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LSU-Troy 2008: A Tale of Rau

So the call for stories took a turn...

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Louisiana State vs Texas Tech Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

**Ed. Note: Yesterday, I asked Yung Zachary to recount his 2008 LSU-Troy experience. I appear to have touched a nerve. — Billy**

Zrau and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, 2008 Troy Gameday

I was a freshman at LSU in 2008, my eyes wide with wonder about being in college and one of the premier marching bands in the country. I covered my time as a member of the Golden Band from Tigerland extensively a few years ago. If you go back and read those pieces, you’ll find them dripping with nostalgia over days past, warm remembrances of a wonderful period in my life that I can truthfully say I will speak fondly of until I’m no longer able.

This is not one of those articles. This is the story of my experience during the LSU-Troy gameday in 2008. It was not good.

Prologue

As has become a common occurrence since 2015, the LSU-Troy game was moved from Week 2 of the season (September 6) to LSU’s scheduled open date of November 15 after Hurricane Gustav passed through Baton Rouge. If I remember correctly, Gustav passed through relatively early in the week, either Sunday or Monday. It made for a rough week.

As a result, the status of the game was up in the air for quite a while. My roommate and I were both in band, and were waiting with baited breath on what the hell was going on with the game. We’d just had our first taste of the college marching band experience and were waiting for our next. Rumors abounded on the status of Tiger Stadium’s ability to host the game, Baton Rouge’s ability to provide the necessary security and parking services, and the game potentially being moved to the Superdome and played on a field painted for Tulane (which another friend relayed to me with a particular note of disgust).

We were also stuck in our dorm with only backup power, bored out of our minds, trying to entertain ourselves. We listened to a lot of stand-up comedy and ate a lot of cereal, trekking out on to campus when we were able to (and in some cases going rogue and doing it without permission anyway).

Finally word came down that the game would be moved to LSU and Troy’s common open date on November 15th. Perfect. No game to worry about this week. It’ll be here in mid-November and we can worry about it then. Plus, it’s Troy, nothing to worry about anyway, right?

Wrong.

Gameday Logistics, OR, These Two Hot Dogs Sure as Hell Weren’t Worth It

Before I tell a football story, I have to tell a basketball story. Often lost in the shuffle of the 2008 Troy debacle is LSU hoops having its opening game against Jackson State scheduled for that same Saturday. In the long view of scheduling, it made sense. It was Trent Johnson’s first game as LSU’s new head coach, and there’s few better ways to drive attendance than having your hoops team play on a Saturday in November when your football team doesn’t have a game.

…unless you wind up with a surprise home football game, in which case you decide to have a doubleheader.

The scheduling situation begged a question: what to do with the band, who would typically be rehearsing for a night game during the rescheduled hoops afternoon tip-off? You can’t have the christening of a new basketball head coach without the band! That’s sacrilege!

The solution: have the entire band play at both games.

Now, an aside: I’ve played basketball and football games in the same day twice, first in 2008 and again in 2011 (with a more appropriately-sized Bengal Brass band). Physically it’s not impossible for musicians (especially brass players like myself) to do, because you learn the limits of your chops and when to hold back or just not play because it hurts and you know you’re going to be playing for a lot longer. I get the sense that someone is sitting out there wanting to give me stick for saying this, but most brass players would likely agree with me.

The decision to have the entire band play at the hoops game presented more logistical issues than anything else, since it would interfere with our rehearsal schedule. To accommodate the game, we rehearsed in the indoor football facility at either 7:30 or 8. Easy, right?

Did I mention that this was the day after a band party and that many of us were hungover? I probably should have.

So we rehearsed earlier than many of us would have preferred (I was underage at the time and couldn’t drink, so I was fine, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), AND it was the fourth of five consecutive gamedays for the entire band. That kind of schedule is grating and can be difficult, and the sense of burnout was palpable.

We rehearsed early anyway. The show that week was Aerosmith-themed. I only remember this because there was some cross-promotion with Guitar Hero and two guys had to compete at air guitar-ing during halftime and whichever air guitar-ed the best won his dignity back or something, I’m not really sure. It was stupid. We also formed guitars on the field (meh)!

After rehearsing at the indoor, we fell back to the Maddox Field House rather than to the Band Hall, where we got a meal (I think) and got ready to head into the PMAC for the hoops game. The Maddox Fieldhouse is a forgotten building on campus and my favorite memory of it is leaving it for the last time at the end of our 2011 preseason week.

As for what happened next, it was certainly a basketball game! All I remember about it was being crammed into the upper deck, bringing up the attendance numbers by 325, and Red Panda performing her bowl routine at halftime. And in true Bengal Brass fashion, all of us got two hot dogs after the game. Surprise! They weren’t worth it! (I ate them anyway, I’m not an idiot, I needed every calorie I could get).

We then went back to the Fieldhouse where I noticed that the temperature was beginning to drop, so I ran back to my dorm across the street to put on some thermals (because I’ve always been middle-aged). This proved to be a good decision.

Follow Me Through a City of Frost-Covered Angels or Very Cold Students Flapping Their Arms Like Idiots in Hopes of a Comeback

I remember only a handful of things about the game itself. First, we marched down Victory Hill at night, which was insanely cool and dangerous, but mostly insanely cool. Second, it got ABSOLUTELY FRIGID. I cannot recall a game I’ve been to in Tiger Stadium since that has been colder. Even if other games have been colder, I swear the whole tenor of the day made it seem worse than it actually was.

Third, the first half was absolute ass and most of the stadium dumped out, sparing our two friends fighting the air guitar battle at halftime some embarrassment. The second half began with little fanfare, and why not? No one wanted to be there, but some of us stayed because we had to and others stayed because they’re gluttons for punishment.

The players, however, very much wanted to be there, and what ensued was the largest comeback in LSU history. The Tigers climbed out of a 31-3 hole and pitched a second-half shutout to best Troy 40-31. LSU was spurred on by the remaining faithful (probably less than 20,000 of us freezing our asses off) flapping their arms like angels, as if this comeback were a product of a higher power that wanted the Tigers to win. I think some fans started it with the best of intentions, and others followed because it was a way to keep warm. Correlation does not equal causation, but LSU won after the arm-flapping gimmick, the supposed cupcake was swallowed, and the Tigers had their seventh win of the year. Fittingly, it would be their last during the regular season.

I don’t remember what I did after the game, but whatever it was, I was probably mad during it.

Epilogue – IT’S A BIG DEAL BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE

Shortly after the Troy debacle, LSU’s Department of Bands held its annual Tigerama concert. During this concert, the emcee brought up the Troy game and remarked with awe at the greatest comeback in LSU football history. He paused for applause and cheers. Little, if any, came.

And rightfully so! The game itself was hot garbage and would worth only a partial win if those existed. Everything about that day sucked and was capped off by one of the worst games I’ve ever seen in Tiger Stadium. A win is a win, but you can still feel bad about wins. Honestly, I’d probably remember the day differently had the game gone according to the rent-a-win script. But no! Instead it left me with pent-up anger for me to spill in a 1,500 word diatribe to share with the masses. Misery loves company after all, and this day left me with plenty to pass around.