|ESPN.com: College Football||[Print without images]|
BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 3 LSU will go ahead with its originally scheduled start time of 7 p.m. ET Saturday for its season opener against North Texas at Tiger Stadium, the university announced Thursday.
The announcement curtailed concerns that LSU would have to postpone or reschedule the game as a result of complications from Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall in Louisiana on Tuesday.
"Our options are limited as far as opportunities to play this game and there was minimal damage to the stadium, so we are proceeding with the season opener on Saturday night," LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said in a school news release. "We understand there are portions of the state that are still recovering from the storm and there may be some fans that cannot, for various reasons, make it to Tiger Stadium. We wish those people and everyone adversely affected by the storm our best wishes for a full recovery."
School representatives said Thursday morning they would take the day to assess the state of their facilities and the availability of school and law enforcement personnel following the arrival of the storm system in the Baton Rouge area on Wednesday night.
LSU associate vice chancellor Herb Vincent said in a radio interview with WNXX-FM ESPN on Thursday morning that Tiger Stadium and the surrounding areas had endured only "minimal damage," and that power outages and personnel availability likely would dictate the school's ability to play the game Saturday.
The Tigers returned to practice Thursday.Isaac, which was a hurricane for part of Wednesday before being downgraded to a tropical storm, caused widespread tree and power-line damage around the state capital. LSU's campus has power, and classes are expected to resume Friday. Tigers coach Les Miles canceled practice Wednesday, saying his team would "hunker down" in facilities around LSU's campus. "The concern was more for their families in southern Louisiana, but (it) appears that everybody's OK," Miles said. The coach said his team is ready to play a game after a month of practice and would have been disappointed to see the game called off after the storm had passed Thursday, leaving Baton Rouge sun drenched again on Thursday afternoon. "When you go through the eeriness of the storm -- that noise, that sound, that wind, the rain is constant -- you get a little cabin fever, if you will," Miles said. "Our guys really looked forward to getting back to practice today and doing something tomorrow and playing on Saturday. I think it kind of eased everybody's minds when the official announcement came that the game was on on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium." Miles said running back Michael Ford has been cleared to play against North Texas, but he is unsure when linebacker Tahj Jones may be able to return. Ford and Jones both had appealed unspecified problems with their academic standing which placed their eligibility in doubt earlier this week. Ford was LSU's leading rusher in 2011 with 756 yards and seven touchdowns. Miles says Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard remain the top running backs heading into the game against the Mean Green, but he expects Ford to get some carries and possibly play on special teams. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jones was a projected strong-side starter. Luke Muncie is now expected to start in his spot. Isaac crept slowly across south Louisiana on Wednesday, which happened to be the seventh anniversary of the much more powerful Hurricane Katrina. LSU already has changed plans for two events. A Friday soccer match against Stephen F. Austin has been postponed until Tuesday, and a volleyball tournament scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on campus has been moved to Houston. A Sunday soccer match against Houston is still scheduled to be played on campus. ESPN GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.