NEWS

Break in LSU?football gives others sports the spotlight

Dave Moormann
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle breaks away for a touchdown earlier this season. LSU will face Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Now that the LSU regular football season has ended, and men’s basketball is on a self-imposed hiatus until Dec. 11, those who follow the Tigers can catch their breath and catch up on what is happening throughout the athletic program.

Football is an all-consuming enterprise and dwarfs everything in its path. Even the news of LSU’s bowl selection was bigger than an actual sporting event that might have involved another LSU team. The Tigers won’t play again for nearly another month, and although the anticipation is acute, it’s not the same as the weekly intensity of a Southeastern Conference schedule.

So now that the overworked fan finally has some time to chill, he or she can be made aware again that LSU does more than just play football.

For instance, the currently idle men’s basketball team is 5-2 and riding a three-game winning streak.  The competition hasn’t been on a par with what LSU will face in the SEC, but the Tigers have shot 50 percent in back-to-back games, which is an impressive feat no matter who it is playing.

Taking a break for final exams, the basketball team will entertain Central Michigan when it returns to action. That should make four-game winning streak, which already is improvement over last year’s misfortune.

The women’s basketball team has had a rougher go of it, but the Lady Tigers also had to play four road games in five days.  One of those was an 81-51 setback to top-ranked Connecticut, whose record winning streak is steadily building toward 90 games in a row.

The women don’t play again until Dec. 14, when they begin a four-game homestand.  Never one to shy away from a challenge, the women will visit UCLA on Dec. 28 and begin their SEC schedule at home against Tennessee on Jan. 2, 2011. In addition to Connecticut, the women already have played and lost to powerful Big Ten opponents Ohio State and Northwestern.

By playing such a fierce schedule early, Coach Van Chancellor hopes to have his team battle-tested by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around in March. For the volleyball team, postseason already is here. The 13th-ranked Tigers played their NCAA Tournament opener last week. It marked LSU’s sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

By the time the NCAA Basketball Tournaments finally arrives, there will have been a swarm of athletic activity involving LSU, including the Tigers’ bowl game.

When the Tigers put on the pads again, they will do so with an All-American and a special teams coach who has earned special recognition.  Junior cornerback Patrick Peterson is LSU’s newest All-American, having earned the honor from the American Football Coaches Association.

His defensive ability with 36 total tackles and four interceptions helped LSU rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (17.8 points per game), total defense (301.7 yards per game) and pass defense (165.8 ypg).

It’s his return prowess that sets him apart, though.  His average of 16.1 yards per punt return ranked second in the SEC and sixth in the nation.  He produced a school-record 851 yards in kickoff returns. His 29.3 yard average was second in the SEC and 10th nationally.

It’s also among the reasons Joe Robinson has been named as one of four finalists for Special Teams Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com. In addition to Peterson’s achievements, senior place-kicker Josh Jasper leads the nation with a school-record tying 26 field goals, including nine from 40 yards or longer. Fourteen of his 21 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, giving him a league-leading 66.7 percent success rate.

All this doesn’t take into account the indoor track and field seasons that begin in January, the baseball schedule that starts in February and the men’s and women’s spring tennis campaigns that follow successful fall showings.

But, wait. Don’t think about all that just yet. Beleaguered fans are supposed to be de-stressing right about now.