It was a slap in the face.
LSU lost to Troy, 24-21, on Sept. 30 in Death Valley. The Tigers were No. 25 at the time. The Trojans weren’t even ranked.
Another stinger: It was LSU’s homecoming.
But the handprint has since faded.
“Probably the worst thing that happened for all of us in the SEC is when they lost to Troy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They’ve really made a turnaround as a team, which I think speaks volumes of the coaching staff and the job that Ed Orgeron has done there to get the players to re-center, refocus (and) work on improving.”
That game ended LSU’s run of 49 consecutive wins over non-conference opponents in Tiger Stadium.
Not only that, the Trojans became the first team in recent history to defeat the Tigers after they had scored 20 points: LSU is 21-1 in the last three years when posting at least 20 on the scoreboard.
“They have a lot of talent and are kind of on the rise right now,” Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “They played a couple good teams and they beat them.
“I think talent-wise and schedule-wise, they’re the best team we’ve faced so far.”
After the upset, LSU completely dropped out of the AP Top 25 poll. It is now No. 19 and hasn’t lost a game since. Three games and a bye week have passed, and those victories were over Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss.
So in the eyes of the Crimson Tide, the Tigers are back.
“They’re throwing and catching the ball better,” Saban said. “They’re blocking better. They’ve got more positive runs. They’ve got more explosive plays.”
Just to play devil’s advocate real quick, the Tigers’ 266 passing yards against the Trojans is the team’s peak so far this season.
Otherwise, there hasn’t been a single interception thrown by LSU since Troy, when there were two picks. LSU has rushed for more yards than it did against Troy (162) twice (216 at Florida and 393 at Ole Miss) and has broken much longer runs, including a season-high 70-yarder against Auburn.
“It looks like the players are a lot more confident not (only) in what they’re doing (but) what they’re expecting to do,” Saban said. “They’ve got really good players, and they’ve gotten confidence through this season, and they’re playing really, really well right now.”
In fact, LSU linebacker Devin White leads the SEC in tackles with 80. Running back Derrius Guice is the conference’s second-leading rusher, averaging 101.6 yards per game. Wide receiver DJ Chark is fourth in receiving yards per game with an average of 66.9. Quarterback Danny Etling is sixth in passing yards, throwing for a 181.5-yard average.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little – or big – smack to be set straight.
“I mean, I’m not making any comparison to early in the season,” Saban said, “but I see a team that’s improved dramatically.”