“We comin’. We comin’. And we ain’t backing down.”
The words of Ed Orgeron following LSU’s 24-10 loss to Alabama on Nov. 4, 2017, have lingered through the southern air in the months since. They have become the song of the LSU faithful for the last 364 days. A rallying cry, if you will, to return LSU back to prominence, back to the throne 14 Southeastern Conference teams so desperately desire.
The Tigers have been on cusp, only to be knocked back by the Crimson Tide into what has seemed like a seven-year exile.
There have been four top-five matchups between the two rivals in recent years — 2011, twice in 2012 and 2015. Everyone knows how those games played out, with LSU winning only one of those four games. A program can only take so much heartbreak, and Alabama was killing LSU by a death of 1,000 cuts with the final blow seeming imminent.
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Then Orgeron issued his succinct sermon to the LSU faithful, inspiring a unyielding optimism in the future.
The team and the fanbase could have backed down multiple times. The Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame appeared to have taken the wind out of LSU’s sails heading into 2018, and then, whatever momentum remained was halted by the gauntlet prepared for the Tigers in the first half of this season.
No way would LSU finish better than 5-3 through its first eight games of the season. Many predicted LSU as a fringe bowl eligible team — not one competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Yet, here they stand at 7-1 and No. 3 in the initial playoff ranking.
“I just want to go out there and prove people wrong,” said Nick Brossette, a senior running back who leads LSU with 697 yards and 10 touchdowns. “I just want to get this win for my teammates, Coach O and this state. I always have a chip on my shoulder. This is a big stage, especially this weekend. I’m ready to go.”
Brossette and the rest of the Tigers can prove everyone wrong once again this season. The Vegas spread opened with Alabama as 14.5 point favorites, the largest spread against LSU in Tiger Stadium since the Florida game in 1997, which the Tigers ended up winning 28-21. Even all of ESPN's college football analysts picked Alabama to win, some even by very decisive margins.
But Orgeron and LSU aren’t buying into the Alabama mystique, and they will not be intimidated by the No. 1 ranked Tide. Junior quarterback Joe Burrow said on Monday, games like this are why you play football and if any players are afraid to play Alabama, they should stay in the locker room.
“People are scared to play them,” said sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams in a story written by Max Olson of The Athletic. “Like you see people out there just letting them catch slants and take it for 60 yards. Like no press on ’em. We’re a different team. And they’re like gonna let him throw a slant and let the receiver take it for 60 yards. Like right now, we’re just watching that film and we’re like disgusted with the other teams that have been scared to play them. That will get us more ready. Because they think, ‘We put fear in people’s hearts because we’re Alabama.’ Nah.”
LSU-Alabama has finally come, and the two heavyweights will go toe-to-toe in Death Valley 7 p.m. Saturday night.
And for LSU, it’s no longer about not backing down. It’s about fighting back.