BATON ROUGE, La. – When a fan asked Les Miles what he thought about Washington placing a live tiger next to its practice field this week, the LSU coach said light-heartedly that it sounded to him like the Huskies “are concerned about our mascot.”
Miles then added, “I can promise you this: The mascot is not the issue.”
Of course, the Huskies are more concerned about No. 3 LSU’s relentless running game, which piled up 316 yards last week in a 41-14 victory over North Texas. But it probably didn’t hurt Washington to try to simulate the game-day experience in Tiger Stadium, given that LSU has not lost in the deafening venue known as Death Valley in nearly three seasons.
The Tigers have won 18 straight at home, where Mike, a Bengal tiger, usually surveys the field from a cage placed near the tunnel from the visitor’s locker room.
For Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, though, the point of the caged tiger at practice was to remind his players that everything happening outside the lines is a mere distraction that the Huskies must learn to tune out.
“We are not playing their crowd, or playing the tiger or playing the stadium,” Sarkisian said. “We are playing the 11 guys that line up across from us on that snap and that’s what we need to focus on.”
The trip to Louisiana marks the first road game of the season for the Huskies (1-0), who opened with a 21-12 win over San Diego State.
LSU (1-0), which last week opened at home just days after Hurricane Isaac disrupted its practice schedule but left campus with only minor damage, rolled to an easy 41-14 win over North Texas.
The Huskies yielded 199 yards rushing last week to San Diego State, though some of that was on quarterback scrambles. If they struggle to stop the run again this week, the Tigers could live up to the expectations of oddsmakers, who listed them as three-touchdown favorites.