The Arizona Republic
By ANDREW BAGNATO
The Arizona Republic
The Louisiana State Tigers jetted out of Phoenix early yesterday, bound for their storm-battered home state.
But the team that arrived in Baton Rouge, La., had a different look than the one that left two days earlier.
On the morning after their dramatic 35-31 victory over Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium, the Tigers climbed two rungs to No. 3 in the latest AP (media) and USA TODAY (coaches) polls.
“What they set out to do, they did,” LSU coach Les Miles said before the Tigers boarded their charter flight. “If they play with that kind of heart, we’ll have a lot of victories in front of us.”
In LSU’s first game since Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Tigers stunned ASU with 28 points in 13 minutes, 34 seconds of the fourth quarter.
The decisive score came on a fourth-and-10 with 1:13 left, when JaMarcus Russell wandered out of the pocket and fired a 39-yard strike to Early Doucet, who beat two defenders to the ball.
As Doucet tumbled out of bounds, he was engulfed by LSU’s purple-clad cheerleaders. It’s no stretch to think the nation will offer a similar embrace to the Tigers in the weeks ahead.
“With the recent hurricane, we felt a little down, but we did a great job rebounding,” Doucet said. “We all came together.”
Big Ten troubles
While LSU is dreaming big dreams, the Big Ten is trying to awake from a nightmare.
It was Black Saturday in the nation’s oldest major conference.
First, No. 3 Michigan was beaten by No. 20 Notre Dame 17-10 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Then eighth-ranked Iowa was drubbed 23-3 by rival Iowa State.
And then No. 4 Ohio State lost a 25-22 squeaker to second-ranked Texas in Columbus, Ohio.
In one stunning day, the Big Ten’s three Top 10 squads took it in the shorts. Barring an unforeseen series of events – Purdue running the table to finish unbeaten – it’s unlikely that a Big Ten team will play for the national title in the Rose Bowl.
The Ohio State-Texas showdown lived up to its hype, and then some, as Heisman Trophy candidate Vince Young threw a 24-yard scoring pass to Limas Sweed with 2:37 left to rally the Longhorns before 105,565 fans in Columbus, Ohio.
But yesterday’s polls showed why some schools would rather not play those kinds of high-risk, high-reward games.
The Buckeyes dropped five spots to No. 9 Associated Press rankings and dropped two spots to No. 9 in the USA TODAY coaches poll. Meanwhile, they were leapfrogged by Florida State, which moved to No. 8 from No.11 in both polls.
What did the Seminoles do to deserve this elevation?
After trailing The Citadel, a Division I-AA team, 10-3 with 68 seconds to go in the first half, FSU rallied for a 62-10 victory in Tallahassee, Fla.
Voters rewarded the Seminoles for running up the score and penalized the Buckeyes for having the guts to tackle a traditional powerhouse.
Back to reality for Irish
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis didn’t waste much time celebrating the Irish’s rise to No. 10 in the AP poll, their first appearance in the Top 10 in three years.
Nor did Weis spend much time crowing about the Irish’s 17-10 win at Michigan, in which Brady Quinn threw two TD passes in the first half. Weis was too busy researching remarks he plans to make to the team before this next week’s visit by Michigan State, which has won its past four trips to South Bend, Ind.
“By giving them the cold, hard facts – ‘Fellas, this is the way it is’ – will slap them back to reality,” said Weis, the first Irish coach to win his opening two road games since Knute Rockne in 1918.