Sunday, December 22nd, 2002


BATON ROUGE Ð On a day when four members of the LSU football team received their college diploma, the Tigers continued to prepare for their SBC Cotton Bowl matchup with ninth-ranked Texas with a two-hour workout at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility.
Earlier on Friday, Tiger seniors Solomon Lee, Chad Lewis, Jerel Myers and Jeremy Shealy all participated in graduation ceremonies on the LSU campus. Lee, a starter at fullback, earned his degree in information systems designs, while Myers, who ranks among the top 10 in school history in both receptions and receiving yards, graduated in kinesiology. Lewis graduated in marketing and Shealy in sociology.
Friday’s workout marked the seventh of eight practices this week for the Tigers. The Tigers will practice again on Saturday morning and will then break for the holidays. LSU will return to practice with a 4 p.m workout in Texas Stadium in Dallas on Dec. 26.
“First of all, I would like to say to everyone here and everyone who is an LSU fan, supporter and everyone that lives in the state of Louisiana, Christmas is a great holiday and we would certainly like to wish everyone a happy holiday,” LSU coach Nick Saban said after Friday’s workout. “Our players have been working hard and I think they are ready to go home for the holidays. Our staff has been working hard too and they are probably ready to go home for a day or two. We just wish everyone that supports the program a very happy holiday and a Merry Christmas and I just hope we can make your holiday a little more joyful when New Year's Day comes.”
“Playing Texas is certainly going to a big challenge for us. I will say that we have had good practices this week and the players seem to be playing pretty well and getting back into the swing of things. We have practiced well and it looks like they are having fun out there. A lot of younger players are having the opportunity to get better so that makes us happy.”
Saban said the Tigers have been able to use the last three weeks to heal some injuries, especially on the defensive front.
“I think we are a lot better now,” Saban said. (Defensive tackle) Chad (Lavalais) is a lot better and (defensive end) Marcus Spears is lot better and so is (defensive end) Marquise Hill.
(Defensive tackle) Kenderick Allen is the only guy who is struggling because he had surgery on his thumb. I think he is physically okay but he cannot do a lot of work in practice because he can’t put his hand in there. We want to give him a little bit more time for that to heal before he starts doing more. I would say though now that he is the only guy fighting an injury.”
Against Texas, the Tigers will face a team that is averaging 33.7 points a contest, while racking up nearly 400 yards of total offense a contest. As a result, Saban said it’s important for the Tigers to put some pressure on Longhorn quarterback Chris Simms as well avoiding the big play.
“This is as balanced an offensive team with as many weapons as we have played all year,” Saban said. They have some great wide outs and a great runner with an outstanding quarterback to go with a good offensive line. This is probably as talented an offensive team as we have played against all year long. The key thing is to not give them big plays because I think that is the number one thing that they thrive on. They have made a lot of big plays this year and I think the teams that can limit that have much better chances to be successful.
“I think it is always important that when you are playing a team that makes big plays to be able to affect the quarterback in some kind of way. I think you have to stop the run against them, because if they can run it then you are always going to be off-balance in terms of what you can do and like I always say getting turnovers can change field position. It is always an important part of the game and when we get them in third down situations we need to get off the field. If you keep giving their skill guys chances to make plays eventually they are going to make them. I think those are probably the key factors for us.
LSU and Texas will meet at 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day in Dallas in what will be the first meeting between the teams since the 1963 Cotton Bowl. This year’s Cotton Bowl will be televised to a national audience on Fox, LSU’s first appearance on the network.