Tigers-Ags rivalry runs deeper than the annual game

GOOD NABERS:  LSU got a big game last Saturday from Malik Nabers, who collected 129 yards on seven receptions in a 41-10 romp over UAB. (Photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports)

By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — When LSU and Texas A&M kick off tonight, it’ll be the next chapter in a rivalry that’s picked up steam in recent years.

There was the mind-blowing seven-overtime 2018 epic, won 74-72 at home by the Aggies. LSU’s response came in Tiger Stadium, a year later, with the first appearance of the Joe “Burreaux” jersey in Senior Night introductions followed by a 50-7 thrashing handed out by the eventual national champions.

Just last year, the Tigers gave lame duck coach Ed Orgeron a happy sendoff by surprising the 14th-ranked Aggies 27-24 in Tiger Stadium.

LSU is 8-2 in its Southeastern Conference contests against A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC. There’s an abundant collection of lore from prior matchups in a series the Tigers lead 35-22-3.

The 6 o’clock kickoff at Kyle Field is 2022’s on-field collision, but it’s not the first battle, or the most important, the two SEC West rivals have waged this year. Even if somehow, the struggling Aggies (4-7, 1-6, on a six-game SEC skid) shock the sixth-ranked Tigers (9-2, 6-1), LSU is still headed to the SEC Championship Game next Saturday in Atlanta.

The first confrontation came on Feb. 2, when Harold Perkins signed his letter on intent to play for LSU after originally committing to A&M. Perkins was ranked as the No. 8 player in the nation and a five-star recruit, according to 247Sports. This season and for at least 1-2 more, he’s a dynamic factor for the Tigers and a missing link at A&M.

Both head coaches, the Aggies’ Jimbo Fisher and LSU’s Brian Kelly, remember that recruiting battle well.

Fisher recalled something else about watching the freshman phenom play in high school.

“Harold’s very gifted,” Fisher said Monday. “As great as he’s playing on defense, if you watched him in high school, you could argue he was just as great of an offensive player as he was a defensive player. I think he averaged 10-yards-per-carry. Was really athletic, ball-skilled. Really good basketball player. You could just see a natural athlete.”

While Perkins spurned the Aggies, Max Johnson did the opposite: The former LSU signal caller  earned the starting spot on Fisher’s offense, but has missed most of the season with a broken hand.

Freshman Conner Weigman has taken the reigns and found limited success, though he’s been hampered by the absence of starting running back Devon Achane who’s missed the last two weeks with a foot injury. He’s been spelled by former LSU-target and Baton Rouge native Le’Veon Moss, who posted 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in a lackluster 20-3 win over Massachussetts last week.

Fisher felt “very optimistic” that both Achane and freshman wide receiver Evan Stewart would play in the season finale.

LSU may also be without its starting running back in Josh Williams, who missed last week against UAB with a knee sprain. Kelly said he’s “made progress” throughout the week, but was ultimately noncommittal on Williams’ status for the game.

Noah Cain turned in a three-touchdown performance in the 41-10 win last week over UAB in Williams’ absence, and may have earned himself a larger share of snaps moving forward, regardless of Williams’ status.

“I think Noah Cain has helped himself,” Kelly said at his Monday press conference. “He’s not flashy, I don’t think he’s going to be a guy that makes a ton of people miss, but does he really have to? He plays with low pads, he’s physical, he’s smart, he catches the ball coming out of the backfield. He’s reliable in pass protection, and he’s tough to bring down. I think I just mentioned four or five things that are pretty good to have.”

The bottom line: LSU and Texas A&M are two programs headed in very different directions. The Tigers have their sights set on a shot at the SEC championship and a playoff berth, while notching the 17th 10-win season in program history. The Aggies are limping into the offseason, ready to end their miserable 2022 campaign, regroup, reconsider and recover. And, of course, recruit.

Fisher knows just how important a win against LSU could be.

“It’s huge. Again, the future and what we have here is extremely bright, where we’re going and what we’re doing, playing together and being together,” Fisher said. “I think for the seniors it would be a great sendoff for the last time they walk in that stadium.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Grambling aims for second straight Bayou Classic upset

NEW TO HUE: First-year Tigers’ coach Hue Jackson will experience his first Bayou Classic today. (Photo by GLENN LEWIS, Grambling State University).

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

NEW ORLEANS — It comes down to this, to close out chapter one of the Hue Jackson era for Grambling State University football.

And when it comes down to the annual Bayou Classic, history has shown anything can happen.

Nothing could close out the season for the Tigers any sweeter than to play spoiler in the traditional season-ending Southwestern Athletic Conference showdown, set to kick off its 49th edition at 1 p.m. today at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

Grambling State (3-7 overall, 2-5 SWAC) enters coming off a 41-7 loss at Texas Southern on Nov. 12. 

But GSU has won two out of its last three games heading into its final regular season game of the season.

Southern (6-4, 4-3 SWAC), which defeated Mississippi Valley State  27-7 at home on Nov. 12, controls its own destiny after snapping  a two-game losing streak with that win over the Delta Devils despite earlier  losses to Jackson State and Florida A&M. 

A Bayou Classic win for the Jaguars will secure a spot in the SWAC Championship game. But a Southern loss will mean that Prairie View A&M winds up meeting Jackson State on Dec. 3.

“Obviously we are excited about getting back to playing football. It’s obviously one of the biggest classics that there is, with a game played in New Orleans at the Bayou Classic,” said first-year GSU head coach Hue Jackson.

“The players are excited, the coaches are excited. We got back to work (Tuesday) after having some down time. We’ve seen some areas we need to focus on, to get better at. That’s our number one goal. Our number two goal is to continue to work extremely hard and to get ready for this game.”

Last year, playing in the wake of the dismissal of former head coach Broderick Fobbs two weeks before the Bayou Classic, a walk-off field goal gave the Tigers a 29-26 win over the Jaguars to win their first and only game under interim head coach Terrence Graves, who now serves as assistant head coach at Southern.

Jackson said he’d love to see this year’s Tigers cap off his first season as head coach at GSU with a similar win.

“Our players understand it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to get a jump-start into next season,” Jackson said during a press conference in New Orleans earlier this week. “For the seniors graduating, we want them to go out the right way.”

GSU is averaging 24 points per contest while Southern is averaging 32 points per game.

Defensively, the G-Men are giving up an average of 398 yards and 31 points per game compared to 282 yards and 20 points per game the Jaguars are yielding.

Southern leads the all-time series between the schools, 39-34, but the Bayou Classic series is tied at 24-24.

Grambling State is 1-1 this season in neutral site games, winning the Shreveport Classic over Northwestern State before falling in the State Fair Classic to Prairie View A&M.

Saturday’s game will air live on NBC and Peacock with Chris Lewis and Anthony Herron in the booth being joined by sideline reporters Lewis Johnson and Corey Robinson. 

Grambling State will broadcast and stream the game on the Grambling State Sports Radio Network.


Bulldogs look for a happy ending today at home

EVERY YARD MATTERS:  Calvary Baptist product Landry Lyddy, diving for yardage last week at Charlotte, will start at quarterback again today as Louisiana Tech concludes its season at home. (Photo by MURPHY BAVINGA, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal

RUSTON  — When Louisiana Tech and UAB kick off at 2:30 p.m. today at Joe Aillet Stadium, the Blazers will be playing for a bowl berth.

The Bulldogs will be playing for pride.

UAB sits at five wins knowing a victory today, in the regular-season finale for both Conference USA teams, will give the Blazers an opportunity to go to a postseason bowl in their final football game as a C-USA member, heading next season to the American Athletic Conference.

Tech (3-8, 2-5 C-USA) isn’t as fortunate when it comes to postseason possibilities. The Bulldogs have none.

However, first-year Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie isn’t allowing that to be used as any type of excuse entering the game.

“It’s about playing for our seniors,” said Cumbie. “I think that is something you can always hang on to. We have talked about this season a lot. If the won-loss record of our opponent or the location of where we play or any of those types of things has to dictate our energy, our effort and our preparation level, then it’s probably a hobby. You play for a sense of self pride. You play for a sense of pride for your teammate.”

The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network locally on 92.1 FM and the LA Tech Athletics app while the contest will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

The Bulldogs have suffered two overtime losses as well as a one-score setback at Charlotte last week. Win two of those three and Tech would be playing for a possible postseason bowl berth as well.

UAB (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) would like nothing better than to defeat Tech and keep its season alive.

Cumbie said the Blazers are better than their 5-6 record indicates.

“They are very talented,” said Cumbie. “They are a really good team. They have had some injury problems at quarterback in the middle of the season that hindered them a little bit. They are very good.

“They have an interim head coach. Coach (Bill) Clark stepped down right before the season (due to back problems). Coach (Bryant) Vincent has done a great job of keeping it together. That’s just the structure and the program that UAB has.”

Tech’s biggest challenge will be slowing down UAB running back DeWayne McBride, a Doak Walker Award semifinalist. McBride enters the game ranked second nationally in both rushing yards per game (144.1) and rushing touchdowns (18), but was held to a season-low 34-yard outing in last week’s 41-10 loss at No. 6 LSU.

“They have some really good players,” said Cumbie. “McBride is one of the best running backs in the country. He is going to be very difficult for us to tackle. It’s going to take a lot of guys running to the football, wrapping up and holding on to bring him down.”

McBride needs 147 rushing yards to set the single season school rushing record which is currently held by Jordan Howard who had 1,587 yards in 2014. He has had tremendous success in two games against Louisiana Tech, compiling 133 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2020 and 210 yards and four touchdowns last season.

“We have to take care of the ball,” said Cumbie. “Create takeaways. If we do that, we will find ourselves in the game in the fourth quarter and have an opportunity to go win it.” 


Friday’s basketball scoreboard

COLLEGE 

Women

Hawaii 63, Grambling 47
Louisiana Tech 73, Stetson 50

Men

Grambling State 75, UTSA 55
Louisiana Tech 79, Samford 76
Omaha 63, ULM 56 

HIGH SCHOOLS 

GIRLS

Sierra Canyon (Calif.) 61, Parkway 49


Tuesday’s basketball scoreboard

MVP: Doyline’s Juicy Clark was named the MVP of the high school game played Tuesday at the Decari Markray Classic hosted by BPCC. Clark is flanked by BPCC coach John Anthony Anglin and Markray’s mother, Lakechia Markray. (Photo courtesy of BPCC)

JOURNAL STAFF

COLLEGE 

MEN

Arizona State 80, Grambling State 49
Florida College 68, LSUS 67
LSU 73, Akron 58

Decari Markray Classic

BPCC 106, SUSLA 89
Navarro 75, Delgado 54

WOMEN

Central Florida 78, ULM 54
SMU 63, Louisiana Tech 59

HIGH SCHOOL 

Girls

BTW 49, Green Oaks 14
Calvary 47, Choudrant 39
Dutchtown 55, Airline 54
Haughton 59, Lakeside 19
North Little Rock 56, Parkway 53
Northwood 52, Cecilia 13
Springfield 51, Byrd 45

Boys

Bossier 36, Zachary 34
Carroll 59, Woodlawn 51
Green Oaks 41, BTW 40
Haughton 66, Lakeside 33
Huntington 60, Franklin Parish 60
Peabody 68, Southwood 40
Pineville 64, Byrd 34
Sterlington 47, Loyola 44

Decari Markray Classic at BPCC

Doyline 62, Metairie Park Country Day 55


NSU extends Laird after marked improvement

BACK FOR MORE:  Brad Laird’s NSU Demons made a run at the Southland Conference title this fall and earned him another season in charge. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State).

JOURNAL SPORTS

NATCHITOCHES – After making a run at the Southland Conference championship, Brad Laird will return for a sixth season as Northwestern State’s head football coach for the 2023 season, NSU Director of Athletics Kevin Bostian confirmed Monday.

This fall, Northwestern produced its best Southland Conference record in more than a decade and went into the final week of the season with a chance to win its first conference title since 2004.

NSU started 4-0 in the Southland Conference for the first time since 1988 and posted its best winning percentage in the league since 2004, going 4-2 in six conference games. The 4-2 mark was NSU’s first above-.500 finish in conference play since 2010.

“The progress our team showed throughout the season reinforced to me the program is headed in the right direction,” Bostian said. “After meeting with Brad, I am further convinced he is the right person to maintain the momentum built this season. It is clear Brad connects with his players on a personal level and they fought through a tough start to the season because of the level of respect they have for him.”

Bostian noted that 31 of 44 players on the offensive and defensive two-deep chart, including nine of 11 offensive starters, are expected to return for next season.

Through five seasons, Laird is 16-35 after a 4-7 season that included four losses to FCS playoff qualifiers and another to FBS Southern Mississippi. Laird owns a 15-23 mark in Southland Conference competition.

The Demons made sweeping coaching staff changes in the spring and welcomed 30 newcomers to the program this offseason, although one of the new hires, offensive coordinator Cody Crill, hired in January, never coached a game at NSU. Crill stepped away from the program less than two weeks ahead of the Sept. 3 season opener at Montana for family reasons. That and another late staff departure left the Demons two coaches short this fall.

Following an 0-3 start, the Demons won four of their next six games, putting themselves alone in first place in the Southland entering the final two games of the season.

“A year ago, based partly on outside circumstances (the pandemic), it was prudent for us to extend Brad Laird’s appointment as Northwestern State’s football coach,” NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones said. “The steps the program has taken during the 2022 season proves we made the right decision. Maintaining continuity at the head of the program is important to build on the culture coach Laird has created.”

Laird, a record-setting quarterback at Northwestern State from 1991 through 1995, held the Demons’ all-time passing record for nearly a quarter century before coaching Shelton Eppler to a record-breaking, two-year campaign in 2018-19.

Laird, a Ruston High School product, served as defensive coordinator at NSU three times for a total of eight years and also was associate head coach for three of those seasons before becoming head coach in 2018.

Laird was inducted in 2015 into Northwestern’s N-Club Hall of fame, the highest athletic honor at the university.


Eyeing 10-win season, Tigers need to be wary of Aggies

BATON ROUGE – “All they need is one.”

LSU’s Brian Kelly, in the fashion of any college coach discussing his upcoming opponent, heaped mounds of praise on Jimbo Fisher and the floundering Texas A&M football team during his press conference on Monday.

Whether it was warranted or not is a great question that probably won’t spark the most thought-provoking debates among LSU fans. There’s a certain relief in watching a rival suffer through the dysfunction the Tigers and their fan base went through the last two seasons.

But Kelly’s right — the Aggies don’t have the record they want, but all they need is one win against LSU. It’ll cap the season on a high note, maybe help Fisher save face on the recruiting trail, and leave A&M not saddled by an SEC losing streak entering next season.

It’s almost surreal to consider that, in the wake of A&M compiling the country’s highest-ranked  recruiting class last winter, the Aggies are 4-7. Kelly made it a point to mention that the talent Texas A&M has rostered doesn’t match the record. And, lo and behold, Kelly was right again.

The Aggies are going through upheaval. There’s Mushin “Moose” Muhammad II, a star wideout, actively discussing on Twitter an internal conflict between he and Fisher over his choice to wear sleeves during a game (Fisher has a policy against skill position players wearing sleeves). There was the very public conflict between Fisher and Nick Saban this summer ignited by Saban’s accusing A&M of “buying” its recruiting class with NIL money. Never mind the constant carousel of comments by media and fans regarding Fisher’s exorbitant contract that would for sure take a massive buyout — $86 million is the most commonly cited figure — from boosters.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot bubbling underneath the surface of that locker room, and opposing coaches could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they’re facing that circus on Saturday.

Yet, time and time again since arriving in Baton Rouge last winter, Kelly’s proven that he won’t take anything for granted.

There were justifiable fears among fans of a trap game against Arkansas, which was probably LSU’s sloppiest outing since the loss to Florida State – but Kelly made aggressive decisions throughout that wintry day in Fayetteville, not playing it close to the parka. Last Saturday’s visit by UAB was written off as an easy win, and while it was, it was because the offense rebounded to have one of its cleanest performances of the season, and the defense was dominant in the final three quarters.

Kelly hasn’t done things the traditional LSU way, either: Jayden Daniels has constantly rewritten the rushing record books for quarterbacks at LSU, and while Daniels is having a fine season worthy of dark horse discussion for the Heisman Trophy, he didn’t exactly have a high bar in the run game from past LSU quarterbacks: Justin Jefferson’s 450-yard year was enough to rank No. 1 on the single-season all-time rushing yards list for quarterbacks. Daniels eclipsed that in half a season.

Then there’s the running-back-by-committee approach, which has proven wildly effective after the use of a featured back for much of the last decade at LSU. That move’s paid off in dividends: the Tigers have four different running backs that have pitched in major playing time in Josh Williams, John Emery, Jr., Armoni Goodwin, and Noah Cain. Against UAB it was Cain, a Penn State-transfer who had previously seen the least amount of playing time of the four, scoring three touchdowns. With Goodwin gone for the rest of the year due to a knee injury, Cain’s emergence is key.

Kelly hit the lottery in the transfer portal this offseason, and he pointed to Cain and linebacker Greg Brooks as tw of his biggest gets, even saying that his staff “knew what they were getting” when they pulled them out of the transfer portal.

Those moves haven’t just allowed Kelly to survive in his first year – he’s thrived. On the precipice of a 10-win season – LSU’s third since 2013 – his Tigers need to grasp his own piece of wisdom.

“All they need is one.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Monday’s basketball scoreboard

(Photo by LEE HILLER, Journal Sports)

JOURNAL STAFF

College

MEN

Faulkner 100, LSUS 88
LSU 77, Illinois State 61
Louisiana Tech 79, ULM 58

Decari Markray Classic at BPCC

BPCC 95, Delgado 94, OT
Navarro 120, SUSLA 90

WOMEN

Hendrix 77, Centenary 47

HIGH SCHOOLS 

Girls

Airline 56, Mansfield 12
Camden, Ark. 56, BTW 43
Captain Shreve 59, Winnfield 57
Conway, Ark. 78, Parkway 68
Glenbrook 40, Calvary 32
Haughton 59, Minden 39
Southwood 39, Ellender 36
Sterlington 41, Loyola 6
Woodlawn 40, Green Oaks 12

Boys

Bossier 67, Barbe 54
BTW 75, Magnolia Charter 32
Captain Shreve 58, Menard 40
Captain Shreve 54, Simsboro 36
Carroll 54, Bossier 52
Franklin Parish 66, Woodlawn 61
Green Oaks 60, Camden, Ark. 48
Lakeview 75, Airline 67
Loyola 57, West Ouachita 53
Red River 51, Byrd 40


Tigers tough out bad conditions, dominate UAB

VINTAGE PERFORMANCE:  LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels rebounded from a subpar outing last week at Arkansas with one of his best games of the season. (Photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports)

By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – LSU running back Noah Cain had three seasons at Penn State under his belt before arriving in Baton Rouge. He knows a thing or two about playing in cold and wet conditions.

So it was no shock – Cain was able. He handled Saturday night’s miserable weather like a duck landing on University Lake.

With a largely quiet Tiger Stadium staring them down, the sixth-ranked Tigers relied on their own toughness to steadily grind out a 41-10 win over Alabama-Birmingham. Cane pounded in three short touchdown runs as LSU (9-2) wrapped up its home slate with only a few thousand hardy souls in the stands as the game wound down, solidly in the Tigers’ grasp.

“I was telling a lot of the guys on the team that this is a warm day up north,” Cain said with a grin. “Really, it was about the mental toughness speech Coach [Brian] Kelly kept saying over and over again until it was really drilled into our head, and we showed that tonight.”

The former Nittany Lion, a junior, made the most of his opportunities, scoring three times and piling up 76 yards on 13 touches. He was the primary beneficiary of two scratches on the running back depth chart, as both Josh Williams (knee) and Armoni Goodwin (knee) were inactive. Kelly said that Williams is expected back next week against Texas A&M, while Goodwin is done for the season.

Cain’s UAB counterpart, DeWayne McBride, didn’t fare so well, despite a sparkling worksheet this season.

The junior running back, who had the second-most rushing yards (156 per game) across the FBS entering  Saturday’s game, was limited to just 35 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. McBride’s bad night was a testament to the rushing attacks that LSU faced before him, Kelly said.

“We’ve been challenged with the great backs, last week against Arkansas, or this week,” Kelly said. “Earlier in the year, obviously, we’ve had many challenges, whether it’s Alabama or Ole Miss’ running game. This group has responded to those challenges. It’s a collection of a number of guys just buying in and doing their jobs and it goes back to … accountability.”

After a pedestrian performance against Arkansas, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels turned in his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season, racking up 112 and a touchdown on the ground to go along with 297 yards and a touchdown through the air on 22-of-29 passing.

All told, Daniels was responsible for 409 of the Tigers’ 565 yards of offense against UAB (5-6), who had curtailed an explosive North Texas offense a week earlier.

“We wanted to bounce back from what we felt was offensively less than our best game. I think Arkansas had something to do with it, (and) we had something to do with it,” Kelly said about the aggressive playcalling on offense. “Jayden prepared really well, and you can make the case that this was his best game of the year. He pushed the ball down the field vertically, he saw things, he was assertive.”

LSU broke open the scoring on the night’s first drive on a two-yard run by John Emery, Jr., but Jermaine Brown, Jr. took the ensuing kickoff 66 yards to set up the Blazers on a short field. DeWayne McBride punched in UAB’s only touchdown from five yards out for an early 7-7 tie.

The Tigers responded with touchdowns on four of their next five drives, including Cain’s three rushing touchdowns, the last creating a commanding 28-10 lead with 40 seconds left before halftime. A touchdown rush by Daniels in the third and a touchdown catch by Brian Thomas, Jr. in the fourth garnished the outcome, which was secured by the increasingly stingy LSU defense.

The mental toughness that Kelly harped on his players over the week paid dividends on Saturday. It’s a talking point Kelly wanted to make for a long time prior. It’s a sign of the team’s maturation, that they can handle anything the elements and a half-empty Tiger Stadium can throw at them.

“I’m so proud of our mental toughness and their ability to do it the right way late in November against a team they’re supposed to beat,” Kelly said. “The wins have been nice. The individual achievements have been really neat — the SEC West Championship. But I’m most proud of the mental toughness this group has shown.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Close, but no cigar on the road for Lyddy, Bulldogs

GOOD EXCHANGE:  When Shreveporter Landry Lyddy handed off to Marquis Crosby Saturday, good things happened often. Crosby ran for 105 yards and 3 TDs. (Photo by MURPHY BAVINGA, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

CHARLOTTE –  Calvin Camp rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns to lead Charlotte (3-9, 2-6) to its first home win of the season as the 49ers defeated Louisiana Tech 26-21 Saturday afternoon at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

While the 49ers snapped their six-game home losing streak, the Bulldogs (3-8, 2-5) saw their streak of consecutive road losses grow to 14. 

“Any time you lose a close game, you can look at so many different moments or plays during the game,” said first-year Tech coach Sonny Cumbie. “Today is no different.” 

Tech’s moments began in the first quarter when a 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked. They continued late into the second quarter when true freshman Landry Lyddy, the Calvary Baptist product, threw the first of two interceptions with 60 seconds to play. Charlotte then reeled off back-to-back chunk plays down the seam to their tight end to set up a field goal on the final play of the half, giving the 49ers a 13-7 lead at the break. 

The next moment came early in the third quarter. On second down and goal from the three yard line, Lyddy tried to throw a throw-back screen pass to the weak side of the field. Lyddy didn’t put enough air under the ball and 49ers defensive end Markees Watts made a one-handed interception, returning it to the 49ers 42-yard line to squash one of the few scoring opportunities Tech manufactured.

 “The turnovers were fatal, killing our momentum,” said Cumbie. “We were running the ball well, and I should not have called that play. That one was on me.” 

Trailing 19-14 in the fourth quarter, Tech was forced to punt after a three-and-out series. The Bulldogs defense, which had been solid against the run for the majority of the day, watched Camp take two handoffs and cover 58 yards, the final 33 untouched to the end zone as Charlotte increased its lead to 26-14 with 5:58 remaining. 

Camp, who led the 49ers in rushing in 2021, saw action in only his second game of this season, but made the most of it, scoring on runs of 4, 25 and 33 yards. 

After the Bulldogs responded with a scoring drive capped by Marquis Crosby’s third rushing TD of the day — this one from 11-yards out with 3:05 to play — Tech elected to kick away with all three timeouts remaining. 

However, Charlotte picked up three first downs to run out the clock and secure the win on the 49ers’ Senior Day.

“I think our players continued to play hard,” said Cumbie. “There was a strong sense of belief. We did not execute well enough though. That has been the same thing that has happened to us throughout the year. The margin for error is not very big.” 

Tech recorded eight tackles for loss in the game, including three sacks, while constantly pressuring 49ers QB Chris Reynolds all afternoon. However, Reynolds — making his 41st and final start for Charlotte — completed 20-of-30 passes for 267 yards and no interceptions. 

“I was pleased with how our defense played overall,” said Cumbie. “Charlotte played an inspired game. It is a credit to them and their coaching staff under all of the adversity they have been facing.” 

Crosby led the Bulldogs with 105 yards rushing and three scores while Lyddy was 23-of-31 for 213 yards and the two interceptions. Smoke Harris caught nine passes for 51 yards while Cyrus Allen added three receptions for 82 yards. 

The Bulldogs will conclude their 2022 season next Saturday when they host UAB at Joe Aillet Stadium for Senior Day. Kickoff is slated for 2:30. 

“We have one more week to improve our football team,” said Cumbie. 


Demons can’t keep pace with UIW

SENIOR DAY HIGHLIGHT:  Northwestern State senior tight end LC Greenwood scores on a 1-yard catch against UIW on Saturday. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State football team got the fast start it wanted Saturday afternoon against No. 5/7 UIW.

The Demons, however, were unable to sustain that momentum, and once the visiting Cardinals grabbed hold, they never let go.

UIW answered NSU’s opening drive touchdown with an onslaught of big plays and an avalanche of offense in a 66-7 victory that gave the Cardinals a share of the Southland Conference championship.

“Go back and look at the first half – the end of the first quarter, beginning of the second quarter – we had some opportunities,” said fifth-year head coach Brad Laird, whose team finished the season 4-7 overall and 4-2 in Southland play. “We got the fast start we wanted, up 7-0. It’s 14-7 (UIW) and we have a drive where we have a couple of drops and a drop on a fake punt that came in a situation to get the momentum back.

“In games like this, that’s what you have to do. We weren’t able to get the momentum back at that point. That wasn’t the point that changed the game, but it was a big letdown early in the second quarter.”

From there, the Cardinals (10-1, 5-1) piled on the points.

UIW needed just six plays to cover the 45 yards after the failed fake punt to build a 21-7 lead on Lindsey Scott’s 18-yard touchdown run.

Scott engineered a balanced UIW attacked that gobbled up 786 yards total offense —  413 in the air and 373 on the ground. A seventh-year senior, Scott threw for 382 yards and five touchdowns, tying the Turpin Stadium record held by NSU’s Zach Adkins and Sam Houston’s Jeremiah Briscoe.

Running back Marcus Cooper added 254 rushing yards – the third-best performance in stadium history – and a pair of touchdowns.

The Demons’ lone score came on the opening drive of the game when Zachary Clement found senior tight end LC Greenwood for a 1-yard score.

It was Greenwood’s second touchdown catch of the season – both coming at home in the same end zone.

“They came out and scored 66, so with an offense like that out there, you’ve got to respond and we didn’t respond,” said Clement, whose 239-yard passing performance gave him 2,498 for the season – fifth-most in NSU single-season history.

“(Greenwood and I) just hugged before this interview. For him to be able to go out that way means a lot to him, and I know he’s meant a lot to us as a team.”

The Cardinals used a big-play attack to surpass the 51.6 points per game average they brought into Turpin Stadium, scoring five second-half touchdowns – all of which covered at least 39 yards.

Scott and Cooper accounted for two each with the quarterback connecting with Darion Chafin on touchdown passes of 51 and 48 yards in the third quarter and Cooper adding touchdown runs of 67 and 78 yards within the first 15:14 of the second half.

Greenwood wasn’t the only Demon senior to enjoy a special moment on Senior Day.

Defensive lineman Isaiah Longino had the Demons’ lone sack, giving him 19.5 career sacks and putting him alone in fourth place on NSU’s career list.

“I’m glad I can say my name is going to be here for a very long time,” said Longino, who along with quarterback Kaleb Fletcher and cornerback Trey Williams spent six seasons in the Demon program. “Coach (Weston Glaser) gave me the one-on-one with the tackle. I got in a wide nine, made a few moves and our DBs did a great job of covering backside. He pumped the ball, the first read wasn’t there and when he hesitated, I was there.”

Despite the loss, Northwestern produced its first winning record in Southland Conference play since 2008 and its best conference winning percentage since the 2004 Southland Conference championship season.

“I’m proud of what this team has done,” Laird said. “A lot of people talk about Week 3, but I go back to Week 4 (the conference opener). We’re staring at a situation, about to go down 17-0, to Lamar. What our football team has done from that point moving forward, I couldn’t be more proud. To right the ship, to be able to overcome adversity and play for a championship, it starts with the seniors who played their last game here.”

Contact Jason at pughj@nsula.edu


Tigers try not to overlook UAB while cradling SEC West title

LOCAL TIGERS: Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) and Micah Baskerville (23), both Evangel products, are keys for LSU’s defense. (Photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports)

By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – Not only does tonight’s 8:05 kickoff in Tiger Stadium mark the end of LSU’s nonconference schedule, it’ll also settle a score.

The Blazers have spent the last nine years sporting a .500 record against LSU all-time after LSU beat UAB 56-17 in 2013. UAB won the first matchup between the two teams in 2000, 13-10.

The final homefield appearance for LSU is, of course, Senior Night, with 17 honored in a pregame ceremony.

“We’re excited about sending our seniors off with a victory and that’s been really our focus this entire week, playing to our standards,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “Obviously it’s been a great year, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

The sixth-ranked Tigers have exceeded all expectations by securing the Southeastern Conference West Division title and a berth in next month’s SEC Championship Game against No. 1 Georgia, the defending national champions. A win there, and LSU is in the College Football Playoff as one of four teams alive for a national championship.

But first things first. Tonight it’s UAB, a championship contender in Conference USA year after year. Next week it’s a visit to Texas A&M, but Kelly is keeping his Tigers focused on the Blazers, who should not be taken for granted.

UAB features one of the most potent rushing attacks in the Group of Five, as running back DeWayne McBride has averaged almost 7-yards-per-carry on 204 attempts to go along with 17 touchdowns. The junior has also tallied 1,407 yards on the ground, good for second in the FBS. Their offense ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards-per-game.

McBride’s not the only running back head coach Bryan Vincent utilizes, either: Senior Jermaine Brown, Jr. sees plenty of work as a change-of-pace back for the Blazers and has eclipsed the six yards-per-carry mark on 114 attempts.

McBride and Brown head an offense that’s established and pedigreed in the eyes of Kelly.

“They’re very accomplished on offense. In an overview I would say they’re a very mature team,” Kelly said. “They’re made up of a lot of fifth-year seniors, (and) there’s a number of sixth-year players on this team. This is a mature, veteran football team that has a very good offensive structure.”

Vincent didn’t share in his counterpart’s focus on upperclassmen, however. Instead, true freshman Harold Perkins caught his attention, especially after Perkins recorded four sacks and two forced fumbles against Arkansas to lift LSU to a 13-10 victory last Saturday on the road.

“After 12 or 14 hours of film yesterday and last night, he’s a guy that really stood out. You sit there, you watch him, and you watch all the things that he does,” Vincent said Monday. “Whether he’s rushing the passer, whether he’s spying the quarterback, whether he’s playing coverage? This is without a doubt the best true freshman I’ve seen in my career. Without a doubt.”

Still, UAB’s 5-5 record, coupled with LSU’s meteoric rise up the rankings, have left the Tigers as heavy favorites. It’s a game that’s easy for the Tigers to overlook, just like Arkansas was the week before.

There won’t be any of that, Kelly said. He’s echoed the same mantra all season: Preparation is key.

“That’s kind of a piece of who we are, right? We focus on a process more so than an outcome,” Kelly said. “It’s been a consistent way of how we do things on a day-to-day basis. We focus much more on the little things, our habits, how we think, what we do on a day-to-day basis, much more than outcomes and championships, things of that nature.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Last dance for Demons today at home could be historic

TITLE AT STAKE: William Hooper (7) and Race Moser (49) hope to celebrate plenty of pass breakups today at Turpin Stadium. (File photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

JOURNAL SPORTS

NATCHITOCHES — There will be no playoffs for the Northwestern State football team.

But in the Demons’ final game of 2022 today at 1 o’clock in Turpin Stadium, there’s a chance – a slim one, but a chance – to share the Southland Conference championship.

With a massive upset of No. 5/7 Incarnate Word, NSU can claim a share of its first Southland title since 2004. It’s the first time since then the Demons have taken the field on the final playing date within a win of a conference title.

The game will serve as both Senior Day — with the Demons honoring 16 seniors in a pregame ceremony – and Military Appreciation Day.

The game will air on ESPN+ with free streaming audio available through www.NSUDemons.com.

“We have an opportunity to play for a co-conference championship,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “That is a credit to these players and coaches. We sat there after Week 3, trying to determine what is this team going to be about? Those players and coaches really flipped the switch and made a difference in what this team is going to be known for and what opportunities still lay ahead for this team.”

NSU’s fourth nationally-ranked opponent of the season is standing in the way of the Demons (4-6, 4-1) sharing the league title with Southeastern, which clinched a share of the title with a Thursday night victory at Nicholls.

SLU will get the Southland’s automatic playoff berth because it’s the only team to defeat UIW, and NSU. Whoever wins today’s matchup will be conference co-champions. UIW will surely receive an at-large playoff berth based on its dominant showing this fall.

The Cardinals (9-1, 4-1) bring the FCS’ top scoring team (51.6 ppg) and the top scoring margin in Division I (31.3 points) into Natchitoches.

“They’re a talented team, a disciplined team,” said sixth-year senior defensive end Isaiah Longino, who will play his final game as a Demon. “We have our work cut out for us, but everyone knows what’s on the line, what we’re playing for. We have to put it together. There’s no other choice. We’re down for the challenge. We accept it.”

The Demons have upset the Cardinals in two of their last three meetings, both times in San Antonio in high-scoring contests.

While the Cardinals score and score fast, the Demons’ Purple Swarm defense has shown the ability to fix itself in the course of a game throughout the season.

NSU enters the matchup having pitched back-to-back, second-half shutouts at Texas A&M-Commerce and Southeastern. The Demons also blanked Grambling and Eastern Illinois in the second half of matchups earlier in the year.

“It hasn’t always been about adjustments,” Laird said. “We’ve done our job better compared to just adjusting at halftime. This week will be important, as well, to start fast and get things going early. Adversity is going to hit. Sometimes it hits early. Sometimes it hits late. We have to take that adversity and switch it to momentum.”

The possibility of collecting the Demons’ fifth overall SLC football championship is a driving force for a team that has spent the previous 10 weeks learning how to play as one.

“Sticking together, not going down each other’s throats,” wide receiver Zach Patterson said of what has been behind the Demons’ turnaround after an 0-3 start. “At the beginning of the season, we wanted to point fingers. We had to come together as a team, not single one person out for not doing this or that. We had to come together.”

Because of that developing chemistry, the Demons have a chance to send 16 seniors out with a championship ring.

“I feel like I’ve been able to see the whole changing of the culture,” said Longino, a sixth-year senior who has been part of the program since the summer of 2017. “The last few years have not been the way we wanted. When I first came in, we had just come off a 1-10 season. My class had a lot of true freshmen who played. We were the ones trying to change things, shift things, bring discipline, bring intensity to practice.

“It’s only going to get better. To say I’ve seen the culture change completely as far as where we started – teammates not caring about each other to now being one full team and putting it all together for this – I’m happy to say I was part of the process.”


Lyddy’s third start could be the lucky charm for Tech

THIRD START:  True freshman Landry Lyddy from Calvary Baptist gets his third collegiate start this afternoon for Louisiana Tech. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

CHARLOTTE — When Louisiana Tech faces Charlotte today at 2:30 p.m. at Jerry Richardson Stadium in this North Carolina city, something has to give. 

The Bulldogs have lost 13 straight road games dating back to a win at North Texas in 2020. 

The 49ers have lost six straight home games. 

One of those streaks will come to an end. 

The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network locally on 92.1 FM and on the LA Tech Athletics app with Malcolm Butler and Teddy Allen providing a call of the action. 

Tech (3-7, 2-4) is coming off a 51-7 loss at league leader UTSA last weekend in a game that saw the Bulldogs struggle in all three phases of the game. However, true freshman quarterback Landry Lyddy, last year’s Mr. Louisiana Football at Calvary Baptist Academy, will make his third start of the season today, something that Tech coach Sonny Cumbie is excited to see. 

“It’s Landry’s game really,” said Cumbie when asked about the game plan for his QBs. “Let’s see how well he does. We have a game plan we feel good about and opportunities for him to spread the ball to the guys who can make plays. I’m excited to watch him play again.” 

Lyddy completed 14-of-26 passes for 138 yards and one TD while throwing two interceptions against the Roadrunners, but Cumbie said he felt the young signal caller made some strides. 

“I think that Landry did a fine job,” said Cumbie. “He made some good throws on third down to keep some drives alive. He hit Tre Harris on a great throw on a third down. He made a nice to throw to Smoke (Harris) for the touchdown in terms of an anticipation throw over the middle of the field. There are some things read-wise that I have to stay on him about in terms of our RPO game and other things. He was playing against a really good defense.” 

Charlotte (2-9, 1-6) counters with one of the most experienced signal callers in the country. Chris Reynolds has thrown for 2,272 yards and 22 touchdowns this season and is the key for the 49ers according to Cumbie. 

“Forty-one career starts,” he said. “That’s what he is making today in his last career start at home for Charlotte. He can make plays with his feet. We have watched a lot of crossover film of Charlotte’s when we were preparing for other opponents, and I have a ton of respect for him as a competitor. He is really fun to watch. He won’t be fun to watch (today). 

“But watching him in those other games, seeing him compete. He gets knocked around some and he gets back up. He is making throws. He has some talented receivers. They like to throw the ball down in the field in terms of their passing game.” 

Elijah Spencer (52-886-9 TDs) and Grant DuBose (62-757-9 TDs) are his main weapons and will be a challenge for a Bulldog defense that has been decimated by injuries this season. 

The 49ers are allowing over 41 points and almost 500 yards of offense a game this year, but according to Cumbie, have some playmakers in Amir Siddiq and Markees Watts. 

“From a defensive standpoint, they have two of the best defensive ends in our league,” he said. “They are two of the best pass rushers that we will play in Conference USA. We will have our hands full in terms of pass protection.”


Thursday’s basketball scoreboard

BYRD HUDDLE:  The Yellow Jackets gathered on the bench to try to stem the tide as Calvary overwhelmed Byrd Thursday night. (Photo by JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports)

JOURNAL STAFF

Colleges

MEN

LSU 91, New Orleans 62
Northwestern State 70, Illinois State 67
TCU 95, ULM 60
ULL 94, Louisiana Tech 88

WOMEN

Southern U. 56, Northwestern State 52
Wiley 84, Centenary 75

High Schools

GIRLS

Airline 53, Northwood-Lena 40
Benton 60, Woodlawn 10
BTW 50, Red River 25
Byrd 31, Calvary 9
Captain Shreve 57, Homer 56, OT
Haughton 57, Saline 34

BOYS

Calvary 68, Byrd 39
Haughton 66, Saline 48
Huntington 56, Green Oaks 51
Loyola 61, Benton 57
Ruston 65, Airline 50


Southwood’s Frierson chooses NSU for her college career

(Graphic courtesy Northwestern State)

JOURNAL SPORTS

NATCHITOCHES – For the third time in three years, the Northwestern State women’s basketball program is bringing one of the top players from Shreveport/Bossier to play collegiately at Prather Coliseum.

Lady Demons’ head coach Anna Nimz has announced the addition of Jermesha Frierson, a 5-foot-7 scoring guard from Southwood.

Frierson is the No. 4-ranked Class of 2023 prospect in Louisiana, according to LGR Basketball.

Frierson burst onto the scene two seasons ago where she earned her first 1-5A All-District First-Team honor following her sophomore season.

She followed that year with a junior campaign that included another first-team all-district selection along with first-team all-state honors from the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association and LGR Basketball.

Her 23-points, 6-rebounds, 3-assists and 3-steals per game averages during her junior season also earned her first-team selections on the Shreveport-Bossier Journal All-Metro Team and on the Shreveport Times All-City team. The only first-team honor she did not receive was from the LSWA on its all-state roster of the best 10 players in Louisiana, with the voters putting her on the  Class 5A second team.

In just two seasons for Southwood, Frierson has already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark and helped lead the Lady Cowboys to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs last season for the first time in five years.

Frierson is a Gold Renaissance Scholar with a 4.0+ GPA,  a member of the National Honor Society, and is a continual member of the Southwood Principal’s List and Honor Roll.

She joins fellow Caddo/Bossier Parish products Jordan McLemore (Captain Shreve) and Kayla Hampton (Airline) as the latest northwest Louisiana products to become Lady Demons.


Tuesday’s basketball scoreboard

JOURNAL SPORTS

COLLEGE 

Women

ULM 103, Centenary 28

Men

Southern Arkansas Tech 83, BPCC 79

HIGH SCHOOLS

Girls

Airline 64, Bossier 21
Parkway 57, Wossman 44
Ruston 56, Minden 32
Woodlawn 35, Plain Dealing 25

Boys

Bossier 71, Haughton 41
BTW 52, Loyola 34
Ruston 55, Minden 33


Late push carries Demons to upset of No. 15 TCU

ON THEIR WAY:  Northwestern State players take the court after a timeout Monday night during the Demons’ upset at TCU. (Photo by JASON PUGH, Northwestern State)

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal

FORT WORTH, Texas – The 16th lead change Monday night was the sweetest for the Northwestern State basketball team.

DeMarcus Sharp’s turnaround jumper with 1:14 stood as the ultimate go-ahead bucket for the Demons as they collected the second Top 25 victory in program history with a 64-63 win at No. 15 TCU inside Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena.

“We’ve got such a resilient group,” first-year head coach Corey Gipson said. “I was emotional, not because of the win, but because we know how hard our guys work. It was very rewarding to see the hard work pay off, and it was very rewarding to see those guys stick together in times of adversity between the lines.”

After a back-and-forth first half that included 13 lead changes and five ties, the Horned Frogs (2-1) threw the first big punch of the second half, outscoring Northwestern State (2-2) 18-8 across the first 7:06 of the second half to build a game-high, 12-point lead.

Leaning on their veteran but new-to-NSU backcourt duo of Sharp and Ja’Monta Black, the Demons never backed down, providing longtime NSU fans with a sense of déjà vu.

Northwestern State’s victory Monday was its first against an Associated Press Top 25 team since defeating Iowa in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The score of that game against the Hawkeyes, who were the AP’s No. 15 team in the final regular-season poll? 64-63.

Black shot a blistering 7-for-8 in the second half, hitting five of his six 3-point tries, and finished with a game-high 25 points to establish a new NSU career high. Black’s point total was one off his overall college high of 26 points, set in a Missouri State win against Little Rock on Dec. 21, 2020.

“I honestly feel like I’m always in the zone, but it was a different type of zone that second half,” said Black, whose final 3 tied the game at 61 with 3:33 to play. “I just kept getting them up, as many as possible, because when I shoot it, I always think it’s going in. That’s my mindset.”

Sharp and Black combined to score 28 of the Demons’ 35 second-half points, but both deflected credit for the win to the presence of Jordan Wilmore, NSU’s 7-foot-3, 310-pound junior center.

After picking up four first-half fouls in 11:58 of playing time, Wilmore played foul-free for 8:04 of the second half, scoring three pivotal points and grabbing three rebounds.

Wilmore’s lone offensive carom set up a go-ahead free throw with 2:50 to play.

“There’s a lot of people who have doubted Jordan throughout his whole career,” Sharp said. “I’m glad he stayed locked in, stayed focused and ended up at Northwestern State with us. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wouldn’t want anyone else but big Jordan. I love big Jordan, and big Jordan will be even better down the line.”

The Demon defense, backed by Wilmore’s presence and a pivotal steal by Isaac Haney that set up Sharp’s game-winner, limited TCU to three field goals across the final 5:09 of the game, allowing NSU to erase a five-point deficit.

Haney’s third steal of the game came roughly three-and-a-half minutes of game time after Gipson pulled Black and Sharp aside during a media timeout and “got onto us about being tired,” Sharp said.

“We did have that conversation,” Gipson said. “Ja’Monta Black and DeMarcus Sharp are battle tested. The way they looked tonight is what we expect out of them. Those guys can do that consistently, but it’s taken some time for them to get in a rhythm.

“DeMarcus hasn’t played in a full year. We’re four games in. You can slowly but surely see the real DeMarcus Sharp, and you can slowly but surely see the real Ja’Monta Black. It’s a matter of time before some other guys start being the real version of their selves we see in practice.”

The Demons return to action Thursday when they travel to Normal, Illinois, to face Illinois State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. for the back end of a home-and-home series with the Redbirds.

Contact Jason at pughj@nsula.edu


Kelly puts focus on UAB and Senior Night, not Georgia

TIGER TANDEM:  The Walter Camp Foundation’s National Defensive Player of the Week, true freshman Harold Perkins (40), and Evangel Christian product Micah Baskerville (23), teamed up on this tackle against Alabama. (File photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports)

By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — By the metrics of almost every preseason prediction, Brian Kelly’s first LSU football squad has overachieved.

There’s a win against Alabama, coupled with wins over Mississippi State and Ole Miss. There are impact freshmen on both sides of the ball that rank among the best at their position in the SEC. There’s an SEC Championship appearance waiting in the wings once the regular season is finally over.

Not to overlook an 8-2 record and No. 6 national ranking, when few expected a spot in any Top 25.

Those weren’t the metrics Kelly was looking to judge his first season by, though.

“I didn’t put any wins or losses on this team,” Kelly said during his Monday press conference. “I put, ‘I want to play hard, I want to be better in November, and I want to teach them how to win.’ I think we’ve hit all of those markers, and that’s kind of where I wanted this program to be. I think we’re at where we should be at this time.”

There are still two games left on the regular-season slate, against UAB at home Saturday night and next Saturday at Texas A&M. While they won’t be the toughest tests on the schedule, they’ll present a unique challenge: they stand as tune-ups for the title bout with Georgia, a game that, barring Tiger stumbles, will draw plenty of attention nationally.

That hasn’t kept Kelly from being focused on the work in front of him, especially given his unique set of goals and standards he had set forth for the season.

“I think we’ll have plenty of time to get information on Georgia, and we’re pretty much aware of Georgia and who they are and what they’re about. Our focus will be on UAB and Texas A&M because they matter. For us in terms of where we are and the development of our program, these singular games are so important to us.”

Kelly’s seen that development on the individual level, as well. There’s Micah Baskerville, for instance, who fell out of favor with Ed Orgeron’s staff last season after seeing significant snaps early in his career. The Evangel Christian product has become a key factor to the success of a potent defense and has turned himself into one the conference’s best linebackers in pass coverage.

Baskerville’s triumphs didn’t stop there, though.

He’s graduated from LSU, one of 13 seniors who will participate in Saturday’s Senior Night festivities to do so. He saw LSU at the pinnacle of college football before it came crashing down a season later, only to be rebuilt under a new head coach. He went through a Covid-shortened season at an empty Tiger Stadium, a shell of what it has typically been on any given Saturday night. He overcame a reputation, Kelly said, that kept him from reaching his full potential until now.

On some levels, Baskerville’s progression is a microcosm of what LSU’s senior class had to endure. The trials and tribulations have all been accentuated with an exceptional closing act.

“When I got here, everybody was like, ‘Well, ya know, he doesn’t go to class, he doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that,’ and he’s been amazing,” Kelly said of Baskerville. “He’s gotten his degree, he’s been a great leader, he’s been inspirational in everything he’s done. I love that story. To watch him grow, and do the right things in the classroom and overcome all of the things that were in his past, that to me is this senior class.”

Baskerville and his fellow seniors had a choice to make before the season, Kelly said.

“They could’ve been average, they could’ve been poor. They could’ve just been good. They’ve chosen to be champions by the way they’ve gone to work every day, both in the classroom and on the football field. The choices these guys have made have been outstanding.”

For one last Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, they’ll reap the rewards of those choices.

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


With the SEC West in hand, the Tigers have made their point

BATON ROUGE – There’s no losing left for LSU this season.

They can beat Georgia in the SEC Championship by four touchdowns. Harold Perkins could top the collegiate single-game sacks record in every game left on the schedule. Jayden Daniels could run for 200 yards a game and throw for 300 more.

They could also get blown out by Georgia. Perkins could show that he’s still a freshman, figuring out college life, let alone all of his defensive assignments. Daniels could throw for another measly 86 yards, as he did Saturday at Arkansas, in every remaining game.

It doesn’t matter. They’ve done far more than they were expected to accomplish in Brian Kelly’s first year as coach.

Of course, they could actually lose. They’ve clinched the SEC West, and they could just coast to the finish line, though Kelly’s attention to detail and preparation likely won’t allow for it. It’s highly doubtful they lose to either UAB or Texas A&M, but a defeat in the SEC Championship Game to defending national champion and top-ranked Georgia is a very real possibility.

When that visit to Atlanta comes around, though, the final score is a moot point: LSU’s won the season.

There should’ve been a lot more red in the ledger than the two losses they have. There could’ve been talk about personnel changes, both on the field and on the sidelines. There could’ve been the continued questions about LSU’s lack of high-end quarterback play in recent years (other than Joe Burrow, of course). Those narratives were whisked away in October, with the winds of change as Kelly’s influence became apparent.

The biggest testament to the team’s moxie came Saturday.

Arkansas was trailing by three in the first quarter and was faced with a fourth-and-goal from the LSU 3. Instead of taking the chip-shot field goal, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman went for broke and trusted backup quarterback Malik Hornsby to make a touchdown happen.

He couldn’t.

Pittman had his idea of who the better team was, and a conservative game plan wasn’t going to cut it. Even with home field advantage, even with the resounding votes of confidence he heaped on Hornsby all week (never mind the fact that he eventually pulled Hornsby for third-stringer Cade Fortin), the grittiness and mental fortitude that LSU’s developed over the season was enough to worry him. That play call showed that Pittman knew just how easily that game could get away from his team.

In no way is this a condemnation of Pittman’s aggressive playcalling; Kelly did the same thing, going for it on fourth down in his own territory before the play was whistled dead due to a penalty. So Kelly did it again, this time with a fake-punt run by Jay Bramblett, wiped out by another flag.

In past years, that’s a head-scratching move at best, to give the opponent the gift of good field position.

But why not risk it when the defense has been so wildly effective? Perkins was the most impactful player on the field, and it wasn’t close. Why not rely on him and his defensive comrades to keep Arkansas out of the end zone? Kelly called the game to his team’s strengths, something that his predecessors didn’t do often enough.

Pittman’s playcalling was aggressive because he felt it had to be. There was a respect for the team that LSU’s become in Brian Kelly’s first year, a culmination of all the triumphs that the Tigers’ have experienced in the midst of an overhaul.

Kelly said in his postgame press conference that his Tigers haven’t arrived yet.

It sure seems like they have.

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


Weekend college basketball scoreboard

(Photo by LEE HILLER, Journal Sports)

JOURNAL SPORTS

Friday’s scores 

WOMEN

Arizona State 62, Grambling St. 49
LeTourneau 67, Centenary 60, OT
LSU 111, Miss. Valley 41
LSUS 92, Dallas Christian 44
Oklahoma State 89, NSU 51 

MEN

Grambling St. 83, Colorado 74

Saturday’s scores 

WOMEN

East Texas Baptist 68, Centenary 53 

MEN

East Texas Baptist 95, Centenary 76
Illinois State 69, Northwestern State 67
LSU 61, Arkansas State 52

Sunday’s scores 

WOMEN

Louisiana Tech 68, ULM 53
LSU 107, Western Carolina 34


Perkins has sick game to help LSU survive Arkansas upset bid

FEVERISH PURSUIT:  LSU freshman Harold Perkins felt poorly Saturday morning but made Arkansas fans, and quarterbacks, feel worse. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –  Prior to kickoff Saturday morning, Harold Perkins wasn’t feeling too hot.

He vomited, coach Brian Kelly said, during LSU’s team meal and dealt with flu-like symptoms leading up to game time.

Those symptoms were forgotten when Perkins hit the field and saw red. Razorback red.

The true freshman phenom played feverishly, collecting a school single-game record four sacks among his eight tackles, forcing two fumbles and breaking up a pass in LSU’s 13-10 win at Arkansas Saturday.

The outcome, coupled with Alabama’s 30-24 victory at Ole Miss, clinched an SEC Championship game berth with the SEC West crown for the seventh-ranked Tigers (8-2, 6-1).

He terrorized the pair of quarterbacks Arkansas coach Sam Pittman tabbed to replace the injured KJ Jefferson, strip sacking both Malik Hornsby and Cade Fortin at pivotal moments in the game. One of those forced fumbles came with 1:19 left in the game, and effectively sealed the deal for LSU.

“He impacted the game, obviously, to the level where we win the game, too,” Kelly said about Perkins. “He’s a multi-dimensional player, he made a great play in pass coverage, getting under a throw late in the game. I don’t think there are enough superlatives to talk about this young man.”

His performance had Tiger fans ready to rename a major Baton Rouge thoroughfare “Harold” Perkins Road.

It was just enough to overcome an ineffective LSU attack.

LSU’s offense suffered seven sacks – five in the first half – and consequently the passing game suffered: Jayden Daniels completed just eight of 15 passes for 86 yards. He also threw his second interception of the season, his first since the loss to Tennessee on Oct. 8.

“Sacks are overrated when it comes to offensive line issues,” Kelly said. “Sometimes the quarterback causes sacks, sometimes it’s the back that’s not fitting. When you break it all down, you don’t want your quarterback sacked at all.

“I think they did a really good job of bringing pressures and I think we probably needed to do a better job overall in pass protection. I’m not giving the offensive line a pass here, but anytime you talk about sacks, you should look at everybody, including the coaching of it. We’re all responsible for that.”

Some of those sacks came from Daniels breaking late out of a collapsing pocket, where the Razorbacks (5-5, 2-4 SEC)  were prepared with a zone coverage scheme to make sure he couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage. Daniels has taken 12 sacks over the last two games.

“There were multiple looks. He was hesitant,” Kelly said about Daniels. “He just didn’t have that aggressiveness that he needed, and he wasn’t sure in some things. So we have to do a better job coaching him, and he’s got to be more assertive.”

With the offense stalled, Perkins became the difference maker that the Tigers desperately needed to secure the Golden Boot rivalry trophy, and, with Alabama’s win, the SEC West.

LSU didn’t score its first touchdown until 5:25 was left in the third quarter, when Josh Williams punched it in from a yard out. Daniels hit Kayshon Boutte for a 26-yard completion the play before, and Williams cashed it in to give Tigers a 13-3 lead.

Williams was the most productive skill player on LSU’s offense, piling up 122 yards on 19 carries to go along with his touchdown.

Arkansas climbed back in it when Fortin, who completed eight-of-13 passes for 92 yards, hit Matt Landers in stride for a 40-yard score with 13:37 left to play. But the Razorbacks weren’t able to sustain a drive afterward, and Perkins’ strip sack was recovered by Mehki Wingo to end the suspense.

Coming off beating two Top 10-ranked foes, LSU’s win Saturday didn’t inspire confidence that the Tigers are ready to take on the likes of Georgia or Ohio State, but it was a shining example of a mantra that Kelly’s been preaching all season:

Just find a way to win.

“You still have to find ways to make plays and win these games at the end,” Kelly said. “Look, we’re far from a finished product. I don’t think anybody’s in there feeling like we’ve arrived. We’ve got a lot of work to do. During this journey, we’re still finding ways to win football games.”

Contact Ryne at rgberthelot@gmail.com


LSU Tigers 13, Arkansas Razorbacks 10: scoring and statistics

(Photo courtesy Arkansas Athletics)

JOURNAL SPORTS 

LSU 13, Arkansas 10

Score by quarters

LSU | 0 | 6 | 7 | 0 | — 13

Arkansas | 3 | 0 | 0 | 7 | — 10

Scoring summary

A – Cam Little 28 FG, 10 plays, 46 yards, 3:24

LSU – Damian Ramos 38 FG, 5 plays, 17 yards, 1:56

LSU – Ramos 29 FG, 11 plays, 61 yards, 5:12

LSU – Josh Williams 1 run (Ramos kick), 5 plays, 40 yards, 1:51

A – Matt Landers 40 pass from Cade Fortin (Little kick), 10 plays, 94 yards, 4:29

  LSU Arkansas
FIRST DOWNS 15 15
Rush 11 11
Pass 4 4
Penalty 0 0
TOTAL YARDS 284 249
Total plays 66 68
Avg. per play 4.3 3.7
RUSHING YARDS 198 133
Total rushes 51 46
Avg. per rush 3.9 2.9
PASSING YARDS 86 116
Comp-Att. 8-15 12-22
Comp. Pct. 53% 55%
Interceptions 1 0
Punts-Avg. 6-43.5 7-39.6
Inside 20 1 3
Fumbles – lost 1-1 2-2
Red Zone attempts 3-3 1-2
Red Zone pts. 13 3
3rd down conv. 4-14 6-17
4th down conv. 1-2 0-2
Possession Time 32:44 27:16

Individual statistics

Rushing

LSU – Josh Williams 9-122 1 TD, John Emery Jr. 3-40, Noah Cain 5-25, Jayden Daniels 19-10, Amoni Goodwin 2-6, Team 3-minus-5.

Arkansas – Raheim Sanders 12-46, Malik Hornsby 18-37, AJ Green 7-31, Cade Fortin 5-17, Rashod Dubinion 3-2, Jadon Haselwood 1-0.

Passing

LSU – Daniels 8-15-1, 86 yards.

Arkansas – Fortin 8-13-0, 92 yards, 1 TD; Hornsby 4-9-0, 24 yards.

Receiving

LSU – Kayshon Boutte 4-49, Malik Nabors 2-24, J. Williams 1-9, Jaray Jenkins 1-4, J. Emery Jr. 1-0.

Arkansas – J. Haselwood 5-39, Landers 2-69, Sanders 2-0, Ketron Jackson Jr. 1-4, Bryce Stephens 1-3,  Dubinion 1-1.

Tackles

LSU – Greg Penn III 5-4—9; Harold Perkins Jr. 6-2—8; BJ Ojulari 3-4—7; Jaquelin Roy 3-3—6; Micah Baskerville 3-3—6; Greg Brooks Jr. 4-0—4; Joe Foucha 4-0—4; Jay Ward 3-1—4; Sa’vion Jones 1-3—4; Mekhi Wingo 2-1—3; Jarrick Bernard-Converse 1-2—3; Jaray Jenkins 2-0—2; Jack Mashburn 1-0—1; Mason Taylor 1-0—1; Major Burns 1-0—1; West Weeks 1-0—1.

Arkansas – Drew Sanders 2-10—12; Bumper Pool 5-5—10; Hudson Clark 3-6—9; Jayden Johnson 3-5—8; Quincey McAdoo 4-2—6; Jashaud Stewart 3-2—5; Chris Paul Jr. 3-1—4; Cameron Ball 0-4—4; Simeon Blair 2-1—3; Jordan Domineck 1-2—3; Zach Williams 1-2—3; Dwight McGlothern 2-0—2; Terry Hampton 0-2—2; Donlan Gerald 0-2—2; Latavious Brini 0-2—2; Eric Gregory 1-0—1; Landon Jackson 0-1—1; Isaiah Nichols 0-1—1.


Third-down trouble dooms Demons at Southeastern

CLOSING IN:  Northwestern State’s Jomard Valsin (0) tries to tackle Southeastern running back Rodeo Graham Jr. during Saturday’s game.  (Photo by SEAN MCGRAW, Northwestern State Athletics)

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal

HAMMOND – The Northwestern State football team built its best Southland Conference start in three-plus decades in part by winning the third-down battle, slowing opposing offenses.

The Demons could not find that same success Saturday afternoon at Southeastern Louisiana. The 25th-ranked Lions halted NSU’s four-game conference win streak with a 23-7 victory at a chilly Strawberry Stadium.

Third-down success by SLU, and failures by Northwestern, were pivotal.

“That was the big thing on both sides of the ball,” fifth-year Demons’ coach Brad Laird said. “We weren’t able to convert any third downs and keep drives alive, and they were – especially in the first half. That put us in a hole.”

Southeastern (7-3, 4-1) built a 23-point halftime lead by rolling up 313 first-half yards, more than the Demons (4-6, 4-1) had surrendered in three of their first four conference games.

The Lions converted 7 of 11 third-down tries in the first half against a defense that had held its conference opponents to 35 percent on third downs.

NSU, meanwhile, went just 2 for 8 in the first half on third-down tries, half of its 49-percent success rate in its first four Southland games.

The Lions converted three third downs on their opening drive, a 13-play, 91-yard march that Carlos Washington Jr. capped with a 3-yard scoring run on third and goal.

Although the Purple Swarm defense allowed more than 300 first-half yards, it tightened up when backed up, holding Southeastern to a trio of field goals following the Lions’ opening touchdown.

The Lions’ defense, however, stifled the Demon offense throughout.

NSU managed just 209 yards total offense, nearly 200 fewer than its season average. The Demons went into halftime scoreless for the first time since the season opener at then-No. 2 Montana.

“We weren’t able to execute in all three phases,” Laird said. “That started from the get-go. We never got anything going – never got any momentum. We didn’t create any of that. When you go on the road in these kinds of games, you’ve got to do that and our team wasn’t able.”

The Purple Swarm was more effective in the second half, shutting out the Lions in the second half thanks to forcing three turnovers.

Linebacker Jared Pedraza collected his first career interception midway through the third quarter.

“They had run the same play earlier,” Pedraza said. “They tried to run a drag underneath. I started sinking, saw the ball and grabbed it.”

But on the next play, Southeastern took it right back as Donniel Ward-McGee intercepted a Zachary Clement pass at the SLU 41.

While Northwestern established a modest season high in turnovers collected, the Demons were able to convert only once off a Southeastern miscue.

NSU turned JaQuon Lott’s forced and recovered fumble into their lone score of the day. Clement hit tight end Travon Jones for a 31-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the third period.

“We created three (turnovers) and only had one we scored off of,” Laird said. “Whenever we get those takeaways, we want to turn them into points.”

Although the loss stopped NSU’s Southland Conference win streak at five — dating to a win at McNeese in the 2021 season finale — the Demons can still share or win outright their first conference title since 2004.

The Demons host Top 10-ranked UIW at 1 p.m. next Saturday in the regular-season finale at Turpin Stadium.

Should Nicholls shock Southeastern next Thursday night, the winner of the UIW-NSU game will be the outright conference champion. Should the Lions defeat the Colonels, the UIW-NSU winner would share the championship with SLU, which would get the league’s FCS playoff berth.

“We had a chance to win a share of a conference championship, and it sucks losing like that,” Pedraza said. “I got hurt and wasn’t able to help the defense at the end. We worked so hard and put in so much time and effort.

“We have a chance again next week against UIW. This loss will help us play better next week. We’ll come ready to work (Sunday) and get ready for next Saturday.”

Contact Jason at pughj@nsula.edu