Altered landscape makes ‘Happy’ fans completely impatient, heightens greed in college sports

His name is Willie. He’s one of this week’s social media sensations and easily identifiable as an Alabama fan because of a video posted on his Twitter feed “rolltidewillie” last Saturday night.

Apparently, Willie did not possess the patience and perspective to accept the Crimson Tide’s earliest loss in a football season since dropping Game 2 in 2003.

Instead in a 90-second rant videoed by his highly entertained friends, it appeared an angry, inebriated and thoroughly disgusted Willie had downed a beer for every point then-No. 11 Texas scored in a 34-24 beatdown of then-No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

“I’m gonna tell you like it is,” said wild-eyed Willie, wearing a fashionable `I Don’t Give A Piss About Nothing But the Crimson Tide’ t-shirt. “You go out and get five-star players who are supposed to be the best and you can’t win a damned ball game. . .YOU SUCK!”

Willie then turned away, beer in hand. and walked off in a feeble attempt to calm his rage. Then, he stepped forward again to deliver his second salvo to the cell phone videographer who was recording Internet gold that will be shown for years to come.

“GAH DANG, I don’t like it,” Willie sputtered. “You got a man up there making $12 MILLION A YEAR,” Willie said. “He can’t win a DAMNED ball game! We want to WIN a NATIONAL title. We CAN’T win it like this. If you done got too old and can’t win anymore, then you need to STEP DOWN.”

Yep, rolltidewillie thinks Alabama’s Nick Saban, arguably the greatest winner in college history with seven national titles in 27 previous seasons as a college head coach, is yesterday’s news. Done at age 71. The Nicktator needs to go ahead and move into the new $17.5 million Florida beach mansion he bought in August.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is only 53 years old. He’s won two national titles and averaged 11.8 wins in his last 12 of 15½ seasons guiding the Tigers.

But Clemson fans think the program is slipping. After playing in four national championship games in five seasons, the Tigers missed the playoffs in 2021 and 2022 and opened this year two weeks ago with Clemson’s first loss to Duke since 2004.

Finally, as much as 57-year-old Jimbo Fisher lost in his first five seasons as Texas A&M head coach – 4.2 losses per year – it’s amazing he’s back for season six.

Last week, A&M failed its first legit test of its tough schedule. The Aggies fell on their faces in a 48-33 loss at Miami against a one-time power now rebuilt with 60 players (as of six months ago) with NIL evaluations of at least $63,000 each.

And then there’s Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, with just 35 games of college head coaching experience, who’s opened his tenure at Colorado by guiding the Buffaloes to consecutive wins vs. last year’s national championship loser TCU and former national powerhouse Nebraska.

Sanders imported 52 transfers from four-year colleges. They replaced the more than 50 Colorado players who entered the transfer portal

Sanders was named head coach last December 3. He proclaimed at the first team meeting that players should consider transferring because he was already importing better talent.

”We got a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me,” Sanders. “And it’s Louis (Louis Vuitton), OK.”

Sure, it’s still early in the season. Fortunes can flip.

But judging from the failures of Alabama, Clemson and Texas A&M and the sudden ascent of Colorado, you’re seeing college football parity instantly being created because the transfer portal and NIL deals for players have run amuck.

Saban and Fisher haven’t tapped heavily into the portal and Swinney publicly loathes it.

While it’s true by the end of the season the four playoff teams will be familiar names, some of them may be the return of past storied programs like USC, Florida State, Texas and Notre Dame.

Remember the sleazy fictional booster named Happy Kuykendahl in the 1994 movie Blue Chips? He called himself a “friend of the program” who bought blue-chip basketball recruits (two of whom were portrayed by budding NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway) for a Bobby Knight-type head coaching character played by award-winning legendary actor Nick Nolte.

Here we are almost 30 years later and college sports, especially football, are being run by an infinite number of Happy Kuykendahls. These rich, jock-sniffing boosters can now legally buy high school recruits and transfers by funneling funds through the sham NIL money floodgate in which athletes are finally cashing in big.

The best talent no longer is limited to perennially dominant college football powers who have annually bought five and four-star recruits with under-the-table deals. Those blue-blood programs had control of college football because there was honor among thieves.

They rarely, if ever, turned each other in for recruiting violations. If one power outbid another power on buying a player – whether it was with cash, purchasing a new car or funding a kitchen remodel for a recruit’s mother – the loser tipped his cap and lived to maybe win the next recruiting battle with the highest bid.

Now, EVERYBODY can buy ANYBODY. And ANYBODY can transfer at ANY TIME.

It’s why the head coaching careers of veterans like Saban, Swinney and Fisher may be closer to the end than they care to admit.

It’s harder to win than it used to be for all college head coaches because they no longer have the control they once relished. They also know no legislative body wants to step in and infuse common sense transfer rules and create NIL parameters and consequences with bite.

While paying athletes has long been overdue, considering their sweat equity has earned millions for their college, the line between college and pro sports has been completely erased.

They are now both greedy, uncontrollable businesses, a never-ending cash grab that has erased evaporated loyalty and the much-admired concept of team play.

That’s the price paid for more equitable talent distribution that’s injected parity into major college sports and money into the hands of hundreds and hundreds of previously cash-poor athletes.

And it’s more than enough to eventually sober up the ’ol GAH DANG rolltidewillies of the world.

(Editor’s note: The photo inset above with Ron’s smiling mug shows the sleazy fictional booster Happy Kuykendahl)

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Nosing around ‘Jones Proud’ for LSU

JONES KEEPING UP: LSU’s 6-6 sophomore offensive lineman Emery Jones Jr. is shown in last year’s SEC Championship game against Georgia giving pass protection to quarterback Doug Nussmeier. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — It was just about a year ago, four days before LSU opened its SEC schedule against Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium, when LSU’s then-freshman offensive tackle Emery Jones Jr. was told he was getting his first college start.

No, he doesn’t expect a cake this weekend to mark the one-year anniversary. He’d rather hold his own pancake party, flattening Bulldogs’ defenders Saturday at 11 a.m. in Starkville, when 14th-ranked LSU (1-1) and MSU (1-0) begin the eight-game league schedule.

“It’s bringing back a whole bunch of memories,” said Jones, who has started 14 straight games at right tackle. “I know where I was last year and I know where I’m at now. It makes me feel proud how much I’ve improved and just got to keep my head down to keep improving.”

LSU started Cam Wire in last season’s opening loss to Florida State, then replaced him with Anthony Bradford to open game two against Southern.

But it was a play Jones made late in the third quarter against Southern, when the Tigers were leading 58-0, that may have convinced LSU head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Brad Davis he should start.

On first and goal at the Southern 8, backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier handed off to running back Noah Cain, who plunged up the middle. The 6-6, 335-pound Jones locked in on a block against an SU defensive end.

He drove the defender on an angle all the way to the front right goal line pylon and pancaked him on top of it.

“When I got that chance to finally get in the game to show what I’ve got, I knew I was liable to kill somebody,” Jones recalled of that play. “I just wanted to get in the game and be nasty.

When Jones Jr. joined left offensive tackle Will Campbell in the starting lineup, they became the first true freshmen combo to start in almost 40 years.

Campbell, a four-year starter for Monroe Neville, enrolled in LSU in January 2022. He was the No. 1 ranked offensive lineman in the state and was the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect by ESPN.

Jones, a two-time Class 5A All-State honoree from Baton Rouge Catholic that won the 2021 Division 1 state title, didn’t arrive at LSU until the summer.

Acquaintances through recruiting, they became fast friends, suddenly thrown in the same boat.

Through last season’s trials and tribulations – Campbell was a first-team freshman All-American and Jones earned third-team status – they now live together.

“When we were getting recruited, we started building that bond,” Jones said of Campbell. “Now, it’s like having another brother from another mother.

Last season in their first start together in LSU’s 31-16 win over Mississippi State, Pro Football Focus graded Campbell and Jones as No. 1 and No. 4 in pass protection among SEC offensive tackles for that weekend. They played a combined 98 total pass block snaps vs. MSU and allowed zero pressures.

“I locked in (that week after being named starter),” Jones said. “I was a young guy who had to try to do everything right. I wasn’t perfect, but I feel like I did a great job staying on the little details.”

Jones certainly earned Kelly’s trust. He played 886 offensive snaps last season, including every snap of all nine SEC games including the league championship battle against eventual national champion Georgia.

“It starts with how he handles himself away from the field,” Kelly said last spring. “He makes good choices, good decisions. He’s never on a list. When I say on a list, he’s never on an academic report, he’s never on a list relative to being late to anything. He’s reliable.”

Jones said he remembered being nervous prior to his first start. He called his mother at 11 a.m. the night before playing Mississippi State.

“She’s got this saying called `Jones Proud’,” Jones said. “She said, `Jones Proud. Make them know your name.’ She would always send me a text before a game that said, `Good luck. I love you. #Jones Proud.’

“This year, I started wearing Jones Proud across my nose every game. I just wanted to showcase it. I feel it gives me a boost.

“Since my Dad passed, I feel like I’m carrying his name since I’m a Junior. I’m just trying to make him proud and my family proud.”

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ROASTED CHESTNUT: Duce Chestnut shouts after a 
play against Florida State in LSU’s opening game.
(Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics) 

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — The foundation of LSU’s reputation of DBU – Defensive Back University – is based on the Tigers currently have 11 former DBs in the NFL including five starting cornerbacks.

Yet because 12 of 14 cornerbacks the Tigers signed in the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes are no longer in the program – five transferred to other FBS (Division 1-A) schools, three left early for the NFL and four graduated, including three one-year-rental transfers, reality has slapped LSU in the face.

LSU’s DBU is now MIA (missing in action).

The 14th-ranked Tigers (1-1), who open SEC play at Mississippi State on Saturday at 11 a.m., are ranked 102 of 132 FBS teams and dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed (258 per game).

Armed with transfer cornerbacks for the second straight season, LSU is also giving up an SEC-worst 13.23 yards per completion and allowed five TD passes.

The person who is the least surprised about the Tigers’ early cornerback struggles is LSU second-year head coach Brian Kelly, who has signed 14 cornerbacks (three true freshmen and four transfers) in each of his first two recruiting classes.

“We knew that we were playing new players back there,” Kelly said. “The challenge we’re going to be is developing players with very little experience but with talent. But talent is only one part of the equation.

“It’s developing the consistency and doing the little things that require playing at a high level – tackling, being in the right leverage whether it’s inside leverage or outside leverage and raking through the basket.”

How did LSU’s seemingly endless tank of cornerback talent run dry?

Simple. Five cornerbacks signed in the Tigers’ 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes transferred. They were Dwight McGlothern who moved on to Arkansas, Eli Ricks to Alabama, Damarius McGhee to Kansas, Ray’darious Jones to Mississippi State and Jaelyn Davis-Robinson to SMU).

They were supposed to fill the vacancies of 2019 cornerback signees Derek Stingley and Cor’Dale Flott (who both left LSU early for the NFL) and Jay Ward, who eventually played mostly safety before graduating after last season and moving on to the NFL).

Kelly wants to develop the underclassmen he has signed. But the pressing need for experienced cornerbacks has him again starting transfers.

This season’s starting corners have been juniors Duce Chestnut (who started 24 games for Syracuse) and Zy Alexander (28 starts for Southeastern Louisiana) and sophomore Denver Harris (who played in five games for Texas A&M last season).

“This is a process,” Kelly said. “It’s about being in the right technique. I like the competitiveness. We like our guys. This is going to be coaching and player development the entire season.”


No. 14 LSU (1-1) at Mississippi State (2-0), Davis-Wade Stadium, Saturday, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Last game for the Bulldogs: MSU edged Arizona 31-24 in overtime in Starkville on Saturday night. After the Bulldogs took the lead in the first possession of overtime on QB Will Rogers’ 29-yard screen pass TD to Jeffrey Pittman, the Bulldogs’ defense stopped Arizona QB Jayden de Laura inches short of a first down on 4th and 10. The MSU defense finished with nine tackles for loss, four interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Series record and last meeting: LSU leads 77-36-3. Last season, LSU won 37-16 after trailing 13-0 in the second quarter. The Tigers outscored MSU 21-0 in the fourth quarter and 31-3 in the game’s final 31 minutes. The Tigers sacked MSU QB Will Rogers four times and recorded eight tackles for losses.

Mississippi State head coach: Zach Arnett (2-0 in two seasons overall and at Mississippi State)


Early betting line: LSU is favored by 9

Number of Louisiana natives on MSU roster: 8

Number of Mississippi natives on LSU roster: 1

Number of transfers on MSU roster from 4-year schools: 21 players from 19 schools including 17 players from 15 Power 5 Conference schools


QB Will Rogers (33 of 46, 71.7 percent for 389 passing yards, 5 TDs, 0 interceptions), RB Jo’Quavious Marks (250 rushing yards and 3 TDs on 43 carries, 8 catches for 91 yards), WR Lideatrick Griffin (9 catches for 116 yards, 2 TDs), LB Nathaniel Watson (18 tackles, 2 TFL, 1½ sacks, 1 interception, 2 PBU), LB Jett Johnson (17 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles), PK Kyle Ferrie (3 of 4 FGs, 10 of 10 extra points), P Keelan Crimmins (5 for 37.8, 4 fair catches, 1 inside the 20), KO Marion Hauck (13 for 63.5, 4 touchbacks), PR Jaden Walley (2 for 15 yards), KOR Lideatrick Griffin (1 for 21)


1. When did Mississippi State clinch its first and only SEC football championship?

         A. The year every SEC football program but Mississippi State was on NCAA probation

         B. Eight days before Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941

         C. The day Starkville got electricity for the first time

         D. On the inaugural National Cowbell Day

2. Why did current Dallas Cowboys and former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, who starred at Haughton (La.) High, have no interest in signing with LSU in 2011?

        A. He didn’t like the color purple

        B. He wanted to play immediately

        C. Then-LSU head coach Les Miles was recruiting him to play linebacker

        D. He wanted to attend college in a town almost as small as Haughton

3. How many current players does Mississippi State have in Pro Football Hall of Fame?

       A. 4

       B. 2

       C. 3

       D. 0

Answers: 1. B 2. C 3. D

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Halftime was a good time to enjoy something special

I never knew.

All the years I’ve spent closely watching college and high school football games, almost every one  including a halftime show with at least the home team’s band, and I didn’t know.

Many of the best shows have featured both the home and visiting bands, as was the case Saturday night in Aillet Stadium and in Tiger Stadium.

No doubt the sold-out crowd in Baton Rouge was eagerly anticipating the performance of the “World Famed Tiger Marching Band.” And they were certainly not disappointed, enjoying a trademark show from Grambling’s finest. Louisiana Football Magazine’s Lee Brecheen reported many LSU fans said it was the highlight of the night.

In Ruston, there was tailgating talk centered around halftime, with Louisiana Tech’s faithful having watched dynamic performances in 2014 and 2017 by NSU’s “Spirit of Northwestern.” The “Band of Pride” at Tech has rising stock and proved it Saturday night.

But until then, I never knew. Neither did Shreveport’s Gordon Boogaerts, a Demon football legend who  joined me on the way down from the visiting athletic director’s suite (I wasn’t in there, of course – I was in the O.K. “Buddy” Davis Memorial Press Box, an appropriate showcase honoring the legendary Ruston Daily Leader sports editor).

I knew Gordon should strike fear into the heart of any Bulldogs. In the 1973 State Fair Classic, with a struggling Demon squad facing off with the Bulldogs’ eventual Division II national championship team featuring the likes of future Pro Football Hall of Famer Fred Dean, current Evangel coach and longtime chancellor Pastor Denny Duron, Pro Bowl pass catchers Roger Carr and Mike Barber, Gordon made 33 tackles.

Thirty-three. Not a misprint. Just an indelible impact by a Captain Shreve product who has since become a successful farmer and businessman and an aficionado of beautiful roses. You probably never knew.

We navigated the west side stands, running into friends including Lady Techsters’ basketball coach Brooke Stoehr, eventually finding the elusive staircase to the field. Three steps down left Gordon briefly in the Bulldogs’ bench area, and that could have been bad if he suddenly reverted back a half-century.

There was no bull-in-the-china shop incident, although Gordon admitted he felt young again being so close to the action. We swept right, moving quickly past Champ the Bulldog mascot and the enthusiastic Tech cheerleaders, looping around to the NSU bench area in the waning moments before halftime.

Gordon was back in his element (not that he spent much time on the bench back in his day). In my 30 years as sports information director at Northwestern, I’d been on the Demons’ sideline plenty, but never at that stage of games, just in the closing minutes. I watched walk-off field goals score stunning upsets at TCU (2001) and Tech (2014). I watched coach Sam Goodwin carried onto the field on the shoulders of his players, more than once. I saw goalposts tugged down (twice). As the clock wound down, I had one of NSU’s greatest running backs, Clarence Matthews, ask me about his game rushing total, and then give me what he’d kept in his head. There wasn’t much difference, but he didn’t agree with the Stephen F. Austin stat crew.

The back of the bench area Saturday night began getting congested as the Band of Pride left the stands, moving into position to march. On the other end of the bench, there was an even larger contingent from the SON, as they’re called, massing in their purple and orange. They were first up.

Suddenly, the halftime horn sounded, the teams trotted toward their dressing rooms, and NSU’s band began excitedly streaming into position to take the field.

Northwestern-Tech, once a bitter rivalry, now not so much. For the guys wearing helmets and shoulder pads, there was obvious intensity but there was a definite pecking order – the Bulldogs were not only at home, they were supposed to win, being a much-greater resourced Football Bowl Subdivision team compared to the Football Championship Subdivision Demons.

For the guys and girls in shorts and shirts, toting instruments, trotting giddily to find their spots so the show could begin, the dynamic was flipped. Over the past three decades, the scholarship-heavy SON has earned a national reputation for excellence – mentioned in band blogs alongside stalwarts like Ohio State, Texas and yes, LSU – along with the Human Jukebox from Southern, and Grambling’s crew. That I knew.

What I didn’t know, had never seen before, was the kinship between the bands. I was later told that’s not uniformly the case, in bitter school rivalries, but what I saw in a few fleeting moments on that sideline was remarkable.

Louisiana Tech’s bandmembers were cheering NSU’s. They were encouraging them. They were high-fiving them as the SON streamed in front to start the show.

I never knew.

It was very, very cool.

I’m pretty sure Boogaerts and Duron never had that friendly bond 50 years ago.

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LSU’s to-do list tonight is about fixing things while dispatching Grambling

BOUNCE BACK GAME:  LSU sophomore Harold Perkins Jr. was a dynamic playmaker on defense last year, but was muted by a position change in last week’s loss to Florida State. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics).

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – After four straight season-opening losses against Power 5 (soon to be Power 4) Conference opponents, LSU has created a dubious tradition.

Game No. 2 on its football schedule is Program Repair Week against a vastly overmatched in-state school receiving a healthy payday in exchange for an expected beatdown in the Tigers’ home opener.

In this case, for the second consecutive season against a historically black college, now 14th-ranked LSU welcomes first-time Tiger Stadium visitor Grambling of the Southwestern Athletic Conference for a 6:30 p.m. Saturday match.

After allowing the most points ever in a season-opener in the 130-year history of LSU’s football program – a stunning 45-24 loss to then-No. 8 Florida State by the then-No. 5 Tigers last Sunday in Orlando – the fallout this week in the LSU football ops building has been a smoldering disgust.

“We plan on taking our anger out on Grambling,” LSU running back Noah Cain said.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly, who cited his team’s lack of competitive edge as it came out flat in the second half vs. FSU, likes how his team responded in practice.

“I think we’ve reached a level of preparation that I’m much more comfortable with,” Kelly said Thursday. “The intensity level is what I was looking for. I’ve got to take full responsibility for not getting it there (last week). I feel good about where we are and where we need to continue to go. Because then you’ve got to go and take that from your preparation to performance.”

The Tigers had a list of negatives in the FSU debacle they need to correct vs. Grambling, a team that lost its opener 35-31 to Hampton last Saturday.

Considering LSU’s 65-17 get-well wipeout of Southern last season after losing 24-23 to Florida State in the season-opener in the Superdome, the Tigers likely spent minimal time this week studying Grambling game film.

The biggest areas of concern LSU needs to be corrected before next Saturday’s SEC opener at Mississippi State is a veteran offensive line playing to its experience level, playmaking pass rusher Harold Perkins Jr. not having his talents neutered by playing middle linebacker, more explosive run plays, receivers not dropping passes and defensive backs not being physically abused in pass coverage.

Kelly said new faces will see more action this weekend in many of the spots needing improvement.

For instance:

  • True freshman offensive tackle Lance Heard, a 6-6, 340-pound five-star recruit from Monroe-Neville, will get snaps with the first team. It’s similar to what Kelly did a year ago with true freshman OT Emery Jones Jr., who saw increased action in games two and three before starting at right tackle in game four for the rest of the year.

“They’re very similar in terms of their demeanor, the way they approach things on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said “They’re great workers, they’re great in the classroom. They take their work very seriously.

  • Perkins, an All-SEC first-team linebacker last season as a play-wrecking pass rusher, had a quiet 5 tackles in the FSU opener. In his new role as middle linebacker, the 220-pound Perkins was often caught up taking on offensive linemen that outweighed him by 100 pounds.

That shouldn’t happen vs. Grambling, according to LSU linebacker Omar Speights.

“They (the LSU defensive coaches) are going to put him more outside the box and let him be him,” Speights said of Perkins. “We’ll bring Greg Penn back in the box.”

  • Notre Dame junior transfer running back Logan Diggs, who didn’t see action vs. Florida State, will make his debut Saturday after three LSU running backs combined for just 49 yards (including a 34-yard run by Josh Williams) on 12 carries.

Diggs, a former New Orleans Archbishop Rummel standout who rushed more than 1,000 yards with 7 TDs (4 rushing, 3 receiving) in two years at Notre Dame, had been slowed by preseason injuries.

“A lot of the hesitation was that he wasn’t full speed to put in a game against a top 10 opponent,” Kelly said of Diggs. “He (now) feels healthy. He’ll get quite a bit of work.”

  • Sophomore wide receiver Chris Hilton Jr., who had some outstanding days in preseason camp, barely played vs. FSU. Considering LSU receivers had three key drops against the Seminoles, Kelly said it was time to get Hilton on the field.

“Chris, regardless of who we’re playing, has put himself in a position to get more reps because of the way he’s practiced,” Kelly said. “He’s shown enough to me in the way he’s handled himself to put himself in the mix.”

  • There probably won’t be personnel changes at cornerback after LSU’s newbie corners got torched by FSU for four TDs. But the Tigers’ pass rush should improve considerably with Perkins back on the edge and preseason All-American defensive tackle Maason Smith making his 2023 debut coming off a torn left knee ACL sustained in last year’s opening loss to FSU.

“He obviously impacts our defense and allows us to do different things,” Kelly said of Smith. “His flexibility to play different defensive positions provides us with a new dimension.”


17-0: Lifetime football record of SEC vs. SWAC 

22: LSU players (including 11 freshmen) who saw their first action in a Tigers uniform last Sunday vs. FSU 

35: Straight wins for LSU vs. in-state opponents 

41.1: Points victory margin by SEC schools in games vs. SWAC opponents 

411: Yards total offense by LSU QB Jayden Daniels vs. FSU, his most ever as a Tiger

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Both sides seeking improvement, success as NSU, Louisiana Tech renew old rivalry

TECH TARGET:  Tight end Nate Jones is one of the Bulldogs’ underutilized offensive assets. (Photo by JOSH MCDANIEL, Louisiana Tech)


RUSTON – Just because football teams at Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech no longer meet often, let alone every year, it does not mean the once-fierce rivalry, which renews this evening at 6 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium, does not resonate on both sides.

When Northwestern State (0-1) tangles with the Bulldogs (1-1) for the first time since 2017, it will mark a return to a place that helped form a trio of Demons’ players and a pair of coaches. And there are plenty of Tech players who lined up alongside, or across from, counterparts from Northwestern.

“There are a lot of kids on their team that know our kids. Anytime you have an in-state rivalry, in particular Louisiana it takes on another meaning because of the passion and culture of this state,” said Bulldogs’ second-year coach Sonny Cumbie, a native Texan, “the passion the high school players have in this state for their schools and also what football means to all of us here.”

Nobody has more cross-reference than Demons’ head coach Brad Laird, who quarterbacked Ruston High School to a 1990 state championship and the No. 1 ranking in USA Today’s national high school football poll.

Laird grew up attending the Northwestern-Tech State Fair Classic in Shreveport as the son of former NSU and Louisiana Tech assistant coach Billy Laird before quarterbacking the Demons in their 1994 visit to Ruston.

“(At) high school in Ruston, you walk across the street and there’s Louisiana Tech,” Laird said. “I had the opportunity to go back and coach at Ruston (from 2013-16). I was able to watch Tech practice and go with their staff (under Skip Holtz). We had some of their sons on the team at Ruston High.

“Go back further to when it was the State Fair Classic. That’s the thing I most remember – not as much the game as the fair when I was young – but the rivalry Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech had for so many years. When the State Fair Classic ended, we went through a time where we didn’t play. There are two or three times Northwestern has (since) played at Louisiana Tech. It will be a good environment.”

Laird’s time at Ruston High as both a coach and player predated that of current Demon players Jordan McClaine, a sophomore offensive lineman, and true freshman defensive lineman Christian Davis, who made his collegiate debut at UL Lafayette a week ago in a 38-13 loss.

For the Demons’ Ruston contingent, which also includes Louisiana Tech transfer offensive lineman Stevie Ballard and former Louisiana Tech assistant and current NSU cornerbacks coach Perry Carter, going home may bring a sense of familiarity.

“I’ve been looking forward to playing Tech,” Davis said. “I miss home. Hopefully, I’ll see some of my coaches like (RHS head) coach (Jerrod) Baugh. I’ll probably have some teammates come by.”

In the same way Davis is settling into his new surroundings, the Demon defense is doing the same.

NSU allowed 429 yards in the season opener at UL Lafayette, but 190 of those came on the Cajuns’ five touchdowns. Across the other 61 snaps, the Demons limited the Cajuns to 3.93 yards per play.

Perhaps most importantly, NSU forced three turnovers and were plus-2 in turnover margin. This came after a 2022 season in which the Demons collected 11 turnovers while finishing last nationally in the FCS with a minus-18 turnover margin.

“You were able to see, in all three phases, things we can take from Game 1 and carry over to the rest of the season that will help this football team be successful,” Laird said. “One was turnover margin. That’s one we talked about for a while and have talked about for a while.”

That NSU defense will try to create mistakes from a Louisiana Tech offense that was shut out in the first half last week.

The Bulldogs are seeking an offensive eruption after limited production in the first two games, the last-minute homefield win over Florida International and last Saturday’s 38-14 loss at SMU. Boise State transfer quarterback Hank Bachmeier has a great completion rate, hitting 55 of his 77 passing attempts for 574 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His 574 passing yards rank third nationally, but Tech has not sustained many drives so far.

“Getting easy completions for Hank and getting first downs is the big thing,” said Cumbie. “When you fall behind there is a tendency to try to score 17 points in one play. You have to think about getting the next first down one play at a time which allows us to get into a rhythm. Playing with some tempo would help as well. The biggest thing for us to get in a rhythm is to get completions and have efficient run plays on first down so we are not in second and long situations.”

Senior receiver/returner Smoke Harris is the Bulldogs’ most dangerous weapon on offense. He has tallied a reception in each of the past 34 games, which is the sixth-longest active streak among all FBS players. He ranks among the FBS active career leaders in receptions (2nd, 242), all-purpose yards (2nd, 3,920), kick return yards (3rd, 1,525), punt return yards (4th, 616) and receiving touchdowns (5th, 20).

Harris has tallied 18 receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown this season.

Grambling optimistic about historic showdown at LSU

 BIG DEBUT: Junior quarterback Myles Crawley became the first Grambling quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since 2018 in last week’s loss to Hampton. (Photo by MARCUS PLUMMER, Grambling State Athletics).

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

BATON ROUGE — To be the best you’ve got to beat the best — even when you’re making history in the process.

That’s the mindset of the Grambling State football team as the G-Men  prepare to take on LSU for the first time ever as they take on the No. 14 purple and gold Tigers at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Tiger Stadium.

Both teams are shaking off losses to open the season last week as Grambling fell 35-31 to Hampton at the Brick City Classic in New Jersey last Saturday while LSU lost 45-24 to Florida State in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

GSU coach Hue Jackson said there were some positives in that loss to Hampton he hopes his Tigers can build on.

“Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but I think there were a lot of good things to take away from the game,” Jackson said. “We wanted to win and obviously we didn’t. The score was disappointing, but we learned about our football team.”

The performance of junior Myles Crawley, a transfer from Alabama State, playing and starting his first game at GSU and completing 25-of-38 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns, was another thing Jackson hopes his team can build on.

“I thought he did some really good things,” Jackson said of Crawley. “He went 25-of-38 … 60 percent with a couple of touchdowns. He played within himself and we were happy with that.

“There were some throws I’m sure he’d tell you that he left out there, but at the same time, I thought it was a good first outing.”

Jackson was not as pleased with the Grambling defense.  “We’ve got to get that shored up. That’s not good defense by any stretch of the imagination.”

GSU was known for contending with if not beating Power 5 schools in the Tigers’ post-integration heyday of the 1970s when the Tigers were often drawing in talent approaching the same level as the Notre Dames of the college football world. 

It’s not so easy for a smaller school to have a similar chance 50 years later, but Jackson said there will be no change in the Tigers’ approach from Week 1 to Week 2.

“We’re preparing just like any other week — we’re working and preparing to win,” Jackson said. “They are a fine program with great coaches and will be playing in their home stadium. But we have to continue to get better. We’re chasing a win. The fact that it’s against an LSU team that lost last week is not going to change things.”

That attitude doesn’t mean Jackson doesn’t realize the historical significance of Grambling taking on LSU.

“I think it’s important,” Jackson said. “Obviously it’s important for in-state recruiting. I think it’s important because there’s some tremendous football played in this state. Obviously we feel very comfortable and confident with what we’re doing with our program, but that program has won national championships as well, so I think it’s important that these schools play. It’s a chance to display the school, the football brand, and everything we’re trying to accomplish.”

GSU defensive lineman Jaylin Carter, the Defensive Player of the Game against Hampton after recording eight tackles, including a shared sack, feels much like his head coach.

“We’re approaching it just like every other game,” Carter said. “It’s just the next game on the schedule, so it’s the biggest game. We’ve got a lot of guys on our team with NFL aspirations, so it’s just a chance to be able to go out and show why they should go to that next level.”

Crawley, too, has only one thing on his mind.

“We’re going in to win,” Crawley said. “Our mentality every week is to win, so this week, even against LSU, it’s the same motive — to win.”

Jackson knows it’s a money game for GSU —  LSU is paying Grambling State $760,000 in addition to $20,000 to the GSU Foundation/Football account — but that’s not how he’s approaching the historic showdown.

“I don’t try to look at it that way,” Jackson said. “These guys, our players, would love to play these types of games every week. Obviously there’s a resource difference between the two schools, but I think from a player’s standpoint, everyone wants to be tested — everyone wants to be challenged.

“This is one of the best challenges you can have. So this is an opportunity for our guys to display who we are and what we have the potential to be, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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Finally, Smith and Wingo will be together again Saturday night

FATEFUL MOMENT:  LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith reacts to a knee injury that halted his 2022 season eight plays in, against Florida State. He makes his return to action Saturday night. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – The last time LSU defensive tackles Maason Smith and Mehki Wingo lined up next to each other in a game was the play that ended Smith’s sophomore season a year ago.

It was on second down-and-seven at the LSU 26 on Florida State’s first possession of the 2022 season-opener in the Superdome.

FSU quarterback Jordan Travis handed off to running back Lawrance Toeafili. He hadn’t taken a step before he ran into Smith, who fought through 663 pounds of a double team block by FSU’s Jazston Turentine and Dillan Gibbons.

By the time Toeafili shook loose, Tigers’ safety Major Burns raced in and tackled Toefili for a 3-yard loss.

An excited Smith took a couple of steps and jumped off his right foot to celebrate the play. When he landed, his left foot hit the ground first and his left knee buckled slightly.

He immediately collapsed to the turf.

And just like that, on the eighth play of the season, Smith’s year was done. He had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Wingo, a transfer from the University of Missouri making his LSU debut, didn’t have time to process Smith’s injury. He stayed on the field virtually every FSU offensive snap the rest of the game, finishing with six tackles and a fumble recovery in the Tigers’ 24-23 loss.

“What I remember most about that game is how tired I was after it was over,” Wingo said. “I didn’t expect to play that much.”

The immediate consternation concerning Smith’s unexpected absence for the rest of the year eventually waned because of Wingo’s week-to-week consistency. He earned All-SEC first-team honors and was named a third-team Associated Press all-American.

But his biggest prize came a couple of weeks ago when Wingo was chosen by LSU head coach Brian Kelly and the coaching staff to wear this season the coveted No. 18 jersey awarded annually to the player that demonstrates character, work ethic and unselfishness as the ultimate team player.

“I’d be lying if I said I came here (to LSU) expecting all of this,” Wingo said. “I’m glad that I got to earn the trust of the team and the coaching staff. I’m a guy they can count on to put a good product on the field every week.”

It’s something that didn’t go unnoticed by Smith as he toiled through months of rehab before he finally got back on the field for practice when preseason workouts began at the start of August.

“Mehki is a great leader,” said Smith, suspended by the NCAA for last Sunday’s 45-24 loss to Florida State but ready to make his 2023 debut Saturday when the 14th ranked 0-1 Tigers open their home schedule vs. 0-1 Grambling. “He’s a hard worker on and off the field. His presence rubs off not only on me but everybody in the (defense line room).

“We feed off each other. We just have a great bond and relationship.”

Having Smith and Wingo in the same lineup should solve some of LSU’s deficiencies that showed last weekend in the 21-point loss to FSU. Smith missed the game serving a one-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits a month before the NCAA approved on July 1, 2021, that athletes could earn money off their name, likeness and image.

Smith nursed an ankle injury late in preseason camp.

Kelly said prior to the FSU loss if Smith had been available and not suspended he didn’t know if he would play Smith because of the ankle.

Even this weekend, Kelly is going to ease Smith back into action.

“We have to be realistic,” Kelly said. “When you haven’t played in over a year, he’s not going to be able to play the duration of the game. If we can get somewhere near 30 snaps, we’d be really excited about that.

“And then get 40 or 45 to maybe play a full game in his second or third game. He’ll tell you that he can play every play, but fatigue definitely sets in.”

Smith didn’t like being sidelined for the FSU rematch – “Again, I really didn’t get to finish what I started,” he said – but he’s confident his knee has healed and he’s ready to hear the roar of the crowd.

“If I play 30 snaps,” he said, “I’m going to try and make some plays. I’m just trying to contribute to the team like anybody else, do my 1/11th. Just work on my job and make plays.” 

TI-GAH TALK: Kelly said at Thursday’s post-practice press conference that freshman offensive tackle Lance Heard of Monroe-Neville will get snaps with the first team Saturday vs. Grambling. “It didn’t seem the smartest thing to do in Week 1 was to have him at tackle going against those Florida State defensive ends,” Kelly said. “I think in Week 2, this is a good opportunity to get him in.” . . .Kelly updated LSU’s injury report. He said running back Armoni Goodwin and wide receiver/kick Aaron Anderson have been both upgraded to probable. . .Starting quarterback Jayden Daniels took some hits in Sunday’s loss vs. FSU because of his aggressive running style. He got planted by an FSU defender trying to jump over the pile in a downfield scramble. “We don’t want him to be anybody else but Jayden, but I think he can be more prudent in some of the decisions he makes,” Kelly said. “He’s always run that way. But trying to jump over the pile, I think we can tamp that down a little bit.”

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Grambling on ‘Verge’ of being new LSU foe

As a kid raised in New Iberia in the 1970s, Verge Ausberry’s college football world consisted mostly of historically black colleges and universities.

“I came from an HBCU family, all my relatives went to Grambling or Southern,” said Ausberry, 56, a longtime LSU executive deputy athletic director and a former LSU starting middle linebacker who won SEC championship rings in 1986 and 1988. “My parents and grandparents went to Grambling. My uncle was president of the Southern alumni chapter in New Iberia.”

The regular season-ending Bayou Classic between the Southern and Grambling, highlighted by the battle of the school’s bands, was an annual event for Ausberry until he was 18 years old. He attended his first one in old Tulane Stadium as a 6-year-old in 1972.

But what about LSU?

“I didn’t go to LSU football games growing up as a kid,” Ausberry said. “I always saw LSU from afar.

“I remember being a little boy, returning from the Bayou Classic and riding with my grandparents across the Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge heading back to New Iberia.

“I saw these big lights. I said `What is that?’ My grandparents said, `That’s Tiger Stadium, that’s LSU, not many of us are there.’ I was surprised. I didn’t get what `many of us’ meant until later on. Many of us black people didn’t go to LSU. It wasn’t a place that had many African Americans and (wasn’t) a place African Americans necessarily wanted to go.

“I grew up with no affiliation to LSU, like most blacks in this state.”

That changed when Ausberry became a sought-after high school recruit. LSU was Ausberry’s choice, even though he received a home visit from legendary Grambling head coach Eddie Robinson.

“Coach Rob was a great guy, straight up,” Ausberry said. “I remember all the great Grambling players he put in the NFL. It was a great experience.”

Over the years in his professional life, one of Ausberry’s many LSU administrative duties is negotiating and scheduling non-conference football games. It can be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t job.

“People criticize the schedule saying it’s either too hard or it’s too easy,” Ausberry said. “Nobody knows what a perfect schedule is. It’s not a perfect schedule. But we know who we are. We’re a flagship program.”

Ausberry hasn’t shied away from scheduling intersectional matchups in the past, present and future vs. UCLA, USC, Florida State, Clemson and Utah. But he’s also a staunch advocate of scheduling Louisiana-based schools.

Until last season, the Tigers had played every in-state school but Southern and Grambling. That changed in January 2022 and July 2022 when Ausberry signed contracts with Southern and then Grambling to become the first HBCU football teams to play LSU in Tiger Stadium as the 2022 and 2023 home openers respectively.

He felt the timing was right, hoping to disarm the rising national racial divide that exploded in May 2020. It’s when George Floyd, an unarmed African American, was killed by Minneapolis police who arrested him and kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes.

“There was so much going on in our country at that time, so much unrest,” Ausberry said. “I wanted to do something to bring communities together.

“We’d played every school in the state of Louisiana. When Grambling and Southern solved their APR (academic progress rate) problems and other things, I looked at the schedule and said it’s just time to do it.”

Grambling visits Tiger Stadium on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. It will be hard for the G-Men from North Louisiana to replicate the pomp and circumstance generated in last season’s LSU-Southern opener between schools separated by a 15-minute drive.

That the Tigers pummeled the Jags 65-17, scoring the most points ever by an SEC school vs. a SWAC member in then 16 games between seven SEC and seven SWAC programs, didn’t take the shine off the historic night.

The meeting of the two Baton Rouge-based institutions created the biggest-ever Tiger Stadium traffic jam, causing many late arrivals to miss the first half and the joint halftime show collaboration of the LSU and Southern bands.

“There was so much traffic and so many people on campus we couldn’t do a lot of things we normally do to get the traffic on and off the campus,” Ausberry said. “Despite that, it was a great day for the community. Everybody talked about how great it was.

“I also realized until that night most African Americans in this state and community had never been to an LSU game. Black elected officials had never stepped foot in Tiger Stadium.

“We finally broke the ice. It was time to bring both sides of the fence together, let them enjoy coming to an LSU game and see what it’s about.”

Last season, LSU paid Southern $700,000 plus $60,000 to the Southern Athletic Foundation. Southern also received 800 complimentary tickets.

Grambling’s payday this weekend is $760,000 plus $20,000 to the school’s foundation/football and 800 complimentary tickets.

All of LSU’s non-conference home games this season, including Army on Oct. 21 and Georgia State on Nov. 18, are first-time visitors to Tiger Stadium. Army and Georgia State will each receive $1.6 million and 400 complimentary tickets.

Ausberry hopes to schedule the Jaguars and the G-Men again in the future as part of LSU’s in-state non-conference scheduling rotation.

“We want to keep giving kids across the state a chance to play in Tiger Stadium,” said Ausberry, a proud dad who has sons playing football for Auburn and Notre Dame. “We want to keep the money in the state and help all in-state college programs.”

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Gents’ football takes another step, winning first full-game action

GENTS ON THE GO:  Centenary’s offense posted 34 points Monday evening in an exhibition game win over the junior varsity team from Mary Hardin-Baylor. (Photo by PATRICK MEEHAN, Centenary Athletics)


FORT WORTH, Texas – The Centenary football team recorded a 34-27 exhibition game victory over the Mary Hardin-Baylor junior varsity squad Monday evening at Castleberry High School.

The Gents scrimmaged both Millsaps and East Texas Baptist last month in what were part situational style scrimmages followed by live action for two quarters but Monday’s contest was a live game with four quarters.

The Gents, led by head coach and Shreveport native Byron Dawson, have made their historic return to the gridiron this season for the first time since 1941. Centenary has eight contests remaining this fall – three at home and five on the road – playing an exhibition slate for the developing program before games become official in the 2024 season.

Centenary returns to action on Saturday in Shreveport with a 6 o’clock kickoff against Community Christian College at Evangel Christian Academy – Dawson’s alma mater. The Maroon and White will then play host to John Melvin University a week later at 6 p.m. and welcomes the Haywood Crushers on Sept. 30 at 1 p.m., with both games also at Rodney Duron Field.

Monday evening, freshman quarterback Vance Feuerbacher connected with senior receiver Braeden Board  for a pair of touchdowns and Feuerbacher kept it himself for another TD.

Centenary took a 21-14 lead at halftime and built a 34-14 advantage with 6:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cru posted two late scores including one on a fourth down with under a minute to play to make it 34-27. MHB tried an onside kick but was offside and the Gents kneeled twice to seal the win.

Centenary’s defense harassed a trio of MHB quarterbacks throughout the night and especially in the second half while it collected several sacks and tackles for loss.

Three local products — senior defensive lineman D.J. Smith, sophomore linebacker Marlon Young, and freshman linebacker Devon Strickland – were defensive standouts for the Gentlemen. Centenary freshman Cedrick Allison and sophomore Josh Ware were both productive running the ball.

Mistaken identity: Second-half Tigers look like cubs as FSU erupts

NEXT PLAY?: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels looks toward the sideline Sunday night as No. 8 Florida State humbled the fifth-ranked Tigers. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. – The No. 5 college football team in the country allowed 31 consecutive second-half points in its season-opener Sunday.

It went almost 35 minutes without scoring a touchdown.

It got shoved around on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

It allowed a former in-state high school receiver to catch three touchdowns from a quarterback completing 74 percent of his passes.

The only conclusion after eighth-ranked Florida State steamrolled LSU 45-24 in Citrus Bowl Stadium was simple.

LSU, as college football’s fifth-ranked team, was a case of mistaken identity.

“I’ve got to get our team to understand you’ve got to play this game for four quarters with a mentality and we did not,” LSU second-year head coach Brian Kelly said. “For some reason, we thought we were somebody else. We thought we were the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs or something. I don’t know what we thought but we were mistaken.”

A loud FSU-dominated crowd of 65,429 watched their team physically dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage in the final two quarters. It came after LSU could manage a mere 17-14 halftime lead after scoring just two touchdowns and a field goal in five first-half trips to the red zone.

Starting with its closing possession of the first half, Florida State scored on the final six of seven possessions of the game including touchdowns on five straight possessions.

“That second half is a glimpse of what this team can do and where this team can go,” Florida State head coach Mike Norvell said. “I didn’t think we played our best game, but we finished the way we wanted. I told them we will go out and score on every drive in the second half if we focus.”

Sixth-year Florida State starting quarterback Jordan Travis completed 23 of 31 passes (including his last 12 of 13) for 342 yards and four touchdowns.

LSU’s only TD of the second half was Tigers’ quarterback Jayden Daniels’ 75-yard pass to Brian Thomas Jr. with 1:15 left in the game.

By that time, though, many of the Tigers’ fans wandered out of the stadium into the night, stunned at the beatdown in which FSU outgained LSU 494 yards to 460.

Travis and tall, talented FSU receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson combined for 16 catches for 226 yards and three TDs. The duo feasted on LSU’s defensive backfield which featured three new starters.

Coleman, a 6-4 Michigan State transfer and former Opelousas Catholic star, caught nine passes for 122 yards, including three TDs. His 40-yard first-quarter TD gave FSU a 7-0 lead, his 21-yard second-quarter TD grab tied the game at 14-14 and his 7-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter provided the Seminoles with their first two-TD lead of the game.

The 6-7 Wilson, who transferred to FSU last season after beginning his career as one of Daniels’ receivers at Arizona State, had seven catches for 104 yards.

“They make my job easy,” Travis said of Coleman and Wilson. “We started slow in the first half with a couple of drops. I had to put the ball higher on many throws and make it easier on the receivers.”

Daniels completed 22 of 37 yards for 347 passing yards, but 130 yards came on LSU’s first offensive snap of the night (a 55-yard throw to running back Tre’ Bradford) and its last offensive play (the 75-yard TD to Thomas Jr.).

For the second straight year after FSU edged LSU 24-23 in the 2022 season opener, the Tigers’ third-down defense was horrendous. FSU converted 9 of 14 third downs and 1 of 1 fourth downs.

LSU’s offense was terrible on third downs, converting just 3 of 10. Even worse, the Tigers failed all three fourth-down gambles, starting with their failure to score on their opening possession on four plays from the FSU 1.

“We got ourselves in critical second and long and third and long situations where they (the defense) are able to pin their ears back and rush the passer,” Daniels said.

FSU scored on its first and last possessions of the first half. Both ended with Travis throwing TD passes to Coleman with 7:53 left in the first quarter and with 1:01 remaining in the second period.

Travis walked in on a TD keeper with 2:42 left in the third quarter which sent FSU into the final period with a 24-17 lead.

The Tigers were on the move as the fourth quarter started, having advanced 25 yards to the LSU 48 as the game’s final 15 minutes began.

That’s when Daniels targeted Nabers for the 12th time in his first 30 attempts. But Nabers slipped making a cut and FSU defensive back Renardo Green made a kneeling interception at LSU 43.

“Malik just slipped,” Daniels said. “It is what is. He made a play cut, he turned his head and it’s something we live and die with.”

Eight plays later, Travis found Coleman for a third TD pass and the Tigers were essentially done.

LSU now moves to play Grambling in its home opener Saturday in Tiger Stadium. After a day off Monday, the Tigers will have a short time to pick up the pieces and improve from an embarrassing performance.

“We thought we were somebody else we weren’t,” Daniels said. “As a team, we’ve got to step back and look in the mirror and see how we’re going to respond to this.”

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Florida State Seminoles 45, LSU Tigers 24 – scoring and statistics 


Florida State 45, LSU 24  

Score by quarters 

LSU | 7 | 10 | 0 | 7 | – 24 

Florida St. | 7 | 7 | 10 | 21 | – 45 

Scoring summary 

FSU – Keon Coleman 40 pass from Jordan Travis (Ryan Fitzgerald kick), 9 plays, 86 yards, 4:01 

LSU – Tre Bradford 1 run (Damian Ramos kick), 9 plays, 75 yards, 4:05 

LSU – Noah Cain 1 run (Ramos kick), 5 plays, 51 yards, 1:47 

FSU – Coleman 21 pass from Travis (Fitzgerald kick), 10 plays, 75 yards, 5:01 

LSU – Ramos 36 Field goal, 10 plays, 67 yards, 0:57 

FSU – Fitzgerald 33 field goal, 9 plays, 60 yards, 5:41 

FSU – Travis 1 run (Fitzgerald kick), 7 plays, 87 yards, 3:45 

FSU – Coleman 7 pass from Travis (Fitzgerald kick), 8 plays, 57 yards, 4:32 

FSU – Jaheim Bell 44 pass from Travis (Fitzgerald kick), 3 plays, 57 yards, 1:01 

FSU – Bell 4 run (Fitzgerald kick), 6 plays, 54 yards, 3:21 

LSU – Brian Thomas Jr. 75 pass from Jayden Daniels (Ramos kick), 1 play, 75 yards, 0:11  

Rush 6 7
Pass 13 13
Penalty 4 2
Total plays 64 66
Avg. per play 7.2 7.5
Total rushes 27 34
Avg. per rush 4.2 4.0
Comp-Att 22-37 24-32
Comp. Pct. 59% 75%
Interceptions 1 1
Punts-Avg. 3-45.0 3-46.0
Inside 20 2 1
Fumbles – lost 1-1 0-0
Red Zone attempts 3-5 4-4
Red Zone pts. 17 24
3rd down conv. 3-10 9-14
4th down conv. 0-3 1-1
Possession Time 24:37 35:23

Individual statistics 


LSU – Daniels 15-64, Josh Williams 4-44, Can 4-4, Bradford 4-1.  

Florida State – Trey Benson 12-47, Travis 7-38, Rodney Hill 5-29, Lawrance Toafili 6-20, J. Bell 1-4, Deuce Spann 1-1.  


LSU – Daniels 22-37-1-347, 1 TD.

Florida State – Travis 23-31-1-342, 4 TDs.


LSU – Thomas 7-142, 1 TD; Malik Nabers 6-67, Mason Taylor 4-39, Kyren Lacy 3-37, Bradford 1-55, Aaron Anderson 1-7. 

Florida State – Keon Coleman 9-132, 3 TD; Johnny Wilson 7-104, Jaheim Bell 2-49, 1 TD; L. Toafili 2-49, Kyle Morlock 2-10, Winston Wright Jr. 1-18, T. Benson 1-7. 


LSU – Omar Speights 3-5—8; Major Burns 1-7—8; Zy Alexander 4-3—7; Harold Perkins Jr 2-3—5; Bradyn Swinson 3-2—5; Andre Sam 3-2—5; Jacobian Guillory 0-5—5; Greg Brooks Jr. 0-4—4; Mekhi Wingo 1-3—4; Duce Chestnut 4-0—4; Ovie Oghoufo 3-0—3; Sage Ryan 0-3—3; Jordan Jefferson 1-1—2; Jaxon Howard 1-0—1; Sai’vion Jones 1-0—1; Paris Shand 0-1–1.  

Florida State – Tatum Bethune 3-6—9; Akeem Dent 1-4—5; Jarrian Jones 4-1—5; Renardo Green 4-0—4; Patrick Payton 2-2—4; Azareye’h Thomas 2-2—4; Fentrall Cypress II 3-1—4; Shyheim Brown 1-3—4; Kalen DeLoach 1-2—3; DJ Lundy 2-1—3; Joshua Farmer 1-2—3; Kevin Knowles II 1-1—2; Jared Verse 1-1—2; Dennis Briggs Jr. 1-1—2; Greedy Vance Jr. 2-0—2; Braden Fiske 0-2—2; Keon Coleman 1-0—1; Gilber Edmond 0-1—1; CJ Campbell Jr. 1-0—1; Caziah Holmes 1-0—1; Omar Graham Jr. 1-0—1; Byron Turner Jr. 1-0—1; Malcolm Ray 0-1—1.  

Bulldogs look for big W in Big D, visiting SMU

TECH TRIGGERMAN:  Boise State transfer quarterback Hank Bachmeier steered a late 69-yard drive to the winning touchdown in his Louisiana Tech debut last Saturday night. (Photo by JOSH MCDANIEL, Louisiana Tech)


DALLAS – After a late rally on a late night in Aillet Stadium last Saturday, the Louisiana Tech football team will get an early start this morning in its first road game of the season.

The Bulldogs and SMU’s Mustangs kick off at 11:07 a.m. from Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Highland Park, with ESPNU carrying the contest. It’s the opener for the hosts while Louisiana Tech is riding high after last Saturday night’s heroics.

The Bulldogs are coming off a thrilling 22-17 come-from-behind win over visiting Florida International in the season opener. Tech trailed by as much as 14 points on two different occasions in the first half, but the Bulldogs were resilient, scoring 19 unanswered points to earn the victory.

It was the first time in 20 games Tech trailed at halftime and won.

The Bulldog defense was brilliant in the victory, holding FIU to 182 yards of total offense and four passing yards. The Panthers’ total yardage was the fewest by a Tech opponent since Oct. 17, 2009, when New Mexico State accumulated 142, and the four passing yards were the least since Sept. 5, 1981, when Tech did not allow a passing yard in a game against West Texas A&M.

Stephen F. Austin transfers Myles Heard and Brevin Randle led the Bulldog defense with nine tackles apiece. Defensive back Cecil Singleton Jr. recorded the Bulldogs’ first interception of the season when he picked off FIU quarterback Grayson James with just 49 seconds to go in the contest to seal the victory.

Receiver Smoke Harris was named Conference USA Player of the Week after his performance in the victory over FIU. Harris caught a career-high 11 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown reception during the closing minutes of the second quarter.

He has tallied a reception in each of the past 33 games, which is the seventh-longest active streak among all FBS players. The redshirt senior has registered a touchdown reception in each of the last six seasons.

Quarterback Hank Bachmeier was impressive in his Bulldog debut, completing 34 of his 44 passing attempts for 333 yards and a touchdown while directing a seven-play, 69-yard game-winning touchdown drive that took just 87 seconds in the closing minutes.

Tech relied on a committee of running backs to get the job done on the ground in the opener and expects to do the same against the Mustangs.

The Bulldogs’ offensive line has a combined 234 career games played, which leads Conference USA and ranks sixth nationally among all FBS programs. Tech returns a combined 34 starts from a year ago.

SMU is coming off a 7-6 campaign that featured a 5-3 mark at home during head coach Rhett Lashlee’s inaugural season in 2022.

Running back Tyler Lavine is back after rushing for a team-high 642 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like the Bulldogs, SMU has a very experienced offensive line with 254 combined career games played, which is the third-most nationally.

Jordan Kerley is the Mustangs’ top returning receiver. The senior wide receiver hauled in 37 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns a season ago.

SMU overhauled its defense this offseason. Six of the Mustangs’ transfer additions currently top their depth chart. Transfers Kobe Wilson (MLB, Temple), Ahmad Walker (LB, Liberty) and Charles Woods (DB, West Virginia) are all expected to be impact starters.

Tech is home again next weekend against old rival Northwestern State.

‘Eager, antsy’ Demons ready to kick off at UL Lafayette

MAINTAINING MOMENTUM:  Northwestern State football coach Brad Laird is hoping his Demons feed off the positive vibes from last season’s strong Southland Conference finish. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)


LAFAYETTE – The foreword to the 2023 Northwestern State football season has been written.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Cajun Field, the Demons will begin writing the first of the at least 11 remaining chapters in their collective story when they face state rival UL Lafayette in the season opener for both teams.

“The fall camp and the preseason games, those are in there, but this will be the first big chapter of the book,” said head coach Brad Laird, who begins his sixth season at the helm of his alma mater.

While the Demons face an in-state opponent in a full-season opener for the first time since 2017 when they opened the season at Louisiana Tech, they are dealing with folding in a large group of newcomers for the second straight season.

NSU has 53 newcomers on its 2023 roster, nearly even with the 62 returners from the 2022 squad that won its first four Southland Conference games for the first time since 1988. The Demons spent most of the spring and summer honing team chemistry ahead of fall camp – something that began at the player level.

“When I came in last year, I felt like I was part of the team right away, and I wanted to do the same for the new guys this year,” said running back Kolbe Burrell, who joined the Demons after transferring from Buffalo ahead of the 2022 season. “If we weren’t bonded and didn’t come as close together and accept the guys who came out her, we wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in. Coming together as one, as a team, made us a player-led team, which is our goal.”

Among the newcomers expected to make an impact in 2023 is quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, who enters Saturday’s season opener with 26 starts spread over time at Wyoming and Idaho State.

Vander Waal will have plenty of weapons returning around him, including 2022 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year Zach Patterson, who caught 83 passes in his debut season, a total that ranks second in NSU single-season history.

Patterson and sophomore tight end Travon Jones were first-team preseason All-Southland Conference selections along with junior safety Kevin Davis Jr., NSU’s lone first-team preseason all-conference defensive selection.

Much like the offense, there are plenty of new faces on the Demons’ Purple Swarm defense.

Included in them are a pair of Campbell transfers who played under current NSU defensive coordinator Weston Glaser while with the Camels.

Linebacker Justice Galloway-Velazquez and safety Peyton Woulard joined the Demons this summer, adding to that list of newcomers who are expected to make their Demon debuts Saturday.

“We’re very eager, and we’re very antsy,” Galloway-Velazquez said. “We know this team is better than the ones in the past. We’ve built the chemistry, and we’re ready to put it to the test and see where we’re lacking.”

Saturday’s matchup with the Ragin’ Cajuns is the first of consecutive FBS opponents the Demons will face in Weeks 1 and 2, with a visit to Louisiana Tech ahead next Saturday.

“When you face very tough competition in the beginning of the season, it guides you throughout the rest of the year,” Burrell said. “You face the toughest competition in the beginning, and you get better and learn lessons. If we go in and win, it’s another lesson for us that we’ll take along with us.”

Grambling starts second year under Hue Jackson against Hampton

TIGER BOSS:  Former NFL head coach Hue Jackson begins his second season as the head man in Grambling today with an afternoon matchup against Hampton. (Journal photo by KEVIN PICKENS, Journal Sports)


HARRISON, N.J. — The anticipation is almost over for Grambling State University football fans, as the G-Men kick off the 2023 season against Hampton University in the Inaugural Prudential Brick City Kickoff Classic today at Red Bull Arena.

The Tigers look to bounce back strong after going 3-8 overall with a 2-6 mark in Southwestern Athletic Conference action under first year coach Hue Jackson. Grambling returns a healthy mix of veteran leadership with a solid batch of newcomers.

Grambling State is looking to snap a five-game losing streak to Hampton with GSU’s previous win against the Pirates coming in 1994.

Saturday’s contest will also mark the GSU coaching debut for multiple coaches. Tony Hull, Tyron Carrier and Dedrick Dodge are new faces that Tiger fans will see roaming the sidelines. Hull will serve as co-offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. Carrier will guide the wide receiving unit and Dodge will be in charge of the safeties.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CST and with a telecast on NFL Network/NFL+. Handling play-by-play duties is Andrew Siciliano alongside analyst J.C. Pearson and sideline reporter Marlee Wierda.

This game marks the first meeting between Grambling State and Hampton since the 2006 season which HU won 27-26.

Grambling State is 2-6 all-time versus Hampton. GSU and Hampton have played each other six times in New Jersey and the Pirates have won four of those.

Grambling State was predicted to finish fourth in the SWAC preseason West Division poll.

Hampton was chosen to finish 15th in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) preseason poll.

GSU returns seven starters from the 2022 team and placed six players on the Preseason All-SWAC teams.

Heading the list is senior defensive lineman Sundiata Anderson is an NFL prospect and has earned multiple preseason honors. He’s been named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl and the Buck Buchanan Award Watch Lists.

Grambling State is no stranger to the New Jersey/New York area. GSU played the first ever HBCU football matchup held in New York City in 1968 versus Morgan State. The Tigers have played nine games in the state of New Jersey.

The Pirates are led by head coach Robert Prunty. Hampton finished the 2022 season 4-7 overall, 1-7 in the CAA. Hampton is searching for its first victory since the middle of last season.

LSU has deep, very significant ties to Shreveport-Bossier

Maybe it’s because former Calvary Baptist and LSU golfer Sam Burns was just named to the U.S. Ryder Cup team Tuesday.

Or that former Parkway women’s basketball star and LSU signee Mikaylah Williams is currently halfway around the world in Hungary playing for Team USA in the FIBA 3 on 3 Under 18 World Cup.

Through the years, there’s usually a continuous reminder of the athletic pipeline from Shreveport-Bossier to Louisiana’s flagship university.

It got me thinking, something my wife considers simultaneously sporadic and dangerous.

Who are the best all-time LSU athletes from Shreveport-Bossier City?

Here’s who’s on my list off the top of my head in alphabetical order because ranking them is just about impossible. And yes, I know I left off some great athletes. Apologies for that.  

SAM BURNS, men’s golf: The Ryder Cup rookie played two seasons with the Tigers, turned professional in the summer of 2017 when he was named the NCAA Division I Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year and a PING First-Team All-American as the SEC Player of the Year with an All-SEC first-team honor.  Had a 71.13 scoring average in 27 tourneys (won four) and set LSU’s single-season scoring record with a career-low 70.05 stroke average as a sophomore. In his first 136 PGA events since joining the tour in 2019, he’s won five tournaments and earned $21,743,793. 

WENDELL DAVIS, football: The former Fair Park wide receiver, a 2023 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Davis remains the school record for career receptions with 183 after culminating four seasons by being named a two-time first-team All-American and SEC Player of the Year in 1987. He left LSU as the leader in receptions in a game, and in a single season, in single-season receiving yardage, in receiving TDs, in yards per game and in career receiving yards. He accomplished this in an era of 11-game regular seasons when bowl stats weren’t counted in the player’s stat total. He had 207 career catches for 3,000 yards and 14 TDs in 81 NFL games in six seasons for the Chicago Bears before he sustained a career-ending injury to both knees. 

JACOB HESTER, football: A 3-star recruit from Evangel who was the Louisiana 5A Offensive MVP, yet flew under the recruiting radar as a fullback. In his four-year LSU career culminating with a vital role in the Tigers’ 2007 national championship, Hester blossomed into a durable tailback and fullback who excelled running between the tackles. Played in 52 games during his career, starting 29 times. Started 27 straight games at running back during his final two years with the Tigers. He finished his career with 1,780 yards rushing, 20 rushing touchdowns, 60 receptions for 454 yards and seven TDs. Played five seasons and 65 games in the NFL as a fullback. 

STROMILE SWIFT, men’s basketball: The former Fair Park standout played just two seasons with the Tigers, but he took LSU from last place in the SEC West in 1998-99 to SEC champions in 1999-2000 with an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. He was the SEC Co-Player of the Year as a sophomore when he led LSU in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks. He remains the second-best shot blocker in LSU history with 130 swats. Selected No. 2 overall in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies, he played nine seasons for four teams averaging 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. Was nicknamed “The Stro Show” for his highlight reel dunks. 

DAVID TOMS, men’s golf: The former Airline High star, a two-time first-team All-American and SEC Player of the Year for LSU in 1988 and 1989, still holds school records including most tournament wins. In 35 years as a pro golfer, he’s won 20 tournaments including the 2001 PGA Championship and two PGA Champion tour victories – one the U.S. Senior Open. A three-time Ryder Cupper, he has more than $50 million in career earnings. His David Toms Foundation, established in 2003, has been a beacon of positivity in funding educational programs for underprivileged, abused and abandoned children. 

TODD WALKER, baseball: A multi-sports star at Airline High, Walker’s three-year LSU career from 1992 to 1994 earned him the honor of having his jersey retired. He was a two-time first-team All-American second baseman, a College World Series MVP for the 1993 national champs and finished his career as the SEC’s all-time leader in hits, runs scored and total bases. Was the first LSU player to hit .400 in a season. Remains the school’s all-time leader in batting average (.396). Batted. 289 in 12 major league seasons.

Here’s a list of former Shreveport-Bossier athletes on LSU sports teams for 2023-24: 



Hayden Travinski, C, Sr., Airline High (Bossier City)

Trenton Lape, P, Fr., Airline High (Bossier City) 


Holden Webb, RS Fr., Loyola College Prep (Shreveport)

Noah McWilliams, Fr., Benton High (Benton) 

Track and Field/Cross Country

Will Dart, Distance, Sr., Loyola College Prep (Shreveport) 



Mikaylah Williams, G, Fr., Parkway High (Bossier City) 


Raelin Chaffin, P, So., Airline High (Bossier City) 

Swimming and Diving

Lillian Tichenor, Fr., Captain Shreve High (Shreveport)

Contact Ron at

Centenary prepping for Labor Day scrimmage in Texas, then three at home

GENT GRIDDERS:  Centenary lined up against East Texas Baptist on its homefield in a scrimmage earlier this month, the first on-campus football competition since 1941 for the Gents. (Photo courtesy Centenary Athletics)


The rebirth of football at Centenary College reaches another milestone Monday with the Gents going through their third scrimmage of the unofficial first season.

Coach Byron Dawson’s squad takes the field again on Labor Day in Texas. The Gentlemen face Mary Hardin-Baylor University at Castleberry High School in Fort Worth at 6 p.m.

Centenary, which has been quite competitive this month while scrimmaging Millsaps on the road and ETBU at home, has nine contests remaining this fall – four at home and five on the road. The Gents will play three straight home contests next month – Sept. 9, 16, and 30, all of which will be played at Evangel Christian Academy – Dawson’s alma mater.

The Gents will play Community Christian College on Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m., John Melvin University a week later at 6 p.m. and will meet the Haywood Crushers on Sept. 30 at 1 p.m.

John Melvin is based in Crowley and is also in its first year of football – and existence.

Centenary has been busy on and off the field this week as student-athletes are in their second week of classes and Dawson’s team gets tested by daily practices and conditioning.

After this fall, the program makes its official competitive debut in 2024 as an NCAA Division III team, playing full games that will count in the record book.

Centenary has not played an official game since 1941. The Gents were something of a college football power in the 1920s and early 1930s, playing in the predecessor to the Cotton Bowl in 1934 and tying Arkansas 7-7 in Dallas.

Two former Centenary coaches, Bo McMillan and Homer Norton, are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Former Centenary lineman Cal Hubbard is the only person in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame (as an umpire).

Scanning YouTube got LSU’s Ramos kick-started

SELF TAUGHT:  LSU’s sophomore kicker, Damian Ramos, earned Freshman All-SEC honors last year after learning his craft in unconventional ways. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – Suffice to say, LSU’s history of great placekickers starting in Shreveport in the late 1950s with Fair Park’s Tommy Davis has never included someone who learned how to kick by watching videos.

Until now.

Sophomore Damian Ramos, who returns for his second season as LSU’s starting kicker after walking on in 2021 as a virtual unknown, taught himself as a youngster in Baltimore how to kick watching YouTube videos.

“In little league football, they lined up the whole team to kick and I was really the only one that could make an extra point kick,” said Ramos, who hit 10 of 14 field goals and 55 of 57 point-after kicks as an All-SEC freshman team honoree last season. “I just kicked straight on with my toe. I never played soccer in my life.

“We had a son of an ex-NFL kicker (Matt Stover) join my team. I beat him in the first competition. In the second one two weeks later, I hurt my quad. My dad and my brother were like, `If you want to get the spot back you should learn the actual (correct) way of kicking.’

“So, I looked on YouTube and watched just about every single video I could find.”

Ramos soon focused on Baltimore Ravens placekicker Justin Tucker, who’s now starting his 13th pro season as owner of the NFL’s career-made field goal percentage record of 90.5 percent.

“I wouldn’t say my form is exactly like his form, but I think I have a similar form to him,” Ramos said of Tucker. “I watched a lot of him because he’s really good.”

The more Ramos practiced, the more he was hooked on perfection.

“During the day and at night, I started kicking into a lacrosse net in my basement,” Ramos said. “I’d go outside and practice year-round in all conditions. I’d even kick in the snow during the winter.

“I just really got obsessed with kicking further and further and better and better. The more I backed up, the more I always tried to record myself to see what I did wrong and try to improve. That’s really how it started.”

It could have ended from the sheer discouragement of a high school career at St. Paul’s in Baltimore filled with roadblocks.

“My first three years (at St. Paul’s), I had a coach who didn’t like kicking field goals,” Ramos said. “He wasn’t about it. In my senior year (in 2020), I had a new coach come in, and he was about kicking field goals. But COVID hit and we only played three or four games.  I made a couple of field goals.”

What kept Ramos believing in himself was his performances at national and regional kicking camps where he won field goal and kickoff competitions.

The only recommendation on his resume entering his senior season came from Chris Sailer, director of the Chris Sailer Kicking Camps.

“Damian is a fantastic high school kicking prospect,” Sailer wrote on his website. “He has a strong leg and kicks with excellent technique and consistency. His field goals are outstanding. He hits a clean ball off the ground and easily has 55+ range. His kickoffs are strong, D1 Ready. He is a great competitor that thrives under pressure. All the tools are there to take his game to the next level.”

Ramos tried to market his talents through social media. But even with his self-promotion and a sparkling rating from Sailer, Ramos’ only scholarship offer was from Sacred Heart, a private Connecticut university in Fairfield with an FCS (formerly known as NCAA Division 1-AA) football program.

“I got to the point where I know I can play at a big school but it’s really hard for them to find me,’ Ramos said. “I thought was maybe if I apply to these schools and if they accept me, maybe it’s a possibility that I could go to the school, walk on and make the team.”

Ironically, Ramos kept getting prospective student enrollment e-mails from Jose Aviles, then LSU’s vice-president for enrollment management who’s now vice provost for enrollment management at Temple University.

“He (Aviles) sent me an e-mail that I still have to this day,” Ramos said. “I sent him a really well-written email. I wanted to go to LSU, but a big part of my decision was football. I put some information on there.

“He didn’t respond back. He just sent the information over to the football office. A couple of days later, I got a call from LSU. It was one of the coaches. That’s how I really got started.”

Ramos spent his first season at LSU in 2021 as a redshirt walk-on watching York finish a fabulous career, then won the job and a scholarship last season.

Despite a breakeven college debut when he scored five points vs. Florida State but had a field goal and a game-tying extra point blocked because of kick protection blocking breakdowns, Ramos now has the unquestioned endorsement of head coach Brian Kelly.

“I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger since I’ve been here,” Ramos said. “When I first came in 2021, I was around like 160 and now I’m weighing 188. So, I’ve definitely got a lot stronger. I’m able to hit my better ball a lot more consistently.

“My kicking is very, very mental. I’ve really grown on routines and habits. I’ve always said that consistent routines lead to consistent performances. It’s worked for me.”  Contact Ron at

What went wrong is all right now for LSU heading into Sunday

TAYLOR MADE:  Last year, LSU true freshman tight end Mason Taylor didn’t score on this catch against Florida State. (Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – There’s a logical explanation for LSU’s 24-23 season-opening loss a year ago to Florida State in the Louisiana Superdome.

It was the Tigers’ first game under new head coach Brian Kelly and his staff.

If there was ever a team that needed to play a game before facing FSU – the Seminoles had the benefit of a Week 0 47-7 opener over Duquesne – LSU could have used a shakedown cruise.

Instead, the Tigers’ shakiness was on display for the first 2½ quarters against the Seminoles.

Twenty-two players (including seven starters) saw their first action in an LSU uniform in the season-opener. The list included 14 transfers, six true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen. The remaining returning players were in their first game under a new system.

Despite two fumbled punts, two blocked kicks (a field goal and an extra point) and a new starting QB reluctant to throw the ball downfield, the Tigers still lost by a mere point. True freshman tight end Mason Taylor blew a blocking assignment and allowed FSU to block new LSU placekicker Damian Ramos’ potential game-tying extra point with no time left that would have sent the game to overtime.

Kelly expected the unexpected.

But with 17 returning starters, a handful of strategically placed transfers and an almost-intact coaching staff, Kelly foresees something drastically different in opening his second campaign Sunday vs. the Seminoles in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

“We’re a smarter football team,” Kelly said during his first weekly presser of the regular season. “We understand the things necessary to become more consistent in everything that we do to be a championship football team right down to the smallest of details. Physically, we’re better. Mentally, we’re better. Now you got to go out and execute.”

Kelly noted his squad is relatively healthy entering the opener. Running backs Armani Goodwin and Josh Williams are doubtful and probable, respectively. Backup offensive tackle Kimo Makane’ole is questionable.

As announced previously, starting defensive tackle Maason Smith won’t play because of a one-game NCAA suspension for participating in a paid autograph show in the summer of 2021 a month before the NCAA approved players making money off their name, likeness and image.

Kelly said Smith is nursing an ankle injury, so it would have been questionable how much he would play vs. FSU if he was eligible.

“He’s still not practicing at the level that he needs to be practicing for us,” Kelly said.

While Kelly acknowledged the Tigers will miss Smith’s ability to wreck an offense, he’s comfortable with LSU’s remaining defensive tackle talent led by starters returning All-SEC first-team junior Mehki Wingo and junior Jacobian Guillory.

“We really are pleased with the growth and development of our defensive line,” Kelly said. (There are) guys that we haven’t talked a lot about. (West Virginia senior transfer Jordan) Jefferson has been outstanding. He’s physical, he plays really strong at the point of attack and he’s got a lot of experience. Guillory’s first step quickness, his ability to gain penetration. . . he’s going to be a handful. And (Florida junior transfer Jalen) Lee has been probably one of the surprises.”


No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State, Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. (ABC)

Series record and last LSU-FSU meeting: Florida State leads the series 8-2 after winning last season’s opener 24-23 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, FSU took a 17-3 lead late into the third quarter after LSU’s disjointed offense in its first game under new head coach Brian Kelly produced three points and 122 yards in its first five possessions. New starting QB Jayden Daniels caught fire, leading the Tigers to 256 yards and three TDs on their final three possessions. Daniels threw a 2-yard TD pass to Jaray Jenkins with no time left in the game, but the Tigers couldn’t force overtime when FSU blocked LSU’s extra point.

Florida State head coach: Mike Norvell (56-31 overall in 7 seasons, 18-16 in three years at FSU).


Appearance fee earned by each team: $5.1 million

Betting line: LSU is favored by 2½

Number of Louisiana natives on Florida State roster: 7

Number of Florida natives on LSU roster: 6

Number of transfers on FSU roster from 4-year schools: 27 from 23 schools including 19 players from 12 Power 5 Conference schools


QB Jordan Travis (226 of 353 for 3,214 yards, 24 TDs, 5 interceptions, 417 yards rushing and 7 TDs), WR Johnny Wilson (43 catches for 897 and 5 TDsDE Jared Verse (48 tackles, 17 TFL, 9 sacks), WLB Kalen DeLoach (65 tackles, 7½ TFL, 3 sacks), CB Akeem Dent (53 tackles, 4 PBU)PK Tyler Keltner (46 of 74 career field goals for East Tennessee State).


  1. What LSU assistant coach under Paul Dietzel was hired as Florida State’s head coach in 1960?
    A. Semme Nole 
    B. Bill Peterson
    C. Bobby Bowden
    D. Joe Gibbs
  1. What former Florida State star has an annual national college football award named in his honor?A. Deion Sanders
    B. Charlie Ward
    C. Lee Corso
    D. Fred Biletnikoff
  2. What did LSU fans throw on the Tiger Stadium field celebrating the Tigers’ 42-14 win over FSU in 1982 that clinched a bowl berth?
    A. Empty bourbon bottles
    B. Grapefruit
    C. Underwear and panties
    D. Oranges

Answers 1. B; 2. D; 3. D.

Contact Ron at

Fields of dreams come true just in time for Bulldogs

OPEN FIELDS:  Freshman Jacob Fields breaks free on his game-winning TD run with 1:01 to go, lifting Louisiana Tech over visiting Florida International. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech Athletics)

by MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

RUSTON — A few weeks ago, freshman Jacob Fields was roaming the secondary and lost deep down the depth chart at the secondary position for Louisiana Tech. 

Saturday night, he was a hero. 

Fields, who was moved to running back a few weeks ago due to injuries at the position, made the most of his touches Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium. 

With Tech trailing 17-16 and out of time outs in the final two minutes, Fields reeled in a pass, made a man miss, and raced 20 yards down to the FIU 33-yard line. It was his first collegiate touch. 

Two plays later, Fields took a handoff, bounced off left tackle, juked a defender and ran 30 yards to paydirt to give the Bulldogs a 22-17 win over FIU in the season and Conference USA opener for both teams. 

The score came with 1:01 to play in the game and gave Tech its first lead of the night. 

It was truly a Fields-good moment. 

“It was a staff decision,” laughed Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie when asked in the postgame interview whose decision it was to move Fields over to the offensive side of the football. 

Tech was without Marquis Crosby and Tyre Shelton (both out due to injury) and then lost Charvis Thornton to an ankle injury in the first quarter. Keldric Moody and Keith Willis saw most of the action at running back before Fields made his mark on the final drive. 

While Fields was playing hero late, the Bulldog defense was the real star of the night. After giving up two first-quarter touchdowns to the Golden Panthers, Tech’s D was phenomenal the rest of the night. 

Tech held FIU to just 18 total yards of offense on 20 plays in the second half and only one first down. It was a dominating performance by a much-maligned unit a year ago that ranked among the worst in FBS in numerous statistical categories. 

“The win feels good,” said Cumbie. “It’s just one. We have 11 more and they will get harder. But hopefully this win will give us some confidence moving forward.” 

The Tech defense put an exclamation on the win with Cecil Singleton’s interception with less than a minute to play, allowing Hank Bachmeier to kneel in victory formation twice as the clock struck zero in a Week Zero win. 

Bachmeier was solid all night, using check downs time after time to pick up key first downs. He completed 34-of-44 passes for 333 yards and one score, but none bigger than a 12-yard strike to Cyrus Allen on a fourth-down-and-five play with the game on the line and the Bulldogs without any timeouts. 

“You have to remember, he hasn’t played any football since October,” said Cumbie. “The guy traveled across country and is in an entirely new place. I thought once he settled down, he was really good.” 

With Tech trailing 17-3 late in the second quarter and having generated no offense to speak of, Bachmeier hit Smoke Harris on a quick slant that resulted in a 64-yard TD strike, giving the Bulldogs life and momentum. Harris caught 11 passes for a career-high 155 yards and one score. 

One year after torching Tech for over 400 yards through the air, FIU QB Grayson James completed just 5-of-14 passes for a mere four yards. 

Jacob Barnes hit 3-of-5 field goals in the win. 


Tech returns to action Saturday when it travels to SMU for an 11 a.m. kickoff.

Storied UCLA volleyball program visits Northwestern State today

NSU FRONTLINER:  Breanna Burrell (right), shown attacking last season against UIW, will help lead the Lady Demons into a match today against four-time NCAA volleyball champion UCLA in Prather Coliseum. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By BRAD WELBORN, Northwestern State Athletic Media Relations

NATCHITOCHES – The first home match of any season brings a certain level of intrigue and excitement in any sport. Those things get ratcheted up considerably when the visitor is a four-time national champion and one of the sport’s most iconic programs.

For the first time, Northwestern State will host a former NCAA champion program inside Prather Coliseum when NSU and the UCLA Bruins toss up the ball at 12:30 today. Admission is free.

“It’s a big deal to have them here,” NSU head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “It’s a big deal to me and I hope that other people appreciate that as well. We’re not just talking about a Power 5 school but a national champion, a program that has some of the best history in all of women’s volleyball. 

“As someone that grew up with the sport, played it for years and has had it be a huge part of my life for many years, UCLA is synonymous with volleyball on both the men’s and women’s sides. So, it’s going to certainly be a cool moment for me to welcome them to our home court.” 

The match can be seen live on ESPN+ with Shreveporter Patrick Netherton calling the contest.

Both the Lady Demons (0-3) and the Bruins (1-1) are coming off a weekend of play at SEC schools. NSU dropped all three of its matches in the StarkVegas Classic hosted by Mississippi State while UCLA split a pair of five-set thrillers in Baton Rouge against LSU. Both teams enter the match still sorting out their strengths and weaknesses on the early season. 

Northwestern put up good blocking numbers across all three matches, no surprise with the return of freshmen powerhouse middles Reaghan Thompson and Jordan Gamble. The addition of Tessa Gerwig, who led the team in kills in each of the past two matches, and Teresa Garza have added more depth, athleticism and offense to a crop of talented options on the pins. 

The main focus for the Lady Demons as they enter the second week of the season is finding the consistency in first touches, either from serves or opponent attacks, that allow them to utilize the multitude of options available on the offensive end and use them effectively. 

“We have the offensive weapons to make almost anyone in the country respect us from that stand point if we are in system,” Kiracofe said. “If we are in system we can put the ball away, we saw that in that third set against Mississippi State. That in turn makes the other team think about how to stop you instead of how they want to attack on their end or experiment with their offense.” 

The Bruins, under first-year head coach Alfee Reft, pushed an emerging LSU team in both matches over the weekend. They forced a fifth set, but lost, after falling behind 2-0 on Friday and  recovered Saturday when they closed out a win by hitting .250 or better in each of the final four sets and did not commit an attack error in the pivotal fifth set. 

UCLA has seven newcomers, including a freshman setter in Ashley Mullen, joining with a group of experienced and touted upperclassmen. Pac-12 preseason first-team pick Anna Dodson and the Bruins’ top returning attacker, Iman Ndiaye, who each had over 250 kills a year ago, are the first two offensive threats for the Bruins. 

Newcomer-laden Bulldogs make 2023 debut at home tonight

HARD TO CONTAIN:  Senior receiver/returner Smoke Harris gives Louisiana Tech one of the country’s more explosive threats in the open field. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech)


RUSTON — After a pair of 3-9 seasons, the Louisiana Tech football team couldn’t wait to open its 121st season of play.

The Bulldogs start their second fall under coach Sonny Cumbie on “Week Zero,” getting a jump on the vast majority of college squads, tonight in an 8 o’clock Conference USA clash inside Joe Aillet Stadium against Florida International.

The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network and broadcast on the LA Tech Sports Network that includes 101.1 FM KRMD in Shreveport.

FIU prevailed in Miami last year, 42-34 in double overtime.

The Bulldogs have a massively revamped roster with 65 newcomers, including 31 transfers in the offseason to complement their 48 returnees. Tech returns 13 total starters — seven offensive, four defensive, and two from special teams. A total of 54 lettermen did not return.

“Our football team is much improved,” said Cumbie. “A lot of transfers have done a good job of coming in and integrating themselves into what we have already established from last year and the foundation that we have built since they arrived in January.”
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier makes his Louisiana Tech debut after transferring from Boise State, where he threw for 6,605 yards and 41 touchdowns during his four seasons as a Bronco. Bachmeier’s career average of 227.8 passing yards a contest ranks 14th nationally and leads all CUSA quarterbacks. 

Wide receivers Smoke Harris and Cyrus Allen are the Bulldogs’ top returning targets in the passing game.

Harris enters the season as one of the most decorated active FBS players in the country. Harris has tallied 224 career receptions for 2,112 yards and 19 touchdowns during his five years at Tech. The St. Francisville native’s streak of 32 games with a reception is the seventh-longest streak nationally. In the return game, he is one of two returning FBS players who tallied 500 kickoff return yards and 200 punt return yards in 2022. Harris was tabbed as the CUSA Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year, ahead of this season.

Allen is coming off a breakout 2023 season with 22 receptions for 500 yards and four touchdowns. His 500 receiving yards ranked sixth nationally among all FBS freshmen, while his 22.7 yards per reception ranked second among all FBS players.

Preseason Jim Thorpe Award Watch List selection Willie Roberts will be one of the leaders of the Tech secondary. Roberts made 11 starts a year ago while leading the Bulldogs and ranking 22nd nationally with four interceptions.

Defensive lineman Deshon Hall Jr. garnered preseason recognition from numerous media outlets. A 2023 Conference USA Preseason Watch List selection, Hall was named Third-team All-CUSA by Phil Steele and earned second-team honors from Athlon Sports. The senior had 29 tackles a year ago, including four for loss, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, and a blocked kick.  

FIU is coming off a 4-8 campaign that featured a 2-6 mark in CUSA play during head coach Mike MacIntyre’s inaugural season in 2022. The Panthers return 15 starters from last season’s squad, with six offensive, five defensive, and four special teams starters returning in 2023. FIU has 57 lettermen returning and 55 newcomers (32 freshmen, 23 transfers).
MacIntyre is in his 11th year as a head coach with an overall record of 50-73, including a rough stretch as coach at Colorado (2013-28) following three impressive seasons at San Jose State (2010-12).

Centenary enjoys rollicking home football debut

(Photo courtesy Centenary Athletics)


It was the night some Centenary supporters have dreamed about for years, maybe decades.

It almost had a dream finish for the upstart Gentlemen.

Centenary, reinstating football this fall and hosting an intercollegiate competition in the sport for the first time since 1941, missed connections on two passes into the end zone in the closing seconds of a Thursday night scrimmage at Mayo Field, dropping a 7-0 decision to an established Division III East Texas Baptist program.

Hundreds of students, supporters and curious onlookers ringed the field in temporary bleachers and lawn chairs, watching the Gents’ defense contain what in recent years has been an explosive ETBU offense.

While the ending wasn’t perfect, Centenary coach Byron Dawson thought almost everything else was.

“I believe that football is the greatest unifier and tonight we witnessed that on Centenary campus. People from all walks of life came together to support college football in a family-friendly setting,” he said, in a statement the school released late Thursday night. “Tonight I am so happy for all of the people who worked so hard to make this special night possible. I am blessed and humbled to be entrusted to lead Centenary into a new football era. I would like to thank everyone that took out the time to come support our Gentlemen.”

Centenary is developing an NCAA Division III program. This fall the Gents are playing a series of scrimmages. They will officially usher in football next fall, when scrimmages give way to games with wins and losses that enter the record book.

But until then, the excitement of Thursday night will be hard to forget.

History unfolds on Centenary campus as football (unofficially) kicks off

HERE, FINALLY:  After over 80 years, a Centenary football team will host an intercollegiate competition this evening on campus after a successful scrimmage debut at Millsaps College last Saturday. (Photo courtesy Centenary Athletics)


The last time this happened was before Pearl Harbor was attacked to ignite the Pacific theatre conflict in World War II, at the end of 1941. 

The Centenary football team will make history as it welcomes the East Texas Baptist University Tigers to town this evening for a scrimmage set for 6:30 p.m. at Mayo Field on the south side of the Kings Highway campus. 

The Gents, led by head coach Byron Dawson, scrimmaged the Millsaps College Majors last Saturday in Jackson, Miss, and feature a roster of 70 players including several from the Shreveport-Bossier area in addition to 15 out of state players. Centenary’s scrimmage last weekend marked a return to the gridiron for the first time since November 1941, and this will be the first home intercollegiate competition since then. 

Centenary’s previous football history began with the Gents’ first game in the fall of 1894 and after WWII, it was dormant until a brief attempted revival in 1947 and again in the 1960s. More than a half-century later, the sport is back on campus. This season will feature scrimmages and exhibition contests before the Maroon and White play official NCAA Division III contests in 2024. 

Admission is free to the scrimmage. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with a tailgate including live music. The “Gents Walk” is set for 6 p.m. as Dawson and the Gents will enter Mayo Field for the first time. The first portion of the scrimmage will be a situational style followed by a live game-type competition for two quarters. 

Record hot temperatures are predicted in Shreveport-Bossier City on gameday, so fans are encouraged to hydrate and seek shade when possible. The Gold Dome will be open for fans to cool down if needed. 

Concessions will available on a cash-only sales basis, and fans are permitted to bring their own water. 

Seating is very limited due to the ongoing construction at the athletic complex, so fans can bring their own chairs. 

Parking is also very limited. Please park on the west side of the Gold Dome in either the grassy or gravel lots. 

Please enter through Shehee Stadium (baseball stadium) and walk around to Mayo Field. Signage will be present to direct fans.