BATON ROUGE, La. — No player on the LSU roster has ever beaten Alabama.
It’s an inescapable statement of fact. Dating back to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012, LSU has lost its last five contests against Alabama. The Tigers haven’t defeated the Tide since 2011’s “Game of the Century,” a game LSU won 9-6 in overtime.
Some of LSU’s players say this matters. Some say it doesn’t. And still, some others can’t quite make up their minds.
“That matters,” sophomore cornerback Donte Jackson said, “but at the end of the day it really don’t matter.”
It’s not surprising that a significant cohort of LSU’s roster said it will treat this Saturday’s game against Alabama as just another SEC game. As sure as babies cry, robins fly and politicians lie, football players downplay the importance rivalry games.
But there’s no sense in hiding it: The losing streak to Alabama, especially given the outcomes of the last two incarnations of the rivalry, has worn on the fans, the coaches and even the players.
Take last year’s loss in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers came into the game as the unbeaten No. 2 team in the country and Leonard Fournette looked like an otherwise unstoppable presence through seven games. But the Alabama defense stuffed Fournette and the LSU offense like it had never been stuffed before, limiting the then-Heisman Trophy front-runner to 31 yards on 19 carries and leading the Tide to a 30-16 victory en route to a national championship win.
No one wearing purple and gold came out of that game feeling good. But as a position group, the LSU offensive line still shoulders a lot of the flack associated with the loss, something junior tackle K.J. Malone owns up to.
“We take the blame all the time for the outcome of the game,” Malone said. “The Wisconsin game, we take that blame. The Auburn game, we take the blame. If we just come together, we can do big things.”
That sentiment, the idea that LSU can achieve any task if it comes together, was the prevailing idea among an optimistic Tigers offense Monday. Quarterback Danny Etling and center Ethan Pocic both said all LSU has to do to compete Saturday is execute the game plan.
Etling, who will be playing in his first LSU-Alabama game Saturday, doesn’t have as intimate of a connection to the rivalry as his teammates. But he still understands the weight this game carries, especially for a team that still aspires to compete for SEC and national titles.
“I think it’s just important for our season as a whole,” Etling said. “I think that’s what everyone’s focused on. It’s less as far as the rivalry and more if we want to accomplish this season what we set out for, this is a must-win game for us and it’s something that we want to go out and do.”
But still, being the first team in five years to beat Alabama would be nice, too.
“We just keep that in the back of our minds,” Malone said. “We could be the first team in, what is it, like six years or something like that, to beat Alabama. Especially for all of (our) seniors and all of us coming in together, that’s one goal in our mind.”