From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 14, 1999

It was kind of ironic that LSU’s troubles in 1998 began against the team named the Vandals.

LSU was coming off a 53-20 victory at home against Idaho, one that would propel the Tigers to a No. 6 ranking the next day. But head coach GerryDiNardo noticed some disturbing trends in that game and told the squad that it would struggle in conference play if it continued to play like it did against the Vandals.

Unfortunately for LSU fans, DiNardo would prove to be a prophet. TheTigers would win just one more game the rest of the way, finishing at 4- 7, their first losing record since Curley Hallman’s last season in 1994.

What made the season even more aggravating for Tiger fans was the way the Tigers lost the majority of those games.

A 28-27 loss to Georgia when the Tigers could manage just two Christian Chauvin field goals in two trips into Georgia territory in the fourth quarter. The failure to capitalize in the second half after taking a 10-6halftime lead against Florida.

The failure to stop an end-around that let Kentucky move into position for the winning field goal as time expired. A dropped pass in the end zone inovertime against Ole Miss. Tipped passes that led to two touchdowns,including the game-winner, against Alabama. A blown 14-point leadagainst Notre Dame. A lethargic effort against Arkansas.”After the Arkansas game, I don’t know if I’ve seen a team as low as that one,” defensive coordinator Lou Tepper said at Wednesday’s Media Day press conference.

DiNardo and his staff spent the offseason trying to rebuild the team’s enthusiasm and to make sure that last year did not wipe out the gains of the previous three seasons.

Whereas last year, the talk was of SEC and national titles before the season, this year it was of taking it one step at a time.

“Every year, we put up goals,” DiNardo said Wednesday. “Our first goal is awinning season. If we do that in the sixth game, we go on to the next goal.Our last goal is a national championship.”The Tigers enter the 1999 season with a three-way battle at quarterback, concerns over depth at wide receiver, linebacker and in the secondary and concerns with the kicking game. How those situations are addressed willdetermine how far the Tigers will go in 1999.

But so will the Tigers’ ability to make the play when they have to, something they often did not do in 1998. Probably fewer than 10 playsturned a very successful season into a disappointing one.

With a schedule that includes road games at Georgia and Alabama and home games against Florida, Ole Miss and Arkansas, pencil the Tigers in for a 7-4 or 8-3 record. Depending on whether or not the Tigers can makethe plays when they have to, the team could either be spending the final New Years of the millennium bowl bound or contemplating what went wrong again.

Return To Sports Stories

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

Internet services provided by NeoSoft.

Best viewed with 3.0 or higher