BATON ROUGE – LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas drew a lot of national attention last week for some comments he made about Alabama during a media session with several reporters.
“This is the year,” he said. “We’ve been letting them off the hook for the last couple of years. This is my senior year. We’re going out with a bang. It’s time for us to bring that win back. We’re going to be at home. I feel like we have the edge to take it to them, and we’re going to take it to them. I feel like we’re going to dominate the game. I really see us dominating this offense. I really see us dominating this year.”
Thomas has not been suspended indefinitely by interim coach Ed Orgeron. He is not off limits to the media this week as the No. 19 Tigers (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) will be preparing to host No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at 7 p.m. Saturday on CBS after both teams had open dates. ESPN’s Game Day will be broadcasting live from LSU on the morning of the game.
Without Thomas’ use of the words “dominate” and “dominating,” this story may not have made the national news cycle. It is also interesting to note that Thomas has not started a game this season and will likely not start Saturday.
Even with the “dominant” terminology, this is far from the worst thing a player has said before a game. In reality, he was just showing some youthful exuberance and the frustration of losing five straight to Alabama. Thomas is a fifth-year senior who has been a Tiger for four of those five losses, including the particularly hard-to-swallow losses in 2012 (21-17 thanks to a last-minute drive by Alabama) and in 2014 (20-13 in overtime when the Tigers were in position to win late in regulation).
He was talking about Alabama in general. He could have been talking for any number of present and former LSU players in any decade. He did not single out an individual player, which is what Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford did before the LSU game last season when asked by an Auburn writer about the difficulty of stopping tailback Leonard Fournette.
“That shouldn’t be difficult,” Ford said. “Not that much of a challenge.” Fournette gained a then-career-high 228 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 45-21 win.
Thomas’ comments are not nearly as plain stupid as what then-LSU defensive lineman Rickey-Jean Francois said before the Florida game in 2008 to Jeremy Fowler, who then worked for the Orlando Sentinel and is now at ESPN. Fowler quoted him exactly right, though then-LSU coach Les Miles, others in the athletic department and some reporters tried to say he took Francois out of context, which was not the case. Francois may have been kidding a bit, but he said what he said.
“If we get a good shot on him, we’re going to try our best to take him out of the game,” Francois said about quarterback Tim Tebow. “If he does get hurt, there’s a trained medical staff at Florida, so he can go to the training room on Sunday.”
Asked what a clean shot might do to Tebow, Francois compared it to a “car wreck without a seat belt.”
Francois did not get to walk the walk after talking the talk as he missed the game with a groin and hip injury, which was a good thing for him as LSU wrecked badly and needed the training room much more. Tebow completed 14 of 21 for 210 yards with a 70-yard touchdowns pass, a 7-yard touchdown pass and a 2-yard touchdown run in a 51-21 victory.
Alabama does not need motivation to beat LSU by such scores. Over the 5-0 run, it has won by 21 twice and by 14 last year at 30-16. Alabama tends to not need much superficial, bulletin board material as if it is some mere mortal team. The Crimson Tide has won four national championships and reached a college football playoff final four since 2009 and is 22-1 over the last two seasons and has lost no more than one game in a season in three full seasons beginning in 2011.
LSU, meanwhile, has lost a minimum of three games a season beginning in 2012. The Tigers also will enter the Alabama game with more than one loss for just the second time beginning in 2009.
So, what the hell? Thomas has the right idea. A little false, youthful bravado is better than no bravado at all.
LSU players and coaches have carefully watched what they have said for years leading up to the Alabama game, and it has not helped them.
Sometimes, when one says he can do something – whether the facts or the history back that up or not – one can con himself into thinking he CAN do something.
In a way, Thomas was just echoing and enhancing what his coach said earlier in the week. Asked at the New Orleans Quarterback Club meeting last week if his team could hang with Alabama, Orgeron, using a little more measured exuberance and bravado than his player would, said, “Hell, yeah,” and walked out of the room.
That was better than, “We might.”
Former Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Theismann used to refer to his admitted cockiness as his armor. It made him stronger entering a game. Sometimes that can work regardless of how much armor one actually has.
And lately, LSU has not been exuding a lot of armor against Alabama on the field. So put the Halloween mask on tonight, LSU, and keep it on all week.
Why not? Maybe Dwayne Thomas now has some of his teammates believing they can dominate Alabama. That’s a start.
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.