincent's big-play ability, it was just unreal how much better the Tiger rushing attack looked just a month later. And Joseph Addai was still around, who was hardly a slouch.
- The dichotomy of age was really present in this one. For reasons that still baffle me, there was a chunk of LSU tickets right on the border of Alabama's student section, which led to quite a lot of jawing, particularly between my brother (who was just shy of his 16th birthday) and one Bama frat bro, who never really seemed to back off his "ROLL TAHD Y'ALL AIN'T GON WIN THIS GAME" stance, no matter how out-of-whack the score got. Later, on our way out of Bryant-Denny, an older Tide fan casually mentioned "by the way, I've seen y'all and I've seen Oklahoma, and y'all can beat Oklahoma."