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Countdown to kickoff: Saturday nights

8/1/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown through August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. In today's opening installment, Gary Laney looks at the return of something LSU fans cherish: Saturday nights in Death Valley:

It's right there on page 26 of LSU's football media guide.

Per tradition, as the afternoon light fades in Tiger Stadium and LSU emerges from the locker room to take the field before the start of a home football game, public address announcer Dan Borne tells the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's Saturday night in Death Valley, and here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU!"

The white-shirted home team charges toward its sideline, and the crowd, perhaps a little bit "fueled" by a solid day of tailgating, goes beserk.

It's a scene that has happened for generations. And the key word to the announcement is one word: "Night."

Evening games are when LSU fans are at their craziest. All-time, LSU is 221-60-4 in night home games and 25-26-3 during the day during the same stretch. Under Les Miles, the Tigers are 30-1 under the Tiger Stadium lights.

But evening games at Tiger Stadium have become an outdated tradition, the victim of kickoff times set by television networks. In 2011, it was an odd mix of a challenging road schedule, a less attractive home schedule and just bad breaks that resulted in the Tigers playing just two home games -- the least attractive ones against FCS member Northwestern State and Sun Belt Conference member Western Kentucky -- under the lights.

Borne was left with awkward pauses -- "It's Saturday ... in Death Valley," or worse, "It's Saturday morning in Death Valley," and the fervor of the night game was conspicuously absent.

Tiger fans blamed the TV networks, absolutely hated them, in fact, for putting Tiger Stadium games on under the glare of the sun. But it's a good thing for LSU to be on TV all the time, isn't it? And it wasn't the TV networks' fault that the most attractive, and thus the most fit for prime time, games ended up away from home. The Oregon game was in Dallas and LSU had to go to West Virginia and to Alabama.

So the only games at night were the ones not candidates major TV slots at all.

This year, the story changes, even with the TV factor. LSU opens with three straight night home games. The first two -- vs. North Texas and vs. Washington -- are on the ESPN family of networks.

And the Tigers' Nov. 3 home showdown with Alabama? CBS has already called dibs on that one for a 7 p.m. prime time telecast.

With half of the kickoff times for eight home games still to be decided (the rest will be decided about two weeks before the games), already half the home schedule will be played at night.

That means a full day of tailgating. And Borne's traditional call will sound as right as the sun setting to the west at kickoff.