COLUMNS

A bad day for Tigers

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

It’s been a tough season at times for LSU football, and on Dec. 20, it was even rough on former Tigers. On that one day, two former LSU greats walked away from games with heavy clouds of disappointment glooming over them.

It all started with Odell Beckham, Jr. in the Giants’ mathcup with the undefeated Panthers. Less than a week earlier, football fans and media members were fawning over Beckham after his tremendous performance against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

It only took three hours for their perception of him to pull a complete 180.

Beckham took his one-on-one matchup with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman too far—being flagged for personal fouls on three separate occasions. He threw punches, and at one time, he even hit Norman helmet-to-helmet.

He really should have been ejected at some point, but the officiating crew decided to let him stay in the game. The NFL wasn’t as lenient. The next day, they suspended him for one game.

Not only did Beckham hurt his team, he did serious damage to his reputation across the league.

As LSU fans, we’ve been watching this kid since he was an 18-year-old true freshman that was already making highlight-reel plays. We know how great of a person he is; we know this is extremely out of character for him.

But there is no way around it, he does need to grow up, because what happened that Sunday was inexcusable.

I think that game against the Panthers was a powder keg just waiting to go off starting the previous Tuesday. For almost a week, the media hyped up the individual matchup between one of the league’s best receivers in Beckham and one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Norman.

Along the way, I think he got so consumed with Beckham vs. Norman that he forgot it was Giants vs. Panthers.

When the game rolled around, there were two plays that led to him finally exploding.

One, he beat Norman on the opening drive—just to drop a sure touchdown. That frustrated him. Not long afterward, Norman body-slammed him after a play. That set him off.

The coaches should have taken him out and given him a stern talking to and tried to get him to settle down, but they never did. So, he continued to play like a wild man for the rest of the game.

He has to learn to harness his emotions and keep his composure, but most of all, he has to learn that his team always comes first. He can’t do anything stupid that will hurt the Giants’ chances to win.

As LSU fans were disappointed in the behavior of Beckham, they then ended the night being disappointed in the devastating misfortune of Tyrann Mathieu.

The man we all know as the “Honey Badger” was having such an amazing year. After tearing his ACL late in the 2013 season, he had finally gotten back to 100 percent in 2015, and worked himself into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion.

With his tenacious and versatile play, the Cardinal defense had been one of the league’s best and helped them become legit Super Bowl contenders at 12-2.

Then, late during a blowout win over the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, Mathieu tore his other ACL when he came down with an interception. Not only did it end his season, it also may end the Cardinals’ chances to win it all.

It really made me sick on Monday morning to see the news about the injury. Obviously, I‘ll always be a huge fan because of his career at LSU, but the way he plays will always be fun to watch. I was also so proud of him for how he had turned his life around after his battles with drug addiction at LSU.

He had reinvented himself as a person and had become one of the top leaders in Arizona. That’s why it made me so happy to see him doing so well and having such a tremendous year.

Now, for the second time in his three-year career, his season has ended early with an ACL injury. He has now torn the ligament in both knees.

Having two bad knees is usually the kiss of death for a cornerback. I know he’ll fight hard to overcome the injury; I just hope his body will not betray him again.

Three years ago, I never thought I would be able to say that someone should follow the lead of Mathieu and model themselves after him, but that time is here. Beckham can learn a lot from his former teammate. Mathieu grew up; now it’s Beckham’s turn.