From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / November 18, 2000

There’s an old joke about two big baseball fans who wondered if there wasbaseball in Heaven. They made an agreement that when one died, he wouldcome back to earth and tell the other if there truly was.

There came the day when one finally passed away. Just as he promised, hereturned to his friend who asked for the answer. The friend replied, “Thegood news is that there is baseball in Heaven. The bad news is that you arepitching tomorrow.”

The Saints, LSU and Tulane each had one of those “good news, bad news”days last weekend. Just when fans of those teams thought they weredreaming, along came a case of reality. And others wonder why Louisianafootball fans are so jaded?

For the Saints, the good news was that they defeated Carolina for theirsixth straight win. The victory kept them a game behind St. Louis in theNFC West and made them serious playoff contenders this year.

The bad news, of course, was the broken left ankle suffered by RickyWilliams that will keep the running back out of action for six to eightweeks. Williams had just gained his 1,000 rushing yard of the season andhad accounted for over 40 percent of the Saints offense. Because of hispresence in the backfield, teams were keying on the run, opening up thepassing game.

The good news for LSU was a 20-9 win at Ole Miss that improved theTigers to 7-3 on the season and opened up a host of bowl possibilities. Thewin also snapped a three-game losing streak to the Rebels and kept theTigers in the race in the SEC West.

The bad news for LSU is that as the Tigers were playing the Rebels,Auburn was defeating Georgia in overtime to remain in first place in thedivision. Georgia had a chance to pull out the game in regulation but couldnot punch it in in the final minute from inside the Auburn 10, settling fora tying field goal. The win meant that Auburn can eliminate LSU from thedivision race with a win at 3-7 Alabama today.

Back in the Big Easy, the good news for Tulane was a 50-38 victory overNavy. The win evened the Wave’s record at 5-5 and kept alive the hopes fora third winning season in the last four years. The victory also kept theWave alive for a bowl bid.

The bad news for Tulane was that the Green Wave’s defense gave up 724yards to a winless Navy team. The Midshipmen’s attack was definitely abalanced one with 362 yards rushing and 362 yards passing. This from ateam that had not passed for 200 yards all season. The yardage was both aNavy record and a record for a Tulane opponent.

But local football fans can take heart in that for all the bad news lastweekend, there is even more good news. For once, these clouds have a rayof sunshine behind them.

For the Saints, Williams’ injury does not have to mean the end for a dreamseason. His injury would have been devastating a year ago and maybe evenjust six weeks ago when the Saints were 1-3. But the team has becomejust that – a TEAM.

Jeff Blake has gained confidence over the last six weeks and so has theoffensive line. The defensive remains one of the best in the NFL, sackingcarolina quarterback Steve Beurlein eight times.

If this team continues to do what it has for the six weeks and stickstogether, then there is still a chance for this season to be somethingspecial.

Ditto for LSU and Tulane. LSU still could go to the SEC Championship game.

Alabama may be struggling but there is still pride to be played for today.

And anything can happen in a rivalry game like Alabama-Auburn. And evenif LSU falls short of the SEC Championship, it can still tie for the divisiontitle and go to a pretty decent bowl with a win at Arkansas Friday. That’smore than was expected my many prior to the season.

Tulane could also go to a bowl this year with a win at home againstMemphis today. A 6-5 record would not be too bad for a team that lookedout of the race a few weeks ago after a loss to Army. And while thedefense gave up a pile of yardage against Navy, it also forced sixturnovers and returned one for a score.

So keep a positive attitude Saints, Tigers and Green Wave fans. Thisseason could be one made in Heaven yet.

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