Danger At Every Turn
Stunning upsets continue, and No. 1 LSU has taken notice
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE -- LSU running back Keiland Williams likes to exchange text messages, e-mails and phone calls with Southern Cal receiver Vidal Hazelton.
The two were teammates at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., two years ago and appeared to be arcing toward each other for a reunion in the BCS title game.
"He said, 'We're praying y'all go undefeated,' and I said, 'We're wishing the same. Don't y'all go lose to Stanford or anything,' " Williams said.
As if LSU players needed any cautionary reminders given the unusually large number of upsets in college football this season, the Trojans' 24-23 loss to Stanford on Saturday hit close to home. LSU had surpassed USC for the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll, but the Trojans were still tops in the two that really matter, the USA Today and Harris polls. The AP poll is no longer a part of the BCS rankings formula.
When they say it can happen on any given Saturday, they mean 'any.' Stanford was a 41-point underdog, its backup quarterback played the whole game, and the Cardinal (2-3) had lost its first three Pac-10 games by a combined 141-51.
Southern Cal's contribution was five turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by quarterback John David Booty, a missed extra-point attempt and a broken finger suffered by the signal-caller from Shreveport.
"All of a sudden we look up and they have (lost)," Williams said. "That's the kind of lesson we've been taught since Appalachian State-Michigan (34-32, Mountaineers) and Louisville-Syracuse (38-35, Orange). You can't take anyone lightly."
Said Jacob Hester: "Anybody can beat anybody. That's proven. They (Trojans) won 35 straight games at home. Everybody's got to be on their toes this year. It's a weird year."
Players said upsets take on a different tone for players than for fans. Players know how hard even a blowout victory can be, while fans might see the final score and make the leap to calling it 'easy.'
Two weeks ago, LSU found itself in a ball game against Tulane when fans were expecting a rout. LSU had to kick a field goal just before halftime to lead at the break and finally pulled away to win comfortably 34-9.
"You can see it in their eyes when they come out of the locker room," LSU defensive end Kirston Pittman said.
"You can tell during the game the way they come at you. When we played Tulane they came out with fire in their eyes, they came out to play the game the way we expected. We know it's going to be a big game every Saturday from here on out."
Hester said upsets usually occur for a lot of "little" reasons, meaning a tipped pass here or a broken finger there, as occurred in the USC-Stanford game. He said teams that don't show attention to detail can get tripped up by any number of things such as penalties, blown officials' calls or simply a bad bounce.
"Fans look at the game on paper and not the actual playing," Williams said. "We know how hard it is to win. Players understand things happen fast, and you can't take anything for granted."
As the unanimous No. 1 team, LSU is now public enemy No. 1, and No. 17 Kentucky gets its shot Saturday at home. The Wildcats (5-1) are enjoying one of their best seasons with some of the SEC's top offensive weapons in quarterback Andre Woodson and running back Rafael Little.
The Wildcats also have a bit of a score to settle after LSU dominated them 49-0 last season. Since that game, Kentucky is 10-2 with losses to Tennessee (17-12) last year and South Carolina (38-23) last week.
The Wildcats also catch LSU in prime upset position -- coming off a hard-fought, emotional victory against Florida, and going into a key SEC West showdown with Auburn on Oct. 20.
"We were surprised at the final score last year," Hester said. "It's not going to be like it was last year. We'll have to play our 'A' game to come out with a win."
Said Williams: "They're having a successful season, and they are on an emotional high. They'll be trying to make their season off of us."
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