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LSU receives parade-like welcome in NOLA

NEW ORLEANS -- LSU’s football team received the ultimate welcome to the Big Easy on Wednesday.

Friends and fans stopped to wave at the Tigers’ caravan that made the 80-mile trip from Baton Rouge, La., to New Orleans, a helicopter followed the Tigers’ every move, and there was a parade-like atmosphere waiting for LSU at the team’s hotel.

An avalanche of support rained down on the Tigers, as fans at the Hilton Riverside in downtown New Orleans waited an extra hour to see their Tigers after one of the team’s buses suffered mechanical issues on the way in.

“How kind. How sweet. How wonderful,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the support shown from the Tigers’ fans.

The LSU band struck up some tunes about 30 minutes before the Tigers reached Bourbon Street, and the cheers lasted well into LSU’s news conference.

“You think this is going to subside, but in reality, this continues for the week,” Miles said.

And he’s right.

The Tigers might reside in Baton Rouge, but they can easily call New Orleans home as well.

The New Orleans Saints might be No. 1 in the hearts of this community, but LSU figures to be a very close second. This team served as another symbol of prosperity after Hurricane Katrina, and people here have really embraced the purple-and-gold.

“The attachment to this city is one that this team really feels,” Miles said.

Alabama should have a massive amount of fans in town to help fill up the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Monday's Allstate BCS National Championship Game, but it’s hard to believe they’ll outnumber the Tigers faithful. It won’t help that the Saints will get things started with a playoff game against the Detroit Lions in the Superdome on Saturday night.

Expect Who Dat Nation to grow some extra tiger stripes for Monday.

“We got the whole state behind us, and a lot of people love LSU down here,” senior safety Brandon Taylor said. “Actually, the Saints are home too, so that’s going to make it that much more fun.”

While Mardi Gras seemed to happening during the Tigers’ trip, the inside of LSU’s buses were mostly silent. There was celebration outside, but focus inside.

For the Tigers, Monday is too far away for this team to start yapping, and there’s no reason to celebrate, yet.

“It’s a business trip,” sophomore safety Eric Reid said. “It’s fun to be here, but it’s not going to be fun if you don’t win it when it’s all said and done. We’re going to stay focused and make sure we get the win.”

This is something the Tigers wanted at the beginning of the season. Better yet, they all say they envisioned it.

It’s time to see if there’s any mojo left in this group.

“We’re here now,” Taylor said. “We just have to put the icing on the cake.”