Death Valley: A Very Tough Place to Play
In college football, home field advantage can be a vitally important component to a game. If it’s a game with big implications, or even better if it’s a rivalry game, the crowd can play a big part in how the teams play on the field. In College Station they call it the 12th man. In other places it is known as crowd noise, crowd heat, electricity in the air, juice, and a host of other names. No matter what it’s called, this is something that can’t be explained in precise detail, but it is real.
The LSU Tigers are currently on a 22-game home winning streak, the longest in active home winning streak in college football. Beginning in the final years of Gerry DiNardo‘s time as Tigers head coach and extending through the Nick Saban era and into the current Les Miles era with Tigers football, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana became a very tough place to play in. And it didn’t matter if you were highly ranked or one the cellar dwellers of the SEC.
The last time the Tigers lost at home was to the Florida Gators on October 10, 2009. The Gators were ranked #1 coming into the game and while they kept Tim Tebow reasonably in check, the fourth-ranked Tigers still fell that night 13-3. Since then: all wins at home.
During this current winning streak at home, the Tigers have gone 2-0 at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks and also have home wins against their other big rivals in the SEC: the Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This past weekend’s win against the South Carolina Gamecocks was an example of the Tigers overpowering a team while at home on their way to a win. Remember, the Tigers were trailing 7-3 at half and both offenses had been dominated during that half despite a big play here and there. In the third quarter, the Tigers’ defense continued to hold their grip on the Gamecocks’ offense despite giving up a touchdown in the quarter. During this time, the Tigers’ offense began making more plays and were clicking a lot better than the Gamecocks’ were.
By the time the fourth quarter arrived, the Tigers had become the more dominant team on both sides of the ball. Tigers’ running back Jeremy Hill‘s 50-yard touchdown run in the quarter put the Tigers ahead for good, and their defense was able to keep the Gamecocks from scoring again until the final two minutes of the game.
The fact that it was at home certainly played a part. This is because college football teams do thrive on the crowd in those big games and in close game more than teams at the pro level. Saturday night was both a big game and one that was close as any shot of the Tigers playing for a national title was gone if they lost and the game was close almost the entire way.
It’s in these kinds of games that the home team will get that extra surge because it’s them that the cheers and the noise is for, and when they begin to get those cheers and that noise for every little thing they do, it can go toward changing the momentum of the game. Many times, it’s done just that.
The biggest test for the Tigers’ streak is coming on November 3rd when the top-ranked Crimson Tide comes to town. The Tide will be looking for payback after the Tigers beat them in Tuscaloosa last year. Yes the Tide already got revenge in last season’s national title game, but returning the favor and ending a long home winning streak of a rival at the same time would be pretty sweet.